Father, Son & Holy Spirit - Why A Trinity ?

My first memory of hearing about the Holy Trinity was when I was a child in elementary school. The teacher told us the story of Saint Patrick using a shamrock to illustrate how three persons could exist in one being; the Divine Being we call God.

Some years later I realized this was nonsense. It did nothing to explain the nature of God. Nearly seventy years later I find myself believing in a triune God but having a need to ferret out the details and authority for this widely accepted doctrine of Christianity.

This doctrine has been a matter of contention among scholars and believers for many centuries. (search "Holy Trinity" at wikipedia.org). There are several verses in New Testament scripture which attest to the existence of three divine persons. Here are a few extracts from the NASB [New American Standard Bible] which bear on this issue.

Matthew 11:27
"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

Matthew 11:27 explains a relationship between the Father and the Son. In all the gospels, each time Jesus talks about God, he refers to God as a single entity or explicitly as God the Father. These statements by Jesus clearly differentiate the Father and the Son.

John 1:1-3,14
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. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-3,14 declares the incomprehensible idea that the 'Word' (Christ) who became flesh for us, was both 'with' God and 'was' God. [John saw the Son's glory during the transfiguration on the mountain.]

Genesis 1:26
26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

In Genesis 1:26 we hear God speaking of God in the plural; 'Us', 'Our' and 'Our'. This is so in the English as translated from the ancient Hebrew, shown above in a screen shot from the Interlinear Scripture Analyzer.

In Hebrew we see both 'He' and 'us'. Elohim (God) is a word which can be read as singular or plural depending on other words in a sentence which give it either meaning. So God is identified as both 'He' speaking with one voice, and as 'us' speaking of Himself.

John 6:46
"Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God;
He has seen the Father."

For us, the word 'seen' refers to a visual sighting or perceiving through our ocular sensory system. The word has a broader meaning, such as, "seen the light", meaning realized the truth. In John 6:46 Jesus says that the one from God has seen the Father. He is differentiating Himself (the One from God) from the Father. They are separate persons. When you use the phrase "I see", you may well mean that you understand, comprehend, realize, etc., having nothing to do with visual sight. This is what I understand Jesus to mean when He uses the word 'seen'. He knows the Father.

John 10:30
"I and the Father are one.”

The declaration by Jesus in John 10:30 is explicit and indisputable as to meaning. The Greek to English says the same without any need for interpretation. It reads, "I and the Father one we are".

So far we have authority to claim that God is both a singular and plural being whether or not we find that comprehensible. (We will). We can also claim that Christ, the Son, is a separate and distinct person while simultaneously being one with the Father.

Matthew 24:36
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

In Matthew 24:36 Jesus is talking about His return to earth. He, The Christ, more than once declared He would return. He Himself does not know when. This is consistent with the idea that within the God being there is a final authority ... the Father ... who makes decisions.

This idea is carried out in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed asking the Father to take away the 'cup' he was about to drink, if possible, but only according to the will of the Father. We know the outcome. Jesus went through His humiliating and degrading suffering and death for us. He drank the cup.

The gospels contain numerous occasions when Jesus declared that the Father loves Him because He always obeys the Father's will. "Not my will but Thine be done".

John 14:26
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."

In John 14:26 we meet the Holy Spirit; a separate and distinct person from the Father and Son. From the time of Jesus's ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit has dwelt among and within believers. He is also identified as a 'He', making all the persons of God male by designation though I doubt it means gender is gender as we know it.

The Holy Spirit continues His work on earth convicting of the truth, teaching and guiding believers, and interceding in prayers uttered in sounds which only God can understand. He will remain at His task until such time as He is withdrawn to allow end time bedlam to engulf mankind.

This is not the first time in scripture we encounter the Holy Spirit. He has been on earth throughout history speaking through the prophets and advising them what to say. The psalms reveal that King David was acutely aware of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Matthew 12:32
"Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."

Matthew 12:32 speaks plainly and elegantly concerning the importance of th Holy Spirit. You can blaspheme Jesus Christ, as so many are wont to do, and be forgiven, but to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is unforgivable now and forever.

Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,"

Here it is certain that God has three persons, or personas, in His being. Each is named or labeled. Baptism requires the names of all three God-persons be named. It is not necessary to know how God can exist as, or in, three persons, or why, in order to accept it as so.

There is a parallel in the creation ... another three part being, know as 'man'. Whoa, you say? Think about it. Man is Body, Mind and Spirit. Remove any of the three parts and you no longer have a human being.

