Christians say they believe in one God; the only God. Yet He is also three Persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is, at best, baffling.
Trying to comprehend the Trinity is so confusing, we have to wonder if it is really worth it. What difference does the Trinity actually make to our relationship with God? Does it really matter whether we think about this difficult bit of theology?
We need to remember Jesus’ words when He sent His followers to “make disciples of all nations” after His resurrection. He told them to do so “baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
For Jesus, making disciples isn’t simply introducing others to the concept of God or even just the Person of Jesus. It is important that we know, and tell others about, who God really is; He is three distinct yet united Persons. This isn’t just mere information or interesting trivia. The three Persons of God are actually essential to us as His people.
So who are the Persons of God?
THE THREE PERSONS OF GOD
Some Christians try to explain God’s three- in-oneness as God ‘revealing’ Himself to us in three different ways. Sometimes He shows Himself as the Father, sometimes as the Son and sometimes as the Spirit. Others try to say God is like an egg . . . an egg has three main parts (the yolk, white and shell) whilst still being one egg. But God doesn’t just change personality, and He isn’t really like an egg. The Bible describes God as “one” who is three Persons. But their relationship and unity means they have a special ‘oneness’ making them, together, the one and only God. Let’s break this down by looking at the Father, Son and Spirit.
God the Father: When Jesus taught His followers how to pray, He said they were to talk to “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). We are also told that Christians are actually children of the Father: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1 niv).
The Father in heaven wants to have a personal, family-like relationship with us, the people He has created. However, it is clear in the Bible that we cannot know the Father without knowing His Son, Jesus.
God the Son: Jesus came to earth over 2,000 years ago, claiming “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30) and “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also” (John 14:7). This is more than a husband saying, “My wife and I are one.” Jesus is saying He is just as much God as the Father.
He is saying that if we know Him, we also know the Father. They are the same God, but different Persons.
Before Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension back to the Father, He promised to send a “Helper” who would be with us forever (John 14:16). Just as our relationship with the Father depends on Jesus, our relationship with Jesus depends on the Holy Spirit, the “Helper”.
God the Spirit: Sometimes the Holy Spirit is confused as a ‘power’ or force. So He is likened to electricity. However, Jesus makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is a Person. Christians are people who, having trusted Jesus to give them new life with God, receive the Holy Spirit forever. The Holy Spirit leads and guides us (Rom. 8:14), teaching us about who God is and who He has made us to be (John 14:26; 16:12-15).
Jesus also said the Holy Spirit is working throughout the world to convict people of “sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement” (John 16:8). God is at work in the world today showing people the truth and seriousness of their rejection of Him (“sin”), the reality that Jesus offers us a new, restored life with God (“righteousness”) and that the result of continuing to reject Jesus is “judgement”.
God wants us to know Him and to belong to Him again. And all three Persons of God are united in this work. The Father sent the Son to die for our sin and offer us new life; the Son sent the Spirit to help us understand what God has done for us and to keep us trusting Him.
THE UNITY OF GOD
The Bible is clear that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God. Each person has a distinct personality and role. We can distinguish between them, but we cannot separate them. They are one God. Each Person works and lives in perfect unity with the others. In fact, all three Persons are involved in every single thing that God does.
When God made the world, all three Persons were united in the work (Gen. 1:1-2; John 1:1,14). Again, when He created us, He said: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26, emphasis added). And, as we have seen, all three Persons are united in the work of bringing us back to God, keeping us going as Christians and making us more like God in our attitude and character.
One God in three Persons. This is the Christian God. He is mind-blowing and awesome. We’ll never be able to totally understand Him because He is God. Our minds are just too small to grasp His infinite power, love and character. But that is a wonderful thing too. Whilst we can get to know God through His Spirit and the Bible, He is always going to be bigger and greater than we can understand. He is truly God!
DOES IT MATTER?
