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The Triune God

The God of the Bible is the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They co-exist from all eternity (Rev. 1:8). as the Father created the world through the Son (Heb. 1:2; John 1:3; Rev. 4:11). John describes the pre-incarnate Son as the Word (Gr. Logos) who existed from the beginning (John 1:1). He was not only with God but He Himself was God. The third Person is the “eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14) who, as God, also has an eternal self-existence.

The three Persons in the Godhead are described as follows by John: “For there are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7). All three Persons can be described and addressed as Lord (Heb. Yahweh; Gr. Kurios) and God (Heb. Elohim; Gr. Theos). Paul addressed Jesus on the road to Damascus as Lord (Acts 9:5) and also referred to Him as God (Rom. 9:5).

The first name used for God in the Bible is Elohim. In the Hebrew language, this word is used both in its singular and plural form, and therefore indicates that the Godhead is plural and yet forms a composite unity. It is three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who, together, constitute one, eternal God. This concept is clearly evident from the personal pronouns used for God, who said regarding the creation of humans: “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness… So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them” (Gen. 1:26-27). The Triune God can indeed say: “Let Us make man,” and then, “…male and female created He them.”

The fact of the eternal deity and self-existence of the Lord Jesus is denied in a well-known Christian confession of faith: “I believe in God the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only-begotten Son…” The impression is hereby created that God the Father was alone when He created the world, and that Jesus was only begotten and born much later “as man.” Consider this wrong impression in the light of the following Scriptures: Heb. 1:1-2, John 1:1-3,10,14, 1 Cor. 8:6, Eph. 3:9 and Col. 1:16-17.

God as Creator

In the beginning of the Old Testament the Triune God (Heb. Elohim) revealed Himself as the Creator of everything that exists (Gen. 1:1–2:3).

God has creative power in Himself. By only speaking a word He called everything into existence (Ps. 33:6; Heb. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:5). In Gen. 1 we often read: “Then God said…” There is also a dynamic power in the word of the gospel to recreate our lives (Rom. 1:16).

The original creation (Gen. 1:1-2) ended in a situation in which the earth was without form, void and covered in darkness. But the Lord did not create the world in vain, to be uninhabited (Isa. 45:18). It is evident that some catastrophe of a great magnitude occurred on earth. The only biblical explanation for this is the fall of Lucifer from heaven (Isa. 14:12-17; Ezek. 28:12-17; Rev. 12:3-4). This resulted in the earth being without form and void for an unspecified time.

During the subsequent creative works of the Lord He restored order to the already existing matter and made all forms of life (plants, animals and man) “according to its kind.” Man is not part of the natural creation, but unique in the sense that man was created in the image and likeness of God and assigned to have dominion over the natural creation (Gen. 1:3-31; Ps. 8:4-9).

All creation testifies to the fact that there is an intelligent Creator who made everything (Ps. 19:2; Isa. 37:16). His eternal power and Godhead are evident from the works of His hands (Rom. 1:20). It is impossible that there could have been an orderly creation without God.

Through the theory of evolution God is denied as Creator by ascribing the existence of man to an evolutionary line of development through the animal kingdom (Rom. 1:23). People who believe this lie become futile in their thoughts and foolish in their hearts (Rom. 1:21-22). The foolishness of the rejection of God as Creator can also give rise to atheism, and such people have no absolute religious or moral norms in their lives (Ps. 14:1).

Names of God

God (Heb. Elohim, or in shortened form El; Gr. Theos) – Gen. 1:1; 17:1; Rom. 1:1.

Lord (OT) and Lord (NT) (Heb. Yahweh; Gr. Kurios) – Gen. 4:1; Matt. 1:20. The name Yahweh is often linked to certain verbs or nouns to emphasise the attributes of God, for example, Yahweh-jireh (the Lord will provide), Yahweh-nissi (the Lord is my banner) and Yahweh-shalom (the Lord is peace).

Lord (Heb. Adonai; Gr. Kurios) – Gen. 18:27; 2 Pet. 2:9.

Lord Lord (Heb. Adonai Yahweh) – Gen. 15:2.

Lord  [your] God (Heb. Yahweh Elohim; Gr. Kurios Theos) – Ex. 20:2; Matt. 22:37.

I Am – Ex. 3:14; John 8:58.

God Almighty (Heb. El-Shaddai; Gr. Theos Pantokrator) – Gen. 17:1; Rev. 16:14.

Everlasting God – Gen. 21:33.

