September 5, 2022
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Probably one of the most confusing and biggest hangups about God after leaving the LDS church- The Trinity.
We saw pictures as little kids with a gray-haired, old Heavenly Father next to a strapping, (very caucasian) Jesus. We were made in His image, correct? God is a man, correct?
If you are struggling with this, know you are not alone. The trinity has caused debate since the early church- circa 300 AD.
Today we are going to break this all down in the simplest terms from the direction of the early church fathers and the bible.
What exactly is the Trinity?
The Trinity Finally Explained! 4 Steps to Understanding the Trinity.
First, let’s get an overview, and then we will go further.
The Trinity is God. God is three persons in one nature.
There are a whole onslaught of fairly inappropriate analogies- An egg for instance, has three parts- the yoke, whites, and shell, but all is an egg. Kinda weird and does not do a good job at all, but one you have probably heard of.
What I think does the best job, if we are insisting on analogies, is the mind, body, and spirit- three pieces of the same me. Still not great, but better than an egg.
1) Why Should We Care About the Trinity.
The problem with all of these analogies and ultimately the problem we have as humans in general is that we try to put God in human parameters. We try to make Him small so we can understand Him in a way that makes sense within human laws and earthly comprehension.
But think about this for a second God stands outside of time and space. God is bigger than man’s rules. He created this. Why in the world would He have to fit in a human comprehension-sized box? He is the Alpha and the Omega. God, in all three forms, is so much bigger than we could even imagine. From Him, the stars were formed, galaxies created, the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, the heavens and the earth. The angels and everything with them. All things, including us.
So why should we care about the trinity, especially if it may be something we can’t fully grasp?
Beacuse Jesus told us the most important thing we can do is to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind. If we want to love God we have to know Him.
The Trinity is essential to us as Christians to know Him, to build that relationship with Him, and then to make Him known. It truly is fundamental to being a Christian.
2) Who is God?
Our Bible, the whole Bible, but the old in very clear terms is monotheistic- one God. The God of the Chosen people was very different than all other traditions and belief systems of the time. They all had multiple gods and worshipped all these gods that had no mercy.
The Jewish God was different. He was all-encompassing and forgiving and ONE God.
And God does not change. God is the only one able to forgive sins. He is the creator of everything. He is the life force and the complete story behind and in everything and everyone.
He is also 3 separate beings- the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. This is not modalism, meaning He isn’t one, then another, then the other. God is all three, Omni present and omniscient. God is all three persons in one essence. And if your brain is like, hmmm- remember you are not supposed to be able to fully comprehend God. Anything that can create a whole universe can’t be fully comprehended.
The Bible never explicitly says ‘the trinity’, but it is talked about throughout the entire Bible. Even as far back as the first pages of Genesis 1:26 when God made the world He said,
“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.”Genesis 1:26
In the original Hebrew and Greek, much of the verb tense is plural when talking about God. This doesn’t always translate into English, but those who studied it understood this meaning. That is why the trinity was established as THE doctrine of truth in the early church.
3) What is the Natures of God? Who is the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit?
There are two books of the Bible that talk about creation, the beginning. Genesis, and John. We are going to read John.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:1-3, 1:14
This is Jesus, God, the creator who became flesh and dwelt among us.
Okay, now let’s do a deeper dive.
this one is the biggest shift for us. It defiantly was for me coming from Mormon doctrine.
This is what the Bible says about God.
God is not a man. I know this seems crazy. We see Him with His white beard and all. But nowhere in all the scripture is God a man. In fact, He is so big and powerful that no one could even see His face. He was a burning bush and He blinded Moses for a little while after He ‘saw’ God. God is spirit.
“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”John 4:24
Psalms go into great detail about the nature of God, perhaps more than any other book of the bible.
“For who is God, but the Lord?And who is a rock, except our God?—the God who equipped me with strengthand made my way blameless.”Psalm 18:31-32
The father is infinitely above us in all things, so much so that the very nature of Him is larger than we can grasp. Man could not create all this, know all things, be all present and all-encompassing.
In Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
That about says it. He is not a man, never was a man, is outside of time and space. He is so much bigger than an exalted man could ever hope to be.
He is the great I Am.
Well then who is Jesus?
This is fun. Jesus is God, the Word in the flesh. He is the only ‘son’ of the father. We are sons of Adam, meaning we are of the same kind. Jesus is of the same kind, the same substance as the father. He is not the father, but He is God.
