Muslims charge that Christians worship three gods. Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses make the same accusation. The word, Trinity, offends them.
Even some Christians are vague about what Trinity means because it seems mysterious. Mysterious indeed: God reveals himself first as one God, and, at the same time, as three Persons in one Godhead.
When God addressed Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3) Moses’ world reeked with many gods and he knew that. Yet, Moses did not ask, “Which God is this now?” From the beginning, it was revealed to him that there was only one true God for all to reckon with.
Listen to the Shema of the Old Testament: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). In that ancient world teeming with gods, the Old Testament holds Jehovah to be “the Sovereign Lord” (Hab. 3:19).
The New Testament continues the claim. During Jesus’ forty-day fast, Satan tried to entice him to worship him. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only’” (Lk. 4:8).
At the same time, Scriptures show that this One God manifests himself in three persons, and this reality is repeatedly set forth.
After the resurrection, Jesus’ Disciple, Thomas, worshiped the risen Savior. He exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” If this declaration had been false but Jesus had accepted it, his acceptance would have been blasphemous.
Instead, later the Apostle John reinforces Thomas’s declaration. He testifies of Jesus, “the Word was God,” period (John 1:1).
But what about the Holy Spirit? In the early church, when a couple named Ananias and Sapphira tried to deceive Peter over a gift of money, Peter saw through their ruse. He said to Ananias, “… you have lied to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3). Then he added, “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4).
It is not possible to lie to a mere influence. The Holy Spirit is obviously more than a feeling. He is “personal” in several respects. He is God, the Spirit.
So, Jesus, at his baptism “saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove” and heard the voice of the Father saying, “This is my Son whom I love” (Matt.3:16, 17). In that moment we have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in one event of revelation.
During the first four hundred years of the early church, the church fathers wrestled with these affirmations made in both Testaments. To give them order, they formulated this precious truth under the title of the Trinity.
They said, God is one in “essence” and three in “persons.” He must be worshiped without dividing the essence or confusing the persons. God the Father rules over all; God the Son is our Redeemer; God the Spirit is our sanctifier.
The hymn our congregation sang to conclude worship on a recent Sunday morning included the following words:
Laud and honor to the Father,
Laud and honor to the Son.
Laud and honor to the Spirit,
Ever Three and Ever One.
We sing this 700-year-old hymn in praise to our God who is revealed to us as the Three-in-One – the God who creates, redeems and sanctifies us.
If this truth still mystifies you, remember that it is in our worship of the God who is three-in-one that we come closest to grasping the reality of this great mystery of the Christian faith.
When we pray, “Our Father which art in Heaven” we worship the one and only God. When we say of Jesus, “He is Lord and Savior,” we acknowledge the one and only God. When we entreat the Holy Spirit to guide us, we entreat the one and only God. Three persons in one Godhead!
Let us worship God!