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 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 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.]
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.
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.
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.
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".
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 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.
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.
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.
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