We humans tend to reject things that are beyond our understanding. Pride steps up and says, “It’s not logical, so it can’t be true.” Particularly those of us with a western mindset feel the need to take something apart, look at it from all sides, understand it, and then put it back together. This makes the doctrine of the Trinity a truth that is sometimes hard to accept and even harder to explain.
Although the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, the truth about the nature of God it was coined to represent is extremely biblical. The Bible clearly teaches that God is three distinct persons in one divine essence. Three persons, one God.
The truth that there is one God is the easier part of this equation for us to grasp. We read the Old Testament Shema and nod our heads in agreement. The Shema (a Hebrew word which means “hear”) was ingrained in the Jewish people. They learned it by heart and recited it daily. The Shema, which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, begins with, “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
Many other Scriptures throughout the Bible clearly teach monotheism. The Creator God, who has revealed Himself in His creation and in the Bible is absolutely unique and transcendent. There is no other God.
Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I am the LORD, and apart from me there is no Savior. Isaiah 43:10b-11
One God, got it. Easy to understand. But, one God, three persons is a lot harder. How could the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all be God, but there still be only one God?
Many heresies arose in the early church in a human attempt to understand this difficult truth. For example, “Modalism” taught that God was not three distinct persons but simply appeared in different forms (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) at different times. But Modalism ignores specific teaching of Scripture that shows not only three distinctive Persons, but also the personal relationships between the members of the Trinity. (For example, see 1 John 2:1, Hebrews 7:25, John 14:26, Psalm 110:1.)
Other heresies simply tried to ignore the deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. If Jesus was not God and the Holy Spirit was not God, then these false teachers could more easily understand the nature of God. But Scripture very clearly teaches the deity of both the Person of Jesus and the Person of the Holy Spirit.
A few passages that teach the deity of Jesus include:
- Isaiah 9:6
- Colossians 2:9
- Hebrews 1:3
And a few that teach the deity of the Holy Spirit include:
- Acts 5:3-4
- 1 Corinthians 2:10-11
- Psalm 139:7-8
Christians today still struggle to understand the Trinity. I have heard many analogies used to try to explain this incomprehensible nature of God. (In fact, I used to use them myself!) But every analogy falls short. For instance, water in three forms (liquid, steam, and ice) does not adequately represent the nature of God because an amount of water can only be one form at a time. (This is modalism!) The egg analogy also lacks because while a shell, a yolk, and a white together make an egg, each part separately is not in itself an egg.
The Bible explicitly teaches three things about the nature of God:
- God is three distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
- Each Person is God. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God.
- God is one. There is only one God and there is no other.
The Trinity is one of the truths about God we cannot get our minds all the way around. No analogy can fully describe it. No human intellect can sufficiently explain it. But that seems right doesn’t it? If we finite humans could fully understand and adequately explain God, then He would not be infinite. He would not be incomprehensible.
However, that should not stop us from trying to understand more about God. We must still stretch to grasp the wonder of our triune God. We must accept the truth of Him, even though we will fall short of understanding it. To do less would dishonor Him.
Today, let’s express our wonder at the nature of our Triune God. There is no other God but Him. We offer praise to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each God, but One God.
Note from Kathy: The Trinity is a difficult doctrine to explain and understand. I struggled to write this post in a way that was clear, concise, and did the topic justice – all in one blog post. I am afraid I fell short! For a more comprehensive explanation I recommend you pick up a systematic theology book. (By the way, this was my favorite seminary topic!) Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” is excellent and is a library must-have.