How can God be “one” (Deut. 6:4) and three persons (Matt. 28:19-20)? The nature of God is the foundation of our religion, so we should try to understand God as best we can. However, we will never fully understand anything about God. We should not expect to fully understand God. He is God and we are his creation. Even though we will never understand God fully, God has revealed himself to us so that we may understand him partially.
The doctrine of the Trinity or the “three in oneness” of God, is difficult if not impossible to understand. The best we can do is to examine the Biblical data and believe what we are taught by God in the Word. First, we note that God is one. Jesus taught this in Matthew 4:10 from Deuteronomy 6:13. But does this mean that God is one in number or one in nature?
So, we have to go further. First, we are taught Jesus is eternal like the Father, eternally with the Father, and fully like the Father. In Hebrews 1 Jesus is described as the one who relates to the Father as Son and Spokesman (Heb. 1:2); the Creator of the universe (Heb. 1:3); the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb. 1:3); the One who upholds the universe (Heb. 1:3); the one who has made purification for sin and has been placed at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 1:3). So, the Bible teaches that Jesus is fully equal with the Father, exactly like the Father, and distinct from the Father. The Holy Spirit is also described as fully God. Peter asked Ananias and Sapphira why they lied to the Holy Spirit and then referred to the Holy Spirit as God (Acts 5:3, 4). The Spirit is also listed with the Father and Son as authoritative and active in salvation (Matt. 28:19; 1 Pet. 1:2).
So, the Bible teaches both that God is “one” and that the Father, Son, and Spirit are God. How can that be? Go back to Hebrews 1:3 where Jesus was described as “the exact imprint” of God’s nature. In other words, Jesus is exactly like the Father. Jesus isn’t just a lot like the Father. Jesus is exactly like the Father. There is absolutely no difference in the essence or nature of the Father from the Son or the Spirit. Jesus is described as “the Son” because that is how he relates to the “the Father.” The Spirit is described as the Spirit to differentiate him from the Son and the Father. There is no hierarchy, but there are intra-Trinitarian relations and identical persons.
Is God one? Yes. Are there three who are God? Yes. Are there three Gods? No. God is one. The Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons who are identical in their divine nature, will, and power. That is mysterious. But that is what the Biblical data teaches. Therefore, when we come to God, we come to the Father in the Son through the Spirit. This Triunity is the perfect display of perfect love. We then should love our Triune God perfectly.
D. L. D.