Three-in-One, One-in-Three…Does the Bible Support the Trinity?

The Bible says that there is only one true God, but there are many different understandings of the nature of that God – all coming from the same Bible!

There are three main perspectives in Christianity that define the nature of who God is. The majority of Christians subscribe to the orthodox belief that God is a Trinity. This doctrine proposes that God is one essence, made up of three divine persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – all of whom are equally God and have existed together since eternity.

However, there are others who reject the doctrine of the Trinity and instead believe that the God of the Bible is a Binitarian God. They believe that “The Father and the Son comprise the “Godhead.” There is one God. Scripture shows that God is a divine Family which began with two, God the Father and the Word.”[1]

Finally, there are those that believe in a “one-person God, the Father, uncreated and unique in all the universe” who are known as Unitarians.[2]

God Desires Us to Know the Truth

With all these different perspectives concerning the nature and identity of God, it is only natural – and altogether necessary – that one ask the following question: Are any of these perceptions correct? Who is the only true God of the Bible? It is a question that absolutely must be answered, for as Jesus says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

It is a truth that God desires all of humanity to come to. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul writes that God wishes “everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4). He elaborates on this truth in the next verse: “there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human” (1Timothy 2:5). The only true God desires that we know both him and his son, for as Jesus said in his high priestly prayer: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ” (John 17:3).

Since God desires intimate and exclusive fellowship with his creation, he has revealed the truth about who he is to all of humanity through nature, through his self-revelation to Israel, and in these last days through his son Jesus. In the book of Romans, Paul writes that we are without any excuse “since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:19). He goes on to say that “his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made” (Romans 1:20). Therefore, we can know that in his desire to fellowship with his creation, God has not hidden himself.

Old Testament References to the Oneness of God

After appearing to the patriarchs as El Shaddai or God Almighty, God later disclosed his personal name, Yahweh, for the first time in history to his servant Moses (Exodus 6:2-3). The God who identified himself as Yahweh, is very clear that he is only one person. In fact, it is widely agreed upon by both secular and religious scholars that “the Jews of Jesus’ time held firmly to faith in a unipersonal God.”[3] The central Jewish creed, the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, reflects this: “Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). According to Lev Gillet, a French monk and author of the book, Communion in the Messiah: Studies in the Relationship between Judaism and Christianity:

“The Shema Israel (Deut 6:4) is not only a liturgical formula and a commandment; it is also a confession of faith, and considered as more important than the historical Jewish creeds. As a confession of faith, the Shema is the affirmation of the unity and uniqueness of God. It constitutes the highest expression of the ‘Jewish monotheism’: ‘Adonai is our God, Adonai is one…’”[4]

The extreme importance of this creed to the Israelite people must not be understated: the Shema is absolutely crucial to the Jewish faith, “it is the verse that binds Jewish life and community together.”[5] The Shema has been, and still is today the first verse learned by young Jewish children and it is faithfully recited each day by devout Jews until the day of their death.[6] Throughout the centuries the Jews have continued to hold tenaciously to their monotheistic belief that Yahweh alone is God and that he is one Lord – not two or three Lords. It is from this foundation, therefore, that the rest of the Scriptures must be examined, in order to develop a clear understanding of the identity and nature of the one true God of the Bible.

After establishing that Yahweh is one person, God continued to reveal the uniqueness of his divine person through the prophets. God declared through the prophet Isaiah: “I am Yahweh, and there is no other; there is no God but me” (Isaiah 45:5). He identified himself as the sole Creator of the heavens and earth, saying “Thus says Yahweh, your redeemer, he who formed you in the womb: I, Yahweh, have made all things, I alone spread out the heavens. When I hammered the earth into shape, who was with me” (Isaiah 44:24b)? Finally, Yahweh chose to reveal himself through Isaiah as the Father and Redeemer of Israel: “After all, you are our Father. If Abraham will not own us, if Israel will not acknowledge us, you, Yahweh, are our Father, ‘Our Redeemer’ is your name from of old” (Isaiah 63:16b). The prophet Malachi summarizes these same ideas beautifully when in reference to Yahweh he asked, “Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us” (Malachi 2:10)? Through the prophets, Yahweh plainly revealed that he alone is God – and that he alone is the Father, Creator, and Redeemer of Israel.