What difference does it make whether God is one person or three? Is this really going to impact our lives at all? Actually, the three Persons of God matter a great deal: The three Persons of God show He is totally committed to us: All three Persons of God are fully involved in and committed to making us His children. Paul explains it like this:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . He chose us in [Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will . . . in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. — Ephesians 1:3-14 (emphasis added)
The Father sent Jesus to save us so we could become God’s own children. Once we trust Jesus we are “marked” and “sealed” with the Holy Spirit who guarantees “our inheritance” of a place in God’s home after we die.
The focus of Isaiah’s prophecy is El Gibbor, the mighty God who is our true Hero. What this prophet in the seventh century BC anticipated, the New Testament confirms. Because the Messiah would be God, He would have God’s power— but to Isaiah, the amazing thing was that the Messiah would not only have the power of God, He would be the God of power! God’s work on our behalf is complete and perfect. Because all three Persons are united in their commitment to bring everyone who trusts Jesus safely into heaven, we can have great confidence and certainty.
God understands us perfectly: God isn’t just some distant being who we hope will notice us one day. In the Person of Jesus, God came to earth and suffered and died for us. He knows what it is to go through pain and loss. He knows what it is to be hungry, tired and hated. God became fully man when Jesus walked on earth (whilst still being fully God). We are told “We do not have a High Priest [referring to Jesus] who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
God understands every problem or issue we bring to Him and He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7), not as a distant well-meaning being, but as someone who went through, and beat, all the same things we go through. Jesus promised His followers “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
God is fully involved in our lives: Not only can we bring all our troubles and problems to God, we can go through them with Him. His Spirit is within us to guide, lead and strengthen us. This doesn’t mean that we won’t go through hard times, job loss, illness, etc. But when we do have to face any hardship, we can do so with God, relying totally on Him. His children never have to face anything alone (Heb. 13:5).
Jesus describes our new life with God like this: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make. Our home with him.” (John 14:23). This means that when we receive God’s Holy Spirit, it is like we have been joined to the one God of the Father, Son and Spirit. We are inseparable from Him! And in joining with Him, the Spirit’s daily work is to make us more and more like God. As we spend time with God, read the Bible and grow in our trust of Him, He will change us to look more and more like Jesus, the perfect image of God (Col. 1:15,20; Gal. 5:22-23).
God knows what love is: John, one of Jesus’ closest friends wrote this: “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Love is all about relationships: how we serve, look out for and care for each other. But if God were just one person, what would He know about love? Love doesn’t work if only one person is involved, because love is about how we treat others. So if God were just one person, He would (at best) only know the theory of love. Christianity is the only faith system that has a God who knew what love was before He created creatures to be in a relationship with. God is three Persons!
He doesn’t just know love: “[He] is love”! He didn’t need to create us to have someone to love. The three Persons of God love each other perfectly and are fully self-sufficient, without any needs. God created us to share in this love and safety.
As we look at the three Persons of God, we get to see a powerful image of what love is. God the Father sent His Son to save us. God the Son gave up His life for us. God the Spirit is constantly at work in our lives to make us more like God until we’re finally with Him in heaven.
Jesus tells us to love one another (John 13:34). And as we spend more time with God, we’ll understand what that really means. We have the example of Christ’s love to guide us as we seek to practically and actively love those in our communities and churches. Love is all about showing others who God is and helping them to trust Him and become more like Him.
If we sometimes struggle to ‘work out’ other people, it would be strange if we could totally understand God! Yet, we can know Him. Yes, God is so different from us and so awesomely great that we cannot comprehend Him fully. He is incomprehensible, but He is knowable. He has made Himself obvious to us in the Person of Jesus and teaches us about Himself through His Spirit. Getting to know God is a life’s work! And by the end of our time on earth, we’ll have only scratched the surface. But knowing Him, and becoming like Him, is the only way to live an abundant life (John 10:10). The three Persons of God give us great confidence about His love, His character, His promises and our future.