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Decoding the Divine: One God or Three?

There are difficulties understanding the Divine nature.

Does the Bible say there is one God or three gods? This difficult question is raised from the very first verse of the Bible. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (LEB). In the original language of the Bible, “God” is a noun in the plural form, and “created” is a verb in the singular form. So, which is it? Was there only one all-powerful, eternal being who was there in the beginning and created everything, or were there multiple almighty persons involved in the creation of all things? On the one hand we have a verse like Isaiah 44:24 which says, “Thus says Yahweh, your redeemer, and he who formed you in the womb: ‘I am Yahweh, who made everything, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth—who was with me?’” On the other hand, we have verses like Job 33:4 and Hebrews 1:2, which indicate other players must be involved in creation. Job 33:4 says, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of [Almighty] gives life to me,” and Hebrews 1:2 says, “in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” It would seem from the Bible that the answer is, “both.” There is only one God who created all things. However, this one God consists of three distinct personalities. Let me explain further.


One God

In ancient times, before Jesus, the Israelites were practically the only nation who practiced monotheism, or the worship of only one almighty God. In the Old Testament Scriptures, He is most known by his personal name, “Yahweh,” which is a variation of the Hebrew phrase, “I am.”


Yahweh stands above all created beings in His character and nature. There is no one like Him. He is known as God Almighty. There are other powerful beings. In the original Bible language, “god” just meant a “powerful being”. In this sense, there are many powerful spiritual beings, or gods. We might also know them as angels and demons. In some cases, humans are even called gods (Psalm 82:6) since they are made in His image. However, there is only one eternal God Almighty who created all other powerful beings. His name is Yahweh.


The Bible teaches there is only one Yahweh, and that He is the only God Almighty. There is only one Divine Nature. He is all-powerful. He is eternal. He is perfectly just, being strict in His judgment, but unparalleled in His mercy and love. He can go anywhere and be everywhere at the same time. He created all things, and He sustains all things by His will. There is only one who is like this. That is why the Bible teaches that God is One. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is unique.”


When most people think of the God of the Bible, they might think of Yahweh as Father. In fact, Ephesians 4:6 says that there is “one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.” However, it is important to notice that Yahweh will also present Himself to humanity in different forms than the Father who is in the heavenly realm. For example, in Genesis 18, Abraham sees three men approaching his tent. He soon finds out that one of the men he is talking to is Yahweh in human form! In verses 17–21, Yahweh is even having a conversation with Himself. Does that mean that at that moment the Father in heaven ceased to exist or was in a destabilized condition? No. Does it imply that Yahweh speaking to Abraham was a lesser form of God Almighty? No. Yahweh is capable of being everywhere at once in as many forms as He chooses (Jeremiah 23:23–24). He can simultaneously be in spiritual form in the heavens and in human form on earth. Yahweh can take other equivalent forms other than God the Father in heaven.


Three Distinct Personalities

Instead of thinking of different forms, or manifestations of Yahweh, it is possible, and in many cases preferable to think of Yahweh as distinct personalities. The words, “form” and “manifestation” may imply only a temporary presentation to mankind. However, the Bible talks about three functional personalities of Yahweh. That is, three distinct individuals who are all Yahweh and who are each self-existent personalities of Yahweh throughout eternity. This is not the same as saying, “three gods” since the idea of individual gods usually implies separate powerful beings with independent and sometimes competing wills. It is also not comparable to saying that twin siblings, for example, can have similar but different personalities. Siblings are still different in many considerable ways. Yahweh, on the other hand, is not like the gods we imagine or like humans. He has one nature, character, and will, but He exists as three separate personalities all having the exact same essence.


The Father

The most well understood personality of Yahweh, which we have already discussed, is God the Father. The Old Testament frequently refers to the fatherly character of Yahweh since He is the Creator and Sovereign One who also intimately cares for people, His children. Deuteronomy 32:6 says, “Has [Yahweh] not, your father, created you? He made you, and He established you.”


The Son

Many people assume that when the Bible refers to Yahweh, God, or Lord it must be referring specifically to the Father. However, this may not be the case. We learn later through the revelation of Jesus Christ that Yahweh had another personality all along. In John 1:1, 14 and 18, it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and took up residence among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has seen God at any time; the one and only, God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father—that one has made him known.” The Word who has always existed and created all things is referring to Jesus. He is the second eternal personality of Yahweh God. Jesus says of Himself in Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is and the One who was and the One who is coming, the All-Powerful.”


Jesus is unique because He is fully divine, but He is also fully human. Colossians 2:9 says, “because in Him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily.” The interesting part about this verse is that it implies Jesus is dwelling (present tense) in bodily form. He is eternally divine. He was then conceived in fleshly form. He died and arose from the dead in a resurrected body (John 20:27), which He has apparently maintained following His ascension back to heaven. This further reinforces the separate personalities of Yahweh. Currently in heaven, Jesus is sitting down at the right hand of the Father in bodily form. Although Christ is also Spirit (2 Cor 3:17), He was not just “absorbed” into God after His ascension. He remains distinct. Hebrews 1:3 says, “[He] is the radiance of His glory and the representation of His essence, sustaining all things by the word of power. When He had made purification for sins through Him, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”


The Holy Spirit

The third personality of Yahweh described in the Bible is the Holy Spirit. At the baptism of Jesus, we notice the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus and the Father from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Here we can distinctly see reference to all three personalities of Yahweh.


Before ascending back to heaven to be with the Father, He promised to send the Helper, that is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16–17). Jesus told His disciples that they would know that Jesus was with the Father and still with them at the same time through the Spirit (John 14:19–20). What this means is that Jesus would not leave His disciples as orphans (John 14:18). The third personality of Yahweh — the Holy Spirit — is still with His people in the church today.


In the Old Testament, the Spirit of Yahweh manifested His presence with the people through their designated temple (or tabernacle). At certain times, the people could see the glory of Yahweh protecting them and guiding them (Isaiah 63:7–14). In a similar way, the people who now recognize Jesus as their Savior and God have the Holy Spirit protecting and guiding them (Ephesians 3:16; 6:17). This means that Yahweh is with the Christian. He is with the Christian just as much as He can be in heaven as the Father and Jesus simultaneously. He is three distinct personalities. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are completely unified in will and purpose, and all three are entirely God Almighty.


Significance of One God and Three Personalities

Hopefully, we can appreciate the importance of there being only one all powerful and all sovereign God. That means there is no room for subjectivity. His nature and character, as revealed in the Bible, is perfect and incomparable. Mankind only hurts himself by reducing the Divine Nature to the form of many competing gods, each having different powers and areas of influence. The gods imagined by the world are typically distant, aloof, and capricious. The Bible, on the other hand, speaks of Yahweh as being the very near source of our life and existence, and He wants to have an intimate relationship with each one of us (Acts 17:27–28)!


The three personalities of Yahweh only reinforce the idea of intimacy with mankind. The Father in heaven is pictured as knowing all our needs and providing for them (Matthew 6:8, 30). The Son of God is Yahweh who came to the earth in the flesh as Jesus. He experienced what it was like to be human. For this reason, He can empathetically serve as our faithful and merciful High Priest. He experienced life and death in the flesh, and He conquered it. Now, He can conquer death on our behalf and advocate for us to the Father (Hebrews 2:14–18). The Spirit is also a Divine representative of Yahweh, except He is described as still living within the Christian today (Romans 8:15). Each personality is distinct, but each is completely God and unified in one mission: to bring the lost and struggling sinner back to Yahweh.


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