Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Post #40 The Doctrine of God: Jesus' Teaching On The Godhead And Mutual Indwelling Between The Three Persons Of The Godhead


    In our last post we began to pivot this entire series on "The Doctrine of God" from discussion of the unity of God's being expressed through His Attributes to how we plan to approach conversation of His Triune identity. I had pointed out three starting points for getting ourselves to the doctrine of the Trinity from considerations of the unity of His being.

1. The glory of God.

2. The Old Testament revelation of God and how it presupposed a plurality of personality within the Godhead.

3. Jesus' teaching on the mutual indwelling of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    It is the third of these I want to draw out attention to in this post, since the entire Old Testament revelation of God finds it harbor in the teachings of Jesus' doctrine of God. 

    Anytime we talk of the unity of God's being and attributes, the term used is what we call "the Godhead". I'll elaborate on that below. Also too, how the unity of the Godhead relates to the Three Persons of the Trinity (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit) in such unity is what we find in Jesus' teaching on the mutual indwelling of the Three Persons. 

    For now, let the reader know that the particular subject of the Godhead and the mutual indwelling of the Persons of the Trinity is spelled out by Jesus in His teachings, providing a launching point for the remaining revelation of God in the New Testament. 

    As I noted already, in today's post we'll define the term "Godhead" and understand how it is handled by Jesus in a sample of His teachings. We will then introduce the reader to Jesus' teaching on the mutual indwelling He, the Father, and the Spirit have among themselves. 

What is meant by the term "Godhead"

    The reader may had noticed I made mention of the term "Godhead". The idea of "Godhead" is synonymous with everything we've looked at concerning God's being and attributes - that is, the Divine nature itself. The KJV uses this term "Godhead" in three places. As I list the three places, I'll use the NASB as a comparison for readers to see how this term is understood in modern English.

1. First verse with the term "Godhead", translated as "Divine nature" in the NASB 1995

Acts 17:29 "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." (KJV)

Acts 17:29 "Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man." (NASB 1995)

2. Second verse using the term "Godhead", translated "Divine nature" in NASB 1995 

Romans 1:20 "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." (KJV)

Romans 1:20 "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

3. Third passage with the term "Godhead", translated "Deity" in NASB 1995

Colossians 2:9 "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (KJV)

Colossians 2:9 "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." (NASB 1995).

    Thus what we find then the term "Godhead" is synonymous with "deity" and "Divine nature". In Acts 17:29, we have then the term "Godhead" speaking of God's substance of deity, not being made of physical material, leading to the conclusion, as Jesus taught, that the Godhead is "spirit" in John 4:24. Jesus certainly taught what theologians speak of concerning the "substance" of the Godhead, otherwise known as the Divine attribute of spirituality.  

    In the Romans 1:20 passage, we see the Divine nature or "Godhead" listed alongside one of the attributes - Divine power or "omniscience". Jesus taught that for God, all things are possible, since He is omnipotent. One of things we will see in future posts is how the term "God" could either refer to the Godhead or was Jesus' way of talking about His Father (context of course being the final deciding factor). At anyrate, when we speak of the Godhead expressed through the attributes or perfections of deity, we find this theologically termed "the character of God". 

    Then we thirdly see in Colossians 2:9 how the Divine nature or Godhead is possessed by the Son. Jesus will unpack this point of the Godhead or Divine nature being an entire possession of not only Himself, but of the Father, who makes common to Him the Godhead or Divine nature by His act of begetting (John John 1:18; 5:26). This third use of the Godhead introduces us into discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity. 

    Thus far, we've noticed how the term "Godhead" contemplates God's Divine substance and character, and how both are possessed wholly by the Father, the Son, and as we shall see in later posts, the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus' teaching on the mutual indwelling between Himself and the Father and the Holy Spirit

    As we move on from having defined the term "Godhead", we can now pivot to starting to discuss how Jesus conceived of the "oneness" of the Godhead or Divine nature on the one hand, and then how He understood the Godhead functioned in, among, and through the Father, Himself, and the Holy Spirit. 

    Jesus often used what theologians call "mutual indwelling" language when highlighting both the union of deity and distinction between Himself and the Father, or between Himself, the Father, and the Spirit. This phenomena in Jesus' teaching on the Godhead would involve phrases such as "I in Him, and He in me". Take for instance John 10:38 "But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." We see Jesus using similar phraseology in how He describes the unity between He and the Father in John 14:10,11 (2x He states "I am in the Father and the Father is in me). In Jesus' High-priestly prayer in John 17:21 He prays "that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You". This isn't a mere unity of activity, but of being. We similarly see how He, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit mutually indwell one another in how they work in and through believers (see John 14:23). 

    In the first four centuries of the church, certain theologians such as Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, and others took notice of this descriptive terminology of Jesus. They grasped that what Jesus was teaching was nothing other than the two most fundamental tenets of Trinitarian theology,

*There is one, and only one true and living God.

*This one Godhead is in the Father, as well as in the Son, and equally in the Holy Spirit.

    Theologians came to use the term "perichoresis" (Latin "circumincession") to describe how the Persons of the Father, The Son, and Holy Spirit mutually indwelled or "co-inhered" within one another. Theologian Vern Poythress explains this idea in his book "The Mystery of the Trinity", page 91, 

"The coinherence of the persons means that each is completely present to the others. Each has complete knowledge of the others. Each acts with the others in the works of God in creation, redemption, and consummation."

    Poythress later adds,

"Coinherence (that is, the mutual indwelling of the The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit) presents us with a kind of harmonious bridge between the biblical teaching on the distinction of the persons. The persons are indeed distinct, but they are also profoundly one, through coinherence. Each person is fully God, the one God."

Conclusion for now

    In the next post I plan to pick up more on Jesus' teaching on this doctrine of mutual indwelling, and specifically what He had to say about the Person of the Father. For today at least I wanted to alert readers to some examples of Jesus' teaching on the Godhead, and the doctrine of mutual indwelling. As we shall see in forthcoming posts, Jesus brings together everything taught in the Old Testament on the doctrine of God, as well as setting the tone for how the New Testament would bring into full view the Triunity of God. 

More next time....