Attributes of God: Trinity

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, August 28, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One of the more challenging attributes of God to understand is that he is a trinity. He is three persons and yet one God. How is this possible? How can you be three unique beings while still being one God? Many scholars have wrestled this one aspect for centuries so suffice it to say, I am not going to be able to give the “definitive answer” on this. But I can explain what is going on somewhat and at least establish this concept. The first time we get a hint that God is more than one being is in Genesis 1:26. And God said, “Let us make man in our image.” But then later in Deuteronomy 6:4, we see “Hear O Israel, the Lord thy God is ONE” [emphasis mine]. Is this a contradiction? At first glance it may seem this way. But like with any document, if there is a reasonable explanation for it, it is not a contradiction. So let’s dig into this. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is three persons in one. God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at each one.

The Father is who is referenced throughout the majority of the Old Testament. He is known as “God” or as “The Lord” or “I AM”. A very interesting side-note here is that when other cultures addressed the Biblical God, they did not address him like their own gods, but as the One True God. The Father has the role of authority and justice. But he also has the heart of the children. You mess with the kids, you also mess with the daddy. The Father not only lays down the law, he also provides protection and care.

The Son is known as Jesus Christ. But he did not come into existence just 2000 years ago. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” This was not a light statement to make. When Jesus said, “I AM,” this is the exact same name the Father gave himself to Moses at the burning bush. Jesus was equating himself with God Almighty. There are only two options here to deal with this statement: he is a fraud, or he was speaking the truth. There is legit reason why the Jews immediately picked up stones to hurl at him, because to call yourself God when you are not is an offense worthy of capital punishment. But they did not understand that he was speaking the truth.

But for Jesus to say, “I AM,” meant more than just “I am God Almighty.” It also meant he existed before his time on earth. How is that possible? How could a person exist before they are conceived, let alone born? That is a whole discussion that I simply don’t have space to answer in this post. But we can check to see if Jesus, the Son, is found in the Old Testament, and we do. We see him as the Angel of the Lord. There are numerous examples of Jesus appearing pre-incarnation including before Abraham in Genesis 18, when he wrestled with Jacob, to Joshua just before the conquest of Jericho, to Gideon, to Samson’s parents, he destroyed the Assyrian army for Hezekiah, and also appeared in the Fiery Furnace. This is not a comprehensive list, but the reactions here are different than just to a mere angel. Angels always refused worship, but the Angel of the Lord did not. Why? Simple: he is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity.

The third person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. This is the hardest person of the Trinity to understand, because we simply don’t have as much explicitly written about him. Jesus called the Holy Spirit his “helper,” and the role of the Holy Spirit is to point to Jesus, never to himself. While the Father has the role of authority, and the Son has the role of Creator and Mediator between the Father and Man, the Holy Spirit has the power to get it done. “It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord. We see the Holy Spirit taking a role in the Old Testament as well. But the Spirit would come and go. The Spirit would come upon the prophets and that was when they would reveal what God was saying. And it was the Holy Spirit that came down at Pentecost and ignited the church in Acts 2.

There is one place in particular where we see the Trinity in action all at the same time. That was when Jesus was baptized. Jesus is the Son, and when he came up out of the water, the Spirit came down upon him like a dove, and then the Father spoke, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Trinity is not a concept developed to explain away an apparent contradiction, but something that with study of Scripture becomes apparent. So how does all this apply to us today?

I referenced Genesis 1:26 above. Many ask, “What does it mean to be made in the image of God?” First let us understand what an “image” is. An image is not a replica, but a reflection, a picture. When we see the Trinity of God, we see three persons in one perfect union. God is always in fellowship. Likewise, man was created to be in fellowship. There is a well-known phrase that says, “No man is an island.” No one is meant to be alone. Now God does not require man to have fellowship, but he wants it. We see this in Genesis 2-3. God did not create man and then go off to someplace else. He is intimately involved in each and every one of our lives.

Another aspect that helps us understand the Trinity is that just as God is Father, Son, and Spirit, likewise we are body, soul, and spirit. God is three persons in one, we are three parts in one. Our body is our physical body. Our soul comprises of the roles of mind, will, and emotions. And our spirit comprises of the roles of intuition, consciousness, and communion. Ever wonder how people can know and understand each other without talking? That’s our spirit. It is also how God can reveal certain things to us that we normally would not know otherwise.

I hope this helps you get a clearer picture of the nature of God. In the next few weeks I will be addressing God’s sovereignty, the fact that God does not change, and his faithfulness. And there will still be more after that. May this series give you a much clearer understanding of who the God we worship is.

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