Around the age of 18, God began to do a great work in my heart. He gave me a deep desire to know him and his word better. But as I read the Bible, I found myself wrestling with the concept of how God could be one God with three persons. Wanting an easy way to describe the Trinity to unbelievers, I developed my own theory of how this could be true. When I shared it with an older Christian friend of mine, though, he told me that my concept did not match Scripture.
I was thinking that God was one person who revealed himself as the Father, Son, or Spirit at different times. It was like God had different modes. When he wanted to be the Father, he was the Father. When he wanted to be the Son, he revealed himself as the Son. But the Bible, which is the source of all truth, showed me that this is wrong. (How could my concept explain Jesus praying to the Father multiple times in the Gospels?)
So how can it be that God is truly one God, with three distinct and unique persons within the Godhead?
Author Wayne Grudem, a professor at Phoenix Seminary, helps us understand what the Bible teaches about God’s triune essence with these three points:
God is three persons
Each person is fully God
There is only one God
All Christians must accept these three points as true because the Bible clearly teaches them. Basically, God is three-in-one and one-in-three. The Bible doesn’t ask us to fully understand how complex God is; it simply asks that we embrace him in his complexity.
Here are some scriptures that were extremely helpful for me.
- Jesus says that he and the Father are one (John 10:30)
- Jesus prays to the Father as God (Matthew 6:9)
- Jesus is baptized and the Father praises him and the Holy Spirit descends upon him (Mark 1:10-11)
- Matthew and Paul talk about the three distinct persons of the Godhead working in concert together (Matthew 3:16-17, 2 Corinthians 13:14)
- Paul and Thomas call Jesus “God” (John 20:28, Colossians 2:9)
- Peter calls the Holy Spirit “God” (Acts 5:3-4)
Now you may ask, “Does it really matter that we understand God’s intricate existence?” It absolutely does. God has revealed himself to us through his scriptures. The most tangible way that he has done this is through the second person of the Trinity—Jesus, the Son of God.
The gospel of John explains that Jesus was with God in the beginning and was God (John 1). And Jesus explains over and over that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). So in order to truly know and worship God the Father, we need to come through God the Son by the power of God the Spirit (John 14:26).
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit function in perfect unity—equally God yet with distinct functions.
If this is hard to understand, don’t feel bad! It’s safe to say that Adam and Eve were the only humans who fully knew and worshiped God the way they were intended to. Since their fall, our relationship with, and understanding of, God has been severed. It’s no surprise then that humanity has distorted the reality of our creator.
I am overwhelmed when I think about God’s essence. My finite mind can’t comprehend it. That’s why I’m thankful for Jesus. I am thankful that even though I can’t fully know God, I can truly know him through Jesus Christ and what he has revealed to me through his scripture. And I’m thankful that God brought that friend into my life when I was a teenager to challenge me to dig deeper.
I’m continually amazed by the fact that no matter how much I come to understand him, there will always be more to discover! This gives me great hope that our Triune God is everything I need today as well as for all of eternity!
Troy Lamberth is the executive producer of HAVEN Today. On the side, he teaches film at Providence Christian College, produces documentaries, and often teaches at his church. He enjoys discovering how Jesus is involved in all aspects of our lives—from faith to film to family—and how our relationship with him shapes the way we live. He and his wife Melissa have three young children.
P.S. For more on the trinity and its beauty, check out an interview with Dr. Marva Dawn.