Is God One or Three?
#1 in a series
QUESTION: “Is God absolutely alone? Is He only one person?”
ANSWER: Let’s go to the Word of God for an answer:
God is ONE. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4; cf. Isa. 44:6; Mark 21:29; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; Jas. 2:19). “The intent of these words was to give a clear statement of the truth of monotheism, that there is only one God. Thus, it has also be translated ‘the LORD is our God, the LORD alone.’ …The same word is used in Genesis 2:24, where the husband and wife were said to be ‘one flesh.’1 Deuteronomy 4:35 serves as a good commentary on 6:4: “To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD Himself is God; THERE IS NONE OTHER BESIDES HIM”.
There is ONE Infinite Spirit Being—God, and yet within that one being there are THREE distinct persons. Note:
- The Father is God—“Blessed by the GOD AND FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), but He is not the Son (1 John 4:14), nor is He the Holy Spirit (John 14:6).
- The Son is God—“But to the SON He says: ‘YOUR THRONE, O GOD, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom’” (Heb. 1:8), but He is not the Father (2 John 3), nor is He the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38).
- The Spirit is God—“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to THE HOLY SPIRIT and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to GOD’” (Acts 5:3-4), but He is neither the Father (John 15:26), nor is He the Son (John 16:13-14).
These three distinct persons each share in, and partake of, THE SAME DIVINE ESSENCE (cf. 2 Cor. 13:14). When the Bible tells us that “the LORD is one”, it’s referring to a numerical one, i.e., there is one God as opposed to many gods. When the Bible tells us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are/is God, it’s referring to a united one, i.e., they each share the attributes which deity alone possesses2 and are therefore referred to collectively as the Godhead (Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:20; Col. 2:9 (KJV). Study the following verses carefully:
- “Then God (Hebrew—Elōhīm, is a plural pronoun) said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness… So God created man in His own image; in the image of God HE created him; male and female HE created them’” (Gen. 1:27a-28). Note the plural pronouns “Us” and “Our” (x2) in verse 27, but then that observe the singular pronoun “He” (x2) is employed in the very next verse.
- “Then the LORD GOD said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of US…’” (Gen. 3:22a).
- “Also I heard the voice of THE LORD, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?’” (Isa. 6:8).
We need to caution against a) blending the three divine personalities so strongly that we make absolutely no distinction between them, and/or b) over-emphasizing the individuality of the three and inadvertently creating a doctrine of Tritheism—or three Gods.
Other verses to consider and study include: Mat. 3:16-17, Mark 13:32; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Cor. 15:24.
1 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, 207.
2 Examples: eternality (Deut. 33:27), immutability (Mal. 3:6), holiness (Exo. 15:11), righteousness (32:4), omnipotence (Jer. 32:17), omnipresence (Psa. 139:7-10), omniscience (Psa. 147:5).
3 ALL CAPS emphasis in some text as well as verses of Scripture is mine—mb.