There are persons who are in comas or otherwise out of mental communion with humanity. They have all the ordinary attributes of a human except a functioning mind. In such a state they are not what they were created to be. We consider them human as long as they are alive, but are they really?

Then there are sociopaths who are essentiality without souls. Their behaviors demonstrate that they are not innocents. A two year old who sets fire to his home is not held accountable by men or God in the way a sociopathic firebug is who burns houses and kills people for excitement.

Lastly we consider the deceased. We regard them as dead 'people' but face it; they are no longer people but only carcasses. Spirit and mind have flown away. A vulture could care less about how the dead are treated by the living. If it was his choice, bodies would simply be dumped in heaps for convenient snacking when the vulture got hungry. Consciousness and sentience are products of our tripartite, or trichotomous, existence. We are a reflection of God; made in His image which is not visible to us but which has formed us into the beings we are. There is something within us that wants to BE God. This is like a mirror image wanting to be what it is reflecting rather than a reflection which is here now then gone. It is only a phantom of the real thing.

The Bible tells us that God wants us to become real. That which is real does not come and go but continues forever. What is temporary is not real in the deepest meaning of real. We become real when we are born 'of the Spirit'. Unless we are born of the Spirit we can not continue eternally. Jesus declared there is a second death ... a permanent death.

If we are able to accept that God is one being in three persons, it is natural we want to know why. We were created with curiosity and a desire to know. The hunger for knowledge has been in mankind for all of known history.

Scripture tells us the Son and the Spirit were both sent by the Father but not at the same earthly times. When Jesus was baptized the Spirit came upon Him but not on other people until Pentecost. Jesus stated that unless He returned to the Father the Spirit could not come. The Spirit came upon people prior to Jesus's birth but not during His time on earth.

Do I know why God is tripartite, or trichotomous? Of course not. But I can and will speculate.

Attributes, Character & Nature of God

We ascribe a variety of attributes to God. These include:

Omniscient = all knowing. Knows all that is, was, or will be. Knows in every realm of the creation and whatever may be outside of creation. Knows the uncreated as well as the creation. God's power enables Him to choose what to include in his conscious knowledge and what to exclude. God knows every sin committed by every being but is able to remove them from His memory for His purposes.

Omnipresent = God is always everywhere in and beyond the created cosmos. He is manifest in both physical/natural realms and in spiritual/supernatural realms. He manifests simultaneously in as many ways as He chooses.

Holy = without error of any kind. "God is light and there is no darkness in Him."

From the beginning He has revealed Himself in scripture to be:

Loving. Just. Merciful. These are the core characteristics of His being. Many things flow from His fundamental character. Throughout the Old Testament writings we see God declaring Himself to be what I've listed.

His love, I say, is the motive for His creating our worlds and us, The love of God impels Him to want others He can love (and who will love Him). His love caused Him to save His creation by choosing Noah as the second Adam and allowing mankind to survive.

His justice caused Him to eject Adam and Eve from the garden and levy the curses He levied.

His mercy caused Him to give Cain protection against being murdered as he did his brother. Ultimately, His mercy sent the Son to make a way for us to escape the curse and return to Him.

He issued ten commandments to the tribes He chose. These commands cover two topics. Firstly, He defines our relationship to Himself. Secondly, He defines our relationship with each other. All of the commands taken together, or examined singly, express His love.

The commands are not suggestions. They are requirements. We call them 'Laws'. Obedience to these laws is very simple from His point of view. Whoever truly loves will not violate any of them. Whether by commission or omission, every sin is a failure to love.

Jesus summed the ;aw into two great commands: love God and love others as much as yourself. Against such there is no law nor any need for law.

The Biblical Prophets railed against injustice and told of God's wrath kindled by unjust treatment of others and man's failure to show mercy.

One way of viewing the three person Godhead is to see the Father as the primary force of love; the Son as the primary expression of mercy, and the Holy Spirit as the arbiter of Justice. Character is the basis for any being's choices. God's character enables Him to be loving, just, and merciful all at once.

About the nature of God we know only that He is not visible. He is Spirit. He is light of a spiritual kind.

The triangle design at right depicts my view of the Triune Godhead in which F = Father, S = Son and H = Holy Spirit. The geometric figure confines God to a shape in space which we know is untrue. I intend it only to illustrate how I perceive God. The unequal areas are deliberate. From my Bible studies I conclude that Jesus named the persons of God to tell us how it is ... the Father is the source of all God's attributes. The Son and Spirit are equal to Him in that they are part of the Godhead but the Father "calls the shots" if you will.

