“That our idea of God corresponds as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.” – A.W. Tozer, “The Knowledge of the Holy,” ch. 1
Last week, we noted that any proper discussion of our understanding of who God is and how He works begins with an agreement on the ultimate authority in the discussion. While beginning with the same authority is no guarantee that we will all end up at the same point, it is certainly critical for determining the boundaries of the discussion. The theology review from last week centered on the nature of the Scriptures. This week, our focus is the Tri-une nature of God (the Trinity).
Many greater minds than mine (which is quite a list) have attempted to explain how God is one, yet there are three persons in the Godhead. Some have likened it to an egg with three parts, but one egg or water in three states or one man in three roles (father, son and husband). Ultimately, all illustrations fall short of explaining this marvelous truth.
There are some great truths that the Bible proclaims, but never explains: this is one of them. The Scriptures clearly identify God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit as equal in being, attributes, power and in authority, and distinct as persons, yet somehow, God is One. And this truth is so clearly taught in Scripture that any deviation from the classic formulation of the doctrine has been considered heresy since the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. This truth is reiterated in the statement put out by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D.
“If anyone does not confess that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one nature or essence, one power or authority, worshipped as a trinity of the same essence, one deity in three hypostases or persons, let him be anathema.”
Even though our best efforts will fall short of explaining the tri-une nature of God, we can clearly see some of the implications of this important doctrine. For instance, that God is Three in One means that prior to creation, God was sufficient within Himself. There was perfect love, unity and fellowship within the Godhead. God was sufficient within Himself. One implication of this is that God did not create out of a need for fellowship, or any other need. God didn’t create to gain anything, but to display. God created to display and to spread His Glory. That God created us in order to display His glory in us and that the earth would be filled with His glory helps me appreciate His great love for us. Another implication is for the unity of the body of Christ. Jesus, reflecting on the perfect unity of the Father and Spirit with Himself, prayed that the church would experience the same unity (John 17).
Take some time this week to dwell upon the nature of the Godhead. It may be the first time in years that you have done so. Why is this an important doctrine for the church? If you have time, follow the link at the bottom of the page to an online copy of A.W. Tozer’s book “The Knowledge of the Holy.” It will be profitable reading.
We believe in one God, eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are identical in essence, equal in power and glory, and possess precisely the same attributes and perfection (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19, 2 Cor. 13:14).