The Doctrine of God in the Old Testament

I. INTRODUCTION

            The doctrine presenting God the Father to be God, Jesus of Nazareth to be God, the Holy Spirit to be God, and God to be One had presented problems in the past during the reign of Constantine, the Emperor of Rome. This controversial issue had been presented as the result of the Christian worldviews regarding these propositions mentioned above. The Hebrew writers who walked with Jesus during his ministry knew that these propositions are not only accurate, but they are also compatible with events that unfolded during Jesus’ ministry on earth. On the other hand, the Greek-thinking readers of the New Testament scriptures had different views regarding these propositions as the result of the influence of the ideologies of Plato. This indicates that intellectual and cultural barriers can influence the ways people view and interpret scriptures. The differences in views are based on the interpretation of scriptures in the New Testament to those of the Old Testament currently. We see that the teachings of Arius still have influence on cultic movements today who identify themselves to be the followers of Christ. This is the reason; the doctrine of the Trinity becomes a controversial issue today in our modern Christian worldview. This doctrine is inexhaustible, unfathomable, and incomprehensible in the human intellectual mind where Christ is absent; therefore, this paper presents an idea of this teaching regarding who God is with respect to the Trinitarian view of the Godhead. The doctrine of the trinity as outlined in scripture is being debated to present God in two views of his essence and his relationship to the Son and the Holy Spirit; meanwhile, this document does not discuss the two views, but it discuses God as the Father, His attributes, and His relationship to the Son and the Holy Spirit with respect to their works concerning the creation process, the plan of redemption, and its execution process.

II. GOD THE FATHER

            God is the beginning and the ending and without Him there is no other God. He is the God of the living and not the dead. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is not the God that can be known through incantation but He is the God who can be known through divine revelation. He can not be manipulated or put into a box. He is self-existing, spirit, transcendent, and self-revelation. These characteristics depict unfathomable nature of God and his sovereignty and eventually and religiously set Him apart to be the subject of any religious movements in this world such as Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism etc. In discussing God the Father, it is necessary to discuss Him referencing Him to the God of Israel instead of the gods of polytheistic nature (Islam), who claim that they are serving the God of heaven and earth.

            Studying God as the Father who created everything seen and unseen, depicts Him as the primary individual who is transcendent over creations. Transcendence defines in context of how God has separated Himself from his creation by virtue of His nature (purity, holiness, goodness). His transcendence nature explains his holiness. God is holy and without holiness no man can see Him. Apostle Peter states, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”[1] Peter admonishment to Christendom is serious regarding God’s holiness. How many of the churches or pastors we have in our modern churches today that emphasize God’s holiness? Sadly to speak, many churches today do not emphasize the holiness of God in scripture; as the result, our congregations have become like grave yard. The holiness of God will be emphasized under His attributes as we proceed further with our deliberation.

            As stated previously, God the Father is the primal individual regarding the genesis of everything visible and invisible. This chronological order maintained in the trinity does not indicate that one is superior or inferior to the other. It indicates order of relationship in the triangular spiritual relationship which exists among the trinities. Bavinck states that whenever the name ‘God’ is in a special sense applied to the Father, it indicates that in the divine economy He is first; it is as it were and official title, indicates of order and rank, just as among men there were distinctions of social standing and honor though all share the same human nature.[2]

            God the Father being the first in this relationship does not mean that God the Father is higher than the Son; neither does it mean that the Holy Spirit is higher than the Son. They all are equal in essence and nature. They co-exist, but they operate personally as individual member of the Trinitarian assembly of the divine. The Bible declares in Philippians that Jesus was equal with God; however, He did not think it robbery to be equal with the Father, but He humbled himself and became obedient to death and even the death on the Cross because of this God had highly exalted Him and given him a name that is above every name and by the name Jesus, every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus is God to the glory of God the Father.[3] The humility nature of God made each person in the Godhead to work with one another. Before the Son ascended into heaven he asked his disciples to wait for the promise (Holy Spirit) of the Father. When the Son ascended into heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost on the disciples. When the Holy Spirit came, he remains with the disciples to carrying out the mission of soul winnings today.

