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Understanding God as Trinity

The Bible must be the source of our understanding of God. That means we must look at the whole of Scripture to see how God has chosen to reveal Himself and commit ourselves to that revelation.

This blog post is part 3 of the series Eight Steps to Experiencing His Victory

I am sure that you are aware that there are many contradictory voices attempting to describe who God is and His character. Many of these pictures of God are one-sided and willfully ignore Scriptures that directly contradict what the person is saying about God. They give an incomplete picture of God and lead people astray.

There are those who overemphasize God’s love and forget to talk about His wrath against unrighteousness. There are those who speak about the wrath of God and how He hates sin and forget to reveal His love.

God is complex and beyond simple, one-sided explanations of who He is. God is beyond anything we can think or imagine. He is trying to communicate who He is to people of limited understanding.

His thoughts are beyond our thoughts. His ways are beyond our understanding. He is the uncreated, eternal, creator of the universe attempting to reveal Himself to those He created.

This is the same thing as trying to explain string physics theory to a two-year-old, or to me as a matter of fact. God is beyond our understanding, still, He desires to have a relationship with us and gives us insight into who He is through the Scripture.

One of the most difficult things to comprehend about God is what we call the Trinity. It is a theological word attempting to describe God as the one God who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God is a Trinity

I am the first to admit that this it is challenging to comprehend God. He is so much higher than we are and different than we are that there is no way to fully comprehend or understand the fullness of God.

The language that is used to try to describe how God is revealed in the Scripture can be challenging. God is one. There is only one God. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all considered to be God. That seems to be three Gods and not one. How can God be one and three at the same time?

I have spent hundreds of hours studying, contemplating, explaining, and writing about the Trinity. Every time I attempt to describe the Trinity I feel like I am a two-year-old. Sometimes my brain literally hurts as I try to think about or explain the very essence of God.

That being said, the Bible does give us insight into who God is. It is a revelation from God that must be responded to in faith. I am going to give my best shot at explaining who God says He is.

Father, open up our hearts and minds to Your truth. Let the eyes of our understanding be opened, so we might see You as you reveal Yourself in Your word.

Explaining the Trinity

The concept of the Trinity is unique to Christianity. No other major religion describes God in such a way. This should not be a surprise since all the other religions are based on man’s concept of God rather than on how God is revealing Himself.

There are four key factors that describe God in the Bible. We will look at the four with a few of the Scriptures that deal with each factor. Then we will try an put it all together.

God is One

The Scriptures strongly declare that there is only one God. God rejects the claims of men that there are other gods. He alone is God and there is no other, period.

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, and the Lord is one! (Deuteronomy 6:4)

21 “Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. 22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:21-22)

“Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, (Isaiah 46:9)

You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You. (Nehemiah 9:6)

Each of the above passages speaks of the glory and exalted position of God as the only God. He is the one who created all things. There is no one like Him.

Three Persons

Another interesting aspect of the Scripture is that it speaks of God being a plurality. Here are a few of the verses that indicate this plurality.

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In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

The Bible says that God created the heavens and the earth. The unique thing about this statement is that the word for God in Hebrew, elohim, is in the plural, not singular as one would expect. Keep this in mind as we go to the next passages of Scripture where God speaks to Himself.

The God [elohim] said, “Let Us (plural) make man in Our (plural) image (singular), according to Our (plural) likeness (singular)…” (Genesis 1:26a)

God (plural) created man in His own image (singular), in the image (singular) of God (plural) He (singular) created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Did you notice how God’s name was plural but when it spoke of the image or likeness it was singular. There is a hint of plurality in the one true God.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

In this verse, we see that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all spoken of in equal terms in one sentence. We will see more of the three in later verses. There are at least seventy passages in the New Testament that includes the Father, Son, and Spirit together.

All Three Are God

The Father is God.
The Son is God.
The Holy Spirit is God.

The Father is God

There are so many verses describing the Father as being God that we don't have to spend time looking at them. The important thing is show that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are equally considered in the Bible to be God.

Jesus is God

Here are some of the Scriptures that show that Jesus is indeed God:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2)

Later on in verse fourteen we learn that the Word became flesh, Jesus, and dwelt among us. This clearly shows that Jesus was God.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58)

When Jesus said these words the Jews picked up stones with which to kill Jesus because He had committed blasphemy. He was telling them that He existed before Abraham who lived about 2,100 years before Jesus was born.

30 I and the Father are one. 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?” 33 The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

When the Jews heard Jesus say that He was one with God, they picked up stones to kill Him. They said it was because Jesus made Himself out to be God.

For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3)

Both of the above texts speak of Jesus as having everything that God is in bodily form. Jesus was and remains God.

The Holy Spirit is God

Matthew 28:19 puts the Holy Spirit on equal grounds with the Father and the Son. Jesus said:

Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In Acts chapter five, Ananias and His wife, Sapphira, decided to lie to the church and tell them that they sold a piece of land and dedicated the full amount to the Lord. They kept back some of the money for themselves and acted like they were doing such a good deed.

The Holy Spirit showed Peter what was going on. Peter asks Ananias why he lied to the Holy Spirit and then later says that he did not lie to men but to God. Thus the Spirit is called God.

3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

We will look at one final section of Scripture that puts the Father, Son, and Spirit together in one passage on an equal basis. He speaks of the one Spirit, the one Lord, and the one God:

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Each One is a Distinct Entity

The Father is not the Son or the Spirit.

The Son is not the Father or the Spirit.

The Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

There are those that teach that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are just three separate manifestations of God. Just like a person can be a father, son, and a brother depending on the relationship. God shows Himself in different ways at different times.

That is not what the Bible teaches. “ God is three distinct persons, united as one through mutual indwelling” (J. Scott Horrell). As mentioned earlier, there are about seventy verses in the New Testament that mention the three together. He is only one example of seeing all three active and distinct at the same time.

The event was the Baptism of Jesus. It took place in the River Jordan at the hands of John the Baptist. Keep alert to see all three persons in one place at the same time:

16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

Jesus was coming up out of the water, the Holy Spirit was descending as a dove, and the Father was speaking from heaven. We are seeing three persons all interacting at the same time. So much for modalism.

Putting It All Together

So now let’s see if we can put all of this together in one complete sentence to try and understand how God could be one but three and three but one. I am going to use a definition taken from J. Scott Horrell.

He speaks of the social model of the Trinity and describes it like this:

My definition of social model of the Trinity is that the one divine Being eternally exists as three distinct centers of consciousness, wholly equal in nature, genuinely personal in relationships, and each mutually indwelling the other.

While recognizing the equality of the divine nature, Horrell also “affirms a perpetual distinction of roles within the immanent Godhead.

When we are speaking of the Trinity, we are speaking of a God who is relational within Himself.If you take away the Father, the Son, or the Spirit then God ceases to exist.

God is within Himself not sheer unity, but a complex and manifold being, the union and communion of three divine persons. (Charles Lowery)

The three persons are said to be in and to interpenetrate one another. Each of the persons accordingly contains the whole of the Godhead and is the one undivided God. (Milford J. Erickson)

Now if that doesn't make your brain hurt a little bit, I don't know what will. We have looked at a few of the verses proclaiming that God is one and that God is three. We put it all together by saying that God in Himself is a relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Next week we are going to look more deeply into how the three interrelate with one another and with us. The relational God wants a relationship with you.

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About the Author

Terry Tuinder is the co-founder of Experiencing His Victory. His experience includes thirty-one years of pastoral ministry, an earned Doctor of Ministry degree from The King’s University, and nineteen years involvement in deliverance ministry. He helps people grow in their relationship with God.

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