One in three persons, blessed Trinity. Our society thinks it knows all the answers to all the most important questions concerning life. We think we know how the universe began and what it is made of but much of what we know is still speculation and theory. We can analyse the DNA of every living thing and we are beginning to understand the complicated webs of relationships that bind life forms and their environments together. We can take detailed photos of every stage of the development of a baby in its mother's womb, but Jesus' statement that 'No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above' makes no more sense in terms of modern science than it did to Nicodemus when he met with Jesus.
We are presently in the part of the theological calendar that focuses our thoughts on the key doctrine of the Trinity, the oneness of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We have recently celebrated Pentecost and this past weekend we have marked Trinity Sunday.
Nicodemus came to Jesus with many questions, but his problem was that he already had preconceived ideas about God. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus saw God as distant, and one whose laws had to be obeyed. Jesus responds to this by inviting Nicodemus into a very personal relationship with God. Jesus goes on to identify the role of the Holy Spirit who gives birth to spiritual life and by alluding to himself as the Son of Man who has come from heaven and will return and that only those who believe in the Son of Man will experience a spiritual re-birth and receive eternal life. As much as Nicodemus was a learned man, he failed like many have done since to fully grasp the complexity of God.
Where did this ground-breaking idea of the Trinity come from, that not only Jesus and God were on a par but that there was also a third and equal person in the Godhead, the Holy Spirit? Well, it is partly founded in Jesus’ resurrection but more importantly the seeds were planted by the teachings of Jesus himself. Although He never said, ‘I am God’, He did claim a unique relationship with God; He did claim a unique mission from God; and He did claim that He and only He, was able to do things which it was only proper for God to do. By His very own words Jesus himself laid the foundation for the type of words and expressions which were later read about Him in the Bible. Expressions such as ‘Son of God’, ‘Light of the World’, ‘Saviour’, ‘Emmanuel’, ‘Word made flesh’, ‘Lord’ and ‘God’.
As we continue to read through the New Testament there are several verses that tell us that the Godhead consists of three persons — Father, Son, and Spirit– and that these three persons are equally and fully God. These verses mention three persons to provide no doubt about the Godhead being a "unity” of "three” and from this the word "Trinity” comes. Jesus mentions God in three persons as He prepares to ascend to Heaven. He meets with the disciples and tells them to go and preach the Gospel:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When the disciples baptise, they are to baptise in the names of all three persons (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). There is no hierarchy of the three; instead, they are placed as equals.