Why Does God Refer to Himself as “Us”?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Dave, last week, as you know, we discussed the Trinity, which is a term that, although it’s not found in the Bible, is nevertheless helpful to describe a very significant attribute of God. One question before we get on with our next subject: How important is it for a believer in Christ to understand the concept of the Trinity?
Dave: Well, if God is a Triune being, and we are supposed to know God—Jesus Christ said, “This is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” If you do not believe that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as He presents Himself all through the Old Testament—you have a plurality and a singularity. Elohim, a Hebrew plural, means three or more, introduces Himself to Moses, and He says, “I AM that I AM.” In Genesis:1:1, “In the beginning, Elohim . . . ,” that’s—‘Gods’ is a plural—“created,” but “created,” the verb, is in the singular. And that’s a strange anomaly. And later on in that chapter, God says, (Elohim says), “Let us make man in our image and our likeness.”
And we explained that if God were a singular being, He’s incomplete. He would need us in order to experience love, fellowship, communion, and so forth. So, if we are to know the true God—and the Bible is very clear on its opposition to false gods all through the Old and New Testament—if you believe in a God who is a single individual, not a plurality, singularity in plurality, diversity, and unity in one, then you’ve got the wrong God. That’s pretty serious, I would say.
Tom: But, Dave, at the heart of . . . as many of our listeners know, who’ve been tracking with us here over the many weeks—actually over a year now—wow! . . . we’re not saying that somebody can’t come to Christ and be saved . . .
Tom: . . . without understanding the Godhead; understanding the doctrine of the Trinity.
Dave: No, God will reveal Himself to you, and when you first come to Him, you don’t necessarily . . . probably don’t understand the Trinity. What I’m saying is if you insist that God cannot be a Trinity, and you insist He must be a singular being, then how could God come as a man, for example, to die for our sins? And Jesus said in John 8, “Except you believe that I Am [that is, that’s the name of Yahweh, I AM] you will die in your sins and where I go you cannot come.” So, as people who deny the Trinity—Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons and others—would say, “Well, if Jesus was really God, then when He’s dead, who’s running the universe?” Or, “If Jesus is really God, when He’s a fetus in His Mother’s womb, or when He is a little baby nursing, or a child—well, who’s running the universe if Jesus is God?”
But Jesus is the eternal Son of God, God the Son. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And all through the Old Testament (and we’ve referred to verses, so anyone out there can get last week’s or the week before program)—but all through the Old Testament—you have, for example, Psalm 2, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little.” Or, in Proverbs 30, it says, “The creator of the universe, what’s his name, and what is his Son’s name?” There’s only one Son of God, unique Son of God. Now we become the children of God—we’ve talked about that—but we are not sons of God in the way that Jesus is. He calls himself “the only begotten Son of God.”
We referred to Isaiah:48:16, where this One who obviously is God says, “From the beginning” (you go back as far as you can go), “there am I. I am the One who speaks, and I have not spoken in secret.” This is obviously the Word of God, John:1:1, “In the beginning was the Word.” Well, He must be God; He has been here from the beginning. But then He says, “And the Lord God and his Spirit have sent me.” So, you are going to confront the Trinity all through the Bible, and if a person insists, when they are confronted with this, “Elohim,” “Gods,” “I Am,” “Let us”—wait a minute—and yet I Am.
When you are confronted with this in the Scriptures, and you refuse to accept this revelation of God that He’s giving us of Himself, then I would have to say you don’t know the true God. But when you come to Him in your first steps toward God and saying . . . well, He says, “You will seek for me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart.”
Now, if you are really seeking the true God, not some god of your own understanding, as you conceive Him to be, as Alcoholics Anonymous says, as the Masons say; “God as you conceive him to be.” As Mother Teresa used to say, “Whatever God is in your mind you must accept.” Well, if you are seeking some god of your own understanding, you will not find the true God. But when we are open to hear what God says, He’s revealing Himself to us, then you will come to know the true God. So, in that sense, I think it’s very important.
Tom: Dave, the verse that you quoted earlier, 1 John:5:20, I want to go over that again: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”
Dave: And then it goes on and says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” So, anything but the true God is an idol.
Tom: The “god” of our own imagination, even though we today say, “Well, I don’t worship idols.” But if I hang to—cling to—a false idea of God, that is idolatry, there is no other way you can cut that.
Tom: Dave, I have a thought—I don’t know how much you want to pursue this, but we’ve talked before about different religions that only worship a singular god—Islam for example. But modern Judaism, that’s their view.
Tom: But not the Jews of the Old Testament. When we’re talking about the patriarchs, when we are talking about David, and so on—they understood the Trinity. How is it that it didn’t follow to today with regard to Judaism?
Dave: Well, it’s the same with . . . you could say there are a lot of people who call themselves Baptists who don’t believe it, or Presbyterians, or Methodists. Why did the YMCAs that started out as Christian go so far astray, or the YWCA? Or—Harvard started out as a Christian evangelical school! So did Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, and so forth, and today they are atheistic.