            The transcendence nature of God is encapsulated by his holiness and his ceaseless nature of antiquity and infinity. God is the everlasting Father of Antiquity. He is the Father or Ancient of Days. He has no beginning and He has no ending. He is self-existing. Bavinck writes, “God has no beginning – has no ending. He is infinite in every way. He was before the world, yet He neither begins nor ends; He is not a temporary, but an eternal God; it takes in both parts of eternity, what was before the creation of the world, and what is after; though the eternity of God be one permanent state, without succession, yet the Spirit of God, suiting himself to the weakness of our conception, divides into two parts; one past before the foundation of the world, another to come after the destruction of the world; as He did exist before all ages, and as he will exist after all ages.”[4] The infinity nature of God is defined in his essence. What was before the creation of the world and what was after the creation of the world determines the incidence which existed before the creation and after the creation? One past before the foundation were those things that existed before the creation of the world and the one after the creation of the world are those things that happened after the creation. God has pre-existed and post-existed before all these incidences. These indicators explain the complexity and unfathomable nature of God. We can not understand Him because of his complex nature. We have finite minds and God is infinite. The finite can comprehend the infinite; therefore, our understanding can not be in line with God as our sinful nature exemplifies. The Bible states in I Corinthians that the natural man understands not the things of God because they are foolishness unto him and he can not understand them because they are spiritually discerned.[5] The infinite nature of God is linked to his attributes. God’s attributes determine his characteristics. His attributes can be moral or immoral. These will be discussed latter in the preceding pages. Just to name few moral attributes of God which he recommends that man should possess them. He is the God of longsuffering and mercy.[6] He is the God of goodness, truth, forgiveness, justice, redeeming, and covenant keeping.[7] God in the eternity past has demonstrated these attributes by His actions. Because God is longsuffering, He bears with his creation when they go astray. The Bible declares in II Peter 3:9 that the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, but he is patient and he is not willing that any should perish, but all should come to repentance.[8] These attributes of God in the Bible differentiate between Christianity and other religions of the world. Looking at this attribute of patience that the God of the Bible has tells us that Christianity is a relationship. Unfortunately, other religions such as Islam, their god is a Unitarian god who has no relationship with human. He has no patience, no mercy, or forgiveness. Their god is the god of vengeance. He is an authoritarian god who cares less about the affairs of his subjects. He must be obeyed or else the disobedient faces drastic consequences of his or her action. All subjects must submit to Allah or else face the sword of the Jihad (holy war). Do Muslims serve the same God since they claim themselves to monotheistic in worship? I will say that the God of the Christian is different from the god of the Muslim by attributive differentiation. If the god of the Muslim is merciless, then, he can not be the God of the Christians because our God is the merciful God. We have the Trinitarian God; the Muslims have a Unitarian god. He is called the only one. His transcendence nature according to the Qu’ran has no link with human relationship. Hodge writes, ‘God has thoughts of love in all he does to his people. The ground of his dealings with us is love (though the occasion may be sin), the manner of his dealings with us is love, and the purpose of his dealing is love. He has regard, in all, to our good here, to make us partakers of his holiness, and to our glory hereafter, to make us partakers of his glory.”[9] God’s love has been expressed and demonstrated when he initiated the New Covenant mentioned in Jeremiah 31:31-34. God has regarded to usher us to become partakers of His love and holiness. He did this by sending his Son to die in order to establish the redemptive plan to bring the sinners into his presence. The seal of the covenant was sealed with the blood of Christ to establish the covenant into totality. His blood of covenant was put into effect to enable us live for Christ by overcoming sins daily in our lives as Christians. This is the reason God has decided to deal with his people through love. God’s foreknowledge regarding the fallen contingent nature of his creatures propelled him to elect His people through the sending of his Son to die in order to bring about reconciliation, mediation, and redemption. His election of the saints is the reason of His regenerating power through the power of the Holy Spirit. When the sinners receive through faith, they become born again. This process is called regeneration. When regeneration occurs through the power of the Holy Spirit, believers are empowered and encouraged to live holy lives. In the process of living holy lives through obedience, the process of progressive sanctification occurs on the daily basis. Shedd writes, “The Father creates, yet by and through the Son. The Son redeems, yet commissioned by the Father. The Spirit inspires and sanctifies, yet as sent by the Father and the Son.”[10] In this quotation, the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are being pointed out. In the Genesis account, the Bible states that in the beginning Cod created the heaven and the earth and the earth was without form and darkness was upon the surface of the deep and the Spirit of God moved upon the waters. God said, “Let there be light and it was so.[11] In this paraphrase, God the Father is the originator of everything. He pre-existed before everything was made. He spoke his word into creation for everything which include  the visible and the invisible to come to being. He is before and after everything. He is the beginning and the ending and without him there is no other. He is God. He is the master of speech and faith. He spoke his son into creation. This implies that in the creation process, Jesus who is the second person in the trinity serves the role as an Administrator. He runs the daily activities on his Father will. He told his disciples in the Gospel that the works that he does, it is not he who is doing the works, but it is the Father who is inside him doing the works.[12] The Father can not be separated from the Son in working unless in the personhood which indicates relational dimension among the persons in the Godhead. No one has seen God besides the Son who has declared him in bodily form in the embodiment of the incarnation. The Bible declares that the word which was spoken in Genesis became flesh and lived among us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.[13] Jesus declared His Father to the whole world when He was born as human in this world. He possesses the nature of being human and the nature of being God. With respect to the Holy Spirit when it comes to the creation process, He is the source of God’s power. He moved on the waters and gave dynamism to those things that did not have lives in them. The things that were empty or void, gained vitality when the Holy Spirit moved. He is also the Spirit of truth and counsel. Jesus said that when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide the believers in all truth.[14]

