What does the Bible say about the Trinity?
The Best Way to Explain the Trinity
The Trinity. How can such a core doctrine of the Christian faith be so confusing?
And why does it even matter?
The doctrine of the Trinity is the understanding that God is 1 essence and 3 persons (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit).
Muslims accuse Christians of worshiping three different gods. Do we?
The word “Trinity” is never mentioned in the Bible, so is it even biblical?
What exactly is Jesus doing when he is praying to the Father?
Many questions have been raised about the Trinity and many metaphors have been created to try to explain it. At the end of the day, many Christians just shrug their shoulders and put their faith in something they’ve been taught that they figure they’ll never really comprehend.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I’m going to skip over the history of the word as far as when it started appearing as a concept and then an official doctrine, as you can Google that or find it on Wikipedia if you’re interested. The point is, the word didn’t have to develop until people started teaching against it. The Bible is full of references to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all being God, while there still only being one God. You can read some of them here. (and more here) The earliest Christians would have believed in the concept of the Trinity as they had put their faith in Jesus as God and knew that God’s Spirit lived inside of them. No one needed to call this anything until people started teaching opposing views. Many of the early heresies had to do with if Jesus was truly God or not (or the opposite, if he was truly human). Once people started teaching that Jesus wasn’t God or that the Holy Spirit wasn’t God, an official doctrine of the Church needed to be developed. Hence, the doctrine of the Trinity, which we find at the center of the beautiful Apostles’ Creed.
It wasn’t that agreeing to the Trinity made you a Christian, it was that if you believed in something other than the Trinity, you were something other than a Christian. You would have been an Arian, Adoptionist, Apollinarian, Macedonian or any number of heretical groups who denied that either Jesus or the Holy Spirit was God.
It’s no different today. If you don’t believe Jesus is God or the Holy Spirit is God, you might be a Muslim. Or you might be a Mormon. Or a Jehovah’s Witness. Or something else. If you disagree with the Apostles’ Creed, you can’t call yourself a Christian; it’s the Christian’s creed.
So the Trinity is very important because it’s what makes us Christian as the faith we follow.
Most of the metaphors you may have used or heard of to describe the Trinity break down pretty quickly. This shouldn’t surprise us as we are attempting to describe the transcendent God who created all things. It’s important we don’t use this as an excuse to say false things about God though just so we can keep a clever metaphor in our back pocket:
The Egg Metaphor – Just as an egg shell, yolk and white are three distinct parts but one egg, so is God three but one.
The Problem with the Egg – Besides comparing Almighty God to an egg, which seems just wrong in and of itself, the egg is what we would call tritheism. It is the belief in 3 gods, not 1. It’s what Muslims accuse Christians of. The egg shell is not fully the egg. The egg yolk is not fully the egg. The egg white is not fully the egg. If you see an empty egg shell, you don’t think “that’s an egg.” But when you see God the Father, you say “that is God!” The egg metaphor is 3 distinct essences that all happen to be in a similar location.
The “My mom is a mom, a wife, and a sister” Metaphor – Your mom is still only one person, not 3. The sister can’t talk to the wife who can’t pray for the mom.
The Water Metaphor – Water is a liquid, but it’s also ice when it’s frozen and vapor when it’s heated. Three different things, but still one thing.
The Problem with the Water – This is getting near the heresy called modalism. (quoted from https://carm.org/modalism) Modalism states that God is a single person who, throughout Biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes or forms. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, this view states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time. With our water analogy, one water molecule can not exist simultaneously as ice, vapor and liquid. Once it is one thing, it is no longer the other two things. (And no, modalism is not an ancient heresy. The United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches hold to modalism)
It’s best to not try to use metaphors to describe the Trinity because we usually end up on one side of heresy or the other. Let’s just use logic instead:
When God came to earth as Jesus, did He stop existing in heaven?
There you have it: the best way to explain the Trinity.
Of course God didn’t stop existing in heaven when Jesus came to earth. He continued existing in his full perfection in heaven. There was no “Gone Fishing” sign on heaven’s door while Jesus walked the earth for 33 years. This is who Jesus prayed to. This is also who Jesus is the buffer for. We can’t see God the Father or we will die because he is holy and we are not, so that’s why God came to us: Jesus–100% God, 100% human. God in the flesh. God in a way we can best comprehend and relate to.
Can God be everywhere at one time?
Can Jesus be everywhere at one time?
No. He is a human being.
Can God dwell inside of you?
Can Jesus dwell inside of you?
No. He is a human being. This is biologically impossible, let alone grotesque if attempted! And he could still only be inside of one person as he is only one person.
So how does God dwell inside of each person who is his child?
By his Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit is fully God, living inside of you (not simply God’s egg white…).
Does Jesus the person cease to exist because His Spirit lives inside of you? Of course not. Jesus is still at the Father’s side. Jesus will still dwell with us forever on the new heaven and new earth.
The Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit living inside of you. Did you know the Holy Spirit is also called The Spirit of Christ in Scripture? (Romans 8:9) It’s the same God!
A theological understanding of prayer can also help us understand the Trinity: We pray to the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit.
If it weren’t for the Son, we could never access the Father because of God’s holiness and our sinfulness. We’d have no ID badge to get us into that holy court. But Jesus is our ID badge!
If it weren’t for the Spirit, we wouldn’t have a phone. The Holy Spirit literally serves as the conduit from us to the Father while we are here on earth. (And yes, the Holy Spirit is so much more than this. How cool is it that we not only pray to the Father by the power of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit himself also prays for us!? –Romans 8:26)
Praise God for the Trinity!
Praise the Father’s mighty holiness and authority!
Praise the Son for coming to us! For not leaving us for dead.
Praise the Spirit for being God’s full supernatural living presence inside of us! Praise God we are never alone because His Spirit is always with us!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
-from the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King,” lyrics written by St. Francis of Assisi circa 1225
This sermon is a little dated, but will give some more helpful teaching on the Trinity for those interested:
Who God Is: The Trinity – Noah Filipiak – 2.27.11 from Lansing Crossroads Church on Vimeo.
Noah Filipiak says