Think Well

Understanding the Trinity: There is One God

February 2, 2016

The word “Trinity” was invented as shorthand for three separate, main and plain teachings of Scripture. The first of those teachings is:

There is one God.

This is the least hotly contested of the three. Yet there are still some people who subtly or overtly deny this belief. There are also some who wrongly think that Christians believe in 3 Gods because they believe the Father, the Son and the Spirit are God.

Most Christians however would quickly nod and agree that the Bible clearly teaches that there is one God. But when this idea gets challenged, we might have a hard time pointing to the verses that teach this. So I’ve compiled a cheat sheet! Here’s some prominent places that the oneness of God is taught in Scripture and some basic information on what this concept means.

There’s a few prominent places that the oneness of God is taught in Scripture.

In Deuteronomy the Israelites were taught “The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This declaration is affirmed throughout the Old Testament.

In Isaiah, God says clearly, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5).

He says “I am the first and I am the last, apart from me there is no God” (Isa 44:6) and “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not yield my glory to another” (Isa 42:8).

The oneness of God is also taught in the New Testament. Jesus quotes and affirms Deuteronomy 6:4 in Mark 12:29-34. In Romans, Paul asks “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God” (Rom 3:29-30).

These are a sampling of the multitude of verses that teach there is one God. So what does this mean? On the most basic level, it means that there are no other Gods. On a deeper level, when we say that God is one, this does not mean that God is one person. Rather, it means that the three persons of God share the divine essence or nature.

This idea may sound difficult to understand, but grasping this concept will allow us to better worship God as he has revealed himself. So let’s break it down. An essence is what makes something what it is. For example, the essence of a chair is all the qualities that make that thing a chair. Without those qualities, it would not be a chair.

The essence or nature of God is likewise all those things that make God God. Without these things, God would not be God. What are these qualities that make God God? Some of them are that He is eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, unchangeable, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely just and so on.

When we say the Father, Son and Spirit share the one divine nature, we are saying each person has these qualities.¹ So as we worship, we can meditate on how the Spirit who is our counselor is infinitely wise. As we worship, we can meditate on the paradox of an omnipotent Jesus being forced to carry a cross. As we worship, we can focus in on the Father who knew the plan of salvation even as Eve took that bite.

This is part of what it means to grasp the wonderful revelation that the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

What other Scriptures teach that there is one God?

Which aspects of God’s nature do you need to reflect on?

What does it mean that the Father, Son and Spirit have the same nature?

¹It is not clear whether the divine nature is simply these qualities or additionally some substance that makes up these qualities. Great theologians are found in both camps. Either way, we can grasp that “God is one” means that the Father, Son and Spirit share these qualities.

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