Attributes, Character & Nature of Man

"Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (or soul)." [Genesis 2:7].

Man was a living creature the same as all other animals until God breathed His own life into the man and made him a living soul (as ancient Hebrew says). The diagram illustrates the nature of man. The spirit is the central force. Since the fall of man this spirit part of his nature has been suppressed ... actually dead according to St. Paul.
The living soul in man was intended by God to dominate his life. God, or an expression of God, walked in the garden with Adam. Scripture says 'God' but we know God showed Himself in various ways according to scripture. At times it was an 'angel of the Lord'. The column of fire and smoke the Israelites followed in Exodus was an expression of God.

With the loss of his soul to rule himself, man became a less than fully human being. To this day, people are at war within themselves. The body and mind are in control but often pull in opposite directions. The mind knows it should yield to the soul but is incapable of doing so because the flesh is powerful and dominant, immersed in the natural world seeking to satisfy its appetites. These appetites are in conflict with what the soul would choose if it had the power to control.

Even we who are saved find ourselves constantly challenged by our flesh. We are not able to overcome it and live Godly lives as Adam did until he succumbed to his flesh. Biblical history shows the struggles of mankind to live up to God's desires for us.

The Born Again Human

When we become saved our spirit comes to life; we are 'born again'. This rebirth occurs when we 'get right with God' by making the mental leap of knowing and saying that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God, Kristos, Messiah and that He has delivered us from the consequence of the fall which is spiritual death.

Our spirit comes to life and we have communion in the spirit with God our Creator. Over time with prayer, study, and yielding, our spirit becomes more and more in tune with the Holy Spirit of God who actually dwells within us. We are still ourselves, subject to everything that works in the mind and body but we now have a guide who shows us and helps us develop the likeness of God which He gave to us in the first place.

The Shield of David Symbolism

The familiar hexagram at right is readily recognizable as the Star of David, the symbol of Israel. Wikipedia says the image has been used by Jews as a national emblem since around the seventeenth century. It is also found in the oldest known Masoretic text dated 1008 AD. It also appears in Islamic culture as the Seal of David and Solomon. There have been found examples of this symbol in a third century synagogue.

When you view it in the light of our study it takes on a whole new meaning. It symbolizes man in union with God. Man will always be separate from His maker but will be united with Him when this age ends and the new heaven and earth are established. Saved people will inhabit New Jerusalem where God says He himself will make His abode.

The symbol goes a little too far in representing the relationship. The second symbol is more on point. It shows the eternal life of man intertwined with our eternal God, the way the Creator intended it to be. God has never abandoned man. The stories of Noah, and later Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, clearly demonstrate God's endless pursuit of us whom He loves.

Man has jilted God but God has been faithful. Man has whored around with other gods and all manner of things in the created world, yet God extends open arms to take him back whenever he comes to his senses and seeks a restored relationship.

God's love flows freely whether accepted or rejected. If He was not also just and merciful, there would be no hope for us. We would be like children who receive no discipline, indulging ourselves with every passing whim. Such children are on a path of self destruction. God is the paramount parent. He wants us to have life eternally blissful. This is possible only in communion with Him.

Why God is a Trinity

Think this through with me.
Nothing does or can exist without causation except The First Cause.
By definition, God, Yahweh, YHVH, Elohim, Adonai, The First Cause ... is the only actual being who exists. Anyone and anything other than God is/was caused by God.

God exists as three persons in one being because God chooses to so exist. The question of 'when' He made the choice can not be applied because 'when' is a function of time which did not exist until God caused time and space.

Logically, time and space had a beginning but at the same time nothing begins and ends in eternity unless eternity itself is circular linear time. However, a circle is a function of geometrical space. Without space there is no form because forms manifest in time and space. Even the word geometry comes from 'ge' (earth) and metria (measure).

We are ultimately left, because of our time and space existence, with an understanding of God as a state of consciousness which supercedes any and all 'laws' of nature, physics, etc. Jesus said God is a Spirit. We do not truly know what a spirit is. We have definitions for the word. The word is applied to ghosts and demons and angels and such beings as do or might exist beyond the range of our ordinary perception.

That we can have encounters with the spirit world there can be no doubt, but we still do not truly know what a spirit is or the realms and kinds of spirits which exist. Everything proceeds from what Amerinds (Native Americans) called the "Great Spirit". There is within humans a hardwired knowledge that spirit exists with God being the ultimate spirit and source of all spirit, energy, and matter.

God's state of consciousness IS that He/They are one being in three persons.

Written by © Wayne Hepburn, August 2012

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