God is Three-in-one
God is One
When Moses asks God for His name, God replies, “I AM WHO I AM…. Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Exodus 3:14). He is the only true God. All other gods are imaginary, idols that mislead people from the true God. God is truth: idols are lies. God calls people to faith, while idols confirm lost souls in their estrangement from the Creator. God challenges people to live holy lives. In contrast, idols give permission for sinners to sin with abandon. Even though the world thinks that many gods and lords exist (as Paul notes in in 1 Corinthians 8:5), only one God truly exists (as Paul goes on to confirm in verse 6).
In His High Priestly Prayer (John 17), the Lord Jesus confesses the fundamental truth that only one God exists (verse 3). He describes eternal life as knowing the only true God and the One He has sent, the Lord Jesus Christ. He also talks about God as His Father and speaks about the Holy Spirit as someone distinct from the Father and the Son.
God in Three Persons
The Lord Jesus often speaks of God as Father. (John records use of “Father” some 60 times in chapters 12 to 21 of his Gospel). He mentions God the Holy Spirit five times in this section. In prayer, our Lord Jesus also calls Himself the Son of God (John 17 verse 1). Both the evangelist (chapter 20 verse 31) and Jesus’ enemies (chapter 19 verse 7) recognize the fact that the Lord Jesus claims a unique Sonship with the Father. His relationship with the Father is so close that He is able to say, “I and the Father are one” (chapter 10 verse 30).
In John chapter 3:16-18, the Lord Jesus identifies Himself as the “only begotten” Son (the translation “only Son” somewhat misses the point). The Father “begets” the Son and always has. Yet the Son is truly God (John chapter 1 verse 1). John even calls Him the “only begotten God” (Chapter 1:18, author’s translation). The Spirit, on the other hand, proceeds from the Father (chapter 15 verse 26) and the Son (Romans 8:9-11; Acts 16:7: Philippians 1:19: 1 Peter 1:11)
In this way, God reveals Himself as One God. The Son of God is begotten of the Father from eternity. No matter how far back we look, the Son lives with the Father. Likewise, the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit carries out the will of the Father by always leading people to the Son (John 16:13).
God’s ways are higher than our ways. Though He reveals Himself to us in the Scriptures, we cannot fully grasp who He is. However, a Mathematical illustration may help us to begin to understand.
1 + 1 +1 cannot equal 1. Nevertheless, 1 x 1 x 1 does equal 1!
Just as multiplication is a higher form of mathematics than addition, so God’s ways are higher than ours. Our heavenly Father does not ask us to understand His three-in-one nature. He asks us to trust in Him and leave the details to Him.
A scientific illustration can also be given from the state of water. Below a certain temperature water becomes ice, above freezing point it becomes flowing water and then if it it is boiled to 100C it becomes gas. However, it remains the same substance, so it is with God.
As you ponder the mystery of who God is, also turn your attention to what God does. God has not revealed His three-in-one nature in order to confuse you. He desires to show you the many aspects of His love and work of salvation.