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Salvation: Foundational Teachings

Understanding the Trinity

Trinity, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “the union of the three divine persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in one Godhead.” God is a triune being (three in one). That means He is manifest in an absolute “Threeness”—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet, at the same time, He is also an absolute “Oneness.” Each One is God. However, that does not mean each One is a part of God. Each One is the whole God. Personality is not divisible. God cannot be divided. He is one in essence, in personality and in will.

The concept of the Trinity is often difficult for us to grasp because when we think of a person, we think of will, feelings and behavior peculiar to that person alone. This cannot be thought of in connection with the Trinity. Each Person of the Godhead has individual characteristics, responsibilities and operation, yet never acts independently or in opposition. There is always total unity and harmony. What a wonderful example and goal for us as believers to work toward.

While God insists on unity, at the same time He delights in diversity or variety. Think about the example we have in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 where believers are likened to the very different parts of a body. Body parts are very different, yet they all work together to make one body. God created you as a unique and special individual, but encourages you to function together with other believers in order to be effective as His Body in the earth. It is a challenge and a privilege for all believers.

Within the Trinity there is also a certain order. Not an order of importance, but an order of operation and revelation. All plans or revelations come from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. The Father initiates, the Son proclaims (He is the Word in John 1), and the Holy Spirit executes. Each has a vital part and works together.

Isn’t it awesome that God also counts each of us worthy of having a vital part in His plan of reconciliation? No matter what “job” or function you perform in the Body of Christ, He considers it important and valuable, and so should you.

Although the word Trinity itself is not found in the Bible, the concept and revelation of the threefold activity of the Godhead begins at Creation when God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26). One of the ways we are made in the image of God is our own triune makeup of spirit, soul and body. Each is different in characteristic and function, yet together they make up one man.

Another example of the Trinity in operation is found at the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River. God the Father spoke from heaven, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus the Son (Luke 3:21-22). This was a threefold revelation of God given to man on the level of his physical senses. Throughout His entire ministry Jesus consistently spoke of His Father and Himself as being two distinct Persons, and yet being declared equal. It was one of the things He taught that infuriated the “religious” people He encountered and caused them to want to kill Him because they refused to accept its truth (Mark 2:7; John 5:18).

First John 5:7 states, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word [Jesus], and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” The activity of the Trinity is evident throughout the Bible, but sometimes you have to be aware and look closely.

Perhaps a good example from nature to help us understand the concept of the Trinity is water. The chemical makeup is H2O—two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen. It is also the same chemical makeup of ice and steam. They are identically the same, yet distinctly different. You can swim in water, but not in ice or steam. Each has different characteristics and functions, yet they are the same—H2O.

As with many revelations from the Word of God, understanding the Trinity is not something we can do totally with our minds—it has to be received by faith also. As you study the Bible, look for evidence of the Trinity being revealed individually as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, yet operating in total love and harmony. This is the lesson we should learn from the Trinity—we can be different in many ways, but still work together in love and unity to proclaim the gospel to a needy world.

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