Towards understanding the Trinity in a more Biblical way

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Several of the Vacation Bible Schools I went to growing up dealt with that question, and at least one implied it was the egg. People seem to think this is an impossible question to answer, though to me it was always pretty straightforward. When God created the animals, He created a hen and a rooster, and once they got together and did what a hen and a rooster would be expected to do, the hen ended up laying an egg. Despite that, people still use this question when referring to other hard questions about which of two thing existed first and which causes the other.

Another question that is very hard to answer is how can God be three-in-one, the Trinity. In fact, this is such a complicated concept that it caused a major split among believers way back, at least as far as the year 325, when there was a schism between people who believed that Jesus is God and those who did not, and this division still exists today.

One very unfortunate thing about the way the Trinity was thought about and taught was the lack of focus on the Holy Spirit. Early theologians tried very hard to emphasize that God the Father and Jesus are One, to the point that they didn’t talk much about the Holy Spirit. This was made worse by the fact that in earlier times, icons and paintings were used to illustrate to the masses the events and people of the Bible, and it was not easy to draw or make an image of the Holy Spirit. plus the whole concept of the Spirit (Holy Ghost) tended to be kind of spooky. A very sad note in history is Muhammad, a man from a pagan area who amazingly believed that there was only one God. When he visited some Christian areas, he thought Christians believed in three Gods, and because of the emphasis on Mary in the 600’s, Muhammad thought these three gods were the Father, the Son and Mary!  So he returned to his homeland and became the founder of a new religion which focused on there only being one God.

Over the years, people have tried to explain this complicated idea of the Trinity usually using one of two different comparisons. One has to do with an egg, since it has a shell, a white part and a yellow yolk part. Three parts, one egg. The most common one, though, has to do with water. Water can be liquid, solid (frozen) or steam. So water, being one thing, can take three different forms. There are some things about these two comparisons, especially the water one, which are helpful, but the deeper we think about it, and compare it with what the Bible says, both comparisons leave a lot to be desired.

The Bible itself uses a much more accurate and easy to understand comparison of how to understand the Trinity, and I think it would be better to use this Biblical model when thinking about and talking to others about the nature of God.

Jesus is called the Word of God, the living Word, the Truth. The actual word for the Holy Spirit in Greek is wind or breath. Imagine God the Father as the person speaking, Jesus as the True Word coming forth from Him, and the Holy Spirit as His breath, the life-giving breath coming from God. This imagery is the way the Bible talks about the relation between God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

How can we separate the person from the words they speak and the breath they breathe? Especially when talking about God who, the Bible says over and over, never lies. God is the definition of truth, and so the Word that comes from Him is Truth. There are many verses which teach us about Jesus, The Word, being One with God and the essence of truth. Here are there main ones:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

These are verses related to Jesus as the Word and being truth. There are, of course, many other verses which point to Him being One with God, which I will put at the end.

Concerning the Holy Spirit, He is God’s breath and He gives Life.  Here are a few verses, among many, about the Holy Spirit giving life. At the end I will put more verses of His Oneness with God. As already mentioned, the Greek word for Spirit is breath/wind and even though wind/breath is a “neuter” word and grammatically should translated as “it”, the authors in Scripture regularly break this rule and use a personal pronoun.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63)

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

(Note: I believe here that “water” refers to natural birth, then “spiritual” birth through the Holy Spirit. We are born naturally, but later we need to be born spiritually, believe in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. There is no context for baptism here, and John’s style is to use contrasts, fleshly birth, spiritual birth, life, death, light, darkness, etc.)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37-39)

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:22-3)

See also Romans 8 sharing about the life-giving work of the Spirit.

When you think or talk about the relation between God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, consider how the Bible itself uses these terms to help us understand the intimate, oneness relationship between the Speaker, His Word and His Breath.

A sample of verses proclaiming Jesus is One with God:

Matt. 1:23: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.

John 5:17-18: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”

John 8:58: Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

John 10:30-33: Jesus answered them, “I and My Father are one.” Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

John 14:9-11: Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

John 20:28: And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Philp. 2:5-7: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men.”

Col. 2:9: For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Heb. 1:8-9: But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated

lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

Rev. 1:8: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

A sample of the many, many verses showing that the Holy Spirit is God. These also show the “person-hood” of the Spirit:

Luke 1:35: The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

John 4:24: “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

John 15:26: “But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

1 Cor. 2:11: “For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”

Ephesians 4:30: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Heb. 2:4: “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”

2 Peter 1:21: “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

 

 

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