Question: How can the concept of the Trinity be explained in a way that is both clear and biblically sound?
What a great Christmas season question!
Explaining the Trinity has vexed the Church from the beginning, not because it is unbiblical but because it is too easy to misrepresent the Trinity by using poor examples and analogies.
The Bible clearly states that there is one God (Dt. 6:4) who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit all share the same divine nature, yet they are three distinct persons who communicate with each other:
Gen. 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…
Jesus is one with the Father, yet a distinct person:
John 10:30 I and the Father are one.
The Spirit is a person and one with God in His holy nature:
John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Examples of misrepresenting the Trinity incude:
• God the Father created Jesus; the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force or power.
• The Trinity is actually three separate Gods.
• God took on the role of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. An example sometimes used is that of water taking on the alternate forms of ice or steam.
• God and Jesus are the same person, just perceived sometimes as the Son and other times as the Father.
Perhaps the best analogy for the Trinity has been supplied by God Himself in the creation of man as a triune being. It is still not a perfect analogy, but then again, there is nothing else in all existence that perfectly compares to God. According to the Bible, man was created in the image of God as a three-fold being: body, soul and spirit. The soul is conscious life that animates the body (Gen. 2:7); the spirit gives him understanding and a connection to God beyond that of other living beings:
Job 32:8 But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.
I can point to my face and say, “This is me; my name is Paul.” I am carrying out the action of a living soul, pointing to the body inhabited by that soul and expressing a basic spiritual understanding of my existence in the world. My body, soul and spirit all belong to my one nature (human being), yet are also three distinct entities in that one nature.
God in His essential nature has no body. He is, by definition, spirit (Jn. 4:24). The miracle of Christmas is that —
Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with
God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking
the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”