Bob is certainly not alone in his difficulty to understand the concept. Many people have felt that way too.
I would like to encourage fellow Christians to post comments that might help in the understanding of the Trinity.
I have done a lot of study on it and have read several books and pamphlets that I have found to be quite helpful. Maybe what I (and other participating Christians here) share will give a better understanding of the concept. Of course, it is a matter of faith, first and foremost.
I have gotten into discussions about this with Jehovah Witnesses. The one portion of scripture that I refer them to is:
Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Mat 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Notice the singular of “name” used in the Mat. 28:20 verse.
Plus, how could Jesus be with us always? Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of each believer.
Plus, where does Jesus’ authority come from? God the Father.
Now, keeping this in mind, I will share one of the most intriguing analogies of the Trinity (Triune nature of God) that I have read so far.
The first few pages of the booklet discusses various Biblical references to the “God in Three Persons” nature of God. I can post this later if anyone here is interested in a more detailed explanation. [Bob – If you venture over here, perhaps that portion of the booklet might more specifically answer your questions. Please let me know if you would like me to include it in this post.] For now, I will just share a few brief points:
1. The first verse of the Bible we read, “In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). In Hebrew the word for “God” is Elohim. That word is plural. El is singular, but Elohim is plural. We know it is plural because it contains within it the personalities of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2. We also read where God said, “Let us make man in our image….and in the image of God created he him”…in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27). “Us,” “Our,” “His.” And so over and over again, even in the Old Testament, when God speaks, He goes back and forth between the singular and the plural, the plural to singular, because He is the singular-plural God.
3. The facts of the Triunity of God are clearly seen in these four facts within the Bible:
* The Father is God, said thousands of times.
* The Son is God, said hundreds and hundreds of times.
* And the Holy Spirit is God (Spirit of God in OT) is said dozens of times.
* Finally, there is but one God.
In Dr. D. James Kennedy’s booklet entitled “Understanding the Trinity; Evidence for God in Three Persons,” Dr. Kennedy describes that the universe itself explains the Trinity.
Dr. Nathan Wood, formerly president of Gordon College of Theology and Missions, wrote a magnificent book called, “The Secret of the Universe.” In it he spells out for us the result of years of searching in the natural realm for some kind of analogy that was correct for the Trinity. He finally came up with the universe itself.
It is so simple. It is right there in front of us. We can never get away from it. It is always there. We ought to see it very clearly. He points out that any man who manufactures anything or makes anything with his hands is going to inevitably leave his fingerprints upon it. If you were to create a table or chair or something in your workshop, it would contain your fingerprints.
Dr. Wood says that the universe is covered with fingerprints of the Trinity because it was made by the Triune God. The Bible says that the Father created the universe, the Son created the universe, and the Holy Spirit created the universe – the Triune God created the universe. What does Dr. Wood mean by that? Well, there are fingerprints everywhere. We just don’t see them.
I would suppose that there are literally millions of fingerprints in this very sanctuary. Did you see any today? Not a one. We are blind as a bat when it comes to fingerprints. We just don’t see them. First of all, we’re not looking for them. Now you might see them at home on a mirror or something like that, but ordinarily, we don’t see fingerprints. However, if a detective were to come in here and begin to dust the wood on the pew in front of you, he would find thousands of them. So let’s put on our Sherlock Holmes cap, get out our dusting brush, and see if we can see the fingerprints of Him who made all things.
What does the universe consist of? If you were to ask a scientist, he would tell you it consists of space, time, and matter. Now amazing to tell, we find all of those three things everywhere in the universe – not that we have a universe where some of them exist sometimes and not at other times. It is also true that each of the triune parts of the universe is, in itself, triune.
Let us look at each one of them. For example, consider space. What is space composed of? It is composed of length and breadth and height. Always. There is nothing you could name that is not composed of all three of those things. If you were to simply take a pencil and draw a line on a piece of paper, it would have length, it would have a little bit of width, and if you looked in a powerful microscope, you would discover it has quite a bit of height. You can’t see it with your naked eye; however, it’s always there.
