Summary: Despite our best efforts to understand the Doctrine of the Trinity, we can never quite figure God out.
May 22, 2005
Let’s play a few games this morning. You’ve seen these little puzzles that are called “brain teasers.” Let’s see if you can figure these puzzles out.
A customer at a 7-11 store selected four items to buy, and was told that the cost was $7.11. He was curious that the cost was the same as the store name, so he enquired as to how the figure was derived. The clerk said that he had simply multiplied the prices of the four individual items. The customer protested that the four prices should have been ADDED, not MULTIPLIED. The clerk said that that was OK with him, but, the result was still the same: exactly $7.11. What were the four prices?
Let’s do an easy one. Each child in a family has at least 3 brothers and 3 sisters. What is the smallest number of children the family might have? Figure that one!
Okay, one more. Maybe you’ve seen this one. Three people check into a hotel. They pay $30 to the manager and go to their room. The manager suddenly remembers that the room rate is $25 and gives $5 to the bellboy to return to the people. On the way to the room the bellboy reasons that $5 would be difficult to share among three people so he pockets $2 and gives $1 to each person. Now each person paid $10 and got back $1. So they paid $9 each, totalling $27. The bellboy has $2, totalling $29. Where is the missing $1?
Take those home if you haven’t figured them out. Work on them a few days, and check your June 1st newsletter for the answers.
What was this supposed to demonstrate? I hope it demonstrated the human nature to be inquisitive. We like to try to figure things out. Especially us guys. Our wives present us with a problem, and our first inclination is to figure out a solution. Problem, solution. That is way life is supposed to work. Right?
Our natural propensity is to do the same thing with God. We think we have to figure God out before we can trust him. Today is Trinity Sunday in the Christian calendar. A day marked in the Christian year where the focus seems to be on a doctrine rather than an event or a specific teaching of Jesus. This doctrine of the Holy Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—is a mystery that theologians have pondered for centuries. We can’t quite figure out how there can be one God eternally existent in three persons. It just doesn’t quite make sense, but we think about it, we look at it from different angles, we try different illustrations to explain it, but we just can’t quite understand it.
We must confess that nowhere in the Bible is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity explicit. We will not find a chapter and verse that references the doctrine at all, but when we hear the words of Jesus, we know that the idea of God in Three Persons is implicit in his life and teaching. We know that God relates to His creation in the manner of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet He is not three gods but one God.
One passage of Scripture demonstrates somewhat of the mystery that exists, but also relates Jesus’ understanding of the interrelatedness of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Listen to John 16:12-15:
"Oh, there is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not be presenting his own ideas; he will be telling you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.  He will bring me glory by revealing to you whatever he receives from me.  All that the Father has is mine; this is what I mean when I say that the Spirit will reveal to you whatever he receives from me.
So where did this doctrine of the Holy Trinity come from? Well, not from a bunch of theologians who sat around with nothing better to do. The doctrine developed as a means to describe how the One God in whom we believe relates to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was formed out of argument. A fellow named Marcion in the second Century taught that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament were two different gods. God, in the Old Testament, was harsh, cruel, and full of wrath and judgment. Jesus, on the other hand, was kind, gentle and loving. Therefore, we should reject the God of the Old Testament and believe in Jesus Christ. Another guy named Arius taught that Jesus was not really god, but rather a demigod created by God the Father to be a mediator between heaven and earth. Then there was a group called Enthusiasts who believed the coming of the Holy Spirit replaced God the Father and God the Son. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity was formulated by the early church to describe the basic belief in God in three persons, each co-equal, co-eternal, one in essence and substance.