How many persons are in the one God?

Question 6Question 6 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “How many persons are in the one God?

The answer given is, “Three persons are in the one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are one God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory.”

Let me start by admitting that one God in three persons is one of the more difficult things to begin to understand. J. I. Packer says this:

“The historic formulation of the Trinity (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning ‘threeness’) seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy, but it is true.”

We see a trinitarian formula in the Great Commission as given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20;

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NASB)

As Packer said above, “it is not easy, but it is true.”

The importance of a proper understanding of the trinity is highlighted when we think of love as a characteristic of God. Love implies an other to love. God did not create humanity because without us, he would not have been able to demonstrate love. Love existed from eternity between the persons of the Godhead. In other words, God is not dependent upon us as his only object of love. We are not necessary for God to love.

Somehow, I find some measure of peace in this understanding. There is comfort in knowing that perfect love is found in God. I feel better knowing that my failures do not diminish God’s love.

Also, as Jesus prayed in John 17, the love and unity which is experienced among the members of the trinity can be experienced by us in some measure. Jesus prayed,

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.” (John 17:11b, NASB)