Current Issue

All day Jesus had taught the multitudes and healed the sick people among them. The crowds were curious to hear this Person whose parables touched their very souls. But now, utterly weary, Jesus stepped into a boat and asked His disciples to come with Him. They set out across the Sea of Galilee, and moments later, Jesus stretched out in the stern and fell fast asleep. Other people jumped into nearby boats, rowing with Jesus and His disciples across the sea. The sun dropped below the horizon, blackness fell like a curtain, and the disciples settled down to the routine of travel, glad for the rest and comparative quiet of the journey.

Suddenly, a squall swept down the mountain gorges along the eastern shore, whipping the water into mountains of froth. This was no ordinary storm. The wind screamed, and tons of water broke over the boat. They tilted up, up, up; they dived down, down, down. The disciples dropped their oars and hung on for dear life. The air crackled with lightning, and by its light they saw their Teacher, sound asleep. He had comforted the brokenhearted and challenged the self-sufficient. Now, as they faced certain death, He slept.

“Master!” they cried. “Master, wake up! Don’t You care that we’re drowning? Help us!”

Jesus saw terror in the faces of the men so dear to His heart. He stood upright, struggling for balance. The wind whipped His hair and plastered His sodden robe to His body. Lightning flashed. Then He raised His hand and “rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ ” (Mark 4:39, NRSV).1 The wind stopped. The sea calmed. And the moon shone through ragged, unraveling clouds.

In the boats around them, people cried with relief. Awestruck, they asked, “Who is this Man that even the winds and the waves obey Him?”

Who indeed! The Jews knew that only the Creator God had the power and authority to rebuke the sea. Their Bible (our Old Testament) told them so (Isaiah 50:2; Nahum 1:3, 4). By calming the storm Jesus had assumed the power and authority of the God of Israel. It was blasphemy—unless He, too, was God.

The rest of the trip was uneventful—until they reached a place called Gadarenes. When Jesus and the disciples landed on the desolate shore, a madman rushed toward them. Blood from self-inflicted wounds streamed down his naked body. Chains hung from his wrists. The disciples turned and fled, but Jesus stood His ground, love shining through His eyes. Then He commanded the demons who controlled the madman to leave, and they obeyed (Mark 5:1–15).

Again, Jesus assumed the prerogative of eternal God, for God alone has the power to deal with Satan and his demons (Zechariah 3:1, 2).

A bold assertion

There came a time when Jesus Himself boldly asserted that He’d lived from eternity with God (John 8:48–58). He shocked the religious leaders of His time by saying that their father Abraham had looked forward to the day when He would come.

“You’re not even 50 years old, and you say that you’ve seen Abraham?” they snorted.

“Before Abraham was, I am,” Jesus calmly replied.

I am.” Jesus had applied the divine name of Jehovah God to Himself! They grabbed up stones with which to execute Him.

John 1:1, 2 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (NKJV).2

Living on earth, Jesus walked a tightrope of accepting earth’s limitations and relying on God’s power for strength to overcome Satan and to perform miracles. Though He was equal with God, Jesus “emptied himself,” coming to earth as a suffering servant rather than the conquering Redeemer that the Jews expected the Messiah to be (Philippians 2:5–8, NRSV).

These and other verses in the Bible reveal that Jesus was One with God from the beginning of time. In fact, the Hebrew word for “one” that is used in Deuteronomy 6:4—“The LORD our God . . . is one”—is echad, which the Old Testament often uses to describe a oneness made up from two or more units.3 A comparable English word is group, which designates a unit made up of many parts.

What about the Holy Spirit? Where do we find Him in Scripture? If He is real, what are His characteristics? What is His role in our salvation?

Under inspiration, John referred to the Holy Spirit using a masculine pronoun. For example, Jesus told His disciples that “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things” (John 14:26, NKJV; italics added). Other Bible verses also use the Greek pronoun ekeinos, which means “he,” instead of the neuter pronoun “it” (John 16:8, 13–16).

The Holy Spirit is a conscious Being. He acts in concrete ways. He has emotions. The Bible tells us that He speaks, makes intercession, calls, oversees, commands, teaches, counsels, and can be grieved, insulted, and outraged.

Romans 10:27 speaks about “the mind of the Spirit.” And in the baptismal formula and the apostolic benediction, the apostles Matthew and Paul equated the Holy Spirit with God the Father and God the Son (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). What’s more, Bible writers tell us that the Spirit has such divine attributes as all-knowing and everywhere present (1 Corinthians 2:10; Psalm 139:7).

Human beings cannot comprehend the preexistence of one person, much less three. But accepting what the Bible teaches about the Three-in-One opens our minds to better understand other mysteries.

A God of love

Where did love come from? Why do we need each other?

Love is eternal, existing with the Holy Three outside of time. Long before God created planets and stars and life on earth, the Three loved each other in concrete, active ways. Jesus said that God loved Him before the foundations of the earth were laid, and Genesis tells us that the Spirit was present with God at the creation of our world (John 17:24; Genesis 1:1, 2). The love that the Three have for each other is just as real—in fact, far more real—than the love we experience, for Their love is not tainted by selfishness or other results of sin.

Some have wondered how we humans gained the ability to communicate—and not simply to talk but to share questions and ideas and solve problems together, to teach and to learn.

Knowing about the existence of the Trinity makes the answer simple. God in Three Persons has enjoyed the give and take, the challenge and fun, of true communication since the beginning—and They gave that ability to us humans when They created us. With the range of emotion that the Bible ascribes to the Father, to Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit, we can only imagine the deep, lively, and energizing interaction that must go on between Them!

The Trinity also answers the philosophical problem of both unity and diversity in the universe. The Godhead created humanity in Their image. The unity in humanity reflects this. Each individual both belongs to and makes up a whole, yet each person is also uniquely him- or her-self. That is the way it is with the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that sin is so serious and God’s love is so strong that only God Himself could die in our place. And just as the Lord Himself came to Abraham to tell him about the danger threatening Lot in Sodom (Genesis 18:20– 33), so the Lord came to earth as the promised Messiah. God gave the very best—Himself.

So, we understand a little more clearly what Jesus went through to save us. The loneliness of separation He felt from the Father and the Holy Spirit is beyond comprehension. Yet He told His grieving disciples that when He was gone, the Comforter would come to them (John 14:16, 17, 25, 26). This Helper, the Holy Spirit, would teach them and guide them into fuller truth.

The Trinity is a glorious mystery. Three who loved each other before time began, who devised a plan to save a sinful planet so that you and I can live with Them for eternity.

1. Bible texts credited to NRSV are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2. Bible texts taken from the NKJV are from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.
3. In Numbers 13:23, echad is used for the single bunch of grapes that the spies brought back from Canaan, and in Genesis 2:24, echad is used to describe a man and wife as “one flesh.”

Faces of the I AM

by Penny Estes Wheeler
From the August 2015 Signs