“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Today is the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. It is a day that fills preachers with dread, because we are expected to speak about the Holy Trinity, and explain how a triune God can be one. You know the argument because I am sure you have thought about it yourself. If God is one, how can there be three persons, and what is the nature and function of each. I am going to come clear and say, “I don’t know.”
The Dominican friar, Thomas Aquinas, says that when we speak of God there is only one thing we can be sure of: that we’re wrong! No matter what we say about him, he is so much more than that. The only thing we can be sure of is that he is love, and this is summed up in the passage we read today. The rest of it, especially the Holy Trinity, is a mystery, and one that is pretty much unsolvable for us as we are now: mortal human beings.
However, an idea might help us understand how three can be one. Have you heard of H2O? It’s two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom to produce — yes, water! But there are three phases of water: liquid, which is the water we drink; solid, which are the ice cubes we put in the water we drink; and vapor; which is steam. But in all three phases their molecular structure remains the same: H2O. Where this analogy does NOT fit is that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not forms of God; each is God.
But how do we get the idea of the Holy Trinity, because God is never defined as such in the Bible? Look for the word ‘Trinity’, you won’t find it, any more than you will find the word ‘purgatory’. So, how? Because the IDEA of the Trinity is contained in Scripture in several places, a notable one being Jesus’ instructions to baptize nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:18-20). Another is a description of the baptism of Jesus where all three are found together. I have listed a few others in the Description Box below.
The most beautiful thing about the Holy Trinity is how they worked together in creation, knitting the universe out of nothing; how they worked together in our atonement of our sins; and how they continue to work together in all aspects of our redemption. As a parting thought, imagine if we were part of the Holy Trinity. The universe has already been created; our sins have already been atoned for; which only leaves the work of redemption. If we were part of the Trinity, would we work in unity with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, or would we want to have our own way?
Think about it for a moment. What is your answer? Did you say you would work in unity? Well, you know what? In a way we are part of the Trinity because Jesus is the head of the body we call the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). And that is us.
Links to Scripture verses:
Genesis 1:1, 26; 3:22; 11:7
Isaiah 6:8, 48:16, 61:1;
Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19;
2 Corinthians 13:14