Summary: The Spirit is part of the circle dance of the Trinity
Knowing The Holy Spirit April 10, 2005
The Spirit and the Trinity
God is three, and God is one.
The Trinity is not an easy concept to understand much less to explain. I’ve had supper time conversations with the kids that go like this:
“Jesus is God.”
“But God is God!”
“Yeah but Jesus is God.”
“How can Jesus and God be God?”
“We’ll God is three: he is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
“The Holy Spirit is God?”
“But I thought God was God!”
That is the Trinity for you
The Trinity, along with grace, is one of the major distinctives of the Christian faith. We do not believe in three Gods, we believe in one God who is three.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus’ Baptism may be one of the most Trinitarian pieces of scripture there is. It is a beautiful scenes: Jesus, the Son has come among us, and now, at the start of his ministry, he is baptized and all three persons of the Godhead show up at the very same time. The Son being obedient to the Father, The Father honouring the Son, and The Spirit empowering the whole scene.
From earliest days, Christians have had a triune faith. The earliest of creeds speaks of it: I believe in the Father
I believe in the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Images of the Trinity
We believe in the Trinity, but we have a hard time explaining it.
We are told that Patrick introduced the idea of the Trinity to the pagan Irish through the Shamrock – its leaf is has three sections, and yet it is one leaf
Others have used an egg to describe the trinity – it is one cell, but it has the shell, the white and the yolk
Some people compare the Trinity to fire having a flame, giving off both heat and light.
These Illustrations might be helpful to get our minds around the idea of something being three and being one, but the analogies cannot be pushed too far before they break down.
The Egg and the Shamrock make God appear very static, and they do not express any idea of the personhood of the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit.
Bob Burridge writes about how these illustrations miss the mark
“God is not presented in the Bible as three different things combining to form a unified idea or mere appearance. God’s substance, power and glory are shared by all members of the Trinity as individual persons distinguished from one another only in ways God has revealed.”
He also says:
“Many attempts to illustrate the Trinity fall into the error of modalism. Modalism says that there is one God, but he reveals himself to us in different forms at different times – sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, sometimes the Holy Spirit) One common illustration presents the godhead as being like water which may exist as a liquid, or as a solid (ice), or as a gas (water vapor). The claim is that all three are water. But these states of water are not like the Trinity. God does not transform himself from one person to the other but is all the time, altogether, all three persons. The distinction of the persons in God is not one of changing states of being.”