To some people, the doctrine of the Trinity is extremely confusing. â€œHow can anything be both one and three?â€ This sounds like mathematical nonsense. The doctrine of the triune God â€" perhaps a better term than Trinity â€" was never meant to be a puzzle, although it certainly is laden with mystery. In the New Testament, a mystery is something hidden in Godâ€™s eternal and inscrutable will, which cannot be discovered by human reason along but that, has now been revealed to believers through Jesus Christ.
Still it is important to be careful. It is not that God has revealed to us directly that the divine being is triune. Nowhere does the biblical revelation tell us explicitly that God is â€œthree persons in one substance,â€ as the later creeds phrased it. God never says â€œI am three.â€ Most certainly God does not say â€œwe are three.â€ If we listen carefully to the scriptural revelation we realize that he says â€œI am,â€ â€œI am here,â€ â€œI am here for you.â€ God has simply revealed God self.
But then when Christian thought reflects on the meaning o Godâ€™s self-revelation â€" on just how it is that God is, and that God is here, and that God is here for you â€" it arrives at the concept of the triune God. Thus, the concept of the Trinity arises out of revelation. Another way to say it is that our doctrine of God arises out of our experience of God.
The twelve disciples of Jesus were devout Jews. As such, they believed in the God of Deuteronomy 6:4, the one Lord o Israel. But they had met a man named Jesus who called them to follow him. As they followed him, they at first had no comprehension of his deity. But after Calvary and the Resurrection, they realized that when they had been in the presence of Jesus, they had been in the presence of God. Not some second God, but precisely the one God of Deuteronomy 6:4, whose glory they had seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
Then after his ascension, when Jesus was no longer with them, and after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they became aware of God in yet a third way. God was living within them. Not some third God, but the one God of Israel who is also the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
With that kind of experience, the early Christians began to understand the â€œthreenessâ€ of God, and eventually the theologians began to construct doctrines of the Trinity.
In short, God the Father is God beyond us â€" the Creator and Governor of the universe. God the Son is God beside us â€" the Redeemer who came into our world and became one of us. And God the Holy Spirit is God within us â€" the indwelling Comforter and Sanctifier.
In relation to time and space, there are only three ways God can be God. First, God is God everywhere and always â€" in all places and in all times. Second, God is God there and then â€" in one place and in one time, becoming incarnate in human flesh. And third, God is God here and now â€" in my place and in my time, working within me to change me into His divine image. Those three statements say about all that needs to be said. They cannot be increased to four and cannot be reduced to two.
That is what we mean when we confess our faith in the one triune God, not three separate Gods, which would be nothing but heathen polytheism, but one God who is triune in essential being. God with three faces, as it were. Interestingly, our word â€œpersonâ€ has come down to us from the New Testament Greek word prosopon, which means â€œfaceâ€ by way of the Latin term persona, which means â€œmask.â€
This one God is our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Sanctifier. God in three persons, blessed Trinity.
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