New Testament References to the Oneness of God

According to the author of Hebrews, God has spoken in these last days to his people through his son Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2). However, there is much confusion in the church over the identity of God’s Son. Some say that he is himself God, a part of the Godhead, while others say that he is a man, both appointed and anointed as God’s agent to carry out his work in his name. These two views are not reconcilable, so a careful study of Jesus’ relationship to his Father and his testimony about God must be made in order to examine the evidence from the Old Testament and to verify the whole truth that the Bible presents.

The writers of the New Testament identify God the Father and his Son Jesus as two separate and independent persons. In over 450 New Testament verses, God and Jesus are shown to interact with each other as two single individuals in a relationship.[7] Sixty two of these verses use the grammatical conjunction “and” (or “kai” in the Greek) to link the two subjects that are identified, God and Jesus.[8] This can be most readily seen in Paul’s greetings to the churches, where he says on eight different occasions, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:2). Clearly, through the use of the grammatical conjunction “and,” Paul is identifying two different subjects, God and Jesus, from whom come the blessing of grace and peace. It is not possible to say that God the Father and Jesus are one and the same person unless we want to nullify both the rules of grammar and the revelation of the God.

Jesus understood this very well. He understood that he was not God. In fact, that very concept would have been foreign to him – not to mention blasphemous! After all, Jesus was born in first century Palestine, into the monotheistic faith of the Jews. Jesus was a Jew and he grew up under the care of two devout Jewish parents. He was raised among members of the Jewish community and taught the Hebrew Scriptures – all of which pointed to Yahweh as the only true God and Father of Israel. It is evident that he understood the Jewish teachings well, even from childhood, because when he sat in the temple listening to the teachers and asking them questions, “all who heard Him were amazed at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:44-45). This shows that as a child Jesus was not presenting any foreign conceptions about God’s nature, because the Jewish community praised his God-given wisdom.

But did Jesus’ later teachings reflect his monotheistic faith? Or did Jesus reject the central creed of Israel and instead begin to introduce himself as deity, even a secondary member of the Godhead? A careful examination of Jesus’ words would suggest that Jesus did not reject his Jewish heritage.

The first clue to this puzzle is Jesus’ continued affirmation of the creed of Israel, the Shema. The Gospel of Mark recounts a story of Jesus debating with the teachers of law, as a Jewish scribe looked on. The scribe observed that Jesus had answered their questions well, and asked him, “‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important’” (Mark 12:28-32)? And Jesus, the founder of Christianity, responds by quoting the Shema.

If Jesus were trying to introduce a new truth about God – this would have been his opportune moment. As author Greg Deuble writes, “Here was his great chance to include himself in the Godhead: ‘Hear, O Church, the Lord your God is Three in One! You shall love God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit with all your heart!’ But no, his creed is the creed of the prophets.”[9] It was in this moment that Jesus had his chance to reveal a new “truth” about God. Surely, if Jesus came to reveal the truth about who God was, he would not keep silent about the monotheistic “lie” that the Jews so fervently believed. But, Jesus instead chose to embrace the monotheistic tradition of his Jewish contemporaries. Perhaps then, one might be inclined to believe that the Jews were, and still are, correct in their understanding of the nature of God.

Jesus’ personal affirmation of the creed of Israel provides solid evidence that he too believed that Yahweh, the Father, was the only true God of Israel. This conclusion is further supported by Jesus’ own statements about his Father. In his High Priestly prayer found in John 17, Jesus prays to his Father, saying “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). It could not be any clearer: not only is there a distinct separation made between the person of God and the person of Jesus, but also the Father is identified as the “only true God!” By applying the word “only” to the Father, this means that there can be no other God besides the Father. Not only that, but also the Jewish Shema continues to affirm the unipersonal nature of God. In other words, if the Father is the only true God, Jesus cannot also be God, because they are two distinct persons. Once again, Jesus’s words demonstrate his faith in the only true God of Israel.

Furthermore, Jesus openly acknowledges that he is not the “only One” who is God (Matthew 19:17). After all, how can he be the only true God, when he himself has a God? After Jesus was crucified and buried, he appeared to Mary Magdalene as she was weeping bitterly beside his empty tomb. Supposing Jesus to be the gardener, she begged him to show her where he had taken the body of her Lord. But when Jesus called out her name, she recognized him and rushed toward him joyfully. He then said to her “‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:18, italics added). Pause for a moment and think about that incredible truth – both Mary Magdalene and Jesus had the same Father, the same God.

