Defining the doctrine of the Trinity is difficult, principally because as human beings we have little to compare this concept to. I used to think the 3 in 1 ideal might refer to multiple personalities, manifestations or expressions of God. (Similar to the different names of God revealing different aspects of His nature.) But on closer scrutiny, scripture seems to state that God exists as three distinct persons, differnt yet the same. Which, to my sensibilities, doesn’t make any sense; until I remind myself that I’m not God and He is who He is and does as He pleases. I’m in no position to determine all the intricacies of His being and nature, that “otherness” of God making Him God. (See Is. 55:8) In fact, many ancient religions looked to the inexplicable to prove God-hood. The more contrary and unexplainable their God’s actions were, the more they believed in his supernaturalism.
One difficulty in understanding the Trinity is that scripture doesn’t present it as a doctrinal statement, or systematic analysis in any one place of our Bible. Along with the insistence of monotheism – the belief in one God – other assertions are made throughout scripture revealing God – the one God – as consisting of three persons. (Such as 1 Peter 1:1)The New Testament agreeing that there is only one God (Romans 3:30), whom we often/usually refer to as our Father. (John6:27) Through Jesus’ actions and the teaching of his gospel, we have come to believe that – even as Jesus appeared in a separate human body – He and the Father are one (John10:30), and that in knowing Jesus, we know God (John 14:6,7); Jesus being the “…exact representation of God’s being.” Hebrews 1:3 The Holy Spirit revealing himself in power and glory as God (Acts 5:3-5), testifying about and revealing Jesus to us and inspiring us to do likewise. (John 16:5-8 & Matthew 10:17-20) Jesus’ purpose then described as a mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5,6), the Holy Spirit being granted to us as a result of Jesus’ actions on the cross and his physical removal from us. (John 14:16-18 & 25,26)
The first hint of Trinitarianism comes in the very first verse of scripture. “In the beginning God(Elohim) created the heavens and the earth. The word for God – Elohim – translates as a plural noun while the verb is singular, which is born out in verse 26 of this chapter when God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,…” He then proceeded to create two distinct images of “man”, mirroring the plurality of His own being. (Genesis 1:27)
One other significant Old Testament reference to the Trinity is found in Isaiah 48:12-16, the essence of which says “I am he; …the first and the last. My hand established the foundations of the earth… And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me with His Spirit.” God promoting relationship and community through his own example of community within the Trinity, which is His highest expectation then for us. (See Matthew 22:37,38)
For some, the apparent contradictory nature of a single God consisting of three separate beings might be partially nullified by – of all things – Quantum mechanics. Going beyond classic perceptions of space and time, quantum theory postulates that – counter-intuitively – some things may indeed be able to be not just “here” but “there” at the same time; that there may well be more than one level of existence. (Which doesn’t speak to the three persons’ of God so much as to a possible look into His omniscience, omnipresence, etc.) Another “fanciful” idea about God’s multi-faceted existence involves multi-dimensionalism. A multi-dimensional reality would be vastly different than one composed in 3-D. What if God exists in 10-D or more? He could be all about us without our realizing it because of our limited ability to perceive beyond 3-D. Could it be that simple – or hard – depending on our own particular perception?
A more practical – some would say realistic – example might be marriage, through which a man and woman become “one flesh”. Not just in the physical act of sex but emotionally, intellectually, spiritually joined together; becoming one in purpose and outlook. An imperfect reflection of the ideal, but the union of two separate people in their endeavor to live for Christ, their families and others can make a tremendous difference and is worth the effort. (See Matthew 19:4-6 & Genesis 1:27 & 2:24)
The peculiar nature of the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has been going on practically since the church’s inception. Councils have debated, explained and even mandated some tenets of the faith, usually adhering to the already established beliefs and practices of those making up the early church; inspiring the Nicene Creed in 325 A.D. and such songs as ‘Holy, Holy, Holy,’; reiterating that “God (is) in three persons, blessed Trinity.”
These examples may or may not help us grasp the concept of our Trinitarian God, after all – they are a naturalistic approach to the supernatural. We more or less accept the idea that God came to earth out of love for us, lived among us to communicate a better way, then died to ransom us from sin. All equally difficult to completely comprehend, challenging us to use reason to understand all we can and then exercise faith for the rest. Admitting that I don’t fully understand every aspect of God but am still willing to believe He works all things for my good and His glory is not a cop-out, but the simple application of faith to a life full of uncertainties. Hebrews 11:1 characterizing it as, “…being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Paul encouraging us to, “…fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
John parallels the creation story in introducing his gospel, writing “In the beginning was the Word (which spoke things into existence), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life (which was breathed into the new creation of man), and that life was the light of men. (Necessary to separate day and night – good and evil.) The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” In Christ then, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5 & 14 The promise of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:16,17), was first realized then in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (See Acts 1:4-8 & 2:1-4) and equally gifted to all who came after this momentous day upon their repentance and baptism. (Acts 2:38,39) Even upon us, “…who have not seen yet believed.” John 20:29. Giving direction and “counsel” throughout our lives (John 14:25,26) while interceding before the Father on our behalf, “…with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26
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