The Godhead Debate

by Rayola Kelley

      Q: I am confused about the concept of Godhead. I have been told that the term “Trinity” is a “Catholic” term, and since it is from such an erroneous source, it simply disproves the concept that God is triune. Since the concept of God appears to be a joke, then how can Jesus be both God and man? And, if Jesus is truly both God and man, how can I obey the Scriptures that tell me I have to be like Jesus? After all, if He is God, how could I ever become divine? I just don’t understand! Could you somehow bring some understanding to my confusion? 

       A: You are not the first person who is struggling with this issue, nor will you be the last. Let us start out by dealing with the term, “Trinity.” According to David W. Bercot in his introduction to the writings of Tertullian in the book, “A Glimpse At Early Christian Church Life”, this Church leader was the first to coin the term “”Trinity” in relationship to describing the Godhead. Apparently Tertullian was the one who developed Latin terminology to express the truths that had been presented primarily in Greek. Tertullian, who was very fluent in both Greek and Latin, was trying to reach the numbers of western Christians who only knew Latin at that time.

       As to the timeline, Tertullian was born in A.D. 150. According to E. H. Broadbent in his book, “The Pilgrim Church,” what was considered to be the Old Catholic Church came into being in the third century under the leadership of Cyprian (200-258). What we know as the Roman Catholic Church was established in the fourth century. In fact, the first council that was convened under the auspice of Constantine (the first Roman Catholic Pope), in regard to the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church as to its dogma and practices, which was a mixture of Christian truth and paganism, was A. D. 325. Since Latin was the main language at that time, the Catholic Church simply adopted the Latin terms that had already been establish by early church leaders such Tertullian in regard to Christian truths. As you can see, the term “Trinity” is Latin in origin, but the Catholic Church did not inspire it, it simply adopted it as part of its own personal dogma.

       The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is both God and man. Theologians call this the “hypostatic union.” However, when the Bible instructs us to be like Jesus it is not in relationship to His deity, but His humanity. The Word of God tells us that Jesus was the second (or last) Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45). In other words, the first Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden and failed to maintain his state of innocence as a means to reflect the glory of God. As a result of this great fall, all men continue to sin and fall short of reflecting the glory of their Lord in this world (Romans 3:23). The second Adam, Jesus, maintained His sinless state, bringing back into the world the reflection of God (John 14:7-11; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter2:21-25). We also know that Jesus had to maintain this sinless state so that He could be offered up on the altar of the cross as God’s Passover Lamb on our behalf.

       Sin clearly marred the reflection that was to be cast by man in the midst of creation. As man, Jesus represented the real purpose of man in this world. He brought the unhindered reflection of God back into it. Since man had also lost his way because of sin, Jesus became the way for man to rediscover his original state, calling and purpose in this world through His life, example and death. In a sense, Jesus became the visible, living example of the type of godly person we can all become if we simply follow His footsteps as man. Let us consider the example Jesus left us as man.

       His disposition: Jesus gave up His glory or capacity as God to take on the form of a servant in order to be fashioned as a man. We are all servants of sin, but Jesus’ example as a servant shows us we must give up our vainglory in order to take on the humble disposition of a servant of God to be conformed to Jesus’ very image(Romans 8:29; Philippians 2:1-4, 6-8; Hebrews 2:7).

       His attitude: We are told to have the mind or attitude of Jesus in matters. Jesus instructed us to learn of Him, for in His humanity He was lowly (humble) in disposition and meek in attitude. Due to His disposition and attitude, He was submissive to the plan of redemption and came into subjection to the Father’s will to carry it out. Therefore, we must have the mind of Christ to come into submission to that which is greater in the scheme of eternity, and into subjection to the perfect will of God according to His work on earth (Matthew 11:28-29; Philippians 2:5). It is important to point out that attitudes reflect our disposition. By studying Philippians 4:8 we can gain an insight into the mind of Christ. Clearly, it comes down to what we think upon. This is why Proverbs 23:7a states: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”

       Empowered: When Jesus gave up His capacity as God, He gave up His authority and power as God. As our example, Jesus in His humanity shows us that we cannot walk out the Christian life unless we have been empowered from above. In His humanity, He was anointed by the Spirit, as well as led by Him in order to fulfill His mission as the Lamb of God (Matthew 3:16; 28:18; Luke 4:1, 18-19; Romans 8:13-14; 1 John 2:27).

       Perfection: Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us that Jesus was brought to perfection in His humanity by learning obedience through suffering. As Christians we can only come to maturity or perfection through obedience to God and His Word. However, we cannot truly obey our Lord, until we first deny ourselves so that we can truly love and serve Him. We must then pick up our cross as we become crucified to the demands of the flesh and the world. Each step represents personal loss and suffering. But, through such a process we learn to follow Jesus into spiritual maturity or perfection.

       Identification: Jesus became identified with us as man in order to address our sin. As a result, we must become identified with Him to ensure that we put on His life. Since Jesus is the essence of our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, we will learn how to walk according to His wisdom, live in light of His righteousness, allow ourselves to be set apart unto God through His sanctification, and be established in His complete work of redemption (Romans 13:14; 1 Corinthians 1:30). The Apostle Paul summarized the importance of this identification on both the part of Jesus and on our part as believers in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he hath made him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

       Life and Resurrection: Now that we have talked about how Jesus serves as our example in His humanity, we must consider in what way His deity affects us. The Apostle Peter tells us that according to Jesus’ divine power, we have been given all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who is calling us to glory. We are to partake of His divine nature. To partake of something reminds us that Jesus is the Bread of life who came down from heaven. As our Bread, we must believe who He is (deity and man), as well as assimilate His eternal life, righteous ways, and godly teachings into our life (John 6:35, 51-58; 2 Peter1:3-4). Ultimately, we will become like Him in His humanity. The Bible also tells us that when we receive Jesus, we receive the gift of eternal life. Eternal means there is no beginning or end to it. It always has been and always will be. Jesus is the essence and author of this life. If He was not deity, He could not be the source or author of eternal life (John 11:25-26; 14:6; Hebrews 5:8-9).  

       Resurrection points to the very power of God. Scripture tells us that it was God’s power that raised Christ from the grave (Romans 10:9). Jesus said that the only sign that would be given to the unbelieving religious leaders was that of Jonah. In essence, Jesus was saying that in His death, burial and resurrection all claims regarding His identity and work of redemption would be verified. Clearly, Scripture identifies God as being the One who raised Christ from the dead. As you study Scripture, it verifies that all three persons of the Godhead were involved in the resurrection of Jesus. Galatians 1:1 stated that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.Romans 8:11 tells us that it was the Spirit in Christ that raised Him from the dead. Then you have Jesus’ words inJohn 2:19-21: “Jesus answered, and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years what this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spoke of the temple of his body.”

       Jesus was also part of His own resurrection. In fact, He is the resurrection power that will raise every believer up in that last day (John 5:25-29; 11:25-26). Obviously, when we believe by simple child-like faith the work Jesus did in His humanity on the cross on our behalf, we will then experience the essence of His deity through receiving His eternal life and resurrection power.

       As you can see, this is quite a subject. You can approach it from various angles. However, I suggest you simply approach the Bible to believe it by faith, and the Holy Spirit will bring spirit and life to it through revelation as to Jesus’ true identity. Meanwhile, I hope this has answered some of your questions.