God in Three Persons: Understanding the Trinity

Many people are easily confused when they hear about God. Do Christians believe in three gods or one God with three personalities? How does this work?

The concept of the Trinity comes from 1 John:

"For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one."

I know it sounds strange. Three can't equal one, right?

Many analogies have been posed to explain this. Some people say that God is like water; water can be liquid, solid, or gaseous, but it always remains water. But this is inadequate, for it would make God seem like one Being with three different forms over history. We know that the personalities of the Trinity are separate because Jesus often spoke about corresponding with His Father.

Another analogy that is often posed is that of an apple. Apples are composed of skin, meat, and seeds, but it is all part of the same apple.

This also fails. True, together these three parts make up an apple, but they are only part of an apple by themselves. Each person of the Godhead is God, not just "part of" God.

So what is God? There is a relatively simple explanation: God is one "what" and three "who-s". But this can be hard to grasp.

The best analogy that I have heard to describe God is as follows:

Space is composed of three dimensions: height, length and depth. Each of these are space; if there is height between two objects, there is 3-D space between them, if there is length between two objects, there is 3-D space between them, and if there is depth between two objects, there is still three-dimensional space between them.

But without any one of the three dimensions, the concept of space is meaningless. Space becomes either a vertical or a horizontal plane when deprived of one of its elements.

And still, each dimension is space in and of itself.

I'll close with a verse from Ephesians that has an interesting connotation when viewed in the light of this analogy:

". . . that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height --- of the love of Christ.

In Him, D3


SecDef said...

Umm, I wouldn't use that Scripture; as it is not found on any Greek manuscripts older than the 1500s. :)

jonCV said...

what about the fourth dimension-time.

and the six sense....

David S. MacMillan III said...

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, and for instruction in righteousness", secdef.


We can't comprehend the fourth dimension because we cannot traverse it as we can the other three. Therefore, it cannot be used in the analogy.

Actually, there are 8 senses:

Before modern medicine, man generally recognized that he had five senses, sight sound, touch, taste and smell. The so-called sixth sense was thought to be an extra sense hence the term Extra Sensory Perception or ESP. It is now known that we have three other senses, balance, proprioception, and a sense of direction. Anything paranormal would have to be moved down the list to the `ninth sense’.

SecDef said...

David, yes, I believe that all Scripture is God-breathed, etc. But I do have a problem with that particular verse, since it is not found in any Greek manuscript older than the 1500s. That leads me to believe that it was added by well-intentined, but misguided, persons. Scripture also warns us against adding to it. :)

PS: If you feel this comment is argumentative, feel free to delete it. :)

SecDef said...

BTW, speaking about dimensions, I heard that, a few hundred years ago, some Jewish men came to the conclusion from reading Genesis 1 that there were 10 dimensions - 4 were knowable, and six unknowable. Today, modern science has 'discovered' that there are 10 dimensions; 4 measurable, and six that can only be referred to indirectly. Just thought that was interesting. :)

gabriel said...

i thought one important factor that you seemed to leave out is that all three are equal.

David S. MacMillan III said...

Oops! I certainly do agree that all three are equal (as is also supported by the space analogy).

In response to those who would call this a contradiction (Jesus stated on several occasions that His Father was greater than He), I would point out that the relationship between the Father and the Son is the same as a father and son on the same board of directors. They both "hold the same clout", but there is a respect for the Father by the Son that is different from a simple, "equal" arrangement. Of course, the three Persons of the Godhead never disagree (they have the same nature so they react the same in all situations), so there is no contradiction there.

Anonymous said...

Hi, David:

Thanks to the Father and the Lord for giving us the Holy Spirit like a fire in us like in Acts 2!

I am glad to sense that fire in you. I am very glad to come across your blog through Google.

I am 51 years old. Since 19 years old, I have been seeking to know what the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit want to reveal to us in unity through Hebrew and Greek Scriptures about They are God, a God, one God, or three Gods.

Do you think that the following system of logical statements are consistent with the Scriptures?

The Father is fully God.
The Son is fully God.
The Holy Spirit is fully God.
Someone who is fully God is a God.
Therefore, the Father is a God, The Son is a God, and the Holy Spirit is a God.
If Each of Them is a God, then three of Them are three Gods as suggested by the Hebrew word Elohim in Genesis 1:1.

For Ancient Hebrew according to La Sor's Handbook of Biblical Hebrew, the number of a noun can be singular for one, dual for two, and plural for three or more. Elohim is plural.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are truly worthy of our worship because Each of Them are fully God yet They are accomplishing Their common purpose of Creation through Salvation together in perfect love and harmony to Each Other. They are truly our perfect Examples of oneness or unity in love as our Lord and Savior prayed for us in John 17:11 and 17:22.

In Christ,

Mr. Chin-Lee Chan