“What Think Ye of the Christ?”
Why Do Trinitarians Cling To The Word “Persons”
When Defining The Godhead? Why Are Neotrinitarians Embarrassed By Their Own Doctrinal Vocabulary?
What Words Did The Writers Use To Define Christ’s Deity?
Are They Still Applicable?
WHY USE UNSCRIPTURAL LANGUAGE
Dr. Boyd states bluntly that he feels there is nothing wrong with using “unscriptural language” to express what scripture teaches. “First, there is nothing in Scripture that prohibits the use of unscriptural language to express what Scripture says. Such a notion if held consistently, would actually prohibit preaching. Instead we would have to simply come together and read the Bible (in the original language!)” (Boyd, p.59). But why invent “unscriptural language” when there are perfectly adequate scriptural terms already available, such as Godhead instead of “Trinity” Spirit instead of “substance,” manifestation instead of “person.” And why invent “unscriptural language” that contradicts already existing terms! Why have “eternal Son” instead of “begotten Son?” Why use “Third Person of the Trinity” instead of “Spirit of Christ?” And what justification is there for substituting “God in Three Persons” for “God in Christ?”
WHY THE USE OF “PERSONS?”
The real reason Trinitarians will not return this “borrowed capital” to their Gnostic lenders is that to do so would collapse the Trinity. It cannot stand if confined to biblical terminology. The “unscriptural language” is absolutely essential for their “unscriptural doctrine.”
For this reason Dr. Boyd fights hard to keep the “unscriptural (and anti-scriptural) term “Persons” in active circulation. To retire it, would put him, and all other Trinitarian theologians, out of work (though we are more than willing to retrain them for gainful employment). He pleads his case on p. 172,”Eecause the word ‘person’ has become far more individualized, many well respected Trinitarians feel that it is misleading and should actually be dropped from contemporary creeds…”(p. 172-73). He feels however that it should be retained and continue to be utilized, but “with caution, making sure through teaching that the Church understands that we are not using the word literally, but analogously” (P.173). His contention is that the word is dangerous and must be used “with caution” because it has, in modern times, taken on a newer and narrower meaning. Now it means “individuals” or separate “beings.” We understand Dr. Boyd’s embarrassment and we sympathize with him, but we cannot relieve it. In fact, I’m afraid it’s going to become more acute. For the simple facts are that the current usage of “person” in modern (“post-enlightenment”) times is the same as the creed makers of old used it-It meant then, and was intended to an, “three individuals” or “three beings!’ Here is what one of many scholars has to say on this point. “The closest Greek parallel to the Latin ‘three personae’ was ‘three prosopa,’ but the latter term meaning ‘face, mask, or role,’ was popular with the Sabellians. The Cappodocians insisted on the stronger ‘three hypostoseis’ (beings).” (H. Dermott, McDonald, Basil the Great, p.I67). ‘He (Basil) was the first to fix the accepted formula for the Trinity: one substance (ousia) and three persons (hypostaseis).” (ibid, 167)
So it is clear from the start that the Trinitarian term “persons” was meant to teach “beings” or “individuals”. Why Dr. Boyd would want to deny this is far from easy to understand, especially when he himself used it in just such a “nuance Beginning on p. 189 and ending on p. 196 he says concerning the persons of the Trinity: How they love in time has always been taken by the church to be a true revelation of how they love in eternity” (‘p.189). If that’s not “three individuals” what is it? The unscriptural language of Trinitarianism is absolutely necessary to keep this fictitious triangle going.
All of this resulted when the church Fathers attempted to express the Godhead in Greek philosophical terms, In Jesus day the Greeks only wanted to “see him”(John 12:20-21); three hundred years later they were redefining him.
