I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)
People often wonder at the doctrine of the Trinity. It seems like no matter what you say about the Trinity, someone else will say, “No, that’s not quite right.” In a post on Facebook this week, a pastor said, “Never start a sentence with ‘The Trinity is like…’ because whatever ends that sentence is probably heresy.” So, what is the Trinity all about?
Another pastor posted a quote that is a great starting point. “Trinity is what we ended up with when we started testifying to the experience that the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead.”
The early church was trying to make sense of what people had encountered in Jesus. On the one hand he seemed so human – flesh and blood like the rest of us. On the other hand, Jesus brought with him the voice of the divine. It was like listening to him was hearing directly from God. Then when the resurrection happened people began to see that the one who made life, the creator, was at work in him in a unique way. The same God who had made the world was at work in Jesus, and instead of seeming far off, this encounter with God was right here “in the flesh.” Likewise, after the resurrection, people of faith began to sense that somehow the presence of Christ continued with them wherever they were. There was a newfound closeness to the God who before Jesus had seemed mostly far away.
As a result, Christians developed a Trinitarian understanding of God. Yes, there was only one God. But the divine essence of that one God was in three persons. These three persons were all eternal – already present and in relationship with each other before the first day of creation began.
Ultimately, Christianity believes in one God who is too big to be contained in one person. At the heart of that huge God is love. The Trinity reminds us that the three persons of the Trinity loved one another even before God made the world in order to have even more to love. There are a lot of flawed analogies to explain the Trinity, but behind it all, the bottom line is that the Trinity is how Christians encounter a God who is way bigger than any single image can communicate. Love and relationships are at the heart of this. And meeting the risen Jesus presses us to meet a God who is far more than we might have imagined on our own.