Something that I think is amazing about this is that God always consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – not one or the other. It is not a piece of the pie; it’s the whole thing, always. Imagine a square block that a child would play with. Draw a picture of it in three dimensions. Then you could take that picture, and with a pencil and using all length, you could make a bunch of lines and fill in that entire block with nothing but length. I have done that sometimes in fancy lettering. Maybe some of you have as well. Or you could take the same block and make the whole thing out of width, or out of height. The fact of the matter is that it is all length, it’s all breadth, it’s all height all of the time. That’s a perfect illustration of the Trinity.
Or take the matter of time. Of what does time consist? Obviously, it consists of the past, the present, and the future – those three. Any time we have ever known in this universe always consists of those three. Usually we have the idea that we come out of the past, that that really is first, because that is where we came from. The fact of the matter is, time comes from the future, and we meet it head on.
For example, today, yesterday was called tomorrow, and now it’s today. A week ago it was called next week, and now it is today. A year ago, it was called next year. So as time approaches us and we move through it, that is what always happens. Anything is first in the future, then in the present, and then it disappears into the past. That is the way time always works. That in itself is an amazing story when you examine it carefully. Past, present, and future.
Dr. Nathan R. Wood gives a fascinating quote that is so remarkable I would like to share it with you. I would challenge you to try to see if you can follow his drift.
He is going to give a long paragraph. Then he is going to give it again, only this time he is simply going to change four words. These four words are “time,” “future,” “present,” and “past”. They are going to be changed into “God,” “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit.” You are going to find out something some of you never knew before – that time, which you live by, which you look at constantly in the way of clocks you wind up every day, and which you make your lives run by, is an incredible illustration of the divine Trinity. Read carefully:
“The Future is the source. The Future is unseen, unknown, except as it continually embodies itself and makes itself visible in the Present. The Present is what we see, and hear, and know. It is ceaselessly embodying the Future, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. It is perpetually revealing the Future, hitherto invisible.
The Future is logically first, but not chronologically. For the Present exists as long as Time exists and was in the absolute beginning of Time. The Present has existed as long as Time has existed. Time acts through and in the Present. It makes itself visible only in the Present. The Future acts and reveals itself through the Present. It is through the Present that Time, that the Future, enters into union with human life. Time and humanity meet and unite in the Present. it is the Present that Time, that the Future, becomes a part of human life, and so is born and lives and dies in human life.
The Past in turn comes from the Present. We cannot say that it embodies the Present. On the contrary, Time in issuing from the Present into the Past becomes invisible again. The Past does not embody the Present. Rather it proceeds silently, endlessly, invisibly from it…
The Present therefore comes out from the invisible Future. The Present perpetually and ever-newly embodies the Future in visible, audible, livable form; and returns again into invisible Time in the Past. The Past acts invisibly. It continually influences us with regard to the Present. It casts light upon the Present. That is its great function. It helps us to live in the Present which we know, and with reference to the Future which we expect to see.”
That is an exact description of the way time operates. It is a perfect analogy. I’m using “analogy” not in the common sense of the word that something is like something or a simile or metaphor, but in the mathematical meaning of the word, which means it is an exact replica as far as every line, every angle, every corner is concerned.
SUBSTITUTE FOUR WORDS
Now let us replace the words. “Time” is replaced by “God”; the “Future” by the “Father”; the “Present” by the “Son”; and the “Past” by the “Holy Spirit” (every word the same but these four). You will see that perfect analogy and you will see the divine Trinity you have been swimming in all of your life!
The Father is the source [every word the same, but those four]. The Father is unseen except as he continually embodies Himself and makes Himself visible in the Son. The Son is what we see, and hear, and know. He is ceaselessly embodying the Father, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. He is perpetually revealing the Father, hitherto invisible.
The Father is logically first, but not chronologically, For the Son exists as long as God exists, and was in the absolute beginning of God. The Son has existed as long as God has existed.
God acts through and in the Son. He makes Himself visible only in the Son. The Father acts and reveals Himself through the Son. It is through the Son that God, that the Father, enters into union with human life. God and humanity meet and unite in the Son. It is in the Son that God, that the Father, becomes a part of human life, and so is born and lives and dies in human life.