One must also consider the revelation that Jesus shared with the apostle John, after he had ascended to the right hand of the Father. In the letter to the church of Philadelphia, Jesus tells John to write the following exhortation: “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my new name” (Revelation 3:12, italics added). Once again, it is clear that Jesus himself has a God because he said it four times in one verse, five times total in the book of Revelation. One can safely conclude that Jesus never abandoned the faith of his youth, for even after his resurrection, he worshiped the same God as his fellow Jews.

This is by no means an exhaustive study of the only true God, but it does point to the fact that the God of the Bible has never wavered in his self-revelation. He has consistently revealed Himself throughout history as one Being. He is not a single God made of multiple persons, because that would be contrary to the revelation given to his people Israel and through his son Jesus. It would even go against God’s revelation through his creation. Paul says that God has made known His divine nature through the things that have been made. God’s describes his relationship to humanity in terms of human family relationships so that we might understand his nature more clearly. God has described his relationship to us as that of a father. A human father is only one person; the “creator,” protector and head of a family. In the same way, God is one person – the sovereign creator of all things and the defender, and redeemer of his beloved creation. It is time that Christians return to the only true God of the Bible, Yahweh our God and Father.

“Hear O Church! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is One.”


[1] “Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs.” Living Church of God. http://www.lcg.org/statement-of-beliefs.shtml (accessed February 26, 2013); [2] Buzzard, Anthony F., and Charles F. Hunting. The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound. Lanham, New York: International Scholars Publications, 1998; [3] Buzzard, Anthony F., and Charles F. Hunting. The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound. Lanham, New York: International Scholars Publications, 1998, p 29; [4] Lev Gillet, Communion in the Messiah: Studies in the Relationship Between Judaism and Christianity (Lutterworth Press, 1986), p 75-76; [5] Deuble, Greg S. They Never Told Me THIS in Church!: A Call to Read the Bible with New Eyes. Restoration Fellowship, 2006, p 78; [6] Ibid, 78; [7] Martin, Dr. Joe. “God and Jesus Differentiated.” Paper presented at Theological Conference; [8] Ibid; [9] Deuble, Greg S. They Never Told Me THIS in Church!: A Call to Read the Bible with New Eyes. Restoration Fellowship, 2006, p 106.

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Paul and (some of) the Epistles – The Relationship of God and Jesus

By examining Paul’s writings to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, one can deduce what Paul believed about who Jesus was and Jesus’ relationship to God, his Father.

1. Paul believed that Jesus and God were two separate individuals – in other words, Paul did not believe that Jesus was God; rather that he was a different individual than God, who is the Father.

  • Ephesians 1:1-2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God , To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 5:5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
  • Ephesians 6:23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 2:9-11 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
  • Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead,
  • Galatians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age,
  • Galatians 1:15-16 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,
  • Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,
  • Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Paul believed that Jesus had a God, the Father.

  • Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
  • Ephesians 1:15-17 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

3. Paul believed there was but one God, the Father.

  • Galatians 1:1 Paul, an apostle not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead,
  • Galatians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ., who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age,
  • Galatians 1:5 according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
  • Ephesians 1:1-2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God , To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
  • Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
  • Ephesians 6:23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Philippians 2:11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
  • Philippians 4:20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • Colossians 1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
  • Colossians 1:3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you,
  • Colossians 3:17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
  • Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

4. Paul believed that Jesus was seated at the right hand of God. This once again helps to demonstrate that Jesus and God the Father are separate individuals. Jesus is not God, but he is seated at God’s right hand.

  • Colossians 3:1-2 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

5. God the Father works in and through Christ. He is not Christ.

  • Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;
  • Philippians 1:11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
  • Colossians 3:17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
  • Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
  • Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion:

Paul’s epistles do not support the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the belief that “there is one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Stated differently, God is one in essence and three in person. These definitions express three crucial truths: (1) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct Persons, (2) each Person is fully God, (3) there is only one God” (desiringgod.org).

Rather, his writings show that only the Father is God, and that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son, but not God the Son. If the Father is the one God, the God of Jesus, and Jesus is not God, the doctrine of the Trinity falls apart. I realize that this is certainly not an exhaustive study, and that you might have some questions, but I hope that it at least gets you thinking and questioning.

We must be like the Bereans and diligently search the Scriptures to discern the truth. It is important for us to not read our own preconceived ideas and traditions into the text, but rather to seek to understand what they are saying in and of themselves. Sometimes we may need to dig deeper into the historical and cultural context to really know what the author is trying to say, but other times, what we read on the surface will be sufficient. I pray that God would give you an open mind and heart, so that together we can seek the truth about who God and Jesus are, because to know God and his Son is eternal life:

And this is eternal life, that they know you [Father] the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Unity and Division

Trinity Church (4)E
How are Christians today to resolve differences over food laws and holy days? This is a problem that the Roman church faced and that a number of churches still face in our time. Paul, like his Lord, desired that the church be unified and gave them instructions on how to handle the divisions. His instructions are useful today as we determine how to handle our differences in theses same areas.

