Three in One
Hear, O Kerrville! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one! The Old Testament hammered over and over the truth that the true God is one essential being, of one essence. Judaism was founded upon monotheism, in the midst of runaway polytheism. For centuries, through the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, God’s people were told there is one Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer and Governor of the universe and all of these roles are found in the one true and living God who has revealed Himself to His people as I AM. “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isa. 45:5).
Dr. Wayne Grudum, in Christian Beliefs, writes of God’s oneness: “Although some of God’s attributes may seem to be emphasized more than others, … God is unified in all his attributes. He is not more of one attribute than another. He is not divided into parts, and he is not one attribute at one point in history and another attribute at another time. He is fully and completely every attribute …” all the time.
The Lord is one! And yet, along the way, there were hints of something else in the Old Testament (like Genesis 1:26). Space does not permit, but from Genesis to Malachi we see glimmers that this one God exists eternally in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the doctrine of the Trinity and it is one of the most important truths in all Christian belief.
As we come to the New Testament, though the word Trinity is not found there, the doctrine certainly is, as the New Testament writers clearly establish the full deity or divinity of both the Son and the Spirit in too many places to list. So if the New Testament clearly teaches the full deity of three distinct persons and the Old Testament clearly taught the oneness of God, then the only adequate and accurate conclusion is that one God exists eternally in three distinct persons. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son, but all three are fully God. Distinction without separation.
This is a great mystery and is not only difficult to understand, but impossible to fully grasp, as it should be. We are talking about the essence of God here! I dare say we will never fully grasp the mystery of the Triune nature of God, even in heaven. In essence, being, or worthiness of worship, the three members of the Godhead are equal. However, in roles the three members are ranked so to speak, the Father first and supreme, followed by the Son whom He sent into the world as Jesus Christ and then the Holy Spirit, sent by both the Father and the Son in a unique way at Pentecost. The Son obeys the Father and the Spirit obeys the Son. The Son glorifies the Father and the Spirit glorifies the Son. Regarding the roles of each in creation, the Father plans creation as the great architect, the Son carries out creation as the Word of God and His Agent (John 1:1-5). But what about the Spirit? He was intimately involved, hovering over the surface of the waters (Gen. 1:2), as the breath or power of God in action. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke the blessing from heaven, the Son was being baptized on earth to fulfill all righteousness and the Spirit descended upon Him as a dove (Matt. 3:16-17) to symbolize His resting in fullest measure upon the Lamb of God. In salvation, the Father planned our redemption, the Son purchased us and the Spirit applies what the Son accomplished (check out Eph. 1:3-14). Or consider the Great Commission from our Lord to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Three persons but one name.
The distinction then is in how each person of the Trinity relates to the other, to creation and to us. There is no distinction or difference as to their divine essence and essential oneness. Prayer is another example of the roles of the Trinity. The normative biblical pattern of prayer in the New Testament is that we pray to the Father through the Son and in the power of the Spirit. The Father is our audience, the Son is our Mediator and path to Him, and the Spirit is our motivator and prayer enabler.
As these examples hopefully show, the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to Christianity, a belief in the Bible and the gospel itself. If God the Son didn’t become fully human as the God-Man, if He hadn’t lived a perfect life by the power of the Spirit, if He had refused to die for our sins in obedience to His Father, bearing the wrath of the Father in our place, and if the Father had refused to raise Him to immortal life, then we would have no forgiveness of sins, no eternal life and no good news for those burdened by their sin. Dear Christian reader, have you ever considered that it required all three members of the Trinity to save you?
God’s oneness reminds us of His supremacy, simple uniqueness, and singular rule over all things. God is not competing with Satan or other gods or man for the reign of the universe. God is God and there is no other!
God’s tri-unity reminds us that there is no one and nothing like our God. All Trinity illustrations and analogies from creation fall short, because creation can never adequately represent God. We might even say God’s triune nature is His crowning, most glorious, most beautiful “attribute” of all. I put “attribute” in quotes because there is a sense that God’s tri-unity is the very essence of God and not merely an attribute that describes an aspect of God. A thousand blog posts couldn’t contain all the words that could be written about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and how each Person relates to each other and to us!
Believer, you can today relate to the Father as your Abba! Father!. You can as one fully human relate to Jesus as your sympathetic Redeemer and fully human and divine High Priest. And you can relate to God the Holy Spirit as your resident truth Teacher and Comforter, yourself possessing a human spirit.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).
Unless otherwise noted, all posts are written by Pastor Chris McKnight