The Spirit in turn comes from the Son. We cannot say that He embodies the Son. On the contrary God, in issuing from the Son into the Spirit, becomes invisible again. The Spirit does not embody the Son. Rather He proceeds silently, endlessly, invisibly from Him…
The Son therefore comes out from the invisible Father. The Son perpetually and ever-newly embodies the Father in visible, audible, livable form, and returns into invisible God in the Spirit. The Spirit acts invisibly. He continually influences us with regard to the Son. He casts light upon the Son. That is His great function. He helps us to live in the Son whom we know and with reference to the Father whom we expect to see.
That, my friends, is an exact mathematical analogy that each of the portions of the tri-unity of the universe are in themselves triune.
What about matter? What is matter? Ask the scientist and he will tell you that matter is very simply energy in motion producing phenomena. Energy is composed of atoms which are made up of tiny electrical charges with the electrons whirling around the nucleus at speeds anywhere from one trillion to one quadrillion miles per second – at such incredible speeds we can’t even imagine what they are. Of course, if you look at an atom, it’s very much like the solar system, and the solar system is made up primarily of…nothing – space. And so it is with every atom.
If the chair you are sitting on could suddenly stand still and you could see with microscopic eyes what it really is made of, you would have the feeling that you are sitting on air. You see, this energy in motion is producing phenomena, such as the hardness of the chair you are sitting on, the chair in front of you, the softness of your coat or dress, and the color of your tie. Everything we know – from aromas to colors to concrete skyscrapers – is made up of those same little atoms whirling about at tremendous speed and producing these various phenomena.
So we see that space is made up of length, breadth, and height. Time is past, present, and future, and matter also is triune in that it is energy in motion producing phenomena. Not only is the universe triune, but it is made up of three different things, which are each in themselves triune. We see that the fingerprints of God are everywhere about us.
This is my Father’s world. He made it, and it bears His fingerprints, if we only have the eyes to see or to consider or to think about it. Surely the book of nature reveals in an unmistakable way to anyone who has the eyes to see that this is a divinely created world, created by the Triune God.
What are some other things we can learn from that? I think one other thing the Trinity teaches us is the importance of relationships. God has not been sitting, as I said, singularly, solitarily alone forever in darkness, but rather He and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have been carrying on intimate communion among themselves forever. So we see that relationships are very important. They are important to God; they should be important to us, and thus God has set us in families. He has set the solitary in families.
We see that families are important. Marriage is important. We live in a time when there are millions of people who don’t take those things to be very important. We have more unmarried people than we have ever had before in this country.
Secondly, we see also that in that relationship there is the importance of unity. We are to reflect God in our family, in relationships, and in the unity of our family. When there is discord or strife or faultfinding or argumentation, we can see that we are, indeed, bringing discord into the picture that God would have us to know of the Triune God.
Not only relationships and unity are important, but thirdly, also, purpose. This, I think, is really astonishing. I don’t think I ever really saw this as clearly as I did this week, but we don’t know what God was doing before He created the universe. He didn’t just come into being; He has existed eternally. For all we know, before this universe, there was another one, and before that one, another one, and before that another one and another one. We don’t know. That is mere speculation.
But one thing we do know, and that is what He is doing in this universe, that His principal work, as revealed to us in Scripture, is that the Father elects and predestinates a people for Himself. This is repeated over and over again as the purpose and the task of the Father in what is called the economic Trinity. It has nothing to do with money, but about the various functions the members of the Trinity have divided up among themselves for their own purposes.
* We see that the Son has the purpose of being incarnated in human life, living a perfect life in our stead as our substitute, dying an atoning death upon the Cross to pay for our sins, rising from the dead to show that that sacrifice was accepted, and there is life beyond the grave and ascending to the Father, where He now makes intercession for us;
* And that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is not only to inspire the Scriptures for our edification, but also to regenerate and quicken us that we might be born anew by the Spirit, and to sanctify us all through the life of our Christian experience, until finally He glorifies us when the last vestiges of sin are removed and we are made perfect in the sight of God.
All of these tremendous activities occupy the time and the thought and the energy and the emotional output of the great Triune God. Astonishing as it may be, we are the center of their purpose.
What can we learn from that? Scripture tells us that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God” (John 17:3). God tells us that we should become more like Him. Dear friend, if you want to become more like Christ, I am going to tell you how. Apart from this, it is not possible. You can’t enter into a sympathetic union with the Triune God without entering into what is the passion and purpose of that God, which is, astonishingly, the salvation of the world.