The doctrine of the Trinity can be quite confusing. In fact, this doctrine has caused divisions among people for many years. One of the most common questions is, “What does it mean that God is three in one?”
To begin with, it does not mean that there are three Gods. “God exists as three persons, yet he is one being. Each person of the Trinity— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit— has a separate identity while yet possessing the full nature of God” (McDowell, p. 46). The Baptist Faith and Message says, “The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.”
The Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) says, ” God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of his grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise.
Jesus is the divine Son of God. This, of course, “does not mean that Jesus was created.” (McDowell, p. 46) John 1:1-3 communicates that Jesus has always co-existed. Further, Jesus himself said that he and the Father were One. In John 5:18, Scripture tells us that Jesus “called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.” Hebrews 1:-3 tells us that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and is fully divine. McDowell writes, ” The Spirit has eternally co-existed with the Father and the Son and was present at creation (Genesis 1:2). Jesus discusses him in John 14: 16,26 when he says, ” And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit helps believers in a variety of ways. For example, he convicts men and women of sin, exalts Christ, enlightens and empowers believers in worship and truth, and seals the believer into the Body of Christ (BF&M).
The doctrine of the Trinity is very important to our understanding as Bible-believing evangelicals. Erik Thoennes writes, ” The doctrine of the Trinity is well beyond human ability to ever fully comprehend. However, it is central to understating the nature of God and the central events in the history of salvation.” (Thoennes, p. 79)
For a great example of the Trinity, see Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:13-17.
Life’s Biggest Questions by Erik Thoennes
77 FAQs About God and the Bible: Your Toughest Questions Answered by Josh and Sean McDowell
The Baptist Faith and Message (2000)
What is the doctrine of the Trinity (BlueletterBible.org)
The Trinity by Dr. Mark Bird (answersingenesis.org)