We just got done talking about God as the great I Am. Did you know that these words, these very words were said by Jesus?
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”John 8:58
Jesus was claiming His divinity. Remeber, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
I remember the first time I thought about Jesus in that context- God on Earth. Let it sink in. It is huge.
Jesus made huge claimed that people of that day could not reconcile. He called God, Aba meaning father. Nobody did this. He claimed to know Him, to have been with Him. He forgave people of their sins, something only God could do.
Throughout the prophecies of His coming and the New Testament accounts Jesus is named as, Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, Emmanual- meaning God with Us, the Lamb of God, the Way, the Truth, the Life, our savior and the only way to the Father, I Am.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”
Who is the Holy Spirit-
More than anything the Holy Spirit is love. He is an entity that embodies this. In the old testament, the Holy spirit was known as the giver of life and the One who spoke God’s word through the prophets and authors of the Bible. In the New Testament, He is described as God’s love poured into our hearts.
Let’s back up a bit. In the church, we were told that we were given the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands after baptism. This idea was pulled in an interesting way from scripture. Let’s review this in Bible terms.
In the old testament, before the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit was not in all believers’ hearts. In a larger sense, God and sin cannot coexist. Before the cross, in order to be free and clear of our sin a blood sacrifice of animals at the temple had to happen. At the temple or even older times, the tabernacle was the holy of holies, the inner area, and this was where God’s Spirit resided. A sacrifice allowed for the only place where God and Earth truly overlapped.
When Jesus died on the cross and He said, “it is finished,” the veil over the holy of holies was torn. This was huge. The hugest thing ever, actually.
Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, making all further sacrifices unneeded, and the temple unnecessary. That’s right. No need for temples.
What does this have to do with the Holy Spirit? This meant that we could all be forgiven of our sin when we accept Jesus’ sacrifice, freeing us of sin, allowing us to be close to God, and allowing us to have the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
One of the best passages on the Spirit, or the Helper as Jesus calls Him, is in John Chapter 14. Read the whole thing. It is great! But here is a couple passages to sum it up.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”John 14:16-17, 25-26
4) How are three persons one God?
C.S. Lewis says it all so well in the absolute must-read for all Christians, no matter how versed you are, Mere Christianity. Listen to it, read it, all the things.
He explains the trinity as this (I’ll paraphrase):
Imagine a line. It is one-dimensional. Now imagine a square. Two dimensional. Now a cube. Three dimensional. Each thing is built upon the last and if you were to see the line or then the square in a two-dimensional plane you would have no idea the depth of the object under the surface. Such is the trinity. It is not always possible for us to see how it all is one because we see on a one or two-dimensional plane, but when you understand more you can see more, and the more it all makes sense.
The Bible Project, as usual has a great video on this. Visuals always help.
To sum it all up-
The Trinity is an essential part of the Christian faith, but don’t let this confuse you to the point that you can’t move forward with your faith.
It is something that can and should be studied because our purpose is to love and to know God and make Him known. God is the almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, our Creator, the Beginning and the End.
God is all three persons in one essence, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not the Father, but all three are God. God is all-knowing, all seeing, and transcends time and space. He is bigger than we can even imagine. We are made in His image in love, humor, joyfulness, and sadness, and our souls can be eternal in Him, but God is not man. God is God.
And how amazing it is that our God is so big that He can make anything possible and is worthy of all our praise.
More Episodes from the ‘Basic Christain Beliefs Every Exmo and New Believer Needs to Know’ series
** Note: For every ounce of textural, archeological, social, anthropological, and what seems to be irrefutable evidence in one direction there is a pound in the other by someone who holds a different opinion. If you want to find someone who believes strongly in support of something very opposite of what is written here, you can probably find it. This is where my research and experience have landed me.
Resources used in this article:
Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem
What is the Trinity?, by R.C. Sprout
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
God, The Bible Project https://youtu.be/eaqKzYJ151Y
“Holy Trinity” explained in 3 minutes, https://youtu.be/AQkFlzFJ3kA
Jesus is God. These 33 Bible verses prove it in 5 minutes, https://youtu.be/OldNsQLiFBs
The TRINITY EXPLAINED in 4 Very Simple Steps, https://youtu.be/Op_i1w9zc6U
The Trinity: Can We Defend it Biblically?, https://youtu.be/p0cLKtR5kfE
…And countless hours in other podcasts, websites, articles, books, sermons, and lectures.