Is there any difference between God,
Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?
Before we discuss the doctrine of one God in Jesus Christ, let’s look at a summary of the doctrine of Trinity:
1. God is one.
2. The Godhead consists of three distinct eternal coequal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three persons are the same in substance, but distinct in subsistence.
3. God is indivisible and unquantifiable.
4. All three persons of the triune God are involved in every work of God in the world. All acts of God proceed from the Father, through His Son or Word or Image, in the power of His immanent Holy Spirit. For example, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit can individually be said to raise the dead because, as God, each one does raise the dead. The act is one act, performed by one God, but involving all three ways in which God is God.
5. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. He is God, but he is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit.
The trinitarian view of God came as a result of an attempt to understand God rationally. Although the language of trinity was found in Christian confessions before this time, the word “trinity” itself was first formally used at the synod held at Alexandria, in A.D. 317, and took its place in the language of Christian theology for the first time in a Biblical work of Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, in Syria from A.D. 168 to 183.
Based on the Bible, we do believe and agree that God is one, that Jesus Christ is God, and that the Bible does make a distinction between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But we cannot fully agree with with the trinitarian view of God for the following reasons:
1. The use of words and concepts such as “trinity,” “three persons,” “coequal,” “substance,” and “subsistence” are often misleading. If these terms would clarify the concept of God, the Bible would have used them. The fact that they are absent shows that we must be careful about using our own terms when we explain God. Even theologians such as the Cappadocians, Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin all used the word “person” reluctantly and with much qualification. Many well-respected trinitarians feel that it is misleading and should actually be dropped from contemporary trinitarian creeds.
2. We must admit that all theories about God’s being fail to accurately explain God. It is not wise to define God with human concepts and put him neatly into a model because in so doing, we easily step beyond and sometimes contradict God’s self-revelation through the Scriptures. For example, the belief that Jesus Christ is not the Father or the Holy Spirit contradicts certain passages in the Bible. Such misconception has led to teachings that do away with baptism in the name of Jesus Christ or restricting believers to praying to the Father alone but not to the Lord Jesus.
Is it true that the New Testament is saying “Jesus is not the Father nor the Spirit”? Why do we believe that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one God and one Spirit?
The New Testament does distinguish between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit by mentioning them side by side and in relation to one another. The Father sends and works through the Son and the Holy Spirit. But the Bible never says that Jesus is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit, and we should not assume so simply because Jesus is mentioned alongside the Father and the Spirit. By the same token, although Jesus is often mentioned alongside and in relation to God (e.g Acts 2:32; 1 Tim 5:21), we cannot conclude from this that Jesus is not God.
When we think of God in terms of “persons,” there is always a tendency to assume that one person cannot be another, the way one human being cannot be another human being. We should not place such restrictions on God when the Bible does not.
The Bible often emphasizes the oneness of God (Deut 6:4; Mal 2:10; Mk 12:29; Rom 3:30; 1 Cor 8:4,6; Gal 3:20; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Jas 2:19). We never read about God’s “threeness.” It is not wise to fit God into a trinitarian formula when the Bible does not speak of such a formula. In fact, the Bible pairs the Son and the Father (Jn 14:1; Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2,3; Gal 1:1,3; Eph 1:2,3; Rev 5:13; etc) or the Son and the Spirit (Mt 4:1; Lk 4:1; 1 Cor 6:11; Rom15:30; Heb 10:23) much more frequently than it puts the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit together. Does this somehow suggest a “twoness” within the “threeness” of God? By no means. When we begin to think of God as “three,” which the Bible does not do, we tend to conclude that one is not the other. Such a conclusion already goes beyond biblical revelation.
Philip, who probably concluded that Jesus was not the Father, asked the Lord to show them the Father. Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works” (Jn 14:9-10). Once again, the oneness is emphasized, not the distinction.
The fact that the Bible sometimes speaks of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit interchangeably makes the notion that one is not the other all the more questionable.
There is only one God – God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one. The three have different functions in God’s work, at different stages. The Holy Father reveals the power of creation (Gen 1:1), through the Son, salvation is revealed (Rom 3:24) while the Holy Spirit provides revelation and guidance (Jn 16:13). Yet they are all one (Jn 10:30). God is the one and only one. When Jesus was born, the bible prophesied that he was “Mighty God ” and the “everlasting Father” (Isa 9:6). In Hebrews 1:8, it says, “About the Son he says, “O God! 2 Peter 1:1 says “Our Saviour Jesus Christ…” Acts 5:3-5 say that he who deceives the Holy Spirit deceives God. Jesus said that he came from heaven and that he was still in heaven (Jn 3:13). These show that God is three in one and that they do not exist as three gods.
We have limited knowledge of this mystic divine nature, seeing but a poor reflection as in a mirror. Then we shall see face to face and know fully, as Christ knows us (1 Cor 13:12).
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