God, Jesus, Holy Spirit – what?!
Christians talk about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – but then claim that there's only one God. How does it work?
Within that God is a community of three distinct persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. These persons of God are not parts of God: they are all completely God, yet they are all completely one. We call this relationship of God with himself the trinity.
The trinity is a mysterious concept to us. Living within the dimensions of the physical world, our minds can’t stretch to understand how something can be singular and multiple at the same time. The best we can do is find parallels from the world we know. For example, some people suggest that the trinity of God is like H20, which has three states: water, ice and steam. That’s a helpful picture in showing something that can be the same but different, although it falls flat in describing how those distinct personalities have a dynamic and personal relationship.
Even though we don’t understand exactly how the trinity works, we can see it at work in the Bible. One of those times was at the baptism of Jesus, when the Father spoke his approval of Jesus from heaven, and the Holy Spirit came down to rest on Jesus.
At the end of his time on earth, Jesus told the people with him, ‘Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ When followers are baptised, they show they belong to the family of God: that they have entered a relationship with God as the Father, the Son and the Spirit.
The relationship of the three members of the trinity shows the character of God as well as giving us a pattern for how we should relate to God and others. God is love, and he didn’t need us so that he could live in love: he already existed in a self-contained community of love. We were invited to join this relationship because of his abundant, self-giving generosity.
In the Bible, we see each of the persons of God honouring, serving and submitting to the others. The wonder is not just that we have this perfect model of love to follow, but also that we are invited to join this family. When we give ourselves to Jesus, we become sons and daughters of God by adoption – brothers and sisters of Jesus! And when the Holy Spirit lives in us, we have full access to God.
God the Father is sometimes seen as the personal but separate being that the people of the Old Testament knew as God. This is the being who is perfect, supreme, infinite and completely above and beyond the limited understanding of the human heart and mind. This is the God who is incomprehensible to us, yet who seeks a relationship with us.
In order to forge that relationship, God sent himself as Jesus, the human expression of God, the visible form of the invisible God. Jesus is all of God represented in a man. He is completely perfect, supreme and infinite, but he has made himself visible to human perception. In Jesus, God provided the way to reconcile people to himself.
The Holy Spirit is the person that relates to us from inside us when we enter a relationship with God. He helps to know God, because we have God inside us to help us talk with God. He is the one that helps us understand and experience the Father and the Son. Jesus sent him to us when he left earth, so that the Spirit would help, empower, teach, reveal, comfort, and strengthen us. He gives us everything we need to live God’s life and relate to God.