Humans have subscribed to a variety of belief systems over our history. Some systems like the Greek mythology that many know from stories was pantheistic, meaning the people worshipped many gods. The Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are all monotheistic. We believe in one supreme God. However, even among the Abrahamic faiths, most forms of Christianity are unique in that we believe that God presents himself to us in three aspects, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The concept of a single God in three persons is one of the more difficult concepts presented to us in the Bible. The New Testament expounds upon the idea the most, but the plurality of God was evident from the beginning.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, an over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26
Despite valiant efforts by many teachers, it’s doubtful that anyone has been able to provide an analogy or other comparison that fully encapsulates what God is. Such is the nature of the dilemma. God is simply too big to be described so easily. Still, we must try to understand him and all three of his aspects because all play an important role as it relates to us as Believers.
While as flawed as any other comparison, it may be useful to look at God the way we look at ourselves. The Bible leads us to believe that humans are made of three primary components: soul, body, and spirit. We may be able to gain some understanding by comparing the aspects of God to these components of Man.
Webster’s dictionary defines the spirit as the force within a person that is believed to give the body life, energy, and power. Similarly, the Father acts as the foundation for what God is. No one has ever seen him in his true form (John 1:18), but every Christian must believe he exists. While all three aspects of God are part of one being, the Father reigns supreme.
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesian 4:6
Essentially, the soul is what defines us as conscious beings. Just as the soul might be considered to be at the head of what makes a human, the Father is clearly at the head of God’s hierarchy. This is denoted by his very title, “Father,” which is used throughout the Bible to identify the lead of the family and other communal organizations. The Father’s authority is such that the Bible often uses his title and the term “God” interchangeably, and the other aspects of God are defined in relation to him (i.e., the Son of God and the Spirit of God).
We can’t see or touch the soul, but we all believe that every human has one. Just as our lives are often guided by what we feel in our souls, everything in the universe occurs at the direction and will of the Father.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will – Ephesians 1:11
We communicate with God through prayer, and Jesus, himself being deity, instructed us to direct our prayers to the Father (Matthew 6:6-7). The Father is the one above all, it is important that we understand and acknowledge that fact.
Colossians 1:15-16 provides an interesting view of Christ.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities.
Jesus is the Son, and the universe is his inheritance and birthright. He is Lord both in the sense of being creator of all (John 1:3), and the standard sense to which we are accustomed, a sovereign ruler. As the verse implies he is the ruler of rulers and Lord of lords.
God, who existed before the universe, is too big to be contained by the universe. Jesus is God’s projection into this physical world. He is to God what our physical bodies are to us. Just as our physical bodies give us the ability to connect with the things and people around us on the most basic level. Jesus as God does the same thing. If we see someone down on the ground, we would extend our hand to them to help them up. Jesus is the “hand” that God extended to us to raise us above sin and its wages.
We’ve all heard the old saying “Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked in their shoes.” Well, God has done that and more. Just as our body provides the avenue for us to see, hear, and feel things around us, Jesus allowed God to feel the human experience right up until his death. Our bodies are also the parts of us that we can and often do sacrifice for those we love. Similarly, Jesus acted as God’s sacrifice when he took on all the world’s sin and all of God’s wrath and died for us.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. – 1 Peter 2:24
Jesus’ story did not end there. He was resurrected and maintained the form of a human as best illustrated in his interaction with Thomas (John 20:24-29). Eventually, he went back to heaven, but the Bible promised us he will be back not to serve, but to save (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus died and he was resurrected in glory. The Bible tells us that the same will be the case for us.
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit, also referred to as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, might be the most difficult to understand. Like the Father, it cannot be seen or otherwise felt in a traditional sense. However, like the Son, its purpose is to connect God to Man. Whereas, Jesus was the example of God becoming more like us, the Holy Spirit is what allows us to become more like God.
The Holy Spirit is God’s essence. It encapsulates who and what God is and can interact with us beyond the physical. We have spirits that play the same role for us. In this sense, the comparison between the Holy Spirit and the spirits of humans is more literal than the other two parts of the analogy. Even many non believers accept a concept of spirituality for humans. We all feel things that impact us more deeply than what we recognize on a mental or intellectual level. We know when we are doing wrong, but just because we know our weaknesses doesn’t mean we can always rise above them. Sometimes we need help on a more fundamental level. That is exactly what the Holy Spirit does for us. When we accept Jesus as our savior, the Holy Spirit becomes part of us.
Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. – 2 Timothy 1:14
Salvation through Christ means a part of God, his Spirit, takes residence in our very being in commune with our spirit. We can then learn to move according to the desires of the Holy Spirit and, by extension, the will of God.
If our spirit knows everything that we are, then when we allow the Holy Spirit to connect with our spirit we can begin to act through the Spirit and not just because of him. That relationship is the lynchpin to God’s plan for us.
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’ thought except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. – 1 Corinthians 2:10-12
If the Son’s death and resurrection are what opened the path to salvation, the Spirit is the vehicle that carries us along that path to our destination. Ultimately, that destination is eternity with the Father. The Father engineered the creation. The Son carried out the design. The Spirit applies the finished work to those who believe. If all three aspects of God can work for us, how can we not put all three parts of ourselves, soul, body and spirit, to work for Him?
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