Until a Mormon friend of mine told me he believed the Bible says we have three separate gods, I had never really questioned what the Bible says about “the Trinity” – one God in three persons. Many of us don’t give much thought to something like the doctrine of the Trinity until we encounter someone who challenges us on it.
But the truth is, the doctrine of the Trinity is important for more than debates and seminary papers. It is entirely about who God is, which is deeply meaningful to us. So here is a brief look at this doctrine and why it matters.
What is the Trinity?
The word Trinity actually isn’t found in the Bible, but the concept is. The name literally means “Threefold”, and is used to refer to God’s three-ness and one-ness. Essentially it boils down to this:
God is three persons
Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19
Each person is fully God
Father (John 6:27)
Son (Rom. 9:5, Hebrews 1:3)
Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16, Acts 5:3-4)
There is one God
1 Tim. 2:5; Deut. 6:4
This is a difficult concept, and we have to remember that God is infinite, and we are finite, therefore some things are just simply beyond our understanding. It is not like a pie, with three pieces. That would mean each person is only a one-third of God, but each person is fully God. Or like water, in three forms. That would be saying Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Son, and Jesus is the Spirit, which denies that each person is distinct. Our minds can’t fully comprehend our three-in-one God, but that should move us to worship!
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
Why does it matter?
This difficult doctrine is not just some piece of knowledge, but biblical insight into who God is, and consequently who we were made to be (Gen. 1:27). Let’s look at just three of the ways that understanding God as the Trinity can have practical implications for our lives.
1) God-like love – If God is three-in-one, that means he has always had perfect, loving community in Himself. Before anything else was ever created, he had perfect loving relationships as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Which means he could not have made us because he was lonely or needed anything from us. He must have created us out of the fullness of love, not a lack of it. So if you love someone only because they have something to offer you, that is not a God-like love.
2) Submission in equality – The Trinity gives us a picture of perfect submission. Jesus is fully God, and the Father is fully God; they are equally God, but Jesus submits to the will of the Father (John 5:19). There is willful subordination within God. This means that when the Bible calls us to submit, God is not calling one person superior and the other inferior. Within equality there is loving, humble submission.
3) God within us – Some cults/religions claim that the Holy Spirit is not God, but the Bible says that He is (1 Cor. 3:16, Acts 5:3-4). And if the Holy Spirit is God, and not just some abstract force, that means that God himself lives inside of Christians. Knowing that gives a deep understanding of Jesus’ words when He says He will always be with us. He is with us because He lives in us and empowers us to live for Him.
Though we can’t fully understand God, it is important to know what the Bible says is true about him. And as we press on to know our heavenly Father, He will make us more like His Son Jesus, through His Holy Spirit within us. Amen.