“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11, ESV)
When Jesus was giving one of his most beautiful prayers before his crucifixion. Jesus was praying for us to have unity, just as he and the Father where one. Just a few minutes on the web looking at Christian blogs, articles, and various group specific writings I would say that we are far from being one.
One such area where this is most obvious is arguments over the word Trinity. Yes, it is a word that is not found in the scripture, yes, at times the political agenda of some ancient church organizations have abused the term, but does that mean it is wrong?
It is believed that
Tertullian was the first to use the trinity sometime between 160-225 AD, but this is just a term, a definition that allows him to explain the concept in a way to try and help someone understand his position. But, do we see evidence of the triune nature of God before this term was used? (Update – Turns out someone used the term earlier than him, Theophilis of Antioch. He used the term in a way that sounds like people already had heard it before)
The verse that I quoted above from John 17 hints at Jesus and the Father being one. Let’s examine some other passages that we can find in the writings of the apostles and early church leaders.
“But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:4–15, ESV)
This first verse is long, but it is very important. This is Jesus teaching through a long discourse with his disciples. In the previous section Philip asked for Jesus to show them the father and Jesus responds by saying that if you have seen Him, you have seen the Father. In John 16:4-15 Jesus is explaining what is going to happen after He leaves. He tells them that if He does not leave then the Helper will not come. Jesus is going to send Him, and he is going to convict the world concerning sin. The word “he” in this translation comes from the Greek word “ekeinos” and is a pronoun that refers to distant persons or things, or persons or things that have already been mentioned.1
Jesus continues and says:
- I will send Him
- When He comes He will convict
- He hears and He will speak
- He will glorify Jesus
We should also note that the word for Him in this passage is the Greek word “Autos” which is a reference to a specific person or persons spoken or written about.
Later in the text Jesus says this:
““These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25–26, ESV)
In the previous section Jesus tells them that He is going to send the Helper, in this section He tells them that the Helper, The Holy Spirit (“ho hagion pneuma”) will be sent by the Father and will bring remembrance of the teachings of Jesus. This section alludes to a triune nature of God but very subtly. It definitely suggests a very personal interaction between all three.
Take a look at a few more verses:
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26–27, ESV)
“Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34, ESV)
Here the Spirit is interceding for us, but just a few verses later we have Jesus interceding for us, I find this very interesting.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14, ESV)
The word used here for fellowship is the Greek word “koinonia” and is a word that means to have close mutual relationship or involvement and is very relational. Not sure you can have a relational experience if the Holy Spirit is just God’s power. We must also ask this question, Paul a Pharisee, a Jew of Jews brings the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and fellowship of the Spirit together in the closing remark. Paul, one who would believe in the ONE God brings all three together and seems to give them all equal position.
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2–5, ESV)
The verses above are full of 3 separate descriptions of how God is representing himself to us His creation. They are all described with personable characteristics. I know that it is harder for someone who may be Jewish to understand a term like trinity, but it is our job to just preach the good news. I may not use that word if I were ministering to that culture but that does not mean it is a horrible creation of the church and thus cause the amazing amount of arguments that separate people from being one. I still am wondering whose agenda we want to follow. Ours or that of the Christ.
What did some of the earliest Church fathers write about this? Let’s take a look:
Irenaeus: Know thou that every man is either empty or full. For if he has not the Holy Spirit, he has no knowledge of the Creator; he has not received Jesus Christ the Life; he knows not the Father who is in heaven;2
Methetes: We wish you, brethren, all happiness, while you walk according to the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; with whom be glory to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of His holy elect, after whose example the blessed Polycarp suffered, following in whose steps may we too be found in the kingdom of Jesus Christ!3
Justin Martyr: Melchizedek was described by Moses as the priest of the Most High, and he was a priest of those who were in uncircumcision, and blessed the circumcised Abraham who brought him tithes, so God has shown that His everlasting Priest, called also by the Holy Spirit Lord, would be Priest of those in uncircumcision.4
These are just a few selections from these early writers, there are a lot more. In the end though the concept of the triune nature of God has existed through the apostolic writings and even the early church leaders. When it really comes down to it, are we just quibbling over words? Is it just so we can show that we are right and they are not? Do you really think this is what loving as Christ loved us means?
I have written about this once before in this blog, but I keep coming across it. People that have great influence over people, who have books published, who go around and speak to many people, are teaching things that seem to divide the body, not unify. I stand by my final statement in my previous post…
“None of the groups out there have all the right answers, even God has told us that every inclination of our hearts is evil. That includes me and you. So before we criticize, lets figure out how to lift each other up, encourage, equip, and edify the body. If someone does not agree with you, have productive discussions on the subject and pray for one another. Then maybe we can be ONE like the Father, Spirit and Son Are One.”
Original Article – fttps://rcannata7.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/dis-unity/
1Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990–). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.
2 Irenaeus of Lyons. (1885). Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenæus. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 572). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.
3 Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1885). The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna. In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 43). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.
4 Justin Martyr. (1885). Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 211). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.