III. HIS ATTRIBUTES

            The attributes of God describe the characteristics of God with respect to how God transcends over His creation. God deems it necessary to share some of these attributes with His creation as to maintain a relational communion with mankind. Those He deems necessary to share with mankind are called communicable or moral attributes and those that He can not share with His creation, are called incommunicable or immoral attributes. In this discourse, the immoral attributes will be primarily discussed before the moral attributes. God is omniscience in that He knows everything in the past, the future, and the present. The all knowing God transcends Him above human knowledge and understanding. God is wondrous and perfect in knowledge.[15]. He is good in knowledge.[16]. He is mighty in knowledge.[17]. God’s dimension of knowledge is contrasting to human thought.[18]. His unfathomable and immeasurable knowledge and wisdom separates Him absolutely from his creation. He is the greatest of all philosophers. He can not be understood. The day God is understood by humans, he can not be God. The probability for God to be understood could be an individual living in utopia (ideal and perfect state). God is not only omniscience, but He is also omnipotent. The omnipotent of God describes that God is in control of every situation that is measurable to His nature. He does not use His power at will, but He uses his power with respect to his attributes. God is all powerful, but he could not use his power against Adam and Eve’s will in the Garden of Eden. This is the reason He did not prevent sin in the Garden of Eden. Had He used his power ignoring the free will He had given to man, He would have become an unjust God thereby going against the other side of his nature. He uses his power in the scope of his nature and essence. This makes him the perfect God. He is the God of all flesh and nothing is hard for Him.[19]. His invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature are clearly perceived.[20]. He is the radiance of God’s glory and upholds the universe by his power.[21].

            In his article, Charnock states that the power of God is that ability and strength where he can bring to pass whatsoever he pleases, whatsoever his infinite wisdom may direct, and whatsoever his infinity purity of his will may resolve.[22] God has the power to bring into existence whatsoever He wills; however, those things that he brings into existence must correspond to his nature. For example, God will not do anything that is contrary to his nature. He does not lie or shows favoritism. He does not force anyone to obey him though He has the power to do so. Allowing this power to be used against the free will He has originally given to man, leads him to violate his divine order established in heaven. It undermines his fallibility. God is just; as the result, He does not violate our will decision making process. God is not only omnipotence, but he is also omnipresence. He is everywhere; however, the degree of his presence in places varies based on the nature of the locations. His presence in the church where he is worshipped varies with his presence in the night clubs where acts of immoral living is carried out. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.[23] Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.[24] Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.[25] God is ever presence in every place. These scriptures indicate that we can not hide from God. Many people think that they can hide from God which is impossible. The reason why man takes God for granted is the result of his invisibility. We can hide from man but we can not hide from God. God is not only omnipresence, but he is also immutable. The immutability nature of God describes God to be unchangeable. He changes not.[26] God does change in dealing with man, but he does not change with respect to his nature. God is holy; as the result, he can not do anything wrong. He remains holy. These are immoral attributes of God. Moral attributes of include God is love, good, full of mercy, forgiving, longsuffering, gracious, and holy. God desires to share these attributes with his creation. These attributes are called communicable or moral attributes. God is longsuffering and compassionate.[27] God is patient to the extent that he does not desire his people to perish. His desire is for all mankind to be saved.

IV. HIS RELATIONSHIP TO THE SON AND HOLY SPIRIT

            As previously stated, the doctrine of the Trinity reveals God in three personalities. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are the three persons in the Godhead. Each functions independently in the Godhead carrying out specific function as deem necessary according to the creation order. The Father is the Creator and the Originator of everything visible and invisible, the Son is the Administrator who keeps the daily running of daily activities, and the Holy Spirit is the power source to execute healing, deliverance, and salvation of souls. No one comes to the Son except the Father sends him, and no one comes to the Father except he or she is convicted by the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus ascended, he told his disciples to wait for the promise which the Father would send. He was speaking about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came down on the Day of Pentecost.[28]

            Warfield writes, “The elements of the plan of salvation are rooted in the mysterious nature of the Godhead, in which there co-exists a trinal distribution of persons with absolute unity of essence; and the revelation of the Trinity was accordingly incidental to the execution of this plan of salvation, in which the Father sent the Son to be the propitiation for sin, and the Son, when he returned to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, sent the Spirit to apply his redemption to men.”[29]