He commanded the ‘strong’ to welcome the ‘weak,’ so that there would be no arguing over their differences in opinions about what one could or couldn’t eat. He then said that the believers were not to despise or pass judgment on each other. The reason for this, he says, is that God has welcomed both the ‘strong’ and the ‘weak.’ He proceeds to say that Christians are not to judge one another, because it is the job of the master to evaluate the slave’s performance and it is the master who will vindicate or condemn the slave in the final judgment. Paul also touches on the issue of holy days. He says that “each person should be fully convinced in their own mind” (Rom 14:5). Paul says that each are to do what they do to honor the Lord, so that whatever is done, is done to the Lord, and results in the giving of thanks to God. Paul emphasizes that Jesus is the Lord of all through the gospel, which is the basis for unity.

Paul’s call for unity on the basis of the gospel of the risen Lord and coming kingdom is relevant for believers today. We should not get caught up in squabbles over inconsequential matters, but must continue to bear with one another in love, without passing judgment as we seek to grow in our understanding of God. Until the return of Christ, no one will have ‘perfect’ doctrine.  In the mean time, we must all remember that we are all learning and growing. We must humbly help one another come to a better understanding of the faith through patience, love, and study because it is through unity and love that the church best manifests Christ to the world.

 

Psalm 139

I was reading through my Bible this morning and I noticed that the word that is translated ‘scrutinize’ literally means ‘winnow.’

Here’s what Merriam Webster had to say about the verb ‘winnow’:

Beginning as windwian in Old English, winnow first referred to the removal of chaff from grain by a current of air. This use was soon extended to describe the removal of anything undesirable or unwanted (a current example of this sense would be “winnowing out outdated information”). People then began using the word for the selection of the most desirable elements (as in “winnowing out the true statements from the lies”).

How interesting it is that God ‘winnows’ our path (lit. journeying). He is not merely carefully watching our steps, he is winnowing them, sifting and removing the undesirable and unwanted parts.

Mighty Morphin’ Christian Creeds

It is generally assumed that the doctrine of the Trinity was an undisputed and established fact in the teachings of the early Christian church. However, a brief look at the creeds that the early church adopted will demonstrate that this is simply not the case: a significant shift in Christian thought occurred between about 150 A.D and 381 A.D.

Apostle’s Creed (approximately 150 A.D.)

I believe in God the Father almighty,
And in Christ Jesus his only Son, our Lord;
Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended to heaven
sits at the right hand of the Father,
whence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
and in the Holy Spirit,
the holy church
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh,
the life everlasting.

This early creed, also known as the Old Roman Symbol, was the standard confession used in Rome by baptismal candidates. It is important to note that this early creed is unitarian: it states that only the Father is God.

This next creed was developed at the Council of Nicaea. The finalization of this creed was strongly influenced by Emperor Constantine. He hoped it would bring unity to the Christian movement, whose divisions threatened the stability of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, this creed only stirred up more conflict and division.

Nicene Creed (325 A.D.)

We believe in one God the Father All-sovereign, maker of all things
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father,
through whom all things were made, things in heaven and things on earth;
who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh,
and became man,
suffered,
and rose on the third day,
ascended into the heavens,
and is coming to judge the living and the dead.
And in the Holy Spirit.
[And those that say ‘There was a time when he was not,’ and, ‘Before he was begotten he was not,’ and that, ‘He came into begin from what-is-not,’ or those that allege, that the son of God is ‘Of another substance or essence,’ or ‘created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable,’ these the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes.]

What’s new in the Nicene Creed? A lot! Even though it follows the same pattern as the Apostle’s Creed, it adds a significant amount of material about the nature of Jesus, and a curse against those who believe otherwise!

With it’s additions, the Nicene Creed now identifies two persons as God, the Father and Jesus. God is now understood to be a two-person entity, making the creed binitarian instead of unitarian.

If you were raised in a Protestant or Catholic Church, this next creed is probably the one with which you are most familiar. It is recited weekly in churches around the world. I myself recited this creed many a time as a child growing up in the Episcopal Church.

Constantinopolitan Creed (381 A.D.)

