Chapter 2: THE GODHEAD
Seventh-day Adventists Believe...
There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of
three co-eternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful,
all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and
beyond human comprehension, yet known through His
self-revelation. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration,
and service by the whole creation. --Fundamental Beliefs, 2
At Calvary almost everyone rejected Jesus. Only a few
recognized who Jesus really was--among them, the dying thief
who called Him Lord (Luke 23:42), and the Roman soldier who
said, "`Truly this Man was the Son of God!'" (Mark 15:39).
When John wrote, "He came unto His own, and His own did
not receive Him" (John 1:11), he was thinking not merely of
the crowd at the cross, or even of Israel, but of every
generation that has lived. Except for a handful, all
humanity, like that raucous crowd at Calvary, has failed to
recognize in Jesus their God and Saviour. This failure,
humanity's greatest and most tragic, shows that humanity's
knowledge of God is radically deficient.
Knowledge of God
The many theories attempting to explain God, and the many
arguments for and against His existence, show that human
wisdom cannot penetrate the divine. Depending on human
wisdom alone to learn about God is like using a magnifying
glass to study the constellations. Hence, to many, God's
wisdom is a "hidden wisdom" (1 Cor. 2:7). To them God is a
mystery. Paul wrote, "None of the rulers of this age knew;
for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord
of glory" (1 Cor. 2:8).
One of the most basic commandments of Scripture is to
love "God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with
all your mind" (Matt. 22:37; cf. Deut. 6:5). We cannot love
someone we know nothing about, yet we cannot by searching
find out the deep things of God (Job ll:7). How then can we
come to know and love the Creator?
God Can Be Known.
Realizing the human predicament, God, in His love and
compassion, reached out to us through the Bible. It reveals
that "Christianity is not a record of a man's quest for God;
it is the product of God's revelation of Himself and His
purposes to man."(*1) This self-revelation is designed to
bridge the gulf between a rebellious world and a caring God.
The manifestation of God's greatest love came through His
supreme revelation, Jesus Christ, His Son. Through Jesus we
can know the Father. As John states, "`The Son of God has
come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him
who is true'" (1 John 5:20).
And Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they may know
You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent"
This is good news. Although it is impossible to know God
completely, the Scriptures afford a practical knowledge of
Him that is sufficient for us to enter into a saving
relationship with Him.
Obtaining a Knowledge of God
Unlike other knowledge, the knowledge of God is as much a
matter of the heart as it is of the brain. It involves the
whole person, not just the intellect. There must be an
openness to the Holy Spirit and a willingness to do God's
will (John 7:17; cf. Matt. 11:27). Jesus said, "`Blessed are
the pure in heart, for they shall see God'" (Matt. 5:8).
Unbelievers, therefore, cannot understand God. Paul
exclaimed, "Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar?
Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made
foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of
God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was
pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save
those who believe" (1 Cor. 1:20,21, NIV).
The way we learn to know God from the Bible differs from
all other methods of acquiring knowledge. We cannot place
ourselves above God and treat Him as an object to be
analyzed and quantified. In our search for a knowledge of
God we must submit to the authority of His
self-revelation--the Bible. Since the Bible is its own
interpreter, we must subject ourselves to the principles and
methods it provides. Without these Biblical guidelines we
cannot know God.
Why did so many of the people of Jesus' day fail to see
God's self-revelation in Jesus? Because they refused to
subject themselves to the guidance of the Holy spirit
through the Scriptures, they misinterpreted God's message
and crucified their Saviour. Their problem was not one of
intellect. It was their closed hearts that darkened their
minds, resulting in eternal loss.
The Existence of God
There are two major sources of evidence for the existence
of God. The book of nature and the Scriptures.
Evidence From Creation
Everyone can learn of God through nature and human
experience. David wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of
God; and the firmament shows His handiwork" (Ps. 19:1). John
maintained that God's revelation, including nature,
enlightens everyone (John 1:9). And Paul claimed, "Since the
creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly
seen, being understood by the things that are made"
Human behavior also gives evidence for God's existence.
In the Athenian worship of the "unknown God," Paul saw
evidence of a belief in God. Said he, "The One whom you
worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you" (Acts
17:23). Paul also said the behavior of non-Christians
revealed the witness of "their conscience" and showed that
God's law is written "in their hearts" (Rom. 2:14,15). This
intuition that God exists is found even among those who have
no access to the Bible. This general revelation of God led
to a number of classical rational arguments for the
existence of God.(*2)
Evidence From Scripture
The Bible does not prove God's existence. It assumes it.
