Boiled eggs, strawberry pies, layer cakes. Have you ever wondered where preachers come up with the far-fetched examples of how to explain the Trinity? Through the ages, innumerable attempts have been made to explain how the living Lord of the Bible exists as one God, revealed in three persons. In Scripture, God reveals himself as Father in order to communicate relationship to his creation, his people, and perhaps most clearly through his own Son.
Since Jesus’ incarnation, Christians have struggled to comprehend the complexities of God’s revelation of himself as the triune God. To prevent heresy in the early church, early Christian theologians agreed in the council of Nicea (325 A.D.), “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible.” With these words, early churches fought against the misunderstanding that Jesus was not God while also protecting the fatherhood of God over all things. To this day, Islam teaches that Christians misconstrue God, identifying the doctrine of the Trinity as polytheism and Christians as those who worship three gods.
The doctrine of God and the term “Trinity” come directly from the teaching of Scripture. God reveals himself in the Bible as one. One in nature and being, and all of his attributes are one in the Lord. From Moses’ teaching from the mount, God reveals himself as one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). In the New Testament, Paul defines for the troubled church at Corinth the nature of God as one (1 Corinthians 8:4). From the beginning, God has identified himself as the Lord who reveals himself in three persons. In divine conversation, he confers with himself in order to create the cosmos (Genesis 1:26), confuse languages (Genesis 11:7), and send Isaiah on the mission field (Isaiah 6:8).
While it may be difficult to comprehend the “one God, three persons” doctrine, understanding his role as God and Father remains critical for the believer today. One possible way to understand better the “three-in-one” teaching can be accessed through another divine institution?marriage. God creates Adam and Eve, and he commends man toward his new wife, calling them “one flesh,” yet they exist as two distinct persons. In a similar way, God possesses all of his attributes as eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Thus, he is one, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit possess all of these attributes equally. Today, Christians would do well to understand the way the Father relates to himself, his creation, and his people.
First, God’s revelation of himself as Father relates to his role over all of creation. his words spoke the cosmos into being. Out of nothing (ex nihilo) God becomes the Father over all the universe, yet the Son carries out the commands that bring the world into existence (John 1:1-5). Paul explains to the Corinthians the Father is the source “from whom are all things” (1 Corinthians 8:6). Beyond existing “from him,” he further explains that “we exist for him.” Jesus’ apostles clearly teach that God serves not only as his Father, but he serves as the Lord and Father over humanity. This role, Paul explains, functions to provide care and protection over humanity as well as relationship (Ephesians 3:15).
Second, God the Father reveals himself in the relationship he creates with his people. From the earliest days, God calls humanity to serve him as Father. Adam and Eve follow him as Father through worship and fellowship, but rebellion and sin severed the relationship, resulting in the need for judgment and discipline from the Father. From Adam to Noah, then through Abraham, God elects a people and calls them his children through whom the nations, and ultimately all of creation, would be blessed. Through this relationship, the Father’s call culminates in the birth of his Son. As the Father of creation, God sends his Son to reveal the Lord in the flesh. Following the Father’s will, the Son dies as a sacrifice for sin, providing redemption and restoring the path for creation to enter into relation again to the Father through the Son. In Ephesians 1:3-4, Paul explains the Father’s love for his people whom “He chose in him before the foundation of the world.” While the act of choosing is attributed to the Father, the act of redemption is attributed to the Son. As the Father, God protects his people, corrects his people, provides for his people, and disciplines his people for their good and his glory. Thus, God the Father provides a divine and perfect example of earthly fatherhood that families would do well to imitate.
Finally, God’s role as Father may be understood in the way he relates to himself. As mentioned above, the Father and Son relate together in redemption: the Father chooses his children, the Son dies for them. From eternity past, the First Person of the Trinity relates to the Second Person of the Trinity as Father and Son. This relationship results as the Father who presides over creation and redemption in a way that the Son stands before him as the one who mediates and advocates for humanity before the Father. While both Father and Son are God, Scripture reveals each share a role that serves as the perfect revelation of God.
God describes himself in Scripture in this way to reveal the one who serves as Father over his creation, Father of his people, and Father of the Son. Through his plan, God provides the salvation that reconciles his people and his creation back into proper relation with him.
Mark M. Overstreet is a vice president and assistant professor of communications at Criswell College in Dallas.