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day, he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son].
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in only holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

What is significant about this creed? Like the Nicene Creed before it, this creed also generally follows the pattern of the Apostle’s Creed, albeit with another major expansion.

In both the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds, the Holy Spirit is neither identified as a person, nor God. In the Constantinopolitan Creed, however, the Holy Spirit is now understood to be “the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]” and is “worshipped and glorified” alongside the Father and Son. We can see that the simple, unitarian Apostle’s Creed had, by the end of the fourth century, morphed into a full-blown trinitarian creed.

I wish I could say that the Constantinopolitan Creed solved all of the controversies over the nature of God in the Christian church, but, it didn’t and the disagreements and divisions continued long after it was accepted. In fact the doctrine got even more complicated as the church went back and forth over how Jesus could simultaneously be both God and man. The confusion and conflict continues to this day.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 in the Jerusalem Bible says that God made man simple; man’s complex problems are of his own devising.” I think this sums up the problem here.

When Christianity strayed away from its founder Jesus’s creed, it created more problems that it solved. Since the beginning, worshippers in Israel were monotheistic, and worshipped YHWH, the Father, God. Deuteronomy 6:4 is the shema, the central creed of Israel, and it states: “Hear O Israel, YHWH is our God, YHWH is one.” Pious Jews recite the shema daily to remind themselves that YHWH alone is the only true God.

Jesus was no different. After all, he himself was a Jew. He affirmed the simple monotheistic creed while interacting with a scribe in Mark 12:28-34:

“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord;  and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.”

Here we can see that a scribe is asking Jesus to summarize the greatest commandment. Jesus responds by quoting the shema, the central creed of Israel.

This is important because if Jesus were hoping to redefine God, he clearly missed his opportunity. As author Greg Deuble writes, “Here was his great chance to include himself in the Godhead: ‘Hear, O Church, the Lord your God is Three in One! You shall love God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit with all your heart!’ But no, his creed is the creed of the prophets.”[1]

The scribe’s response upholds Jesus’ response. This suggests that Jesus was not introducing any new concept of God. If the Jews couldn’t handle Jesus claiming to be the Messiah, the future king of the kingdom of God, I have no doubt that there would have been an uproar if Jesus had redefined God, challenging their traditional beliefs. Furthermore, the scribe uses singular personal pronouns to describe God (“He…Him”) and affirms the oneness of God in his response (“He is One “).

A former teacher of mine, Anthony Buzzard, once said “Christianity is the only world religion which begins by discarding its own founder’s creed.” Don’t you think it’s time to leave the complexity and controversy behind, and return to the simple, monotheistic creed of Jesus?


[1] Deuble, Greg S. They Never Told Me THIS in Church!: A Call to Read the Bible with New Eyes. Restoration Fellowship, 2006, p 106.

Speaking Out Against Sexism

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The blatant sexism which is so prevalent in our world today was not a part of God’s original design for humanity. In the first chapter of Genesis, God proposes to his heavenly council: “’Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’”[i] Humanity was created in the image of God and given authority over all other created things on the earth. And so, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”[ii] In the beginning, God created the different sexes, and gave them equal status and dignity as his image bearers and stewards of creation. Sexism, however, emerged when sin entered the world.

Today’s media amplifies the sexism that is already deeply ingrained in our society. Dr. James Dobson observes that “disrespect for men pervades the entertainment industry, including many television commercials,” and makes it appear as though the “majority of men are immature, impulsive, selfish, weak, and not very bright.”[iii] Women, if they are not being objectified and sexualized, are portrayed as overly aggressive and masculine by today’s popular music, television shows, and advertisements. The negative impact that this rampant sexism has on the individuals and families of our society is incalculable.

I have recently become quite passionate about this issue which plagues men and women across the globe. I clearly see the damaging effects of sexism in our world today: it debases people who have been created in God’s image, it breaks down the integrity of the family unit and society, and it promotes both active and passive violence and discrimination against people based upon their gender. I am so zealous about this issue, not only because I see the harm that it is doing, but also because I see that there is a solution. People are desperate and searching for an answer and an end to this injustice, and I believe that the church holds the key to addressing the problem of sexism in our world today. One verse in particular, Galatians 3:28, is extremely important to this discussion, because it helps to demonstrate how the church should begin to address the issue of sexism in our world today.

