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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Trinity: One God in Three Persons

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is the God of Scripture a Unity?

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In What Sense Is the God of Scripture a Unity?

The Trinity: One God in Three Persons – Question 6

The Bible speaks of the unity of God. There is only one God who exists. There are a number of points that need to be made about this truth.

The Bible Says One God Exists

God is one in His number, and in His parts. In one of the most important verses in the Old Testament, Moses wrote to the children of Israel and described God in this manner:

Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4 NET)

The Lord is a unity. The insistence that God is a divine unity set Israel apart from all its neighbors. Every nation that surrounded ancient Israel worshipped many gods. Israel was the exception.

The same truth, of only one God existing, is stated in First Kings. The text says,

...that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no other. (1 Kings 8:60 RSV)

There is no other God.

The Lord Himself said,

“I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:5-6 NIV)

The Bible teaches the existence of only one God. Of this, there is no doubt.

God’s Nature Cannot Be Divided: He Is One Essence

The doctrine of the Trinity does not mean that God is a composite being made up of three gods, but rather He is a unity. As a unity, God cannot be divided. The technical term is “indivisible.” God cannot be divided, neither is He made up of multiple substances. The members of the Trinity are not separate beings within the one divine essence. God is one in number. This important truth must be understood.

There Is an Absolute and a Compound Unity

While Scripture teaches that God is a unity, we must realize there is a difference between an absolute and compound unity. For example, if we say “one man” we are referring to an absolute unity because only one person is in view.

However, when the Scripture says the man and woman will be “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) this is a compound unity. This is because the union consists of two distinct persons.

Examples of a Compound Unity

We find examples of compound unity in the following passages. The Book of Ezra gives an illustration of this. It says,

Now when the seventh month came, and the sons of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem (Ezra 3:1 NASB).

The many people were gathered as one

In the Book of Ezekiel, we read how two sticks become one:

Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand (Ezekiel 37:17 NKJV).

Both of these passages used the same Hebrew word (echad) for one as Deuteronomy 6:4. It speaks of a compound unity.

Examples of an Absolute Unity

When the idea of absolute unity, or absolute oneness, is meant, the Hebrew word yachidh is used. We find an example of this in the Book of Genesis:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only [yachidh] son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Genesis 22:2 NIV).

This is an example of an absolute unity.

In the Book of Amos, it speaks of a person mourning for their only son. We read the following words of the Lord:

I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only [yachidh] son and the end of it like a bitter day (Amos 8:10 NIV).

Again, we are dealing with an absolute unity.

Zechariah also wrote about how Israel will mourn for Him who is an only son. The Book of Zechariah states it as follows:

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only [yachidh] son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn (Zechariah 12:10 NASB).

This Hebrew word is used about a dozen times in the Old Testament. It is never used to describe the unity of God.

A comparison of the passages where the different Hebrew words are used shows that a compound unity is what is in mind in Deuteronomy 6:4. Furthermore, the fact that the word for God in Hebrew is Elohim, a plural noun, we have further inference of a compound unity.

Because God is one substance, He does not have different parts. Therefore, it is not possible to divide up His nature.

The God of the Bible Is a Compound Unity

From the teaching of Scripture, and the Hebrew terms used, we find that the God of the Bible is described as a compound unity. Although He is only one God, a unity, there is also plurality in His unity. This is another indication that God is a Trinity.

Summary – Question 6
In What Sense Is the God of Scripture a Unity?

The God of the Bible is a unity. This is continually stressed. God is a compound unity, not an absolute unity. It is important that we understand the differences between a compound unity and an absolute unity.

When we speak of “one man” we would be speaking of an absolute unity. There is only one person in view.

When referring to man and woman being “one flesh” we would be speaking of a compound unity. More than one person is under consideration.

The Old Testament has two different words which make this distinction. The Hebrew word yachidh is used of something that is an absolute unity, while the word echad is used of a compound unity.

When speaking of God, the Old Testament always used the word echad. The God of the Bible is a compound unity. This is evidenced by the consistent use of the Hebrew term echad when speaking of God.

Although there is only one God who exists, within the nature of the one God are three distinct Persons, or centers of consciousness. The fact that the word echad is used of the God of Scripture further confirms His Trinitarian nature.

Does the Bible Teach That Only One God Exists? ← Prior Section
What Does the Bible Teach about God the Father? Next Section →
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