Trinity: Love and Relationship Revealed through Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
Previously, I spoke about what Christmas is. Jesus Christ was born on Christmas, he is Immanuel, God with us and fully man, fully divine. God crossed the infinite divide between divine and mankind to come to us. Since we couldn’t go to God, He came to us to have a relationship with us
Today, I want to talk about why God wants a relationship with us. In particular, I am going to be focusing on the Christian belief of Trinity. Trinity is one of the most fundamental Christian beliefs, but many have hard time understanding.
Rather than a theological course to “prove” the Trinity from the standpoint of knowledge, I want to understand Trinity from the standpoint of God’s loving relationship with us. So I hope you’ll understand why I’m starting with this verse.
In Matthew 4:18-22, this is the beginnings of Jesus’ first relationships with his disciples. Jesus says “Come, follow me” to these fisherman and these people turn great people, set up church. It’s an insignificant moment went you look at it outwardly, but history was made at this insignificant moment, and it changed lives of these otherwise forgotten people. These fishermen made relationship with Jesus and from seemingly insignificant moment, history started.
When people think about relationships, they often think about how they met their spouse. In this world, in the craziness of almost 7.5B people, I met one person began relationship with this person. Paul describes a relationship as a profound mystery in Ephesians 5:32. Like Jesus’ relationship with the church is a profound mystery, a relationship and connection we have with another person is a profound mystery. With diversity/scope of many people in world, one person becomes my spouse, another person becomes my friend, and another person I start a business or church together.
In today’s Bible passages, this was a significant relationship beginning for these disciples. Later on, as they became great early church leaders, they probably thought about this moment. Because their relationship with Jesus was the core of their faith, they thought about Jesus a lot, who was Jesus and they had to answer others about Jesus.
The first three centuries of the early church were dominated by Christology. Think about being an early Christian. The Old Testament, established Jewish faith as only 1 God, but early Christians encountered Jesus, a first century rabbi who taught to pray loving Father God. Therefore, it was Jesus established the Father as God.
They saw JC crucified and rise again, this experience was so profound worship the Son Jesus Christ as God. 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit came filled those Christians with his love and the experience with the HS was just like they had with Jesus, so they started talking about HS in same way Jesus, as God.
Therefore in Christian faith, you have Jesus talking about relationship with Father God, Jesus himself the Son who died and resurrected and have a personal relationship, and finally the Holy Spirit who reveals Jesus and the Father to us. Paul clearly spoke about these three Father, Son, Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians 13:14. And what Paul said here was just common saying among believers in early church.
But speaking about these 3, how do you reconcile the 3 but still talk about 1 God? This was one of theological debates of early Church that was dominated by Christology. Eventually the early church expressed this as Trinity, which in other words means three in one. He is one single, undivided God but at the same time 3 distinct persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This causes a lot of confusion among non-Christians, is it 1 or 3? The math doesn’t make sense. It seems like Christians worship 3 different Gods, how they say worship 1 God? Christians confused too. Aren’t we contradicting ourselves saying we believe in 1 God, but believe in Trinity? Especially in Islamic countries, you’ll find Christian belief in Trinity is strongly criticized.
But what I want to say today is that the Trinity touches the core of Christianity and our belief in God. It speaks inherently about God and His relationship with us. Understanding Trinity helps us understand what Christian faith is about how to share it with others.
To help us understand Trinity, 3 in 1, let’s first talk about our use of language in speaking about God. Thomas Aquinas, said simple layers of words aren’t sufficient for us to understand God. We might say “I love you” to someone, but when we say “God loves you”, the “love” is different.
Aquinas argues that when speaking about God, we need to have “analogical” use of language. For example, one person might say to another, I’m hurt because I love you, you don’t love me. This is a common human emotion to feel hurt when something like that happens. But understanding God in same context – God is hurt because God loves us, we don’t love him.
The hurt is different here, God hurts for a different reason. I’m hurt because I’ve lost something, but God hurts because you have lost something. It’s an analogical use of language raises the level of nature and understanding of God. I’m hurt when I’m lost in a relationship. But God is hurt not like us, He’s hurt because I’m hurt. So when we understand God analogically, we can understand God’s love different level.
