THE MESSAGE OF THE TRI-UNITY: A HUMAN ATTEMPT TO UNDERSTAND A DIVINE MYSTERY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

TRINITY

“How can something be ONE and THREE at the same time?” Put in a more dependable and practical way, “How can an entity be ONE and THREE at the same time?”. This question introduces us to the “greatest puzzle” of God which no human mind has being able to fully unravel. Even the greatest of minds ended up scratching around this mystery and came up with analogies that are just mere analogies and nothing more. With our human limitations, we cannot reach to the depths of the mind of God (Romans 11:34).

Today we are celebrating the feast of the Holy Trinity. The basic assumption/creed is that there is only One God who eternally exists in Three Persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. They are not “three Gods” rather one God. Put in another way, God is ONE in SUBSTANCE and THREE in PERSONS.

The word substance tells us about what lies underneath a reality and that makes the reality in question what it is. For instance, my substance is my humanity which I share with other human beings irrespective of colour, race, language and other individual peculiarities. Substance answers the question, “what?”. When we talk about the SUBSTANCE of something we refer to its ESSENCE and the simplest definition of essence is that it is the core, heart or nature of a phenomenon without which that phenomenon cannot be. In Greek, it is called ousia which means being.

PERSON, on the other hand, comes from the Greek prosopon which can be best be described as indicating individuality or peculiarity. In Greek theatres, it was used to denote characters (masks) played by various actors. Personhood simply answers the question “who” as distinguished from “what”. Hence, we can have a common “what” for instance  our “humanity”, but various “whos” like John, Peter, James, Susan etc.

In what follows, we shall be looking into what constitutes our belief that there is one God existing as three divine persons. Let us begin by examining some notable analogies before making an appeal to the scriptures . Note that what we shall be presenting are mere analogies that would help us to an extent to understand fairly the doctrine of the Trinity which like we said earlier is a mystery that surpasses human understanding.

  1. Anthropological analogy
  • Every living human person is constituted of three significant parts that make up the individual in question. There is the body, spirit (soul) and mind all in one person. Just as we have God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit all in one God, not three Gods.
  • Furthermore, the human life on earth can be lived on the land, sea or air all on the same one earth.
  1. Mathematical Analogy
  • Ordinarily 1+1+1=3. Some people in an effort to demonstrate the fact of the Trinity had demolished this mathematical truth by asserting that with the belief in the Trinity 1+1+1 =1. But the truth is that when we are adding, we establish that each is only a part of the whole; that is one-third of the whole. But when we mathematically look at 1x1x1 the answer is 1. This is because each part is the whole just as in the Trinity each of the persons is truly and completely God, not just a part of God.
  1. Chemical and Physical Analogy.
  • In chemistry, matter is anything that has mass and that occupies space. There are three states of matter for instance water which can be solid, gaseous, or liquid but the same matter water.
  • We define atom as the smallest particle into which an element can be divided. In one atom there are electrons, protons, and neutrons.
  • We live and operate in and within time. We reckon time as the past, the present or the future all within the same continuum of time.

All the analogies we have above do not give us anything close to the perfect description of the Holy Trinity. We shall now be looking at what the bible says about the One true God who exists in three divine persons.

  1. God is One.

There is one God. This is authoritatively shown from the testimonies of the scriptures:

  • Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear O Israel the Lord your God is One Lord”.
  • Isaiah 44:6b: “I am the first and the last beside me there is no god”.
  • 1 Cor. 8:6: “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist”.
  • 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all”.
  • 1 Timothy 2:5a: “For there is one God”.
  1. There are Three Distinct Persons in One God:

In the one Godhead, there are three divine persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The persons are distinct yet there is one God in essence.

  • 1:26: God said: “Let Us make man in our image and after our likeness”
  • Genesis 11:7 : God said: “Let us go down and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another”.
  • Matthew 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
  • Matthew 3:16-17: “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

III. Each of the Persons is Truly and Fully God.

  • The Father is fully God.
  • John 6:27: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
  • Matthew 6:6: “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you”.
  • Galatians 1:1: “Paul an apostle sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead”.
  • The Son, Jesus Christ, is truly God.
  • Isaiah 9:6: “Unto us a child is born to us a son is given. And he will be our ruler. He will be called wonderful Counsellor,Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace..”
  • John 1:1: “In the beginning was the WORD, the WORD was with God and the WORD was God”.
  • John 8:58: Jesus said: “Before Abraham I am”.
  • Colossian 1:15-17: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.  He himself is before all things, and in him, all things hold together”.
  • The Holy Spirit is Fully God.
  • 1:2 “The Spirit was moving over the face of the deep”.
  • Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of God is upon me He has chosen me and sent me to bring good news to the poor”.
  • John 16:13: “The Holy Spirit will reveal the truth about God”.
  • Acts 5:3-4: “Ananias, Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land?…You did not lie to us but to God”.

We have so far being preoccupied with the task of attempting to understand (with our limited knowledge) that there are three Persons in One God. Today being the feast of the Holy Trinity, we are at the same time called upon to learn from this fantastic TRI-UNITY bearing in my that we are expected to reflect out God in our words and actions. From the fantastical unity of the three persons in one God we learn the following three things:

  1. “We” is better than “I”: It is very clear that we often like to operate on the basis of “I” and that is why we have so much selfishness in the world. However as human beings, we are always found in groups: families, communities and so on. This satisfies the fact that no one is an Island and isolation is dangerous. God realised this after creating man when He said: “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen.2:18). Attentive to the foregoing, there is a need for us to reflect the Trinity starting from our families, the church community and other places we may be finding ourselves with others.
  1. Knowing our Positions and Maintaining In the Trinitarian divine life the Father is not the Son and the Holy, the Son is the not the Father and the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Son or the Father. They have their respective positions and no one takes another’s place. There thus is in the Trinitarian union mutual respect and understanding which we ought to learn and reproduce in our relationships.
  1. Mutual Cooperation and Assistance. God the Father is the Creator, God the Son is the Redeemer and God the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. It is very remarkable to note that none of the persons in the Trinity work in isolation, rather there is mutual cooperation at every individual function. For instance, at the creation, we not only hear God the father saying: “let us make man in our own image after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). We could also notice the following: the Spirit was hovering over the face of the deep and God also breathed on man to make him a living being. Furthermore, God created by means of his WORD and we know from the John the Word is God the Son who was with God from the beginning (John 1:1).

May the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit guide our hearts and minds and lead us to unity in our various diversities. Have a wonderful Sunday and a blessed week ahead,

Fr. Bonnie

3 Comments on “THE MESSAGE OF THE TRI-UNITY: A HUMAN ATTEMPT TO UNDERSTAND A DIVINE MYSTERY Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem PhD

  1. God, grant the facilitator of the word with more knowledge and understanding. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6)

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