Matthew 3: On the Trinity
There is something to be said for diving right into more controversy. New Testament, new controversy.
We are in Matthew 3 today, and I want to focus on the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist.
Mat 3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
Mat 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Mat 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
Mat 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
This is an interesting passage because all three persons of God are simultaneously present in distinct forms.
Wait a minute, does that mean that Christians believe that there are three gods? Certainly not.
The Trinity is a difficult concept. It certainly seems to be contradictory. How can there be three distinct people who are simultaneously one. Here in Matthew, it seems as if each one is entirely separate from the other ones, but we also know that Jesus claimed that He and the Father were one.
How do we go about handling what seems like a contradiction?
I think that the best illustration that I have read was in Apologetics for the 21st Century. This book introduced me to the work of Dorothy Sayers. She wrote The Mind of the Maker, and in that work, she argues that any work of art can be a way to understand this difficult concept.
Any work of art is simultaneously three different parts: Idea, Energy and Power. The Idea exists in the mind of the artist. It is the entire work, but it exists outside of space and time. The Energy is the work of art on the canvas. It is identical to the idea that the artist has in his mind, but it is the physical manifestation of that idea. The Power is then what allows other people to experience the idea through the Energy that has been shown physically. All three of these exist simultaneously and are the same in the sense that they are all the entire piece of art, but they function in distinct ways as separate entities which are dependent on each other.
She goes on to say that the Idea functions like God the Father. He exists beyond space and time. Jesus Christ is representative of the Energy. He was the physical manifestation of God in human flesh. The Holy Spirit then serves as the Power. It allows us to experience God and lives within us to provide that connection. They are different, but they are also the same in the sense that each part is fully God.
I know that this is a difficult concept for a lot of people, and it is difficult for me, but this illustration helped me a lot.