taking a break from essay preparation because I just realised why I’m hating it so much and what I really deeply need to do right now. It’s a bit like taking a break from, say, sorting through a pile of very smelly dirty clothes, pausing to breathe fresh clean air and drink water from a cool stream.
I need to remind myself of some wonderful truth about God.
The triune God. The one the Bible talks about, right from the very beginning.
Instead of fiddling around with an obscure point of doctrine that I don’t think the Bible actually deals with and to my mind that means: God hasn’t bothered to reveal this to us, ergo it’s not really important for us to know, so let’s move on and focus on the stuff that God has actually bothered to reveal to us about himself. He’s given us plenty to chew on, plenty to marvel at, plenty to make us go wow. Because he’s awesome.
In the beginning, the Bible tells us, Elohim created the world and all that’s in it. Elohim: that’s a Hebrew word that the Bible uses as a name for God. It’s a word that’s a plural noun, and yet it takes a verb in singular – yes, I know it’s a bit hard for English speakers to get their heads round this because that distinction isn’t there in English, verbs are the same in singular and in plural: he ate the chocolate, they ate the chocolate. In Hebrew it’s different, and when it says in Genesis 1 that Elohim created the heavens and the earth, in Hebrew this looks weird.
Which is absolutely right: it’s pointing us to the uniqueness of Elohim, the triune God, who doesn’t behave like us, doesn’t operate according to our normal, he’s not like us and not like anything our human imagination is capable of conjuring. I’m studying theology right now and it’s wonderful because learning about God, whom I love and so I want to know more and more about him, but at the same time it also includes moments when my brain explodes into tiny bits all over the carpet because who can fathom God’s ways.
In the beginning Elohim, the united plurality that is the creator and ruler of the universe, created the heavens and the earth and all that’s in them and made humans – made us personally, to interact with personally and lovingly. Even when we rebelled against him (oh so quickly!) he still showed us love and grace and mercy, even making us clothes to wear… and promising us the Messiah, the Saviour, the One who would die to enable us to get back into that good, loving relationship with God.
And that Promised One? he’s part of this triune Elohim. Which is just shocking when I think about it. Shocking, and necessary. No human being could have done it – none of us could be the Lamb without blemish, the sinless innocent sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind.
So he’s the Saviour, the atoning sacrifice – and he was there in the beginning, at creation. In the beginning was the Word, says John, and the Word was with God and the Word was God, and through him was made everything that was made.
And guess what, the Spirit was there too! right there at creation, hovering over the chaos – the Spirit of God, aka the Spirit of Christ, aka the Spirit of Truth. The One whom Jesus told his disciples that he’d be sending from the Father after his ascension to heaven. The One who would be here with us, teaching us and helping us to live God’s way, living in us once we’ve put our faith in Christ – and even, before that, giving us that faith and bringing us to new life in Christ!
In the beginning Elohim, the triune God, created the world and all that’s in it. And for me personally Elohim, the triune God, not only created me but re-created me: the Father sending the Son to die in my place so I could be forgiven, the Son going willingly to the cross out of love for me, the Spirit giving me faith so I could, through faith, receive the salvation offered to me through the atoning sacrifice of the Son.
God is one, the Bible famously tells us: one, united, like a husband and wife becoming one flesh – not one as in singular. That would be a different word in Hebrew (yakhid, as opposed to ekhad), and it would make a huge amount of the rest of the Bible into nonsense – like the use of the plural word Elohim; or Genesis 1:26, when Elohim says “let us make man”; or Exodus 33, or Genesis 18, or… I could go on… Trying to squish the God of the Bible into that mould just doesn’t work.
Oh, but isn’t Christianity a monotheistic religion? Yeah… no, not really. It just isn’t a polytheistic religion – we believe in one God in three persons, a unity of three, totally 100% united and yet each unique, distinct: the Father is not the Son, the Son is uniquely the One who became incarnate and died for our salvation and rose again and is now seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father, the Spirit is the One who was seen descending upon Jesus like a dove at the moment of his baptism, the Father is the One whose voice was heard at that moment declaring: this is My Son, in Whom I am pleased.
Is it easy to get your head round all this? It can be, if you don’t overthink it, and if you stick to what the Bible actually says rather than trying to come up with all kinds of clever man-made analogies. Is it a bit like this, a bit like that, a bit like when… none of these analogies really work. God isn’t like anything else. Want to know what he’s really like? Read the Bible, study what God has actually revealed to us about himself in his written Word.
And prepare to be, again and again, mind blown.