By Pastor Alan Langstaff/12.3.15
After the recent Langstaff Letter ‘There is Only One God,’ one of the responses I received was a request for an article on the trinity. How is it possible to believe on one hand that there is only one God, while on the other hand declare the three members of the trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. (See Matthew 28:19)
The Trinity is a barrier to some people believing in the Christian God. The Jews hold to Deuteronomy 6:4 ‘Hear O Israel, The Lord Thy God is one’ and so they believe in a monotheistic religion. The Muslims declares there is one God Allah and Mohamed is his prophet. So when the Christians share the concept of the Trinity it goes against these basic beliefs. How then do we explain the Trinity and still hold to the concept of ‘There is one God.’
A SIMPLE STATEMENT
Theologians have grappled with the doctrine of the Trinity (incidentally the word Trinity does not occur in the Bible) and have struggled to fully explain it. In the end, it becomes a matter of faith.
I personally like the simple statement by theologian ‘Karl Barth’ who describes the Trinity as ‘God is one in three ways of being’ or to put it in another way ‘God in his three ways of being God.’ That to me says it all in simple terms. Ultimately, it is a mystery how God is one God in three persons. God is three ways of being God.
A more theological description of the Trinity would be, ‘to define the subsistence of God by stating the God is one in His essential being, but that the divine essence exists in three modes or forms, each constituting a Person, yet in such a way that the divine essence is wholly in each person. (New Bible Dictionary)
People have used all sorts of ideas to illustrate the Trinity. For example, H2O can appear as ice, water or steam. The same substance in three different forms. But illustration are just that, illustrations, that of themselves don’t prove anything. Rather they simply try to illustrate a truth. We need to remember that man’s finite mind cannot fully comprehend God in all His ways.
A SIMPLE PARABLE
A parable that can be used to help people understand the Trinity, especially children concerns three people and a house.
One day a taxi driver took a man from downtown to a new house in the suburbs. When the man got out from the taxi, he said to the taxi driver, ‘See that house, that’s my house.’
Later that day, he did the same things with another man who looked remarkably like the first man. When this man got out of the taxi, he said the same thing, ‘See that house, that’s my house.’
Finally, late in the day, he did the same thing for a third man who looked remarkably like the first two. When this man got out of the taxi, he too said the same thing, ‘See that house, that’s my house.’
Naturally the taxi driver was somewhat confused and puzzled by it all. What he did not know was that all of them were right. The first man was the builder, the creator and in that sense it was his house. The second man was the one who paid the price to build it and so, it too, was his house. The third man now lived in the house, so in that way it was his house.
Using that as a parable, God the Father is the one who built it, that created the world and all of us. The Son is the one who paid the price on Calvary’s cross for our salvation. We were bought with a price. The Holy Spirit is the one who now lives within us and is the indwelling Spirit.
But rather than think of them as three distinct and separate beings, think of them as being in total unity together as one God. Let’s see how this works, using a couple of examples.
We normally associate Father God with creation. After all, Genesis declares, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ i.e. God Jehovah, Father God created the world and the universe. But we also find in Colossians 1:15-16 that Christ ‘is the image of the invisible God . . . for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and are on earth. . . ‘ (See also Hebrews 1:1f) Then too, the Holy Spirit is active in creation and Genesis 1:2 declare, ‘And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.’ (See also Job 20:13)
So all three members of the Trinity were involved in creation, working together in perfect unity. Indeed, when it comes to the creation of man himself (Genesis 1:26) it is said, ‘Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.’ Note the plural ‘our’ not my. Again, it is a mystery but that is how God is,.
Normally, we associate Jesus Christ the son of God with salvation. He came ‘while we were still sinners Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8) Then in II Corinthians 5:19 it states, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.’ Romans 8:11 declares, ‘But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit which dwells in you.’
We could go on, but this is sufficient to show that in all things there is unity and harmony between three members of the Trinity.
The Trinity is a mystery but it is what is revealed to us in scripture concerning who God is. As Karl Barth states, ‘God is one in His three ways of being.’ There is only one God, but He has revealed Himself in the three ways that He is God.