Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Post #41 The Doctrine of God: The Old Testament and Jesus' Teaching On God the Father's Deity And His Relationship To The Son



    In the last post here we focused upon Jesus' teaching about the unity He has with the Father and the Holy Spirit by way of their "mutual indwelling" with one another. We looked at key passages in the Gospels where Jesus used the "He-in-me, I-in-Him" language. Such phraseology indicated that Jesus had in mind two pillar doctrines that are essential for a Biblical understanding of the doctrine of God,

1. There is one, and only one true and living God that is one in nature or in His Godhead.

2. This Godhead (that is, "deity, Divine nature, Divine essence, God's very substance and being) is equally and wholly in each of the Divine Persons - The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    We can summarize these twin pillars of Biblical theology proper (i.e. the Doctrine of God) as God's unity of being and plurality of identity. Both pillar truths provide the basis for articulating the Doctrine of the Trinity. 

    It may surprise readers to know that in most respects, what Jesus taught about the Godhead in its unity and plurality of identity was revealed throughout the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament (albeit in progressive fashion). In other words, much of what Jesus taught in His doctrine of God was not novel. He simply added further insight to an already established theology proper revealed in the Old Testament. The famed 19th century theologian B.B. Warfield in his essay "The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity" in his "Biblical and Theological Studies", page 32, comments on how the New Testament authors handled the doctrine of God with respect to the Old Testament revelation

"The simplicity and assurance with which the New Testament writers speak of God as a Trinity have, however, a further implication. If they betray no sense of novelty in so speaking of Him, this is undoubtedly in part because it was no longer a novelty so to speak of Him. It is clear, in other words, that as we read the New Testament, we are not witnessing the birth of a new conception of God. What we meet with in its pages is a firmly established conception of God underlying and giving its tone to the whole fabric."

Jesus' teaching about Himself and God the Father

    As Jesus revealed Himself as the decisive revelation of God in human flesh, He always pointed to the Father.  Who exactly God the Father was in the Old Testament, as well as how Jesus conceived of Himself in relationship to the Father, will enable us to get more prepared for the New Testament's full revelation of the Trinity. 

    We can summarize the Old Testament revelation of God the Father under four headings. For this post, we will detail the first two of those headings, and deal with the remaining two in the next post. The four ways the Old Testament reveals the Father is as follows:

1. God the Father as truly God.

2. God the Father sharing the same equality of deity or Godhead with the Son.

3. God the Father being the Creator of the world.

4. God the Father being the Savior of His people.

    As I expound each heading, let the reader note how Jesus reiterates that truth in His own instructional ministry.

1. God the Father as truly God.

    He is the eternal one, being without origin by nature, expressing all the Divine attributes that we have looked at in previous posts. In the Old Testament, the Father is revealed as "God", "LORD", and other Divine names. Isaiah writes in Isaiah 63:15 "Look down from heaven and see from Your holy and glorious habitation....". Then Isaiah 63:16 "For You are our Father....". In Daniel 7:9, Daniel relays a vision of the Heavenly throneroom, speaking of the Father as "The Ancient of Days". In Malachi 1:6 and 2:10, we see reference to "The Father", the "LORD of Hosts", being His name. 

    In most of the 5766 places within the Hebrew Bible where we observe the personal name of God, Yahweh"/"LORD", as well as most of the 2706 places where we see the more general name "Elohim" mentioned, unless otherwise indicated, we can safely say the Old Testament is speaking of God the Father.  

    Jesus made a point to distinguish Himself in His humanity as submitted to the Father, to whom as truly man He regarded as the only true and living God by nature (Mark 10:18). He also made a point to show Himself, as truly God, being equal to the Father, with whom He said He was "One" (John 10:30). As truly God, the Son mutually indwelled with the Father, meaning they both shared the undivided nature or Godhead as One God (see the previous post in the this series). 

    The incarnate Son also claimed He could perform the same functions as the Father in forgiving sin (Mark 2:7), raising the dead (John 5:25-29; 11:25), and executing final judgment (Matthew 11:25-27; 25:31-46; 28:18).  

2. God the Father sharing the same equality of deity or Godhead with the Son.

    We've already noticed how the Father is called "Yahweh/LORD" throughout the Old Testament. In most cases, we can assume the Old Testament is speaking of Him. The only times where we find exception to this is when mention is made of another figure, "The Angel of the LORD" in passages such as Genesis 16:7-11; Exodus 3:6,14; 23:20-33; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 2:1-5; 13:18; Malachi 3:1-4 and others. Or, where we see an occasional mention made of "two-Yahwehs" (a Yahweh in Heaven and a Yahweh on earth - Genesis 19:24; Job 19:25-28). 

    Biblical scholars refer to this Old Testament revelation of the Father and the Angel of the Lord or other designations of a second Divine Person as "the two-powers doctrine". It is well documented in the Jewish literature spanning between the 400 year gap of Malachi and Matthew the Jewish beliefs about a "Yahweh in Heaven" and a "Visible Yahweh".  

     Scholars such as Michael Heiser have noted that following the advent of Christianity and the Bar Kochba rebellion of 132 A.D., the Jewish Rabbis expunged any mention of such "two-powers teaching", thus eliminating their one-time held belief of the plurality of Divine Persons within the Godhead.                    

    As one studies the Old Testament revelation, as well as Jesus' own teachings, it is evident that within the Godhead there is a plurality of at least two, if not three Divine persons. Each Person is distinct, while equal in their possessing the entirety of the Godhead or Divine nature.  

    For instance, we find the Father "begetting" the Son in Psalm 2:7, a term Jesus used often in His teaching ministry about He and the Father's relationship (John 1:14, 18; 3:16). Proverbs 30:4 explicitly mentions the Persons of the Father and the Son. The Old Testament revelation gives us two general conclusions in regards to the Father's relationship to the Son. 

    First, the Father and the Son both share and reveal the totality of the Divine nature or Godhead. Then secondly, the two are to be distinguished from one another while exhibiting the same Divine perfections we would expect when talking about God. 

Conclusion for today

    In our next post we will continue noting how the Old Testament reveals God the Father as the Creator of the World and the Savior of His people. We will also draw conclusions as to how Jesus not only incorporated the revelation of the Old Testament's teaching of the Father into His own expositions, but also the additional light He shed upon the relationship shared between the Father and Himself. Such understanding will show the reader how the Old Testament and Jesus' teaching paved the way for the New Testament's full-orbed revelation on the Trinity. 

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