Jesus and the Trinity

Much confusion and misconception concerning Jesus has come about by a misapplication of the title Yahweh, applying it only to the Father, as though He were the one Being quali­fying as God. However, in ex­amining the more than 6,000 Scripture texts, it be­comes evident that the Being ordinarily re­ferred to by that title is sometimes Jesus.

Language and Literature Professor, Southern Missionary College

MUCH confusion and misconception concerning Jesus has come about by a misapplication of the title Yahweh (ΠìΠι), applying it only to the Father, as though He were the one Being quali­fying as God. However, in ex­amining the more than 6,000 Scripture texts that have ΠìΠι in the original, it be­comes evident that the Being ordinarily re­ferred to by that title is sometimes Jesus. We will not refer to a great number of the texts that might be used. But let us note sufficient to make the point clear.

First of all, the meaning of the term ΠìΠι must be clarified. Let us note the be­ginning of God's introduction of Himself by this name. In Exodus 6:2 and 3 God says He was not known by that name be­fore. In Exodus, chapter 3, where is re­corded the appearing of God to Moses as the nirt', God revealed to Moses the mean­ing of that title, namely, the I AM, the con­tinuous One, the One who was, is, and is to come (verses 13, 14). God was now to re­veal the plan of salvation to His people more fully through the sanctuary services and the priesthood. He did not want them to get the conception that when Messiah should be born, He was not the pre-existent, eternal One. This Messiah, prefigured by the sanctuary services, was truly God. To help Israel maintain that conception, Jesus here reveals His name as Jehovah, the I AM.

This ΠìΠι who led them out and re­deemed them is also spoken of as "the angel" (Isa. 63:9; Acts 7:38). The word an­gel means "messenger." Jesus was the mes­senger introducing God to the world. Ap­pearing as an angel of God, He said to Jacob, "I am the God of Bethel." Jesus came down from heaven (John 3:31, 32), not to do His own will, but rather to do the will of the Father by whom He had been sent for this purpose (John 4:34). In Mala-chi 3:1 Jesus is spoken of as "the messenger of the covenant," who would bring the message of hope to the world. Angels are messengers of God, and so in that sense Jesus is spoken of as the angel, or mes­senger, of His presence. In like manner as the divine Scripture has frequently de­clared Him both angel and God, so the same divine Scripture declares Him also both man and God. However, from His ap­pearance to Moses and onward, He became known to them also as mm, the I AM. (See The Desire of Ages, pages 24, 25.)

In John 8:58 Jesus declares Himself to be the "I AM." Then note the following Old Testament texts where the original is mm and is translated "Lord" in the King James Version: In Malachi 3:1, "the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple"; in Zechariah 14:5 and 9, "and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee," "and the Lord shall be king over all the earth." In Jeremiah 25:31 to 33, where the destruction of the wicked is mentioned at the appearing of our Lord, the name in the original is Jehovah. In Jeremiah 23:5 to 7, where Jesus is prophesied of as the Branch, He is called THE LORD [ΠìΠιn'] OUR RIGHTEOUS­NESS. Jesus is recognized by the Scriptures as the Bridegroom, His church as being the bride (Eph. 5:32; Rev. 19:7, 8). In Jeremiah 3:14 it is the Lord (mm) who says, "I am married unto you." In Isaiah 66:15 and 16 it is the Lord who will come with fire. Jesus is the Creator of the heav­ens and the earth (John 1:1-3), and in Isaiah 45:18 the verse begins, "For thus saith the Lord [mm] that created the heav­ens" (see also Isa. 40:28). In the prophecy of John the Baptist, in Isaiah 40:3, we read, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord [ΠìΠι]." And again in prophesying of Christ's coming Isaiah says, "This is our God [ΠìΠι]; we have waited for him, and he will save us" (Isa. 25:8, 9).

Then, in concluding this point, note that the Lord (ΠìΠι) is the King of Israel. In Zechariah 9:9 we have the inspired proph­ecy of the coming of this King, riding upon a colt, the foal of an ass. This, we all know, was fulfilled in the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. See Matthew 21:5 for the account of its fulfillment. Jesus spoke of Himself as the King of Israel. Believers and unbelievers also called Him King of the Jews, or of Israel (Matt. 27:11, 42; John 1:49). Note also Micah 5:2. From this evi­dence—and many other similar statements from Scripture are available—it is clear that these Scriptures can apply only to Jesus, and He is called here in each case by the name of Jehovah in the original.