Its opening text declares, "In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1). The Bible describes God
as the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of all creation. God's
revelation through creation is so powerful that there is no
excuse for atheism, which arises from a suppression of
divine truth or from a mind that refuses to acknowledge the
evidence that God exists (Ps. 14:1; Rom. 1:18-22,28).
There are enough evidences for God's existence to
convince anyone who seriously tries to discover the truth
about Him. Yet faith is a prerequisite for "without faith it
is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must
believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who
diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
Faith in God, however, is not blind. It is based on
sufficient evidence found both in God's revelations through
the Scriptures and through nature.
The God of the Scriptures
The Bible reveals God's essential qualities through His
names, activities, and attributes.
At the time the Scriptures were written, names were
important, as they still are in the Near East and Orient.
There a name is considered to reveal the character of the
bearer, his true nature and identity. The importance of
God's names, disclosing His nature, character, and
qualities, are revealed in His command "`You shall not take
the name of the Lord your God in vain'" (Ex. 20:7). David
sang: "Praise to the name of the Lord Most High" (Ps. 7:17).
"Holy and awesome is His name" (Ps. 111:9). "Let them praise
the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted"
The Hebrew names El and Elohim ("God") reveal God's
divine power. They depict God as the strong and mighty One,
the God of Creation (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 20:2; Dan. 9:4). Elyon
("Most High") and El Elyon ("God Most High") focus on His
exalted status (Gen. 14:18-20; Isa. 14:14). Adonai ("Lord")
pictures God as Almighty Ruler (Isa. 6:1; Ps. 35:23). These
names emphasize the majestic and transcendent character of
Other names reveal God's willingness to enter into a
relationship with people. Shaddai ("Almighty") and El
Shaddai ("God Almighty") portray the Almighty God, the
source of blessing and comfort (Ex. 6:3; Ps. 91:1). The name
Yahweh,(*3) translated Jehovah or LORD, stresses God's
covenant faithfulness and grace (Ex. 15:2,3; Hosea 12:5,6).
In Exodus 3:14, Yahweh describes Himself as "I am who I am,"
or "I shall be what I shall be," indicating His unchangeable
relation to His people. On occasions God even revealed
Himself more intimately as "Father" (Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16;
Jer. 31:9; Mal. 2:10), calling Israel "My Son, and My
firstborn" (Ex. 4:22; cf. Deut. 32:19).
Except for Father, the New Testament names for God carry
equivalent meanings to those of the Old Testament. In the
New Testament, Jesus used Father to bring us into a close
and personal relationship with God (Matt. 6:9; Mark 14:36;
cf. Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).
Bible writers spend more time describing God's activities
than His being. He is introduced as Creator (Gen. 1:1; Ps.
24:l,2), Upholder of the world (Heb. 1:3), and Redeemer and
Saviour (Deut. 5:6; 2 Cor. 5:19), carrying the burden for
humanity's ultimate destiny. He makes plans (Isa. 46:11),
predictions (Isa. 46:10), and promises (Deut. 15:6; 2 Peter
3:9). He forgives sins (Ex. 34:7), and consequently deserves
our worship (Rev. 14:6,7). Ultimately the Scriptures reveal
God as Ruler, "the King eternal, immortal,invisible, the
only God" (1 Tim. 1:17, NIV). His actions confirm that He is
a personal God.
The Writers of Scripture provide additional information
on the essence of God through testimonies about His divine
God's incommunicable attributes comprise aspects of His
divine nature not given to created beings. God is
self-existent, for He has "life in Himself" (John 5:26). He
is independent in will (Eph. 1:5), and in power (Ps. 115:3).
He is omniscient, knowing everything (Job 37:16; Ps.
139:1-18; 147:5; 1 John 3:20), because, as Alpha and Omega
(Rev. 1:8), He knows the end from the beginning
God is omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-12; Heb. 4:13),
transcending all space. Yet He is fully present in every
part of space. He is eternal (Ps. 90:2; Rev. 1:8), exceeding
the limits of time, yet is fully present in every moment of
God is all powerful, omnipotent. That nothing is
impossible to Him assures us that He accomplishes whatever
He purposes (Dan. 4:17,25,35; Matt. 19:26; Rev. 19:6). He is
immutable--or unchangeable--because He is perfect. He says,
"I am the Lord, I do not change" (Mal. 3:6; see Ps. 33:11;
James 1:17). Since, in a sense, these attributes define God,
they are incommunicable.
