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The Trinity or the Triune God is very difficult to understand. It is not three Gods in one nor is it three separate God. The analogy of water often used to explain it; water can exist in three separate states – liquid, gas and solid (ice) is not an adequate analogy unless water can exist in all three states simultaneously. The analogy then breaks down as the Trinity is three separate Persons (Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit) with one essence in one Godhead.

It is crucial to note that the word “Trinity” never appear in the Bible and that the doctrine of Trinitarianism is derived from a canonical understanding of the Bible. A canonical understanding is an understanding that is derived from the best Scriptural evidence and theological studies. Understanding of the Trinity also needs a historical perspective as it was many years after the early church that the doctrine was formally recognized, notable the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

The essentials of the Trinity

(1) There is only One God. God is One.

(2) Each of the persons within the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is deity.

(3) Each of the persons within the Godhead is of equal status. Jesus Christ the Son is not lower than God the Father.

(4) Each of the three Persons are of the same essence.

(5) The Trinity is eternal

One of the challenges of the Trinity Godhead is that it is a Mystery and we may not be able with our limited human minds to understand fully.

Biblical teaching Old Testament New Testament
God is One Deut. 6:4; 20:2-3; 3:13-15 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; James 2:19
Three Persons in One Godhead Father – Ps. 2:7 1 Peter 1:2; John 1:17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 2:11
Son – Ps. 2:7; Heb.1:1-13; Ps. 68:18; Isa. 6:1-3; 9:6 Matt. 3:16-17
Holy Spirit – Gen. 1:1-2; Exod. 31:3; Judg. 15:14; Isa. 11:2 Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 3:17

Persons of the same essence: Attributes applied to each person

(1) Eternality

Ps. 90:2

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

John 1:2

He was with God in the beginning.

Heb 9:14

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

(2) Power

1 Peter 1:5

who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time

2 Cor 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Rom 15:19

by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

(3) Omniscience

Jer. 17:10

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

Rev.2:23

I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

1 Cor.2:11

For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

(4) Omnipresence

 Jer. 23:24 

Can anyone hide in secret place, so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.

Matt. 18:20

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Ps. 139:7

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

(5) Holiness

Rev. 15:4

Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Acts 3:14

You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you

Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

(6) Truth

John 7:28

Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

Rev. 3:7,8

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.  I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

1 John 5:6

This is the one who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

(7) Benevolence

Rom.2:4

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

Eph.5:25

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Neh.9:20

You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst.

Equality with different roles: Activities involving three persons

(1) Creation of the world

Psalms 102:25

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.

Col. 1:16

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

Gen.1:2

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

(2) Creation of man

Gen. 2:7

the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Col.1:16

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

Job 33:4

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

(3) Baptism of Christ

Matt. 3:17

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matt.3:16

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him

(4) Death of Christ

Heb. 9:14

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Lord of the dance

One way for me to try to understand the Trinity is to think of a dance. No, not the modern dnace but the traditional dance where there are different roles and change of partners. Sometime one leads and sometimes the other. The understanding of the Greek word perichoresis or dance by the Orthodox Church helps me a lot in understanding this. If the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit is in a dance, then there is the dance with three persons. Again not an easy concept to grasp.

Communion in the Trinity and its significance for me

 

What is of important to me is the relationship between the three Persons in the Godhead. They are so close that they are in one essence or communion. What is significant to me is that as Jesus Christ the Son won freedom for me by his work on the cross and my acceptance of it has placed the Holy Spirit with my spirit. This infusion of the Holy Spirit is an invitation for me to join in communion with the Godhead. It is my invitation to be part of the dance.