Inappropriate as it may seem at first thought, and yet perfectly fitting upon fur­ther thought, is the fact that occasionally we find the Father also spoken of by this name Jehovah. This is indicative of the per­fect unity and equality that exists in the Godhead. As Jehovah means "the contin­uous One," this surely can also be true of the Father. Being one in character, what may be said of one may also be said of the other. Hence, that this name could apply to both would be both reasonable and proper. They are coeternal as well as co­equal.

The texts in which the title Jehovah clearly applies to the Father are far fewer than the ones applying to Christ. Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Isaiah 62:11; 61:1; 53:10; and 42:1-8 are some of the Scripture references where two of the Trinity are mentioned with the name Lord (ΠìΠι) applied clearly to the Father. Further, the very fact that this name can apply to either one is proof of their coeternal existence.

The Father-and-Son Relationship

But if it is true that the three members of the Godhead are coequal and coeternal and of perfect unity, how is the Father and Son relationship understood and ex­plained? Let us now enter into the com­prehension of this great mystery. To un­derstand this relationship it is first neces­sary to understand the plan of salvation and its underlying purpose. When man sinned he not only separated himself from God by this wall of sin but he also lost the power he originally had to live in harmony with God should this wall be removed. Thus to accomplish man's salvation re­quired two things from God: He must re­move sin and thus reconcile man to Himself and He must provide an example of living with the power to sustain man in this way of life. In other words, there must be provision not only for justification but also for sanctification. It is the latter part that many Christians forget. They must not only be forgiven their sins but they must forsake them. To accomplish this it was necessary for Jesus both to live here on earth and to die. These two phases are commemorated by the ordinances. His living in humility as an obedient servant is com­memorated by the ordinance of foot wash­ing, and His death is commemorated by the Lord's Supper. This dual phase of sal­vation is what Paul has in mind in Romans 5:10, where he says, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being recon­ciled, we shall be saved by his life."

We are reconciled to God by the death of His Son, that is, His death on Calvary justi­fies us from our past sins when we accept this substitute by faith. Now we stand clean before God, as if we had never sinned. This required the death of Jesus Christ as our substitute. He died as a lamb. John said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." This substitu­tion was assured to the earth from its founding, for we read in Revelation 13:8 that He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." The word trans­lated "foundation" is in the original the "founding" of the world. In this plan of salvation it was not sufficient to plan for justification by His death. There must also be provision for living after this reconcilia­tion. In other words, there must be sanctifi­cation of the life of the sinner to prepare him to live again in a sinless world. Paul says, "I am crucified with Christ: neverthe­less I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). In 1 Peter 2:21 Peter says that "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps." As an example, "though He were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which He suffered." It was as necessary in this plan of saving man for Him to live as a Son as it was for Him to die. Both were as­sured before the founding of the world. Both became necessary only because of sin. To fail to see this is to fail to see the full significance and cost of the plan to God. To die was only half of the plan. Jesus also must live, so that we might have the power of a life lived.

There was a time when God, in His di­vine mental conception and planning, made provision for the founding of this world and the creation of man. It was then, before He created, that the plan "kept in silence through times eternal" was acti­vated and now made manifest. Jesus as God was from eternity, but this earth was not from eternity, neither was sin from eter­nity, nor the plan of salvation from sin. There was a time when sin was not, and hence there was a time when the provision for its removal was not determined, except as provision for it was always existent in the character of God. But the relationship in the Godhead to save man from sin was not in existence except perhaps in embryo. It was not necessary for the One we now call Jesus to be a savior, because there was nothing from which to save. Hence He was not then a Lamb in the sense of one to be sacrificed. Just so, there was no one to be sanctified, for all were holy until sin en­tered. Thus it was not previously necessary for Jesus to become a Son and learn obedience by suffering in order that we might be sanctified.

