The Godhead

The Baptism of Jesus

When people talk about the “Godhead,” they often use the term “Trinity” in reference to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The term “Trinity” is not in the Bible; however, that does not necessarily mean that the concept is unbiblical. Yet many believe that there is just one person of God and deny the concept of the “Trinity.”

In this article, we are going to look at what the Bible teaches about the Godhead – what it means and whether there are three persons of God or just one.

The Meaning of “Godhead”

The term “Godhead” is used three times in the Bible:

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” (Acts 17:29, KJV).

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” (Romans 1:20, KJV).

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

Other translations (NASB, NIV, ESV) use different terms in place of “Godhead” – divine nature/being (Acts 17:29), divine nature (Romans 1:20), and deity (Colossians 2:9). These are helpful in understanding the meaning of the term.

“Godhead” is about nature or possessing the characteristics of God. Another term that may be easier to understand would be “Godhood.” This would be similar to “manhood” or “brotherhood” – possessing the characteristics of “men” or “brethren.” Those in the “Godhead” are part of the “Godhood” – possessing the characteristics of God.

What are the characteristics of God? There are several given to us in the Scriptures:

  • Eternality – God has no beginning and no end. “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:2).
  • Immutability – To be immutable means that God is unchanging. “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).
  • Omnipotence – This means that God is all-powerful. When God appeared to Abram, He said, “I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1). The word “Almighty” means most powerful.
  • Omniscience – This refers to the fact that God is all-knowing. David described this in detail: “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all” (Psalm 139:1-4). God knows everything about us, no matter where we are or what we do.
  • Omnipresence – David wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there” (Psalm 139:7-8). When we refer to God as being omnipresent (present everywhere), we use the term in an accommodative sense. God is in heaven (Ecclesiastes 5:2; Matthew 6:9) unless He comes down to earth (Genesis 11:5). But this is related to the previous point. His omniscience makes it as if He were present everywhere even though He resides in heaven.

Any entity that possesses the characteristics described above can accurately be recognized as part of the “Godhead” or “Godhood” since they share the characteristics of God.

There Is One God

Monotheism (the belief in one deity) was unique to God’s people in the Old Testament. Moses said, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The Lord said, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me” (Isaiah 46:9). The idea was clearly expressed that there was only one God. He commanded the people, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). This would have been different from the surrounding nations who served many “gods” (cf. Joshua 24:14-15).

In the first century, the Gentile nations also served many “gods.” When Paul was in Athens “his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols” (Acts 17:16). In writing to the brethren in Corinth, Paul said there were “so-called gods…many gods and many lords” (1 Corinthians 8:5).

However, the New Testament plainly teaches that there is one God. Paul described the idols as “so-called gods” because “there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4-5). He added, “There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him” (1 Corinthians 8:6). He told the Ephesians that there is “one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).

There Are Three Persons of God

While the Scriptures are clear that there is one God, they also describe three persons of God. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each referred to as “God” in the New Testament.

  • The Father is God – “For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’” (2 Peter 1:17).
  • The Son (Jesus) is God – “But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8).
  • The Holy Spirit is God – “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of land? […] You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3-4).

Though we do not find the term “Trinity” being used in the Bible, we can see from the passages above that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God. This means that as members of the Godhead, they share the characteristics of God that we noticed earlier.

There are several Old Testament passages that teach the concept of the “Trinity”:

  • In the Creation – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). This passage mentions God and the Spirit. In a parallel passage, John described the Word – Jesus (John 1:14) – also being present and instrumental in Creation (John 1:1-3).
  • In creating man – “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). “Us” does not include angels as some have supposed. We know this because man was made “in the image of God” – not in the image of angels. Therefore, we can conclude from this passage that “God” includes more than one person.
  • After the fall of Adam and Eve – “The the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil…” (Genesis 3:22). Again, the plural pronoun “Us” is used for God.
  • In scattering the people at Babel – “The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city” (Genesis 11:5-8). This is another instance in which “The Lord” is referenced using the plural pronoun “Us.”
  • Isaiah’s commission – “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8). This passage makes the same point as the previous one.
  • The prophecy of Christ’s reign – “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’” (Psalm 110:1). The Hebrew writer quoted this passage and emphasized the fact that the Lord was not referring to angels (Hebrews 1:13). Instead, this is about the Father and the Son (Hebrews 1:5).

Though the concept of the “Trinity” can be seen in the Old Testament, there were not many details given. However, the New Testament reveals this concept more completely, providing us with additional information about the three distinct persons of God.

  • At the baptism of Jesus – “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17). The voice from heaven was that of the Father. Distinct from Him was Jesus who was “being baptized” and the Holy Spirit who was “descending as a dove.
  • In the Great Commission – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus indicated that those who would be His disciples were to be baptized in the name of three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  • Sending “the Helper” to the apostles – “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me” (John 15:26). As Jesus gave this promise to His apostles, He clearly articulated the fact that the Father, the Spirit, and Himself were three distinct persons.
  • The closing of Paul’s second letter to Corinth – “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). In closing his epistle, Paul highlighted certain blessings we have from God. In doing so, he emphasized each person of the Godhead.
  • Part of our “platform” for unity – “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). In describing all of the ones that form the basis for our unity as Christians, it is significant that Paul described all three persons of deity.
  • Their work in the scheme of redemption – “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure” (1 Peter 1:2). Peter explained that all three persons of the Godhead each had their own role in our salvation.
  • Jude’s admonition – “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 20-21). Like Paul in his second letter to Corinth, Jude closed his letter by mentioning certain benefits we derive from each person of God.
  • The opening of the book of Revelation – “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:4-5). John described one who was eternal, the Spirit (described symbolically, since Revelation was filled with symbolic language, as “the seven Spirits”), and Jesus Christ. The one “who is and who was and who is to come” referred to God the Father. This is not to say that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not eternal, but this trait was emphasized for the Father in this passage.

Some people claim that Jesus is the only person of God. Yet He plainly stated that He was distinct from the Father. In defending the claims He was making about Himself, Jesus said, “Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me” (John 8:17-18). If Jesus and the Father were the same person, His argument would have been absurd. He told His disciples, “I am the vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1). Referring to the final day of judgment, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). If the Father alone knows when that day will be and the Son does not know, then there cannot be only one person of God.

Jesus also made it clear that He was distinct from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:32). The consequences for speaking against Jesus and the Holy Spirit were different, clearly indicating that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were two different persons.

Conclusion

The Scriptures teach that there is one God and three distinct persons of God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They have worked together in order to make our salvation possible (1 Peter 1:2). Therefore, it is important that we understand and appreciate the roles that each one fulfilled in making eternal life available to us.


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