So, the Jews started out right, but Jesus had to rebuke them. Matthew 15, He said to the rabbis . . .
Tom: Jesus, who was a Jew; this is not anti-Semitism!
Dave: That’s right. He said to the rabbis, “By your tradition, you have voided the Word of God.” And they got big on tradition, like the Catholic Church is today. The Catholic Church puts tradition on the same level as Scripture. Well, what happens then is you begin to go by tradition, and you begin to interpret the Scripture to agree with your tradition. So, Jesus said to the rabbis, “You have made the commandment of God of none effect. You have voided God’s Word by your tradition.”
So, a tradition grew in Judaism. But if—I think we talked about it, I’m sure we did in the past—you go back to the Shema, where it says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,” and the word “one” there is echad, and it’s the same word that you have when it says the man and woman became one flesh; same word you have where it says a large number of troops became one troop. So it’s a unity. It is all there in the Old Testament, but tradition seems to have a stronger hold on people than the Scriptures do: “Don’t try to change my mind now, this has been our tradition!”
You’ve got groups out there like the Mennonites, or you have the Amish—they’ve got traditions. Some of them won’t have rubber on the tires of their horse and buggy; others will allow rubber. Some of them won’t allow electricity in their homes and others will. And they have various traditions about the clothing, and the food, and so forth.
Tradition isn’t going to help anyone. In fact, it then, becomes almost what we worship, and we begin to look to our traditions for our salvation. So, you would have arguments today if you go up to Canada, Pennsylvania, and so forth, among these different groups.
The Hutterites . . . I remember talking with a couple of really sweet Hutterite girls in Canada. We were visiting a Hutterite colony, and I asked them about how you get to heaven, and so forth, and all they could say was—I think they were about maybe nineteen and looking forward to marriage (maybe they were a little bit younger than that): “Well, when we learn how to fix our hair right,” they said, “and we have the right clothes,” and so forth, “then the elders will allow us to come in to the fellowship. Then we’re accepted as full members.”
So, here’s a tradition that voids the Word of God, because instead of looking to Christ and faith in Him and being born again through faith in Christ—“By grace are you saved, through faith, not of yourselves; it’s a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast”—but now they are looking to this sort of thing.
Or, the Catholic is looking to sacramentalism, to the sacraments. He’s looking to the church. It’s through the church that you are saved. And so, somehow you miss that personal relationship with Christ, which is everything that the Scripture presents to us for our salvation, and tradition takes over. And this is what happened to the Jews, and Jesus really lays into them for voiding the Word of God, the commandments of God with their tradition.
Tom: Right. And again, it comes back to what the apostle John said, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Everything that we impose, if it’s manmade, if it is a tradition, as you have been saying, it’s idolatry; there is no way around it.
Dave: Now Tom, if I offended anyone out there . . .
Tom: Oh, I’m sure you did, Dave!
Dave: Let’s just calm down a moment, and you go to the Bible. If what I said in any regard—and that goes for everything we say on this program! It’s our whole idea, “Search the Scriptures Daily”—now, if what I said was not true, and if I offended you because of your tradition, then go to the Bible. Show me your tradition in the Bible. Show me the importance of your tradition, and then see where the Bible says that tradition isn’t going to save you; it isn’t going to help you. And then think of the many other people who have traditions also, and who are just as firm as you are on their traditions.
Now, I’m not saying, “Well, wearing clothes is a tradition, so we could all join a nudist colony!” Or “You could just do anything you want,” and so forth. No, there are certain morals; there are God’s laws—His moral laws—that are given to all mankind that we can understand. And you are free to interpret these. See, it’s not a matter of interpretation, Tom, but it’s a matter of having added to. Now, if you interpret the Bible a little bit differently from the way I do, well, we can discuss it together, but at least you are going to the Bible.
Tom: Yeah, we have an objective reference here.
Dave: Right, at least you are going to the Bible. But now if you have added on some tradition, and you say, “But this is the way my father, my grandfather, and great-grandfather have done it down through the centuries. This is the way this group, this fellowship, always does it.” Well then, I would simply say, “Wait a minute! Where does it say that in the Bible?” It’s very difficult to be delivered from tradition. It’s just as difficult as it is to be delivered from habits.
Tom: Well, Dave, again, I know you’re saying these things keep us away from the scripture, the heart of the scripture, that I just quoted—1 John. We want to know Him; we want to understand Him—not in the way we make things up, or in our own imagination, which, again, is idolatry—but according to God’s Word, which is what this program is about.
Dave: See, this is one of the reasons for the Bible. I often say, for example, to Catholics—and I don’t want to offend any Catholics out there, but they talk about apostolic tradition. Well, I say, “Look, it’s very simple. If you can show me one tradition that your church has that is apostolic—that the apostles originated—it’s not in the Bible, but it’s something that they taught orally and has now been passed down, and if you can prove this to me, I will become a Catholic!
