Section 1: God
Week 3: God Exists As Trinity
Day 1: God Exists As Three Persons
The Father, Son, & Holy Spirit Are Distinct from One Another
At first this might seem like an unnecessary point to make because the Bible clearly refers to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So we obviously have three persons…right? There are those, however, who say the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit aren’t distinct from one another. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just different roles God plays. Depending on the needs of the particular situation, God sometimes appears as the Father, at other times the Son, still others the Holy Spirit.
This view is often referred to as modalism. Modalism has existed in one form or another throughout most of Church history. In fact, it continues to be taught in Oneness Pentecostal churches today.
But when you look at the biblical passages, it becomes clear modalism doesn’t accurately reflect the picture of God that we’ve been given. There are a number of times, for example, when two or more of the members of the Trinity appear together. To cite just a few instances: Jesus (who the Bible clearly identifies as the Son incarnate) often prays to the Father (Matt 26:36-56, John 17:1). The Father speaks at the Transfiguration when Jesus is present (Matt. 17:4, Mk. 9:7, Lk. 9:35). The Holy Spirit descends and the Father speaks while Jesus is being baptized (Matt. 3:13-17, Mk. 1:9-11, Lk. 3:21-22).
Those and similar passages teach us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not the same person. An actor can play three different roles, but he can’t appear on stage as all three at the same time. So it’s no surprise the Church historically has strongly rejected modalism and insisted that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct persons.
Practical Implication: God Is Relational
We’re left with the question though: does the fact that the members of the Trinity are distinct persons make any real difference for us? It does because it helps to explain something fundamental about our faith. We often talk about the importance of having an intimate relationship with God. That only makes sense, however, if God is relational. And that’s where the Trinity comes in. God exists as a relationship. So he is not only relational, he is relational to the core.
How does this picture of a relational God compare to the view the average person has of God?
Identify one thing you could do today to cultivate a closer relationship with God.