When talking about the Trinity, the language of saying “1” and “3” is different sense than simple math. We might look at 1 and 3 and say, 1 is completely different than 3. But when speaking about God, He is 1 in one sense and 3 in another sense, language is important. God is not 1 and 3 in the same sense, same level here. God is not an entity or a physical quantity that we can compare 1 and 3 on the same terms like us. We are physical beings so we talk about 1 and 3 physically. God is spiritual being at His core, 1 God/3 persons (Father, Son, HS) is different physical beings. This is a completely different context.
C.S. Lewis gave this example from geometry – if you have 1 dimension you have a line, if you have 2 dimensions you have a figure (square), if you have 3 dimensions you have an object (cube). Lewis is saying that as you rise in dimensions, you don’t leave behind the simpler dimensions, they are still their but combined in new ways couldn’t imagine at the simpler dimensions. Understanding God and us is the same way, we can see that human level is simple. Humans understand 1 person as 1 being, 2 persons as 2 different beings.
Lewis says the divine level still have different personalities, but they are combined ways can’t imagine:
“In God’s dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it. And when we do, we are then, for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea, however faint, of something super-personal – something more than a person. It is something we could never have guessed, and yet, once we have been told, one almost feels one ought to have been able to guess it because it fits in so well with all the things we know already.”
As you rise in dimension, the same basic information is there, but it becomes more complex. God is not in the dimension of finitude that we are in, God is an infinite being. And so Trinity of 3 in 1 is a different understanding than the simplicity of our physical world. Understanding God is different than the simplicity of our physical world. So, I hope you that is clear to everyone, why God can 3 and 1 and not contradict, this is Trinity.
If that is clear, the next important topic is why God must be 3 in 1, why must God be Trinity? To understand why God must be Trinity, here is quote from Ravi Zacharias, “In the complexity of the very being of God, there is an “I” and “you” relationship within the Godhead.” Out of all the religions in this world, only in Christianity do we see unity in diversity in God the creator. Only in Christianity is God both 3 and 1, Trinity
Think about it, Islam has a monadic concept of God “Allah”, no Trinity. Muslims will criticize Christianity saying we have a plurality of gods in the Trinity, but this is not true. Christians believe Lord God is one. In complexity of Trinity, there is one God, relationship 3 persons.
In fact, it’s when have monadic concept of God, like Islam, there comes other philosophical problems. If God says He loves, then who was He loving before the Creation? If God says He speaks, then who was He speaking to before the Creation?
Only in the Christian faith in Trinity do we see that communication and love is contained in the Godhead from the beginning. God speaks and God loves in the community of the Trinity. In the Trinity, God exists in this relationship of love and community already. And this is very important for us to understand the Christian faith.
It’s only in the Christian faith do we believe that love comes before life. In all other religions, love is defined as coming after life. If love comes after life, then the love is dependent on the life. This means that love is defined by the creation, we define love on our own terms. There is no absolute reference, there is no absolute love, if life comes first. In the Christian faith in Trinity, we can see where absolute love comes from. We can love because God is Trinity, God is love – 1 John 4:8.
Mortimer Adler a Jewish philosopher who became Christian said, “There will have to be majesty and mystery in God himself. To me the Trinity is a revelation of how God is complete in Himself in one being as They relate in love and in language.”
The gospel writers, Paul, early church fathers, theologians debating about Christology all did not come to the conclusion of the Trinity without a reason. Trinity is something you know deep in your heart. We have a desire for love, desire for communication, we have a deep desire for relationship.
Love is the heart of existence and God is love, then it’s in Trinity that we hunger for relationship. It’s revealed in the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Is it one vs three? No, it’s one is one sense, three in another sense, it’s not mathematical issue. Trinity is the very nature of being of God – unity inside of diversity in the community of the Trinity
Perhaps it’s only when we go to heaven will we know why God makes us hunger relationships. But this is a deep desire inside of us, it’s a deep desire in all of creation. That’s really the reason for today’s message, even more than understanding Trinity. It’s understanding that all of creation, all lost souls out their desire for relationship. We desire for relationships, we desire for community and that is what our church here is for.
Jesus called his disciples “Come, follow me” and built a relationship with them. We are called to build a relationship with the lost souls out in the world. This is in order so that they can build a relationship with God. That they can know the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Trinity.
Hope that through today’s message, we were able to understand the Trinity better. Through the Trinity, we can see the deep love of God, nature of God in that. God wants a relationship with us, we were created in that way. There are Ss many lost souls, let’s go out and build relationships with people. Let them also be the ones to “Come” and follow Jesus in their lives.