God's communicable attributes flow from His loving
concern for humanity. They include love (Rom. 5:8), grace
(Rom. 3:24), mercy (Ps. 145:9), patience (2 Peter 3:15,
NIV), holiness (Ps. 99:9), righteousness (Ezra 9:15; John
17:25), justice (Rev. 22:12), and truth (1 John 5:20). These
gifts come only with the Giver Himself.
The Sovereignty of God
The Scriptures clearly teach God's sovereignty. "He does
according to His will....No one can restrain His hand" (Dan.
4:35). "`For You created all things, and by Your will they
exist and were created'" (Rev. 4:11). "Whatever the Lord
pleases He does, in heaven and in earth" (Ps. 135:6). So
Solomon could say, "The king's heart is in the hand of the
Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He
wishes" (Prov. 21:1). Paul, aware of God's sovereignty,
wrote, "`I will return again to you, God willing'" (Acts
18:21; see Rom. 15:32), while James admonished, "You ought
to say, `If the Lord wills'" (James 4:15).
Predestination and Human Freedom
The Bible reveals God's full control over the world. He
"predestined" people "to be conformed to the image of His
Son" (Rom. 8:29,30), to be adopted as His children, and to
obtain an inheritance (Eph. 1:4,5,11). What does such
sovereignty imply for human freedom?
The verb to predestinate means "to determine beforehand."
Some assume these passages teach that God arbitrarily elects
some to salvation and others to damnation, irrespective of
their own choice. But study of the context of these passages
shows that Paul does not speak about God's capriciously
The thrust of these texts is inclusive. The Bible clearly
states that God "desires all men to be saved and to come to
the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). He is "not willing
that any should perish but that all should come to
repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). There is no evidence that God has
decreed that some persons should be lost; such a decree
would deny Calvary, where Jesus died for everyone. The
whoever in the text, "`For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have everlasting life'" (John 3:16),
means that anyone can be saved.
"That man's free will is the determining factor in his
personal destiny is evident from the fact that God
continually presents the results of obedience and
disobedience, and urges the sinner to choose obedience and
life (Deut. 30:19; Joshua 24:15; Isa. 1:16,20; Rev. 22:17);
and from the fact that it is possible for the believer,
having once been a recipient of grace, to fall away and be
lost (1 Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:4; Heb. 6:4-6; 10:29)....
"God may foresee each individual choice that will be
made, but His foreknowledge does not determine what that
choice shall be....Bible predestination consists in the
effective purpose of God that all who choose to believe in
Christ shall be saved (John 1:12; Eph. 1:4-10)."(*4)
Then what does Scripture mean when it says that God loved
Jacob and hated Esau (Rom. 9:13) and that He hardened
Pharaoh's heart (vv. 17,18; cf. vv. 15,16; Ex. 9:16; 4:21)?
The context of these texts shows that Paul's concern is
mission and not salvation. Redemption is available to
anyone--but God chooses certain persons for special
assignments. Salvation was equally available to Jacob and
Esau, but God chose Jacob, not Esau, to be the line through
whom He would take the message of salvation to the world.
God exercises sovereignty in His mission strategy.
When Scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart it
is merely crediting Him with doing what He allows, and not
implying that He ordains it. Pharaoh's negative response to
God's call actually illustrates God's respect for his
freedom to choose.
Foreknowledge and Human Freedom
Some Believe that God relates to persons without knowing
their choices until they are made; that God knows certain
future events, such as the Second Advent, the millennium,
and the restoration of the earth, but has no idea who will
be saved. They feel that God's dynamic relationship with the
human race would be in jeopardy if He knew everything that
would transpire from eternity to eternity. Some suggest that
He would be bored if He knew the end from the beginning.
But God's knowledge about what individuals will do does
not interfere with what they actually choose to do any more
than a historian's knowledge of what people did in the past
interferes with their actions. Just as a camera records a
scene but does not change it, foreknowledge looks into the
future without altering it. The foreknowledge of the Godhead
never violates human freedom.
Dynamics Within the Godhead
Is there only one God? What of Christ, and the Holy
The Oneness of God
In contrast to the heathen of surrounding nations, Israel
believed there was only one God (Deut. 4:35; 6:4, Isa. 45:5;
Zech. 14:9). The New Testament makes the same emphasis on
the unity of God (Mark 12:29-32; John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:4-6;
Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Tim. 2:5). This monotheistic emphasis does not
contradict the Christian concept of the triune God or
Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; rather, it affirms
that there is no pantheon of various deities.
