“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen. 1:1-3).
Even in these opening words of the Bible, you see God begin to reveal his Triune nature. But the Trinity raises some problems for us, doesn’t it? Of course, there’s the math problem. 1+1+1 does not equal 1, but that’s not really at the heart of the issue. To discuss the Trinity often leads into considering God as God in himself. That brings talk of divine personage in relation to divine being. That means we have to talk about God’s internal works versus his external ones. Who proceeds from whom? Who is begotten and who is not and what does that even mean? And then, we should probably talk about how we’re not supposed to talk about these things because there have been a lot of people in the history of the church who got themselves into trouble by saying things about the Triune God which went beyond Scripture.
Are there problems with any of these teachings in themselves? No. In many ways, it’s good to have a basic and solid understanding of these things; that’s why the creeds and the catechism are so important. But if we think that’s what the Trinity is about, it’s a problem. Too often a consideration of the Trinity pushes us into a talk about God in himself…God, apart from us. We become painfully aware of how vast and powerful and wise and beyond us God is. He’s outside of the universe I know and outside of what I can even comprehend. I’m so far away from him. (Now we are very near the root of the problem!) This tempts me to wonder if God can really help me. If he is so far above, how could he know me enough to care about me, let alone love me? How could I ever hope to stand before such a being? Can I ever face such a God?
If that’s where a contemplation of the Trinity leads us, we’re truly to be pitied. But nothing should be further from the truth. Everything in Scripture is God revealing himself to his people, you and me. He reveals himself to us because he loves us and cares for us and wants us to know him.
Again take a look at the opening words of Genesis. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He did that because he wanted to give of himself. He creates this beautiful world, not for himself, but as a place for his people. Right from the beginning, he’s giving of himself for the benefit of his people, and we see this truth at work with the Father and the Son and the Spirit.
The Father is for you as he gives these gifts. He’s the one who works through the Word, through Christ, to bring creation about. He’s the one who plans not only your creation, but also your redemption. He’s the one who sends his Son into the world to reveal the mystery of his saving love to his people. He’s the one who also wants to be your Father for eternity.
The Son is for you as he makes the Father known by carrying out his plan. He’s the Word that called forth the light, that called forth creation. But more than that, he’s the Word who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). He did that so he could shine as the light of the world who breaks the darkness of sin and death. The greatest revelation of the mystery of God’s love was in Jesus bringing the plan to completion. It pulled Jesus down from heaven to become one with you. It drove him to the cross under the weight of your sin. But it ended in an empty tomb which proclaims to you sin forgiven, death defanged, and heaven open.
Finally the Spirit is for you as he acts upon you directly. He’s the one who gives the gift of life. He’s the one who reveals the work of the Son and plan of the Father. He does this work in the Word, but remember he does this work in Holy Baptism too. As water is applied and the name of the Triune God is spoken over you, the Spirit works on you. He connects you to the cross of Jesus where your sin dies. He connects you to the empty tomb of Jesus where you also rise to live a new life. The Spirit created faith in your heart. He continues to feed it. He will preserve you in it until you reach your Father’s home in heaven.