Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
This verse from is probably a familiar one for most of us. It is a doctrinal pillar for the Judeo-Christian faith and distinguishes monotheism (belief in a single God) and pantheism (belief in many gods). If we went back into human history, Adam and Eve, would have testified to only one God … the One who walked and fellow-shipped with them in the cool of the day each morning. Noah believed in the one God; and his reverence compelled him to build an ark to save all living creatures from the appointed judgment (Epic Flood) God would inflict upon the earth for the continual evil intentions and thoughts of their hearts … including the worship of other gods and idols. If we continue up until the time of Abraham, there are diverse human cultures and civilizations had developed belief systems that included multiple gods – most of whom represented celestial bodies, animals, forces of nature, and human ideas which led to the creation of idols. Except for a remnant of the Adamic lineage, it appears most people had abandoned the one, true God who is the Creator … who is the Lord.
In some of the earliest literature contained in our canon of Scripture, we can find this philosophical and theological chasm between monotheism and pantheism. The Book of Job, for instance, is the oldest inspired narrative recorded in the Bible according to most scholars. It was written before Moses even penned the Torah (Pentateuch – the first five books of the 24 Books of the Tanakh). Job believes in and dialogues with one God; and of course; Moses develops an entire structure of worship for the “I AM” or self-existent One under holy inspiration. And so along with other records from the contemporary period (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) we find the Jewish descendants holding firm to faith in the “one” true God. He is not a plethora or composite of many gods, but a single, self-existent being who created all that is seen and unseen – with a unique, revealed purpose for the people He created “in His image”.
While we understand and believe that God is One … there is language found in the Scriptures that might suggest something other than one unique, self-existent Creator. We can find it in the Book of Genesis … the foundational construction (the beginning) and explanation of how human existence came into being. The first sentence … Verse 1 … states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The word translated “God” here in our English bibles is the word “Elohim”. It is a plural form of the general name “El” as used for God in the Ancient Near East. So when we arrive at Verse 26, we see the plural form used again, “Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness….” Yet, in Verse 27 we read the singular form, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” I mention these distinctions not to imply an inconsistency in the concept of God or His nature; rather, the two forms to me will actually affirm a singleness or oneness of the revealed nature of God in the whole of Scripture. The trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) and the unity (God) are evident in the inspired language used to impart this theological concept to us.
While the word “trinity” is not used in the Bible; its applicability to our understanding of the “One” God is revealed when Jesus Christ boldly declares His oneness with the Father in John 10:30. And when Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in Luke 12:10, He taught that anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. In essence, Jesus implied that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was blasphemy against God. When the resurrected Jesus gave “parting” instructions to the disciples in Matthew 28:19, He instructed them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….
The name of God is the unifying image or concept of three beings of the same substance or nature … if you will. God is One, but He manifests or reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus taught us that God is Spirit in John 4:24. When Jesus prayed for His disciples as recorded in John 17:11-12, He said, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me.” I find it interesting that we can infer here that the name of the Holy Father is the name given to the Son – Jesus. The interpretation here does not have to literal (i.e. the name Jesus). But think of it in these terms, the name (image or nature) of the Father is the same name (image or nature) given to the Son. The concept is still the unity of oneness of the Father and the Son … as well as the Holy Spirit as we will see.
So where am I going with this train of thought? The OT Scripture declares God is one – but it reveals that God is plural in His nature and in the sense of His self-revelation to man. Mankind is commanded to love God … the Lord our God … with all of our heart, soul, and strength. Contrast with the NT Scripture and the declaration in 1 John 5:1 which reads, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. When you and I love Jesus with all of our heart, soul, and strength … we fulfill the commandment of God. Perhaps the following passage will better explain what I am trying to share here:
John 16:7-15; 25-28 (NIV)
7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 When He comes, He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”
25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father Himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”
So, the message I want to share is that God (Father, Son, and Spirit) has revealed Himself to us … to all people … in “forms” or “persona” that we can understand in order to have the fellowship and life He desires for us to have and experience. He has made known His passionate, everlasting love for us. And though we should respond with like passion … I believe if we were honest… we often fail to love God as we ought … with ALL of our heart, soul, and strength. But I hope we might consider that God has given us relational ways to experience Him AND to express our love to Him. Profoundly and literally, Jesus the Son, has truly shared our human form. And Jesus said “the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.” So, again, we have an Advocate who is relational to us as well. And as we pray to the Father, I believe our own spirits can feel connected to Him as approach His throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Cf. Hebrews 4:16)
There is so much we do not know and will never know about God. But instead of focusing on what remains mysterious, let us delight ourselves in all He has revealed. We have creation itself which reveals God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature. (Romans 1:20). We have Jesus Christ the Son who is the image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15) And we have the Holy Spirit … the gift from God (cf. Acts 1:8; 2:4; 2:38; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19). He is the seal of our redemption through Christ Jesus … who is the only way to the Father. I pray that we will walk in the knowledge we do have … and love the Lord our God with ALL of our hearts, souls, and minds as He has empowered us to do…. Amen.