How Can I Make Sense of the Trinity?
Among Christians, the Trinity is underappreciated and rarely taught. Meanwhile, atheists, Muslims, New Agers, and sub-Christian cults claim that the Trinity is a contradictory concept. But this us untrue. It would be a contradiction to say there is one God and three Gods, or one person and three persons. Following the biblical evidence, theologians say God is three persons in one divine essence. This has been the accepted view for almost 2,000 years. Admittedly, though it is a difficult concept, it is by no means incoherent or contradictory.
Inadequate ways of illustrating the Trinity include triangle diagrams and the phases of water (solid, liquid, gas). The best approach is to look at God's revelation of Himself in the Bible. There is only one God (Dt 6:4; Jms 2:19); the Father, Son, and Spirit are each divine (Mt 28:19; Rm 8:11); and the Father, Son, and Spirit are not the same persons, as we powerfully demonstrated at Jesus' baptism when Father, Son, and Spirit are present yet distinct from one another (Mt 3:13-17; Mk 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22). So central is the doctrine of the Trinity that you've swept away Christianity if you deny it!
Without the Trinity, God is only a self-existent monad; but with the Trinity, love and communication between the Father, Son, and Spirit have eternally existed – and despite our sin we are invited into that fellowship and love!
Without the Trinity, God becomes distant and unapproachable – a mere impersonal force. We lose the possibility of personal intimacy with God, which the NT urges us to cultivate (see Gl 4:6-7).
Without the Trinity, we lose the promise of salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9); we are no longer forgiven of our sins through Jesus' shed blood (1Pt 1:18-19). Instead, we are left trying to prove our worthiness to God through our own efforts – a hopeless proposition.
Without the Trinity, God did not love the world enough send His Son to win us back to Him (Jn 3:16), no Holy Spirit has been given to draw us to God, and we have no assurance that the God who created the universe cares for us.
Without the Trinity, God the Father did not raise the divine Christ from the dead. This means we have no hope of eternal life and are lost in our sins (1Co 15:17).
Without the Trinity, we can never experience the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, whom Jesus promised to send (Jn 14-16). And without the Holy Spirit, we cannot overcome sin or live lives that please God.
In short, the Trinity is the crown jewel of Christian theology. It is a profound mystery but an even more profound truth. Two principles must be kept in mind. First, we have nothing to be ashamed of, because God has revealed Himself as Trinity. Second, the Trinity is holy ground. We are trying to put our finite brains around a reality that is beautiful and deep beyond description. We will never understand the ultimate mystery of God's essential nature; but we can truly know and love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 1046.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of Mark that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.