Understanding The Trinity
A guest speaker at my last winter camp tried to answer our questions on the Trinity. When answering its origins, he replied that it arose from a new need, since cults were forming teaching otherwise. He also included that the doctrine concerning the Trinity were not written until later...
When I tried to look for proof of the Trinity (in the Bible), I was given scriptures that states 3 beings in the same sentence, but nowhere does it directly state or imply that they were One. (Matt 12:32, 28:19, Luke 12:10, etc etc) Please clear up where the Bible acknowledges the proof of the Trinity.
From my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) the 3 beings of the Trinity (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) are equal in power. In John 14:28 however, Jesus refers to God as "greater than I." How is this possible?
I read your marriage example of the Trinity. Does that imply that the Trinity is only a symbolic bond between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?
Thanks for your question. The Trinity is one of the hardest concepts for many people to understand. This is basically because it is an area that, limited to our mortal three-dimensional state, we cannot fully comprehend. This does not mean we cannot apprehend the idea, just that we will never be able to grasp the entirety of what it means to be a triune being.
We can agree that God is infinite. He is not limited to our space or our time domain. God is also omnipotent. He is able to do whatever He pleases in accordance with His righteousness. When God revealed Himself to man, He showed that He was a triune being. He is One God comprised of three persons. Each person of the Trinity is distinct, yet all have all the attributes of God and all are considered God.
Any analogy I give will break down at some point, but I will try to demonstrate the concept of the Trinity a little more clearly. Picture a corporation owned and operated by only three partners. Now, suppose each partner knew that his associates would make decisions just as he would, and they would agree on every way to run their company, so they agreed that each one could make any legally binding decision as its spokesman. You could then safely say that the totality of that corporation is represented by each of those three individuals. Each has a separate role in the company, but each hold all of the power of the company and its finances. Each can be said to be the exact representation of the company. The company is only one, but it is represented to the public as three owners.
Now let's address your questions on the Biblical support of the Trinity. You are right in stating there is no one verse that explicitly defines the Trinity. However, in order to consistently interpret the Bible, the Trinity is the only logical solution. We can build this argument on three bases: the Bible's claim to who God is, what God's attributes are, and what our actions toward God should be.
First, we need to know who God is. The Father is called God in the Bible in Matthew 6:26,30. Jesus is called God in Hebrews 1:6 and John 1:1, 14. The Spirit is called God in Acts 5:3-4. All three are classified as God, but we know there is only one God-being. In order for both to be true, He must exist in three persons.
We also look at the attributes that God alone possesses. God is the creator (Genesis 1:1, Job 33:4, Isaiah 40:28). Jesus is called the creator (John 1:3, Colossians 1:13,16), and the Spirit is called the creator (Genesis 1:2, Psa. 104:30). We know only God is eternal (for more, please see "Who Created God?" ) and the Father is called eternal (Psalm 90:2) Jesus is called eternal (John 1:1-2, John 8:58) and the Spirit is called eternal (Hebrews 9:14).
All the other attributes of God are ascribed to each of the Trinity. They are all considered omnipresent and omniscient. Each has the unique ability to forgive sins; a power that is possessed by God alone. Each is considered sovereign. Each is considered completely righteous. These are God's inherent attributes. They are part of the nature of God, as all humans have a natural desire to survive etc.
This may cause confusion when we look at your next question, "How is it that Jesus said 'the Father is greater than I'". This statement, along with some others (1 Cor 11:3,1 Cor 15:28,etc) show Jesus relationship in regard to rank with the Father. This can be a difficult area, but let me illustrate. You have an inherent worth as a human being. Your life is valuable, and no other human life is more or less important than another intrinsically. All human life, from an intrinsic standpoint, is of equal value. The President of the U.S. is a person of perhaps greater rank than you, and therefore it is proper to offer him your respect, but he is no more valuable a human being than you. The same is true with the Father and Jesus. Christ did not start out as someone of lesser rank, but He was equal in all things with the Father. However Philippians 2:5-8 tells us "Although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
You see, Jesus is the "exact representation of the Father," and "in Him all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form (Col. 2:9)." He is inherently God by nature. However, He has put Himself in subjection to the Father in terms of rank-- which is a far different thing.
Jesus also took on an additional nature, that of a man. Picture if you will a triangle. This will represent the God-nature. Now in one corner of the triangle draw a circle so the edges overlap. This is a crude idea of how Jesus shares two natures. The circle is Jesus' humanity. He can thus be both fully God and fully man.
I know that this can be a very difficult topic to try and get a handle on, but it is not unreasonable. There is nothing in the doctrine of the Trinity that requires one to dismiss the laws of logic. I hope this has helped you get a better idea of the Biblical foundation for the Trinity. May God bless you in your pursuit of Him.