God was now planning to create a new order with power of procreation. "All heaven took a deep and joyful interest in the creation of the world and of man. Hu­man beings were a new and distinct order. They were made 'in the image of God,' and it was the Creator's design that they should populate the earth. They were to live in close communion with heaven, receiving power from the Source of all power. Up­held by God, they were to live sinless lives."—Ellen G. White, The Review and Herald, Feb. 11, 1902. In reality He was about to create beings who themselves would have the power of procreation given to them. This of itself would be a great risk, and yet in its ultimate success a great satisfaction. They would be beings who could become sons of God, members of the family of heaven. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God" (1 John 3:1). What an exalted privilege! In this divine plan, with possibilities of failure by sin, God must provide a way to make possible man's return to sonship if he fell. Adam was called the son of God by creation (Luke 3:38). Man, if he fell, must have this privilege by re-creation. The Creator of man must become one with us by nature and lead the way back, first by providing atonement and then by setting an example of living. He must be the Way, and provide power to those who choose that way. He too must become a son and learn obedience by suffering, and then be accepted on His merits as such. Hence the Father-and-Son relationship must be en­tered into for the salvation of man, and this agreement must be pledged by the Godhead at the founding or planning of this world. Their eternal relationship was closer than even that of a father and son, but for our understanding and salvation, they took this relationship.

Jesus is the Lamb slain from the founding of the world. So also, in this arrangement, He is the Son from the founding of the world. Both of these steps were necessary to complete the plan of salvation. And as far as this world is concerned, this is the existing relationship while this world con­tinues, because of the experience of sin. Hence, any of these names are appropriate for us to use of Him at any time, as that is His meaning to us now. He was the Lamb slain in anticipation and promise until His crucifixion, and on that day that promise became a reality. Just so the Father-and-Son relationship existed in anticipation and promise until the resurrection morn­ing. Then on that morning this anticipa­tion and promise became a reality. How­ever, we must remember that a promise of God is equal in value to a reality, because God cannot lie (see Hebrews 6:16-19). Paul in speaking of His resurrection in his ser­mon at Antioch says, "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also writ­ten in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee" (Acts 13:33). He applies under inspiration the statement of this psalm to the resurrection day. Then, in fact, He became officially the Son. On the resurrection morning Jesus first had to ascend to His Father to receive His approval of the completion of the task of an obedient Son (John 20:17). Note also Hebrews 1:5, where Paul says, "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be [future tense] to me a Son?" This was a condition determined upon by the Godhead in their wonderful plan of love.

He was to become a Son, and as with us, learn obedience by the things He suffered, that He might become the author of eter­nal salvation (Heb. 5:8, 9). His was an ex­ample of love and obedience beyond the call of duty. His obedience went even to the death of the cross, which was not for His sins. This was the obedience that He learned by suffering and for which He wanted His Father's approval before He would permit anyone to touch Him in worship. Perhaps the strongest testimony of all is found in Romans 1:4, where Paul says that God "declared [determined] to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." The original word trans­lated "declared" comes from the same root from which we obtain the English word "horizon," only this is a verb form, which means "to bound," "to restrict," "to appoint definitely," "to fix determinately," or "to decree." Here Paul says under inspira­tion that God now fixed determinedly Jesus to be the Son of God as a result of the resurrection from the dead. Jesus had ful­filled the last requirement. He had been obedient unto death, and now by His own power He had risen from the dead. Now the plan of salvation in all its phases was completely fixed.

Oh, wonder of wonders, this was a vol­untary agreement for our sakes! Jesus, who was God, equal with the Father, entered into this arrangement begotten of love in the all-wise counsel of the Trinity—an ar­rangement that affected the strongest rela­tionships of a heavenly union. The Father gave, the Son came, and the Holy Spirit came. All heaven was stirred. God the Son veiled His divinity, His equality with God, which it was not robbery for Him to have and in which to continue. He esteemed others better than Himself (Phil. 2:3). The saving of us was of more importance to Him than any thought of self. He thought not of His own glory, "but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:7, 8). All this was done, not only as an example and to give us the power of His life but that He might be a faithful high priest.

A priest must be one from those for whom the ministry is performed. "Foras­much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same. . . . Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertain­ing to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted" (Heb. 2: 14-18). He is made like unto His brethren by becoming flesh and by becoming a Son. He denied Himself and learned obedience through suffering. Thus He voluntarily took upon Himself a different relation­ship to the Godhead than previously, for our salvation. He made Himself com­pletely subject to God as a son to lead the way for us, that we might become sons of God (see 1 John 3:1, 2).

