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Can you explain the Trinity?

One reader asked, “Can you explain the Trinity? What does it mean that the members of the Trinity submit to one another?”

The trinity is one of those concepts that you hear Christians talk about, but the word is never actually used in the Bible. Just because the word trinity is never used, however, doesn't mean that the concept isn't real. The word dinosaur didn’t exist until 1842, but that doesn’t mean that the bones didn’t exist in the ground prior to that point in time. People just used different terms to describe them prior to that point in time.

So, what does the Bible teach about the trinity? The trinity is the idea that (1) God exists as three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), (2) that each person is fully God, (3) yet there is still only one God.

Seems like a giant mind twist? That’s because it is, and herein lies the problem. When people try to explain the trinity, they tend abandon one of those three core concept and wind up creating heresy - teaching something counter to the Bible.

The Trinity being three persons does not mean forms of God, like Zeus visiting earth in the form of a mortal or water being solid, liquid or a gas. The Trinity exists together and independently of one another as a single being <insert brain melting>. In other words, the Father isn't the Son, the Son isn't the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit isn't the Father. They are distinct yet one. The primary distinction is in relationship to one another.

The Bible teaches that God is three distinct persons, but it also says that each of the persons is fully God. The Father is God. The Bible clearly teaches this clearly from cover to cover. The Scriptures also teach that Jesus Christ the Son is also fully God.

In the beginning of John's Gospel, John writes that in the beginning was the Word, or the revelation of God, meaning Jesus and Jesus was with God (the Father) and was, in fact, God. Jesus' followers thought he was God too.

The Holy Spirit is also fully God, not some inanimate force. Before Jesus ascends into heaven, he gives a mission to his followers. He tells them to go out and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself places the Holy Spirit on the same level as the Father and the Son.

Later, in the early days of the church, we see the Holy Spirit actively filling the role of God. In one story, a couple lies to some of the apostles and they respond by essentially saying, "Why did you lie to the Holy Spirit? Don't you know you lied to God" (Acts 5:3-4)? The Holy Spirit is a distinct person from the Father and the Son, but the Bible refers to him as fully God as well.

The third and final point of the trinity is that there is only one God. This is where it gets even more confusing. The Jews used to recite this statement over and over again called the Shema. It basically said, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one!" In other words, God is our God and he is the only God! There are not three gods, 100 gods, pagan gods, or alternate options. The Bible says that there is one option - God - and nothing else exists. Anything else isn't a lesser god, it isn't a god at all - it's a lie. One verse summarizes this idea really succinctly: "I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God" (Isa 45:5a).

In the middle of all of this confusion, each member of the Trinity, although fully God in essence, has a relationally distinct role to play. Similar to the way that a husband and wife should mutually serve one another, the three Persons of the triune Godhead voluntarily submit to each other in roles.

In this respect, the Father sent the Son into the world and these roles are never reversed. The Son doesn’t send the Father. Jesus submitted his will in the Garden of Gethsemane to that of the Father. Soon after his ascension, the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus and comes from the Father to testify concerning, and therefore glorify, Jesus.

Biblically, all three Persons of the Trinity have the same essence and nature, but each One has different roles when it comes to how God relates to the world. Our salvation is based on the Father’s power and love, the Son’s death and resurrection, and the Spirit’s regeneration and sealing.

I hope that you are thoroughly confused. I know I am.