HEBREW REVELATION IN A GREEK MOLD
For too long the church has tried to pour a Hebrew revelation into Greek molds. One of the reasons inquirers after Truth are sometimes hindered in seeing a full revelation of Christ’s deity is that they search for it in Greek terminology instead of Hebrew. We must always remember that Jesus was Hebrew, as was’ his audience. His terminology and mode of expression would reflect this. Do not expect Him to use words like “hypostasia,’ “prosopohill, “ouisia” and so forth. These terms would emerge centuries later amidst the clamor of the “not so nice” Nicea. What we must do is to discover what language Jesus used to discuss his divine nature. This is not difficult, for they are there in the Gospels staring at us. Trinitarian theologians have for the most part refused to consider them as references to the divine natures in order to build the Trinity from their Greek Sources. Let us consider these terms, which are three in number:
The divine essence, or God’s nature, in the Bible is defined as Spirit. Christ Himself gave a Godhead definition that none of the “Councils” of men can surpass for accuracy or clarity when He said: “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). If He had wanted to say “God is a Trinity” he could have. But He didn’t. He didn’t because it was not true. If He had wanted to say “God is three Persons” he could have. But he did not make that statement either, for it also was untrue. What the Master did say was, “God is a Spirit,” and no more needs to be said. If men will adhere to this as their basic definition of God they will avoid all the nonsensical dogmas that have accumulated over the centuries. This is the doctrine that came down from heaven (John 7:16-17). The idea of God in “three distinct persons” did not! It was churned up in Asia Minor three hundred years later with the help of Constantine’s battle axe. Once we realize “Spirit”‘ is the term Christ uses for Godhead, other revelations follow in its wake.
CHRIST AND THE FULLNESS OF THE SPIRIT
We find out that Christ is filled with the entire Godhead, for in John 3:34 we read, “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” Christ doesn’t have a portion of the divine nature or Godhead, not just one third, but he has it “without measure” — All the fullness of the divine Father, who is Spirit! Paul expressed the same idea in different words when he said “all the fullness of the Godhead” dwelt bodily in Christ. The Father, or Spirit, is in Christ without measure. That is why He is said to be sealed by “God the Father” (John 6:27). He has the full sum or “seal of the Father” in his body. To be “sealed” means to have the “fullness” or “sue (compare Ezekiel 28:12).
Jesus’ very words were “Spirit” because they emanated from the Father that indwelt him: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profited nothing: “The words that I speak unto you they are Spirit and they are life (John 6:63).” Spirit was the indwelling divine nature of the man Christ: “and immediately when Jesus perceived in his Spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts” (John 2:8). It was through the Father nature, His Spirit, that he so “perceived what was hidden in men’s hearts.” It was the “Spirit” or divine nature of the Father who did the works 4lolma14:10)7 that radiated out from Christ and healed the bleeding woman, causing the man -Christ Jesus to realize that virtue had gone out of him. (Nark 5:30). When Jesus “groaned in the Spirit” (John 11:33), or sighed deeply in “his Spirit” (Mark 8:12; Mark 7:34), it was the Father, or Spirit nature of Christ, that was reaching out in love and compassion through ‘His incarnational Son. “For the Father himself loveth you” (John 16:27). It was also the divine indwelling Father, the Spirit, that led Christ into the wilderness to do battle with the devil during’ the 40 day temptation. “Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost” was “led up of, the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4:1). It was not the Spirit in him which was tempted, for God does not tempt neither can he be tempted, but rather the human Christ, the Spirit’s temple that was so tempted. And it was likewise in the “power of the Spirit,” the divine nature of God who is Spirit, that Christ returned to Galilee (Matt. 4:14).
Paul summarized this beautifully years later when he wrote “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit…” (I Tim. 3:16). Jesus was God in a human body, manifest in the flesh. But what does it mean ” he was justified in the Spirit”? When Jesus said: “Before Abraham was I Am” (John 8:58) he was “justified” in making that statement, because the “Spirit” in him was the Great I am that had Pre-existed Abraham. When Jesus received worship (Matt. 28:17), he was “justified” in receiving it, because the divine Spirit incarnate in him was God and thereby entitled to worship. When Jesus forgave sins (Mark 2:5), a perogative of God, he was “justified” in so doing, because the Sin-forgiving God was the Spirit that dwelt in him, and had the right to forgive sins. All of his divine actions and words were “justified” because he was that Spirit, God, robed in flesh…He was “justified in the Spirit.”
Glory is another word used to describe the divine nature of God the Father that dwellt in Christ.
Jesus told his disciples that he would “come in the glory of his Father” (Matt. 16:27). This is, he would come in the divine nature of his Father, a nature that indwells Him. To prove that the Father’s glory, or nature was incarnate in Him, he gave a “preview” of this coming 6 days later to Peter, James and John, “And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matt. 17: 1-2) The glory, or nature of the Father, was radiating in divine effulgence through the veil of this flesh. It was as much as could be done to show the disciples that “God was in Christ.” Anymore and they would have died, for the divine nature is a “light which no man can approach unto” (I Tim 6:16).
