GOD, THE TRIUNE BEING
God, The Triune Being
I was recently reading a study by LifeWay Research about the religious beliefs of Americans. The findings were troubling to me but not surprising. The overall findings of the study are that religious beliefs are a matter of personal opinion, not objective facts—54% of people studied believe this. Since so many people treat their faith as personal opinion, it should not surprise us that people have contradictory beliefs, even within themselves, about what they believe about God and the Bible.
One area where contradictory beliefs arose was with the doctrine of the Trinity. Seventy-two percent of the respondents accurately believe there is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Many of the respondents incorrectly believed the Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being (59%), that Jesus is the first and greatest created being (55%), or that He is a great teacher but not God (52%).
It is not enough to think about God, we must think correctly about God. A.W. Tozer said, “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Anselm of Canterbury defined God in this way: “That than which none greater can be conceived.” As humans, we will never fully understand all there is to know about God, but we can understand aspects of God that He has revealed to us about Himself. God has revealed aspects of Himself to us through His created world, and in greater detail through His Word, the Bible, and through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God reveals Himself through creation. Romans 1:20 tells us “Since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” The Psalmist in Psalm 19:1–2 writes, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the works of his hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” By observing creation, we can learn of God’s eternal power and divine nature. When we look at the stars in the sky, we learn that the God who hung the stars is far greater and more glorious than anything we can observe in space. Additionally, the Bible itself tells us about God; 2 Timothy 3:16 reveals, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Finally, if we want to learn about God in the clearest way possible, we only need to look to Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:1–3a says, “God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in his son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world. And he is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of his nature, and upholds all things by the word of his power.”
The Triangle Analogy
Let us now return to the idea of the Trinity or the triune nature of God. The concept of the Trinity was not birthed out of “common core” math or science. No, it is derived from the very nature of God, and Scripture reveals this truth to us. In studying God’s Word, we learn the following:
- There is one God
- Who exists as three persons
- All three persons are distinct
- All three have the exact same essence or nature
- All three are God.
I know, I know. This is hard for our finite minds to comprehend, but remember this, any god who can be completely understood is no god at all. Below is a diagram that helped me sort this out in my mind.
An equilateral triangle has three sides of equal length, and the angles consist of equal degrees. Yet, there are three distinct angles in one triangle. If you remove one angle from the diagram, you no longer have a triangle. A triangle, by its very nature or essence has three sides and three distinct angles. The nature or essence of each angle is identical, yet it forms only one triangle.
The Trinity is kind of like an equilateral triangle. There is one God, who exists in three distinct persons. While they have different roles, they have the same nature or essence, thus making all three God.
While there are no perfect analogies when trying to describe God, this is the one analogy that helped me keep it right in my mind without slipping into a heretical view of God.
Father, Son, and Spirit
The Scriptures tells us the Father is God; John 6:27 says of the Father, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the son of man will give to you, for on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” Also see 1 Corinthians 8:6 and 2 Peter 1:17.
The also Bible tells us that Jesus is God and not just a good teacher or a created being. John 17:5 says, “Now, Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was,” and Titus 2:13 tells us, “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and savior, Christ Jesus.” See also Romans 9:5 and Hebrews 1:3
Finally, the Holy Spirit is God. Acts 5:3–4 tells us, “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” See also 1 Corinthians 2:10–11, 3:16, and 6:11.
As we look at the whole counsel of God’s Word, we see that there is one God, who exists in three distinct persons. While they have different roles, they do have the same nature or essence, and all three are God. The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the truths that separates Christianity from all other religious beliefs, whether they are polytheistic (many gods) or monotheistic (one god) beliefs. No other belief system says about their god what Christianity says about our God—He is one God in three persons.