… or at least that is what we’ve been told. God is One and God is Three. He exists in three Persons, the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But explanations of how three can equal one usually fall short. People resort to tortured analogies (“It’s like three sides of a triangle…”) that don’t really help. It’s a lot like asking a software engineer to explain what he does for a living. Beyond answering you with “techno-speak” (“I manage the cloud-based infrastructure of network algorithms…”) your engineer friend is hard pressed to help you really understand.
The Bible explains the mystery of three in one by focusing on Jesus’ part in it. Like this:
No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only (i.e. Jesus), who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18 – with my added explanation)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Col 1:15)
God is invisible to our limited human senses. Even if we could somehow see Him, we would not be able to understand what we were seeing. But Jesus, these verses say, is an exact representation of Who and What God is, given to us in a form we can understand: human form.
My favorite (and somewhat tortured) analogy begins with a desktop computer. If you look at your computer, what you see is really just its case, not the actual computer. You open it up and look at the circuit cards inside and you still cannot see any computing going on; you don’t have any way of knowing what it is doing. What “it is doing” happens at a microscopic level, the invisible flow of electrons and “holes” (whatever those are…), in complex patterns, and at the speed of light. Even if you invented special goggles that enabled you to see that flow of energy, you still couldn’t make any sense of it. Balancing your checkbook would look very much like a game of Angry Birds. Nevertheless, this invisible computing process is being done for you! But there is no way for you to take advantage of it unless the process is somehow translated into a form you can see and understand.
That is why your computer has a monitor. When you turn on your monitor, voila!, it translates the invisible and inscrutable flow of energy in the desktop unit into words and pictures that you can understand. Assuming your desktop unit is connected correctly to your monitor, the monitor is the “exact representation of” the computer’s “being.” The monitor has “made the computer known.” It is the “image of the invisible” computer. That’s why, when you talk about your computer, you are referring to all three parts of it as one thing – the processor, the monitor and the connection between them. Like God: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Who is the wireless connection between the Father and Son!).
If you follow all of that, perhaps it will give greater understanding to these words of Jesus:
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:9b-10)