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Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is God a Unity?

Don Stewart

The Bible speaks of the unity of God. Moses wrote.

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4).

God Cannot Be Divided

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.

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.

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).

The many people were as one. In Ezekiel we read.

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

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.

He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you" (Genesis 22:2).

In the Book of Amos it says.

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 son and the end of it like a bitter day (Amos 8:10).

Zechariah wrote.

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 son, and they will weep bitterly over him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn (Zechariah 12:10).

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.

Summary

There is a difference between a compound unity and an absolute unity. When we speak of "one man" we would be speaking of an absolute unity. When referring to man and woman being "one flesh" we would be speaking of a compound unity. The Hebrew word yachidh is used of something that is an absolute unity while the word echad is used of a compound unity.

The God of the Bible is a compound unity. This is evidenced by the 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. The fact that the word echad is used of the God of Scripture further confirms his Trinitarian nature.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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