As Isaac, a type of Christ, was a son of promise, born out of due time, so Jesus was the Son of promise, born in due time. As one of us, and as a true son, He learned obedience through suffering, that He might be an example to us. He developed as we may develop (Luke 2:52). "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9). He became perfect in the process of development; He finished His work and was found worthy. He failed not in His great test, even the death of the cross. Now the Father calls Him forth— "This day have I begotten thee." The reality of that which had existed in prom­ise was now fulfilled. A way of salvation was complete, and He had become the Mediator. A first-born son had been begot­ten and a way made open for other sons to follow. Having become one of us and hav­ing been found worthy of the position, God now calls Him to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek, who was priest because of what he was and not because of who he was. He did not take the honor to Himself, but was called of God at the time of His resurrection when the Father said, "Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee" (Heb. 5:4-6).

And now, because of His perfect life and obedience in humility (veiling His di­vinity and living as a son, yet in perfec­tion), God again exalted Him and gave Him a name above every name. See Philippians 2:9-11. That is, God the Father reinstated Him, so to speak, and gave Him all power in heaven and in earth. Because of His completed work, it was given Him again. This is the reason Jesus says, "All power is given unto me" (Matt. 28:18). He once had it, but laid aside the use of it vol­untarily in order to work out the plan of salvation; and now God gives it to Him again to use. This is no doubt one of the reasons He said, while here, "My Father is greater than I," and again, "I can of mine own self do nothing." Another reason may be inherent in His own character. For what He tells us to be He no doubt is Himself. In Philippians 2:3 Paul, under inspiration, says, "but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Ful­filling this, His own principle, Jesus vol­untarily put Himself below the Father, and God the Father, having accepted Him as a true, loyal, and perfect first-born Son, made His name above every name. Thus the members of the Godhead carry out in character their own principle expressed by the Holy Spirit through Paul.

Unique Position of Jesus

God the Father has turned all power over to the Son, because of His victory, that He may deal with sin and sinners not only as a priest and mediator but also as a judge (John 5:22, 26, 27), until this work is completed and the last enemy is de­stroyed (see 1 Cor. 15:24-28). Then all shall be subject to the Father, that He may be all in all. Thus by the exalting or rein­stating of Christ, He not only is God the Son in this new relationship but He also is priest and mediator in the completion of the great plan of salvation. Then, as God, but also as our Elder Brother, He shall con­tinue to be one with us through eternity (1 John 3:1, 2). "In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himsef to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. . . . He [the Father] gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His hu­man nature."—The Desire of Ages, p. 25. God gave Him to us as a son (John 3:16), that He might become one with us and dwell with men. In the earth made new He will continue to dwell with us (Rev. 21: 3). The whole universe will ascribe Him glory. He is not only originally God but through His immeasurable love He became one with us in the plan of redemption; and because of His obedience, faithfulness, and worth, He is declared to be God by the vote of the whole universe as well as by the call and exaltation of God the Father. He is God the Son by virtue of being Saviour, and this is the relationship between the two members of the Godhead emphasized in the New Testament, especially by Paul, in such texts as Romans 1:7; 5:1; 15:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3; 11:31; Ephesians 1:17; Philippians 2:11; 1 Peter 1:3; 2 Peter 1:1; and 1 John 2:1.

Jesus became Saviour as soon as there were souls to save. He became the Messiah, or Christ (the Anointed One), as soon as there was a need for one to be anointed to this special task. He became the Lamb slain as soon as such a sacrifice was neces­sary. He became a son as soon as Adam, God's son, fell from his sonship, which was his by creation, and a first-born son was needed to show the way of obedience and to give us the Elder Brother's hand to victory. When this son relationship is under­stood in the light of the plan of salvation, then such expressions as "All power is given unto me," "The Father himself . . . hath sent me," "My Father is greater than I," and "I can of mine own self do nothing" become clear, and there is no contradic­tion with other statements both in the Bible and in the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy that speak of Him as being equal with the Father and coeternal with Him, as quoted in the beginning of this article.

Jesus is God, He was God, and He will be God. God shall dwell with us. He is also our Elder Brother, and we too may become sons of God by obedience learned through suffering. This is the master plan being worked out in the world by our loving God. It is born of a love beyond our full comprehension, but which we shall be priv­ileged to study throughout eternity. God has given Him a name above every name, "that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father" (John 5:23). He has been declared worthy. Shall we not join in the heavenly chorus and say, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to re­ceive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and bless­ing" (Rev. 5:12)?

 

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Language and Literature Professor, Southern Missionary College

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