Eternal God – Deut. 33:27.

Living God – Jos. 3:10.

Most high God, the Possessor of heaven and earth – Gen. 14:22.

God of heaven – Jonah 1:9.

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – Ex. 3:6; Acts 3:13.

Holy One of Israel – Isa. 43:3.

Lord of hosts – Isa. 1:24.

King eternal, immortal, invisible, the God who alone is wise – 1 Tim. 1:17.

Only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords – 1 Tim. 6:15.

Yahweh and Adonai

In the original Hebrew text of the OT, consisting only of consonants without any vowels, Yahweh is written as YHWH and for a long time wrongly pronounced as “Jehovah.” The correct pronunciation is “Yahweh.” In a literal observance of the third commandment (“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”) orthodox Jews mostly use the name Adonai. When the temple service was still practised, only the High Priest used the name Yahweh once a year when he entered the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement to offer a blood sacrifice for the sins of Israel. However, the name of the Lord (Yahweh) is not profaned when reverently used in conversations, sermons and prayers. The profaning of His Name happens when people use it in a blasphemous way as an exclamation of amazement or dismay. In this way they profane the holy Name of the Lord by vainly using it while cursing. They will not go unpunished.

Natural attributes of God

God is incomparable (2 Sam. 7:22), invisible (John 1:18), inscrutable (Isa. 40:28), unchangeable (Num. 23:19), unequalled (Isa. 40:13-25), unsearchable (Rom. 11:33-34), infinite (1 Kings 8:27), eternal (Isa. 57:15), all-powerful – omnipotence (Jer. 32:17,27), ever-present – omnipresence (Ps. 139:7-12), and all-knowing – omniscience as far as the past, present and future are concerned (Acts 15:18; 1 John 3:20; Isa. 48:3).

Moral attributes of God

Love (1 John 4:8,16), holiness (1 Pet. 1:15; Rev. 4:8), goodness (Ex. 34:6; Ps. 31:19; 52:1 145:9), justice (Ps. 89:14), hates sin and iniquity (Ps. 5:5-7; 45:8; Heb. 1:9), impartiality (Acts. 10:34-35; 1 Pet. 1:17), mercy (Ex. 20:6; Isa. 55:7), grace (Rom. 3:23-24; 2 Cor. 9:8) truth (John 14:6, 17:17) and wrath (Ps. 2:5,12; 21:9; Rev. 6:15-17).

Likeness to the image of God

In Genesis 1:26, the Triune God says: “Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” In these words of the Creator, with which the Bible history of man opens, we have the revelation of the eternal purpose to which man owes his existence – the glorious, eternal future to which he is destined. God proposed to make a being who will be His very image and likeness. When sin entered and man fell from his high destiny, God did not give up His purpose. It was with this in mind that the Father sent to the earth the Son who was the express image of His Person. In Him, the Godlikeness to which we had been created, and which we personally have to appropriate to make our own, was revealed in human form.

We can only become like God with regard to His moral attributes such as love and holiness, and not with regard to His natural attributes, as we are not gods. The central thought of God’s revelation to Israel and the church is: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:15-16). The purpose of man’s creation can only be achieved if we die to sin by being united together in the likeness of Christ’s death, and then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, also become conformable to His resurrection (Rom. 6:5). Through faith in Christ’s death on the cross we can put off the sinful nature of the first Adam, and then “put on the new man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24). Christ is the second Adam, who alone can restore to humanity the godly life to which we were called, but have lost because of the Fall.

Personal commitment

I reaffirm my faith in the Triune God. The great God of heaven and earth has revealed Himself to me in three Persons; hence I can testify to “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14). I commit myself to gain a better knowledge of God and all His wonderful attributes, with the sincere expectation that His image which was broken iAn the lives of fallen men, will be fully restored in me. God did not only create the world through Jesus Christ, but also sent Him to the world as an atonement for our sins, so all sinners can become new creatures in Him. What hope was offered to the world by the possibility that people whose lives were in spiritual darkness and moral disorder, can experience the light of God’s presence which has been kindled to make all things new. I recommit myself to the Great Commission to spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to lost humanity so that those who believe can pass from darkness into His marvellous light.

 Questions

1.    How are we introduced to the Triune God in 1 John 5?

2.    Since when does the Lord Jesus exist as God and as Man?

3.    In which way is the theory of evolution an attack on God?

4.    Mention five names of God and explain their meanings

5.    Mention and explain three natural and three moral attributes of God

Prof. Johan Malan

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