In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul condemns certain Jewish-Christian missionaries who threatened the unity of the church. These missionaries tried to convince Gentile converts that they needed to be circumcised in order to become full covenant members, thus creating ethnic divisions within the church. Paul fervently argues against their teachings, and writes that because of the faithfulness of Jesus, the uncircumcised Gentile Christians in the Galatian church are in fact “sons of God,” members of the covenant community with a status equal to that of their Jewish Christian brothers and sisters. In support of this, Paul quotes the baptismal formula found in Galatians 3:28, which states: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[iv] While it is clear that Paul’s specific focus was on the ethnic divisions in the Galatian church, and not gender inequalities, it is apparent that “Paul appeals to the baptismal formula as the basis on which the Galatians should be acknowledged as Abraham’s heirs. Thus we see clearly that Paul regards the formula as having practical social implication for the life of the church.” [v]

I have chosen to focus on Galatians 3:28 because of its relevant social implications for the church today. This verse effectively teaches us that the church is designed to be a community in which ethnic distinctions are eliminated, divisions of social class are neutralized, and gender differences can no longer be leveraged to dominate or devalue people. This verse paints a picture of an alternative community that is to stand against the sin of sexism and point towards the coming restoration of all things, by proclaiming and enacting a way of life in the present that is compatible with the reality of the coming kingdom of God. Richard B. Hays writes that:

“If the church is to be a sign and foretaste of the new creation, it must be a community in which gender distinctions…have lost their power to divide and oppress. This does not mean that those who are in Christ cease to be men or women… Rather it means that these distinctions are no longer determinative identity markers, no longer a ground for status or exclusion.”[vi]

In Christ, there are no “second-class citizens.” Therefore, members of the body of Christ should live out this new reality through their words and actions, demonstrating the equal value and dignity of both sexes.

As compelling as this vision of a wholesome, alternative community may be, I have found that it is not often fully realized in the church today. We still tolerate injustice and prejudice within the church, and I believe that one of the most fundamental reasons for this is a profound lack of awareness. We have become so numbed by the sexist influences of our media that we do not know that there is an alternative way to think and live. We have allowed our vision of God’s original design for humanity, and his plan for restoration, to become clouded.

I believe that the church needs to engage head-on with the issue of sexism. First, as a church, we must gain an awareness of the seriousness and the pervasiveness of the problem. This means that the church must make an effort to expose the sexism in our media. We must learn to question what the media feeds us in our favorite music and television shows, and begin to discern and reject the subtle sexist influences that come our way. Second, we must both revive an understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood, and champion the equal value and dignity of every human life. This must be taught from the pulpit, but it must be enacted and modeled in the home through the influence and instruction of parents. As the church grows in awareness and takes action by conforming to biblical teachings, the church will shine like a light in this current darkness.


Works Cited

Dobson, James C. Bringing Up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the next Generation of Men. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001.

“The Letter to the Galatians: Introduction, Commentary and Reflections.” In The New Interpreter’s Bible: II Corinthians – Philemon, edited by Leander E Keck, by Richard B Hays, 271-279. Vol. XI. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2000

[i] Genesis 1:26 (NASB), [ii] Genesis 1:27 (NASB), [iii] Dobson, Bringing Up Boys, p 163., [iv] Galatians 3:28 (NASB), [v] Hays, New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary: II Corinthians – Philemon, p. 278.,[vi] Ibid, p 278.

You are Loved!

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What I love about Psalm 139 is that it teaches us that God knows us intimately and completely and that no matter where we go, he is with us. More that that, it teaches us why he cares so much, why he is so involved in our lives. After marvelling at God’s knowledge of himself, and pondering his omnipresence, the psalmist says

For it was You who created my inward parts;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

– Psalm 139:13

The psalmist understands that the reason God is so intimately involved in our lives is because he made us. We are his handiwork, his beloved creation, and he will never let us go.

So, wherever life takes you today, know that you are loved by God and you are never outside of his careful watch.

After All

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Live for God fully and completely today. It’s the only thing that really counts.

“Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”
– Proverbs 27:1

“Yahweh, make me to know my end,
and what is the extent of my days;
Let me know how transient I am.
Behold you have made my days as handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight;
Surely every person at their best is a mere breath. Selah.
Surely every person walks about as a phantom;
Surely they make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.”
– Psalm 39:4-6

Our Sovereign God: Reflection on Genesis 6-7

January 3, 2016

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God not only has the power to create the world through water, but also to uncreate it through the same means; he has the authority to give the breath of life, and also to take it away. Our life and breath, so often taken for granted, are gifts from the Creator to be received with thankfulness and praise.

“You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only”

All Sons and Daughters, “Great Are You Lord”