A look across the many religions of mankind reveals some stark similarities and differences. For some god is a force of nature. Others worship many gods, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and responsibilities. Jews, Christians, and Muslims hold to a singular god. The similarity across all of these is the human desire to connect with something or someone larger than ourselves. The difference is one of personhood and completeness.
The Bible clearly declares God as one and not many. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NASB95) This declaration sets God apart from the crowd of gods found in ancient Egypt and surrounding territories. God is one, He is all and complete in himself as we’ve seen in His attributes.
The Bible also pictures God as personable and not a raw force to be tamed. Throughout the Biblical narrative, God speaks with human individuals. From Adam to Abraham to Moses, Job, David, and the prophets. Sometimes God communicated directly, sometimes through messengers, visions, or other means.
But God reveals more. That more is the mystery of the what Christ-followers call the Trinity. One God with three distinct persons in perfect unity. Christians identify the three as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. One passage revealing this Trinity is the scene of Jesus’ baptism. Matthew records, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”” (Matthew 3:16–17, NASB95)
There have been many attempts to understand or explain this mystery of the Trinity. Water observationally has three distinct forms, ice, liquid, and steam. An egg has three components, shell, white, and yolk. A person can be different things at the same time. For instance, father, son, and husband. Yet all of these fall far short of God’s reality.
The Trinity is not so much something to understand in our terms but a mystery to embrace. God is one yet also three co-equal distinct persons in perfect unity. To go beyond that basic understanding and apply any number of formulas quickly becomes problematic. The basic truth is that we only glimpse the edges of this mystery, we can see it but not fully grasp it.
Yet, the mystery of the Trinity does reveal an important attribute of God. Both internal to the Trinty and towards humans God is personable and sociable. God is not revealed as a person-less force to be controlled or a collection of demi-gods to be appeased, but as an all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, infinite, holy, timeless, loving person to love and trust in return.
Perhaps the greatest mystery isn’t the Trinity but that God would invite all women and men to enter into that unity through Jesus. A mystery we will continue to unfold as we continue our review of the basics of Christian faith.