Editor’s Note: This is a repost of WDA’s Knowing God Pocket Principle 4. It appears at GCD with the author’s permission.
Most of us can’t remember being a baby. But we all were, even if there is no hard evidence, such as those embarrassing photos parents often bring out at holidays. As babies, we form critical ideas about ourselves and the world around us. Sociologists and psychologists tell us that one of the most basic ideas we develop is the understanding that we are distinct, separate from the world around us. We are different from everyone else, even our parents. Our hands are our hands, not somebody else’s. There is an “us” and there is a “not us.”
This concept of being distinct and separate is also true of God. He is different from His creation.
God is different from us and all the universe. Nothing can quite compare to Him nor entirely explain Him. In order to develop a true relationship with God we need to understand this. We must realize that “God Is Who He Is” (Exodus 3:14). To understand who God is, we must understand what He has said about Himself.
God reveals aspects of His character and rule through the natural world. The amazing complexity, order, beauty, and grandeur of the physical world tell us something of God’s majesty. But He especially tells us about Himself through Scripture. One unique way that God has revealed Himself in the Bible involves His three-in-one nature. The Church calls this three-person aspect of God: “The Trinity.” Admittedly this is a difficult concept to grasp, but it is central to understanding Him. We can know God more fully by studying how He has revealed Himself through each person of the Trinity.
Deuteronomy 6:4 declares, “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” The Scriptures are very clear, there is only one God. Yet He exists in three eternal and equal persons who are the same in essence, but uniquely distinct from one another. The Scriptures place the three persons of the Trinity together as equals: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; I Peter 1:2, I Corinthians 12:4-6; II Corinthians 13:14).
The Trinity is a great mystery to us. We cannot fully understand how God can be one God and three persons, because we have no complete and exact comparison for this concept. Many things about our infinite God are hard to understand from our finite, human vantage point (cf. Isaiah 55: 8-9). Yet we can define and believe this because the Bible teaches it. Just as we do not have to understand electricity in order to believe it exists and to use it, so the Trinity exists despite our inability to fully comprehend this truth.
The persons of the Trinity relate to each other in a living and vital way.
Consider water. It is one substance (H20), but exists in three forms: liquid (water), gas (steam), and solid (ice). Perhaps it is helpful to note that in a similar way, God is one being who is expressed in the three persons of the Trinity. Unlike H2O, however, the persons of the Trinity relate to each other in a living and vital way. Generally speaking, within the Trinity, God exhibits three roles: God the Father initiates and plans, God the Son executes the plans, and God the Holy Spirit applies the plans to believers. Within the Trinity, unity is brought about by the Son submitting to the Father and the Holy Spirit submitting to the Son and the Father. God the Father has, in turn, given all authority to the Son to carry out the divine plans.
God the Father
As the first person of the Trinity, God the Father, shows His fatherly relationship toward both believers and non-believers through Creation and His common goodness to all the world. The Scriptures say that God the Father causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. He provides for the animals and the fields, for the people of His Kingdom and even the people who oppose Him (Matthew 5:45, 6:25-33, 7:9- 11; Luke 6:35; Hebrews 12).
Furthermore, God the Father demonstrates that He has a unique relationship with believers. God draws us to Himself, graciously bringing us into His family as children (John 6:44, 1:12; I John 3:1). Indeed, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, so that we may truly call Him, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6- 7). It is a great and humbling mystery to be called children of the Living God and to be made co-heirs with Jesus Christ the Son (Romans 8:17).
This adoption by God the Father leads to special privileges and responsibilities for His children. In Ephesians 1:3- 14, we see that God the Father freely forgives us and provides every good thing we need. He has special intentions for us—to be holy and blameless—and has revealed His plan to us in Scripture. As a perfect Father, He has assured us of our place in His love by giving us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance as His children. With all the joy and security of beloved children, we have free access to God the Father through faith (Ephesians 3:12).
Likewise, God the Father has endowed His children with responsibilities such as obeying His Word (John 14:21) and representing Him as messengers of reconciliation to the world (II Corinthians 5:20). As members of His family, we are to be a part of His church and to respond to Him in praise and worship (Hebrews 10:24-25; I Peter 2:9).
This adoption by God the Father leads to special privileges and responsibilities for His children.
As we study who God is, we come to understand more of His character and His nature. Through the Scripture, we learn that God is both transcendent (beyond our understanding) in the mystery of His Trinity, and He is immanent (totally accessible) as our heavenly Father. With whole hearts we can call on Him as Lord and Father!
Summary of The Trinity & God the Father
- It is important to understand what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.
- God is a Trinity, existing in three eternal and equal persons who are one God.
- Although the Trinity cannot be fully understood, the Bible teaches us to believe.
- God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit fulfill different roles.
- God the Father is the first person of the Trinity.
- As His children, we have special privileges and responsibilities.
- Meditate on and appreciate the transcendence and immanence of God.
- Meditate on Ephesians 1 and 2 in order to appreciate the privileges God has given to you.
- Meditate on I Peter 2:9-10 and appreciate the high calling God has given to you by entrusting you with significant responsibilities.
Robert D. (Bob) Dukes is the President and Executive Director of Worldwide Discipleship Association (WDA) headquartered in Fayetteville, Georgia. He serves as a founding member of The Steering Committee for The Pierce Center for Disciple Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, MA.
* Order the Knowing God Pocket Principle Bundle at the WDA Store.
For more resources on digging deeper into the truth and mystery of the Trinity, check out The Holy Spirit, by Winfield Bevins.