GLORY OF GOD IN THE FACE OF CHRIST
That this display of power was the Godhead in manifestation is made indisputable by Paul’s statement that we behold “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 4:6). This is why he that hath seen Christ “hath seen the Father.” Christ has all the glory of God, the fullness of glory. In other words he possesses all the Godhead within His body. He is the Lord of Glory (I Cor. 2:8)0 and the Person in whom is contained the “brightness” of God’s glory, for he is the “image” of the Father (Neb. 1:3). This glory, or deity in ist is not the “Second Person of the Trinity,” but is God the Father Himself. To this fact Christ testified repeatedly. “That the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). He referred to his Second Advent as his coming, “in the glory of his Father…” (Mark 8:38). A glory which God gave him through the incarnation (John 17:22).
“SPIRIT OF GLORY AND OF GOD”
It is the Spirit of Glory and of God (I Peter 4:14), which is defined by Christ as the Spirit of the Father, that Christ was praying for in John 17, when he said: “Father the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee… And now O Father, glorify thou me with thy own self with the glory I had with thee before the world was.” Christ at this last hour knew that soon he would die and the divine nature or “glory” that was dwelling in Him would depart (which it did/ Mark 15:34). His prayer was that in his forth coming resurrection God would re-enter, and re-establish Himself in the new Temple of Christ’s resurrected body. Christ was asking for “glorification” or in other words “divine indwelling” of the Father in his new immortal body, just as God had indwelt the flesh and blood body he was about to sacrifice.(John 14:10). It was necessary for the man Christ to pray for everything he received from God, including, his resurrection and deification, or “glorification” Furthermore, he prayed that the disciples might behold “his glory” someday in heaven. “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me…” (John.17-:24). For God to give Christ “his glory” is the same as God giving Christ his own divine nature as Father, his very “own self” (John 17:5). What Christ wanted in this prayer was for the Godhead to be put back in Him when he emerged from the Tomb, to be “raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom. 6:4). Jesus had absolute faith that this would occur. In fact in his mind it was as good as done. Recall his statement at the Last Supper: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (John 13:31). That was the present situation during Christ’s earthly life-God was “glorified in him” or in other words, God was “incarnate in him”. Then Jesus continued: “If God be glorified in Him”
(v.32), or if God was presently incarnate in Him,(and He then “God shall also glorify him in himself” (v.32). God will also do it again, that is God will again embody “Himself” in Christ. When? At the resurrection: “And shall straightway (very soon) glorify him.” And this did occur three days later (“straightway”) at the resurrection, for he was raised up by the “glory of the Father” Rom. 6:4. Now Paul tells us God has taken up permanent residence in Christ, never to be separated from Him, through death or any other means: “For in Him dwells permanently all the fullness of the Godhead in a body” (Co. 2:9 Greek).
TRINITARIANS SPEAK ON CHRIST’S GLORY
Some Trinitarian writers have also seen the connection between Christ’s “glory” and “his deity” (though they define the deity in Trinitarian terms.) J. Dwight Pentecost writes: “The same glory that Moses beheld in the tabernacle in Exodus 40:34-38 and that the Priest saw in the temple in I Kings 8:10-11 was revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter testified to this in II Peter 1:16-8”. (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, P. 31).
Ron Rhodes writes: “The Shekinah glory dwelt in the tabernacle of the flesh of Jesus. The true temple of God was therefore not the edifice in Jerusalem, but the very body of Jesus. It was in him that the glory of God shone.” (Ron Rhodes, Christ Before the Manger, p.152). He further elaborates: “For this reason John testified: ‘we have seen his glory’ (John 1:14), no doubt a reference to the transfiguration, in which Jesus, towards the end of his three year ministry, pulled back the veil of his glory so that His, face shone like the Sun and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matt 17:2) (Rhodes, p. 152).
Finally Benjamin Warfield, noted Trinitarian expositor says: “The flesh of our Lord became the Temple of God on earth (John 2:19) and the glory of the Lord filled the House of the Lord” (Benjamin Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ, p.52). The tragedy of these Trinitarian writers is that, while realizing “glory” is a synonym for the divine presence in Christ, they fail to simultaneously realize this presence is the Father’s nature and what they are actually describing is the incarnation of the Father in Christ! They have truly “shot an arrow in the air,” but it has fallen in flight, and they “know not where.”
