5 Keys that Help Unlock the Mystery of the Trinity

I was speaking with a man whose comment crystallized for me what a lot of people wonder. We were talking about Christianity when he suddenly blurted out, “I don’t see what the big deal about Jesus is!”

CC Image courtesy of NASA on Flickr

As a nearly lifelong follower of Christ and a pastor, his statement shocked me a little.

How can we answer if someone asks: “What is the big deal about Jesus? Is he some form of deity? And what is this thing called the Trinity?”

Here is what the big deal is in a sentence: The Bible tells us that Jesus was God in a human body.

Scripture calls Jesus “the Word” or the human expression of God. It says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

This statement begs the question: “If Jesus was God, then who was He praying to in Heaven?”

Jesus gave the answer: “‘I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these.’ Replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’” (John 10:30-33)

Jesus was separate and yet “one” with God. He claimed to be one with God, and the Bible repeatedly backs up His claim. Scripture says Jesus has the character and does the works of Almighty God. He is:

The Bible says similar things about the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we understand that there is a Trinity: one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

To understand the Trinity we have to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ—which is the hardest truth about Jesus to accept for many people like my friend. Jesus’ divinity unlocks the mystery of the Trinity, which is foundational to the Christian faith.

Here are 5 keys that help unlock the mystery the Trinity:

1. Trinity Mathematics

Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father together make up the ‘the Trinity” or the tri-unity.

  • God the Father
  • God the Son
  • God the Holy Spirit

A definition of the Trinity: There is one God and this one God is in three persons.

The concept is not three Gods, but three persons in one God.

  • God is not 1 + 1 + 1 = 3
  • God is 1 x 1 x 1 = 1

The Trinity is NOT:

  • God the Father as one person, with Jesus as a creation and the Holy Spirit as the force. (The Jehovah’s Witness belief)
  • An office held by three separate Gods. (The Mormon belief)
  • God’s divine nature in the Son, so Jesus had a human nature perceived as the Son and a divine nature perceived as the father. (The Oneness Theology belief)
  • God taking three forms, i.e. the Father, became the Son who later became the Holy Spirit. Instead, God is forever in three persons.

2. The Example of H2O

H2O is water which can be:

  • Liquid
  • Ice
  • Steam

If H2O can be all three and still be one in essence, why can’t God exist as Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

3. The Example of Time

In time we have:

  • The Past
  • The Present
  • The Future

If I asked you “What is time?” and you answered, “It is the past.” I could rightly say, “No, it is the present.” And you could “correct” me and say, “No, it is the future.” But actually all three statements would be correct.

All three are distinctly different but each one is “time” in itself.

4. The Example of Space

With space we have:

  • Height
  • Width
  • Depth

Each is distinct, yet we are not describing three different spaces, but one space.

5. The Example of Matter

All matter (Like H2O) consists of:

  • Solid
  • Liquid
  • Gas

With the 3 examples of time, space and matter we have a trinity of trinities—a striking illustration of the essence of God in the essence of His creation.

No illustration is perfect—God is beyond our human comprehension. Hopefully these five keys help you to at least better understand the Trinity.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • llaboss

    Thanks for the clarity on this subject Mark.

    • Mark Alan Williams

      You bet

  • Mark Alan Williams

    My friend Mel Holland emailed the following from Spain (he couldn’t access this comment area:

    enjoyed your post a lot. It reminded me of something I’ve taught through the years from Romans 1:20.

    Here’s the outline for you:

    Romans 1:20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

    a. His invisible attributes are clearly perceived

    1). His eternal power: the act of God

    The vastness of space, the energy of the sun, the power of the volcano

    The two laws of Thermodynamics prove creation

    a). The conservation of energy – it isn’t created nor destroyed

    b). The degradation of energy – the tendency to atrophy (disorder)

    2). His deity: the nature of God

    θειότης (theiótes): divinity, divine nature or essence

    Life (personal), variety, the tri-unity of the universe (see below)

    b. By the things made, ever since the creation of the world

    The tri-unity in the creation

    The Universe: space, mass/energy, time

    Space: length, width, depth

    Like God the Father – the invisible background in which all occurs

    Mass: solid, liquid, vapor / Energy: nuclear, electro-magnetic, kinetic

    Like God the Son – the manifestation of God in the world

    Time: past, present, future

    Like God the Spirit – impossible to experience anything without HimPsalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

  • Mark Alan Williams

    My friend Jayakumar emailed this comment from India:
    I read through your thoughts on Trinity. Great.

    JI Packer mentions in his book “Knowing God” that Trinity is a divine secret which cannot be illustrated by any human/nature realities. I do believe it, as Packer says. Essential of Trinity is co-equality, co-essentiality, and co-existentiality of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Illustrations often marr the reality of co-existentiality. I am so glad you have mentioned about the limitations of illustrations.

    One more thought – in Hindu theology there is a concept what we call is “Tritheism.” Brahmmha, Vishnu, and Shiva. They identify that as Hindu Trinity.

    • Mark Alan Williams

      Isn’t it interesting that Hinduism tries to impersonate the Trinity. Sad.