Is Jesus God?
(Understanding the Trinity)
"You better get out of there," Walter Covich’s father pleaded. "The territory will soon be under communist control. If you don’t leave, you’ll never be able to get out. You know what the communists have done to Christians in the past."
Although it is unknown to most Americans, Russia and the United States view the Alaskan purchase quite differently. According to American history, the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7,200,000. According to Russian history books, Russia only leased Alaska to the United States for 100 years. Just as American schools teach Alaska was purchased, Russian schools teach it was only leased.
Walter, and his wife, Eldy, were missionaries in Alaska and the "lease" was about to expire. Walter’s father, an immigrant from Russia, just assumed it was common knowledge to Americans that Alaska was leased and would be under Russian control in 1967. There was nothing Walter could do to convince his father that Alaska belonged to the United States.
What is the source of this misunderstanding? I don’t think anyone really knows. I have a feeling, however, the discovery of gold and oil made this "frozen wasteland" much more desirable to Russia. Shortly before the purchase, Russia had ended the Crimean War and the need for cash was probably the motivation for "selling" Alaska. Conveniently, Russia says it lost the documents that prove Alaska was only leased. For those interested, the Treasury warrant (#9759) for the $7,200,000 purchase can be found in the National Archives.
The reason I bring up this interesting piece of history is to show how easy it is to take for granted things others vehemently oppose. One such issue is the deity of Jesus. Most Christians believe the Bible clearly states Jesus is God. There are, however, several "Christian" groups that are absolutely opposed to the idea of Jesus being God.
Chances are, if you ever run into one of these people, you would have a difficult time proving (from memory) Jesus is God. This is because you probably never felt it was necessary to memorize supporting documentation for something so obvious. Just because it is obvious to you does not necessarily mean it is obvious to someone else.
I have written this chapter to help you gain a better understanding of this subject. I have divided the reference section (at the end of this chapter) into two parts. The first part is a quick overview of the places in the Bible that show Jesus is God and how He is part of the trinity. You should become very familiar with this part. The second part is more of an in-depth reference. Refer to this part only when you need to show a person some in-depth proof of Jesus being God.
If a person does not believe Jesus is God, he obviously does not believe in the trinity. In fact, people like this are usually quite vocal and critical of the doctrine of the trinity. I have often heard them say something like, "You Christians believe in three Gods." If you have ever tried to explain the trinity, you have an appreciation of it complexity. There have been many attempts to explain how one God is made up of three persons. Although some of them are helpful, all of them still fall short of providing a clear picture of the trinity.
Some people point to water and say water can be found in three physical states: Solid, liquid, and gas. Although it can be observed in three different forms, it is still water. This analogy is then compared to the trinity: There is only one God, but He expresses Himself as three persons.
Another example people use is a concept called triple point. This is a phenomenon where a sample of water actually exists in all three physical states (solid, liquid, and gas) at the same time. They point to triple point and say, "See, it is possible for one thing to be found in three physical states at the same time."
Incidentally, for you trivia buffs, water will boil and freeze at the same point when it is placed in a near vacuum (0.6 psi). Water, of course, boils at 212o F at "normal" atmospheric pressure (14 psi). As the pressure decreases so does the boiling point. Eventually, the temperature that water boils is also the same as when it freezes. This is why a tear in an astronaut’s suit is so deadly. When a space suit is torn, the pressure inside the suit begins to decrease. As the pressure drops, the blood begins to boil. When the pressure drops to about 0.6 psi, the boiling blood suddenly cracks into a solid piece of ice. (Source: Popular Science, May 1998, page 84)
Others will point to a person who is someone’s father, someone’s son, and someone’s husband as an example of the trinity. Although this person has three titles, functions and purposes, he is still one person.
What does the Bible say about the trinity? The actual word "trinity" does not appear in the Bible. The Bible does, however, portray God as being made up of three persons. It says that the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God (see the verses listed below.) There are also two places in the Bible where God refers to Himself in the plural form. Gen. 1:26 says, "Let us create man in our own image." Isa. 6:8 says, "Also, I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"
Although the Bible says that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are God, it also clearly says that there is only one God (see the verses listed in Reference section 1). How can we believe all three are God and still believe there is only one God? I have no explanation that is completely satisfying. Therefore, I see that we have only two choices. The first choice is we can simply recognize the doctrine of the trinity is one of those aspects of God we are not going to be able to fully understand with our incredibly limited minds. The only other choice is to conclude these references to the three persons of the Godhead means there are some serious errors in the Bible. The repercussions of this choice are obvious.
What is your perception of God? Imagine being raised your whole life in a windowless room. You were never allowed to go or even look outside. Your mother, who has previously lived on the outside, tries to explain what the outside world is like. She draws pictures of trees, birds, flowers, sky, etc. Although she is trying to be as open with you as possible, you would still have a very distorted view of the outside world.
Probably, your perceptions of flowers and birds would be more two-dimensional than three-dimensional. In your mind’s eye, there are probably many things that are hard to understand or even seem contradictory. This is part of the reason we have difficulty understanding God. We’re trying to look at an infinite being through finite eyes.
Do we really think we can comprehend the magnitude of a being who has created a universe with more than a million billion galaxies; where each galaxy has hundred of billions of stars? Are we naive enough to think we can understand the complexity of a being who created a universe where every ounce has more than a 100 million trillion highly organized atoms? (Source: National Geographic, June 1983. ChemCom, Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1993.) I think this complexity of God is part of the reason we find the trinity so difficult to understand.
Think about this for a moment: a single cell bacterium has no capacity to comprehend or understand human beings. Likewise, even the simplest aspects of God are way beyond our comprehension. Of course, the difference between God and us is far greater than the difference between the bacterium and us.
I am not saying the trinity is correct simply because we can’t understand it. That would be wrong and inappropriate. However, it would be just as wrong to say the trinity does not exist simply because it is not understandable.
Very few people can understand quantum physics. The theories and concepts of quantum physics are too complex for most people. In fact, some of the theories seem ridiculous or totally illogical to the untrained eye. Yet, quantum physics is used everyday to make our lives better. We must be careful not to discredit something simply because we can’t understand it.
Another reason people have a hard time accepting Jesus as God is the fact He had so many "limitations." They wonder how Jesus could be God if He was so limited? The following chapter talks about these limitations.
Before I provide you the reference sections, I want to give you one more piece of interesting information. A cosmonaut, who lived in the troubled Russian Space station, Mir (1997) recently visited the missionaries I have mentioned earlier (the Covichs), looking for a Russian Bible. Like most Russians, he was raised as an atheist. However, when he first entered outer space, he realized there had to be a God. He said it would be impossible for this finely tuned universe to have come into existence without a creator God. Interestingly, the first thing he saw when he entered Mir was a Russian Bible. Since all of his time was spent trying to fix one disaster after another on this aging space station, he didn’t have a chance to read the Bible. I am happy to say he now has a Russian Bible of his own.
Reference 1: Verses Teaching the Trinity. This a quick overview of the places in the Bible that show the Father, Holy Spirit, and Jesus are all God. It also contains verses showing there is only one God.
Reference 2: Verses showing Jesus is God. This reference provides an in-depth list of verses showing that Jesus is God. It clearly shows that the Bible teaches the divinity of Jesus.
Other Chapters in this Section
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