OLD TESTAMENT SHEKINAH GLORY IN CHRIST
A study of the Old Testament use of “glory” or “Shekinah” will quickly show that it signifies nothing less than the full, undivided manifestation of Deity. It is not parceled out or divided up among a Trinity of Persons. It is the fullness of the Godhead in glorious manifestation. Therefore Christ’s possession of this Shekinah glory is equivalent to his possession of the whole Godhead in his divine nature. (See Ex. 33:18 & 22; Isaiah 42:8; Psalm 24:7-10; Exodus 40:34-38; I Kings 8:10-11). The fact that the Father said He would not “give his glory to another” (Isa. 42:8), coupled with the statement by Christ that he had the Father’s glory (John 17:5), proves that Christ is not considered “another but is himself the Father in human manifestation.
The use of the term “self” by Christ is perhaps his strongest assertation to possessing the divine nature of the Father. For if he had the Father’s self dwelling in complete and total fullness within his body, then he was the Father. Christ prayed to be glorified (incarnated as we have seen) with the Father’s self at His resurrection. “And now O Father, glorify thou me with thine ownself…” (John 17:5). He also said that God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.” (John 13:32). The same thought underlies this passage also. It is the Father “himself” that accomplishes the glorification by incarnating “himself” in “him” the Son. That two “selves,” one human and one divine, existed simultaneously in Christ becomes clear. The human “self” he referred to as being incapable of doing anything apart from God: “The Son can do nothing of himself…” (John 5:19). “But the Father,” Christ’s deity, “Sheweth Him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel” (John 5:20). And where was this Father located that “sheweth him all things that himself doeth?” Incarnate in the man Christ Jesus: “I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). This is the doctrine of the dual natures, or the two “selves” existing in Christ human and divine.
The transference of the Life of God into the body of the Son was in essence the incarnation of the Father in the Son.
JOHN SPEAKS OF THE ORIGINAL LIFE
The Father is the original source of “eternal life.” The Apostle John refers to “that eternal life, which was with the Father” in I John 1:2. This is not a Second Person in the Godhead. God’s life is said to be “with” Him just like his other attributes, such as wisdom, understanding, power, etc. are said to be “with him.” Boyd himself gives a convincing argument in support of this on Page 57 and concludes by saying: “To speak of any of God’s attributes as distinct from himself was simply to speak of God himself involved in the world.’ Thus this eternal life which was with the Father, is actually the Father’s very life itself, in other words his “essence” or “being:”
But John further tells us that this “life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness…” (I John 1:2). He also states: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the Word of Life” (I John 1:1). They actually “saw” and “handled” the Father’s own “being” or “life.” The Father himself was among them! “I write unto you, little children, because ye have know the Father” (I John 2:13). When did they “know,” “see,” and “handle” the Father? Certainly not in his Spirit form before the incarnation, but when “God was manifest in the flesh” of Christ. This was actually the Father’s original eternal Life which was placed in the flesh temple of His Son. That’s why John says: at which have seen and heard declare we unto you…and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (I John 1:3). How could fellowship be otherwise if the Father’s “being” is incarnate in his only begotten Son!
CHRIST SPEAKS OF THE ORIGINAL LIFE
Jesus expounded the same doctrine in John 5:26: “For as the Father has life in Himself so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” The Son did not have “life in himself” as a result of being the Son (as Trinitarians teach). But it was “given” to Him to have God’s eternal life or being in himself. When did God “give” the Son to have this Father-Life in Him? At his birth, of course, because he was born “God with us”(Matt. 1:23) and the “everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). The Bible plainly declares there is only one immortal life (I Tim 1:17), and that life is now in the Son, which is the same as saying the Father is in the Son, which the Bible also says –John 14:10-11′.
Seeing the Father’s divine nature, or “everlasting life” is in the Son, this original “life source” can be dispensed to believers by the same mediatoral Son: “…everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you” (John 6:27). In this way believers are said, in a small measure of course, to be “partakers” of the “divine nature” (II Peter 1:4).
This is why the Father is actually declared to be the “Son of Man” in John 5:27. “And (“the Father” verse 26) hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he (referring back to the same subject, “the Father”) is the Son of Man,” The Greek phrases it, “because Son of Man he is!” The son could not have any authority to execute judgment, unless the Father was in Him (and one with Him) doing “the works” (John 14:10).
In summary we have seen that Spirit, glory, self, life, all refer to the Father’s divine nature. These are the Biblical terms for it. And Jesus is said to be filled with that Spirit without measure; to be the Temple of that glory without restriction; to have the Father’s self without distinction; and to contain that life without termination. In short, Jesus is God the Father manifested in the flesh, and proved to be so by whatever term of nature is used.
This article “What Think Ye of the Christ?” written by Elder Ross Drysdale is excerpted from the book Enter the Neo-Trinitarians.