The Plurality Within the Godhead
Although the Old Testament does not explicitly teach that
God is triune, it alludes to a plurality within the Godhead.
At times God employs plural pronouns such as: "`Let Us make
man in Our image'" (Gen. 1:26); "`Behold the man has become
like one of Us'" (Gen. 3:22); "`Come, let Us go down'" (Gen.
11:7). At times the Angel of the Lord is identified with
God. Appearing to Moses, the Angel of the Lord said, "`I am
the God of your father--the God of Abraham, the God of
Isaac, and the God of Jacob'" (Ex. 3:6).
Various references distinguish the Spirit of God from
God. In the Creation story "the Spirit of God was hovering
over the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2). Some texts not only
refer to the Spirit but include a third person in God's work
of redemption: "`And now the Lord God [the Father] and His
Spirit [the Holy Spirit] have sent Me [the Son of God]'"
(Isa. 48:16); "`I [the Father] have put My Spirit upon Him
[the Messiah]; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles'"
The Relationship Within the Godhead
The first advent of Christ gives us a much clearer
insight into the triune God. John's Gospel reveals that the
Godhead consists of God the Father (see chapter 3 of this
book), God the Son (chapter 4), and God the Holy Spirit
(chapter 5), a unity of three co-eternal persons having a
unique and mysterious relationship.
1. A loving relationship.
When Christ cried out, "`My God, My God, why have You
forsaken Me?'" (Mark 15:34) He was suffering from the
estrangement from His Father that sin had caused. Sin broke
humanity's original relationship with God (Gen. 3:6-10; Isa.
59:2). In His last hours, Jesus, the One who knew no sin,
became sin for us. In taking our sin, our place, He
experienced the separation from God that was our lot--and
perished in consequence.
Sinners will never comprehend what Jesus' death meant to
the Godhead. From eternity He had been with His Father and
the Spirit. They had lived as coeternal, coexistent in utter
self-giving and love for one another. To be together for so
long bespeaks the perfect, absolute love that existed within
the Godhead. "God is love" (1 John 4:8) means that each so
lived for the others that they experienced complete
fulfillment and happiness.
Love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13. Some may wonder how
the qualities of longsuffering or patience would apply
within the Godhead, who had a perfect loving relationship.
Patience was first needed when dealing with rebel angels,
and later with wayward humans.
There is no distance between the persons of the triune
God. All three are divine, yet they share their divine
powers and qualities. In human organizations final authority
rests in one person--a president, king, or prime minister.
In the Godhead, final authority resides in all three
While the Godhead is not one in person, God is one in
purpose, mind, and character. This oneness does not
obliterate the distinct personalities of the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit. Nor does the separateness of
personalities within the Deity destroy the monotheistic
thrust of Scripture, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
are one God.
2. A working relationship.
Within the Godhead an economy of function exists. God
does not unnecessarily duplicate work. Order is the first
law of heaven, and God works in orderly ways. This
orderliness issues from and preserves the union within the
Godhead. The Father seems to act as source, the Son as
mediator, and the Spirit as actualizer or applier.
The incarnation beautifully demonstrated the working
relationship of the three persons of the Godhead. The Father
gave His Son, Christ gave Himself, and the Spirit gave Jesus
birth (John 3:16; Matt. 1:18,20). The angel's testimony to
Mary clearly indicates the activities of all three in the
mystery of God becoming man. "`The Holy Spirit will come
upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you;
therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be
called the Son of God'" (Luke 1:35).
Each member of the Godhead was present at the baptism of
Christ: the Father giving encouragement (Matt. 3:17), Christ
giving Himself to be baptized as our example (Matt.
3:13-15), and the Spirit giving Himself to Jesus to empower
Him (Luke 3:21,22).
Toward the end of His earthly life Jesus promised to send
the Holy Spirit as counselor or helper (John 14:16). Hours
later, hanging on the cross, Jesus cried out to His Father,
"`My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'" (Matt. 27:46).
In those climactic moments for salvation history the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit were all part of the picture.