Or, I could say to the Mennonites, “If you can show me that your traditions were taught by Jesus and by the apostles, I’ll become a Mennonite.”
But they didn’t have tape recordings in those days, and even if they had, I wouldn’t recognize Paul’s voice, or John’s voice, or Peter’s voice. How could you possibly prove that a tradition was legitimate? You couldn’t possibly! It’s absolutely impossible. You cannot do it. You cannot convince me today that some tradition you have came from the apostles.
But I have the Word of God. It’s here in black and white. We have the manuscripts, and we can trace it back. This is why we have God’s Word. Otherwise, you and I could come up with all kinds of ideas. And this is why I often say I am not interested in dialoging with someone: “Let’s get some theologians and sit around and talk about God.” Wait a minute! What is the point? God has spoken to us, and if He hasn’t spoken to us, we’re wasting our time—your idea against my idea, somebody’s tradition.
So, this is what we are trying to say, Tom. The Word of God is our authority, and that’s why it is in writing, and that’s why we go by God’s Word.
Tom: Dave, and . . . we get lots of letters—sometimes people call us, and they’re upset. Not all of our mail is like that, but those that do, it’s hard for me to fathom that they don’t understand that we’re trying to challenge them here. That’s all it is. We’re not saying, “Do it our way! Believe what we say!” But it’s a challenge to go to the source of truth and, as we have said in past programs, we can prove that God’s Word is the truth as it claims to be.
Tom: But, it’s left up to the individual. If they want to follow these men or this organization or whatever, we think they are missing God’s truth.
Dave: And, indeed they are. So, if I have to take your word for what the Bible says (we’ve been over this), or I have to take Billy Graham’s word or the pope’s word or some bishop or a pastor’s word for what the Bible says, and I cannot understand it for myself, then I’m not in touch with God. God’s Word is written in a way that even a child can understand it, and Timothy learned it as a child from his mother and grandmother. That was home schooling way back there.
So, the whole problem—well, not the whole problem, but one of the major problems with religion—well, Jesus said it, we have talked about that too, in Matthew 23. He said to the rabbis, “You scoundrels! (I’m just putting it in our modern language, “Dave Hunt’s modern paraphrase” here for the moment). But He said, “You scoundrels! Not only don’t you enter into heaven, but you stand in the way of those who would. You set up a system of religion that’s so complicated it would take a Philadelphia lawyer to unravel this thing! The people are at your mercy. You make the rules for how to get to God, and they’ve got to come to you to interpret the rules.”
Tom: Now, Dave, just let me just interject this. Jesus was referring to those who represented the religious establishment.
Tom: He wasn’t dealing with Judaism, the Old Testament, which He came to fulfill the law in all of these things. He was dealing with the Jewish religious establishment, who began to pervert these things.
Dave: Exactly, and Tom, I sit next to atheists, to skeptics, on the airplane—heads of large corporations or whatever, and I’ve never found one of them who didn’t agree when I said, “What is this? The religious establishment—they’re making the rules, and you’ve got to go through them to get to God!”
Some of these men or women will say, “Yeah, that’s a brokerage business!” Or others will say, “Yeah, it’s just money and power because you’ve got to get it from them. They’ve got the franchise on this religion,” whatever it is. That indeed, is what religion is and the Bible doesn’t talk about that. It doesn’t set up an establishment, a religious establishment.
Tom: An organization. Right.
Dave: Jesus doesn’t say, “Come to the rabbis,” or “Come to the priests,” or “Come to the pastors, and they will tell you how to get to Me.”
Jesus says, “Come unto me, all who labor, are heavy laden; I will give you rest.” Jesus, in fact, said in John 4 (we’ll get to that one of these days, maybe) to the rabbis, He said, “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; but these are they which testify of Me, and you will not come to Me.”
And, to the two on the road to Emmaus, it says, “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” So, the Scriptures point us to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t point us to an organization, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses would say. I was talking to a Jehovah’s Witness lady the other day, standing behind a counter at United Airlines, and she said, “But Jehovah does have an organization, and you’ve got to go through the organization.” No, that’s not what the Bible says. It’s so wonderful! Jesus calls us to Himself! We can know Him.” In fact, as you have quoted, “If we don’t know Him—if we don’t know Him, we’re lost.”
Tom: Yeah. Just a little aside—did she put you on the right flight?
Dave: [chuckling] Yes, she did.
Tom: Well, you know, believe it or not, we started out with the Trinity, and here we are, but I think we’ve covered some good ground. We’ve run out of time for this segment, but next week we want to talk about another doctrine that’s difficult for many, and that is the incarnation.
Dave: Yeah, we were going to try to get to that weren’t we, Tom?
Tom: We were.
Dave: Well, God willing, if the Lord doesn’t come and if He spares us, we will get to that next week