            The co-existence of the members of the Godhead indicates absolute unity based on the individual mission to accomplish the plan of salvation. The Bible declares that no one can call the name of Christ except through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Trinitarian Conference was called by the Godhead regarding the creation of mankind.[30] God said, let’s make men in our image and likeness and give them dominion over every creeping things, flock, and plants. So they created men in their likeness and gave them personalities to be like God in knowledge and wisdom. Despite of their persons, there is only one God. He decided to have Himself in three personalities based on the tasks execution as previously explained. Hodge writes, “In the Bible all divine titles and attributes are ascribed equally to the Father, Son, and Spirit. The same worship is rendered to them. The one is as much as object of worship as the other. It is not more evident that the Father is God, than the Son is God; nor is the deity of the Father and the Son more clearly revealed than that of the Spirit.”[31] The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in essence and nature. Three infinite and eternal persons belong to this Godhead called Yahweh: (1) the Father, (2) the Son, Jesus Christ, and (3) the Holy Spirit. These three persons are bound closely together in unity of power and purpose and are often referred to as the Trinity.  Yahweh is one God made up of three persons.[32]  The prophet Isaiah states that there is only one God.[33] The unity of the Godhead indicates that one can not worship the other person without worshipping the other two. Worships are ascribed to them equally during the time of doxology. We worship God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit during worship moments. Shedd states that each divine person supposes and suggests the others. Each represents the others. Consequently, to pray to any one of the divine three is by implication and virtually to pray to all three. No man can honor the Son without honoring the Father also.[34] The Trinitarian unity is being proven by the acts of God in the Genesis account, the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, the conversation Jesus had with his disciples while on earth, and the commissioning of the Holy Spirit during the episode of the post-resurrection and post-ascension of Jesus Christ are evidence of the reality of the Trinity. .[35] God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one, but each functions as a person based on specific mission unanimously agreed on by the Godhead. God decides in himself what he intends to accomplish in the scope of time by having meeting with the Himself. He can only do this through the Trinitarian Conference. He is self-existing, self-discussing, and co-existing within the Trinitarian circle of collaboration as it relates to his works as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These are spelt-out in the Genesis accounts followed by the New Testament account. Berkhof writes, “All of the (work) of God are the works of the triune God, but in some of these works the Father is evidently in the foreground, such as: (1) Designing the work of redemption, including election of which the Son was himself an object, (2) The works of creation and providence, especially in their initial stages, (3) The works of representing the Trinity in the Counsel of Redemption, as the holy righteous Being, and whose right was violated.”[36] As stated above, the Father is the Creator of everything visible and invisible. He is the originator who upholds everything in this universe. He designed the election and commission of the Son and plan of salvation and its execution.

V. CONCLUSION

            Since the doctrine of God concerning the trinity can not be understood by all based on the finite human intellectual minds and how people view scriptures based on their ideologies obtained from the past and their orientations, it should be studied and interpreted to people based on these issues because this doctrine evolved over times based on missionary works and developments in relating the Gospel to people of specific cultural settings of the world.

Bibliography

Bavinck, Herman. The Doctrine of God. Translated by William Hendrickson. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997.

Benjamin, Warfield. The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. IX. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2003.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

Charmock, Stephen. Discourse Upon the Existence and Attributes of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1997.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Erdmann, 1986.

Shedd, William G.T. Dogmatic Theology, 3rd edition, Edited by Alan W. Gomes. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 2003.


[1]I Peter 1:13-16

[2]Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God. Translated by William Hendrickson. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 268.

[3]Philippians 2:5-10.

[4]Ibid, p. 145

[5]I Corinthians 2:14

[6]Exodus 34:6-7.

[7]Psalm 51:1-2, Exodus 34:7, Gen. 9:9-15, Exodus 19:5-6, Isa. 44:6.

[8] II Peter 3:9

[9]Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Erdmann, 1645.

[10]William Shedd, Dogmatic Theology. Third Edition, Edited by Alan W. Gomes. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 254.

[11]Genesis 1:1-3

[12]John 5:17

[13] John 1:14

[14]John 16:13

[15]Job 37:16

[16]I Samuel 2:3

[17]Psalm 147:5

[18]Isaiah 55:9

[19]Jeremiah 32:37

[20]Romans 1:20

[21]Hebrews 1:3

[22]Stephen Charnock, Discourse Upon the Existence and Attributes of God. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 13.

[23]Proverbs 15:3

[24]Psalm 139:7-10

[25]Jeremiah 23:24

[26]Exodus 32:14

[27]Psalm 86:15

[28]Acts 2:1-4

[29]Benjamin Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. IX. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 113.

[30]Genesis 1:26

[31]Ibid, p. 1444.

[32]Christian Articles, Bible Studies and Readings in Urdu (http://newlife.id.au/urdu-christian-articles/

[33]Isaiah 45:21-24.

[34]Ibid, p. 245.

[35]Matthew 3:16

[36]Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19.