Summary: How is God both three and one?
How is God both three and one? [Note: All scriptures are given for reference. Obviously it would be a very long and tedious sermon to turn to each and every one. I recommend turning to very few, but leaving a scripture list for those who wish to study further.]
Goal: Let’s understand why the Church teaches the Trinity and why it’s also a mystery to our limited human understanding.
Plan: Let’s examine scriptural support for the Trinity doctrine.
Three and One
We are to have no other gods (Exodus 20) and God is one (Deuteronomy 6). God is also called Father (1 Corinthians 8:4-6; Matthew 23:9). Jesus is called God with us (Matthew 1:23) and equal with God (Philippians 2:5-11). He made the worlds, angels worship Him and He too is called God (Hebrews 1; John 20:28). When people lie to the Holy Spirit, they lie to God (Acts 5:3-4) and our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit thus glorifying God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). If God is one and also three, the most logical conclusion is for God to be three in one.
How can God be both three and one? Most Christians agree that biblical descriptions of God point to this inescapable conclusion. We don’t need to understand how, in order to agree with the Scriptures. Actually, we cannot understand the how. That is why the Trinity is called a mystery. Firstly, we’ll eliminate 1 John 5:7 because it’s not in the earliest known Bibles. However, the Bible calls a married man and woman one flesh (Genesis 2:24), the same word as used to describe God as one (Deuteronomy 6:4). Father, Son and Holy Spirit have one name (Matthew 28:19-20). The Word (Jesus Christ) was God (John 1:1).
The early Church’s discussions centered around an economic view of the Trinity, that was often vague and simple. Later on, modalism became popular. This theory saw God as one person with three personalities or modes of being. But, this was rejected as heresy, because Christ prayed to the Father and God does not pray to Himself. Tritheism was another heresy which explained God as not one but three Gods. This too was rejected for obvious reasons. God is one. Orthodoxy is still the understanding of the Trinity that unifies Christianity. It is best described using Greek terms, “one ousia in three hypostases,” one Godhead that is indivisible and yet three persons.
How do we discuss Jesus? Christians view the discussion in three ways. 1. Viewing Jesus from “above,” from the perspective of heaven. This involves faith alone and nothing from any earthly sources. The Bible refers to faith as evidence, though it is not fashionable, tangible evidence. 2. Viewing Jesus from “below,” from earthly sources without putting God into the picture is a popular, modern liberal view. This generally focuses on tangible, physical evidence rather than spiritual evidence of faith. A weakness is that even eyewitness evidence did not help Pharisees or Judas. 3. A synthesis harmonizes both views. We start with faith (Matthew 16:15-17), but include reason (Luke 7:19-22).
God’s angels are Jesus’ angels (Matthew 13:41; Luke 12:8-9, 15:10). He judges the world (Matthew 25:31-46). Know Jesus, know the Father (John 14:7-9), He sits in the place of power (Matthew 26:63-66). He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), made Himself equal with God (John 5:18). John said He was God (John 1:1), an exact representation of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:2-3, 8), image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15-20), fullness of God in a human body (Colossians 2:9), He will judge (2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Corinthians 5:10) and is equal with God (Philippians 2:5-11).
The Greek Bible that Jesus quoted called God a word we translate as “Lord” (Acts 2:20-21; Romans 10:13; 1 Peter 3:15). The New Testament uses the word “Lord” for both Father and Son. In Jesus, we can know the Father. God died, not a mere man. In Jesus, God and man are reunited. Therefore, we can worship Jesus. Jesus’ conception involved temporarily giving up some divine attributes (Philippians 2:6-7). Jesus is divinity-humanity, or the God-man. Both divinity and humanity are most fully known in Jesus. We did not ascend to divinity, God condescended to take on a human frame. And so we know, God values our humanity.
Jesus was born and lived normally, faced temptations, ate, experienced human emotions and died. Unlike us, He had remarkable knowledge, knew the past, present and future in ways that we do not, and discerned the thoughts of others. However, while on earth He did not know everything (Mark 13:32). He was resurrected with a glorified body, like we will have (Luke 24:39; Philippians 3:21). He still is the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). A real man died for us, who can sympathize with us. He exemplifies perfect human nature as God originally intended. In Christ, God is not totally transcendent. In Christ, humanity ascended to heaven.