Today the Father and the Son reach out to us through the
Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "`When the Helper comes, whom I
shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who
proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me'" (John
15:26). The Father and Son send the Spirit to reveal Christ
to each person. The great burden of the Trinity is to bring
God and a knowledge of Christ to everyone (John 17:3) and to
make Jesus present and real (Matt. 28:20; cf. Heb. 13:5).
Believers are elected to salvation, Peter said, "according
to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of
the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of
Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2).
The apostolic benediction includes all three persons of
the Godhead. "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the
love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with
you all" (2 Cor. 13:14). Christ heads the list. God's point
of contact with humanity was and is through Jesus
Christ--the God who became man. Though all three members of
the Trinity work together to save, only Jesus lived as a
man, died as a man, and became our Saviour (John 6:47; Matt.
1:21; Acts 4:12). But because "God was in Christ reconciling
the world to Himself" (2 Cor. 5:l9), God could also be
designated as our Saviour (cf. Titus 3:4), for He saved us
through Christ the Savior (Eph. 5:23; Phil. 3:20; cf.
In the economy of function, different members of the
Godhead perform distinct tasks in saving man. The work of
the Holy Spirit does not add anything to the adequacy of the
sacrifice that Jesus Christ made at the cross. Through the
Holy Spirit the objective atonement at the cross is
subjectively applied as the Christ of the atonement is
brought within. Thus Paul speaks of "Christ in you, the hope
of glory" (Col. 1:27).
Focus on Salvation
The early church baptized persons into the name of the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). But since it was
through Jesus that God's love and purpose were revealed, the
Bible focuses on Him. He is the hope foreshadowed in the Old
Testament sacrifices and festivals. He is the One who
occupies center stage in the Gospels. He is the Good News
proclaimed by the disciples in sermons and writings--the
Blessed Hope. The Old Testament looks forward to His coming;
the New Testament reports His first advent and looks forward
to His return.
Christ, the mediator between God and us, thus unites us
to the Godhead. Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life"
(John 14:6). The good news is centered in a Person and not
merely a practice. It has to do with a relationship, not
just rules--for Christianity is Christ. We find in Him the
core, content, and context for all truth and life.
Looking at the cross, we gaze into the heart of God. On
that instrument of torture He poured out His love for us.
Through Christ the love of the Godhead fills our aching,
empty hearts. Jesus hung there as God's gift and our
substitute. At Calvary God descended to earth's lowest point
to meet us; but it is the highest place where we can go.
When we go to Calvary we have ascended as high as we can
At the cross the Trinity made a full revelation of
unselfishness. There was our most complete revelation of
God. Christ became man to die for the race. He valued
selflessness more than self-existence. There Christ became
our "righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1
Cor. 1:30). Whatever value or meaning we have or ever will
have comes from His sacrifice on that cross.
The only true God is the God of the cross. Christ
unveiled to the universe the Godhead's infinite love and
saving power; He revealed a triune God who was willing to go
through the agony of separation because of unconditional
love for a rebel planet. From this cross God proclaims His
loving invitation to us: Be reconciled, "and the peace of
God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7, NIV).
1. Gordon R. Lewis, Decide for Yourself: A Theological
Workbook (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, l978),
2. They are the cosmological, teleological, ontological,
anthropological, and religion arguments. See, e.g., T.H.
Jemison, Christian Beliefs (Mountain View, CA: Pacific
Press, l959), p. 72; Richard Rice, the Reign of God (Berrien
Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, l985), pp. 53-56.
These arguments do not prove God's existence but show that
there is a strong possibility that God exists. Ultimately,
however, belief in God's existence is based on faith.
3. Yahweh is "a conjectural transliteration" of the sacred
name of God in the Old Testament (Ex. 3:14,15; 6:3). The
original Hebrew contained the four consonants YHWH. In time,
out of fear of profaning God's name, the Jews refused to
read this name aloud. Instead, wherever YHWH appeared they
would read the word Adonai. In the seventh or eighth century
A.D., when vowels were added to the Hebrew words, the
Masoretes supplied the vowels of Adonai to the consonants
YHWH. The combination produced the word Jehovah, which is
used in the KJV. Other translations prefer the word Yahweh
(Jerusalem Bible) or LORD (RSV,NIV,NKJV). (See Siegfried H.
Horn, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, Don F.
Neufeld, ed., rev. ed., [Washington, D.C.: Review and
Herald, l979] pp. 1192,1193).
4. "Predestination," Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia,
Don F. Neufeld, ed., rev. ed., (Washington, D.C.: Review andHerald, l976), p. 1144.