Holy Trinity: Three in One
We, as Christians, believe in a triune God, but there are still a lot of people out there that don’t understand how that works. This concept is purely Christian and not held by any other religious group. This is the first of two articles where we are going to explore this concept and try to grasp how this idea works. In this first article we are going to use comparisons to try to explain how God can be three in one. By the end of the second article I am hoping to explain how there is one God in three parts, all three parts are equal and all three know and love each other.
The holy trinity is the belief that God is made up of three separate parts while maintaining the image of one God. Another way of saying it is three persons in one being. The proper name for this belief system is trinitarianism. The opposite of that is Unitarianism which believes that God is only one person, classifying the Son as a prophet and the Spirit as an angel. Trinitarians, which is what we are as Christians, believe that God is three separate beings making one Godhead. The trinity consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The greatest question that comes from this is, ‘how could three separate entities be considered one God?’ This is a great question with a long and confusing answer. The way I like to try to explain things is by using examples that are common in our society in order to make a comparison. The concept of the holy trinity has many such comparisons out there, but they are not all great comparisons. One such comparison is to a chicken egg. To be more specific, the comparison is usually made to the shell, the yoke and the whites. Notice that there are three parts that make up the entire egg in the same way that there are three persons in God. There are weaknesses in this comparison though because each part of the egg is different and can be separated from one another and be distinct from one another. The three parts of the Holy Trinity, however, are all the same and therefore interchangeable. They may function in different ways, but they are always connected to one another and always know what the others are doing. I will try to explain this idea more in a later chapter, but for now let’s return to the egg comparison. The one concept of the egg that I do like is the roles of each part of the egg.
The shell (which represents the Father) provides security for the yoke and whites; the yoke (which represents the Son) provides the promise of life within the shell; the whites (which represents the Spirit) give the developed yoke sustenance to survive while in the shell. Once the yoke, or at this point baby chick, is ready, it breaks free from the shell. However, what most people may not know is the chick then eats part of the shell. Now, this baby chick has consumed the whites and part of the shell. What does that mean? That chick, in a loose and arguably weak comparison, now has those whites and part of the shell within its body. In a similar manner, we have the holy spirit, and therefore part of God, within our own bodies. I know, this is a weak argument, but hopefully you get the idea that I am trying to get across. I still don’t think that comparing the Trinity to an egg is a great comparison, except perhaps for the roles of each part. Even that is weak because the role of the Trinity is that the Father planned everything, the Son Accomplished what was planned and then the Spirit reveals all of that to us. I think it is safe to say that the Holy Trinity is far more complex than an egg.
Another comparison that is common is water. That may sound weird but water can come in three separate states: ice, water and vapor. Though this comparison is better in the fact that water is composed of the exact same elements (H20) in all three states, it cannot be all three states at the same time. You can either have ice, water or vapor. To be more clear, a single water molecule cannot be in three states at one time. You could boil water on the stove until it starts to steam and then add some ice to it which gives you three states of water in the same location, but even though it is all water made of the same elements, there are many different water molecules in play. God, however, can be the Father, Son and Spirit all at one time and in unity as one being.
Let’s switch it up and look at a pie. If you would compare your favorite type of pie to the triune God then you would lean towards thinking that the Father is a third, the Son is a third and the Spirit is a third. That wouldn’t be right, however, because Colossians 2:9-10 says, “9 For in him (Jesus) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” This is telling us that Jesus is fully God. If Jesus is fully God then He can’t be a third of the pie, but rather all three pieces are in fact the full pie. We can’t, and shouldn’t, limit the Father, Son and Spirit to fractions of the Godhead when they are all in fact fully God.
We can then take this a step further and look at a human being. In a similar manner to the egg, each one of you reading this is also made up of three separate parts. There is even biblical evidence for this. If we look at the moment when Jesus is challenged with the question of which of the commandments is the greatest, all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27) give the almost exact same response from Jesus. That response is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus is implying that we are made up of a heart, mind and soul. In the same way that the egg needs all three parts in order to be an egg, we need these three together to make us who we are. Again, this could be considered weak if you view your heart as an internal organ and your mind as your brain. Those could be separated from your body, and if they were then your soul would also leave your body. However, you could also view your heart as your spirit, your mind as consciousness and your soul as what it is. In this view, you cannot separate one from the other and they are all in unity with one another. Looking at it from that viewpoint, hopefully you can see how the triune God can work in unison with each part. God just has the power to spread His three parts over vast distances of time and space at the same time while remaining united.
Though no single comparison can fully grasp how the Trinity works, hopefully the ones I covered in this article can help you grasp the idea of how three separate parts can be contained in one entity. The egg has three distinct parts making one egg, water can exist in three states, each part of the Trinity is not just a piece of the pie but the whole pie and man is made up of three aspects in our own being. The truth is that we can’t fully comprehend the Trinity in its entirety, but we can try to develop a working knowledge of how the Trinity can work as one. If you can understand that then you will develop a better, deeper and more loving relationship with God.
If you would like to learn more about sin and satan then you can read our six part series on that topic that starts with “Where Did Sin Come From?” You can also read “What is Spiritual Fitness?” or “What Does the Bible Say About Anxiety?”