Understanding the Trinity

If you’ve been involved in ministries for children or young people, questions about the Trinity have most likely come up. I know in the past I’ve used analogies that weren’t the best (more on those later.) But understanding the Trinity is important. How would you explain the Trinity if someone asked you right now? Take a moment and give it a try. Can you think of some Bible verses to back up your explanation?

Understanding the Trinity- three graphics (left to right)- crown, cross, dove in yellow on light beige background

Don’t become discouraged if you can’t answer the question to your liking. It’s hard to explain! But we can (and should) have a solid foundation to explain this core belief of our faith. Our God is three in one. What does that really mean?

The Mystery of the Trinity 

There are many mysteries to our faith. God has revealed some mysteries from the Old Testament in the New Testament (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the coming of the Messiah, salvation by grace through faith, etc.) He has not yet revealed some mysteries (what did Jesus do in His childhood, when will He return, what does the word “Selah” mean in the Old Testament- and so many more.)

God Himself explains why some things are still a mystery: “For as heaven is higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) Our human minds can never understand all of who God is and how He thinks and acts. 

Paul explains our finite understanding of beliefs like the Trinity as looking into a poor-quality mirror- a distorted image; dim and unclear. One day, however, the image will be clear.

What does Trinity Mean in the Bible? 

As a doctrine (belief), the trinity is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three separate and distinct persons united in one being- God. Each one is fully God. The mystery is in the “how” this is accomplished; something we will finally understand in heaven.

Some who deny the Trinity claim 1+1+1=3, and therefore claim we worship three Gods. We can always rebut these claims with another equation: 1 x 1 x 1=1. Or, we can quote Daniel Webster; a strong Christian- “I do not pretend fully to understand the arithmetic of heaven now.” 😊

But the Bible is CLEAR in its teaching. The Trinity is distinct in their roles and individuality, but united in their attributes of love, mercy, holiness, knowledge, etc. 

Is the Word Trinity in the Bible? 

We won’t find the word “Trinity” in the Bible, but the concept is shown in many verses. The Latin word for trinity (“trinitas”) combines two words- “unitas” (unity) and “trias” (three). That helps explain the concept quite well- the oneness, “unity” of God with the distinct three persons of God- Father, Son, and Spirit.

Bible Verses about the Trinity 

Here are a few of the many verses giving evidence of the Trinity in the Bible:

It begins in the beginning!

•Genesis 1:1&2- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The Holy Spirit was an active participant in the creative process.

•Genesis 1:26- “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” The plural “us” and “our” show more than one person was involved.

•Matthew 3:16-17- “As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” God the Father spoke from heaven and spoke of His Son, Jesus. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him to equip Him for His ministry.

•John introduces us to the Trinity in John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God.” Jesus, the Word, was present in Genesis 1. He differs from the Father, but was and still is God.

•Paul leaves the Corinthians with this blessing in 2 Corinthians 13:14- “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

This may be my favorite verse of them all. The Trinity is not real in my life because of superior knowledge or insight. It became real to me because I have experienced His love, grace, guidance, redemption, conviction of sin, and fellowship that comes from Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Three in One Meaning 

The “unity” or “oneness” of God is also found in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 6:4- “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This verse is also the beginning of the Jewish “Shema” prayer; their confession of faith. (It is also why the Jews had an issue with Jesus calling Himself God.)

But Jesus makes it clear in John 10:30- “I and the Father are One.” The Greek word for “one” means “one thing”, not “one person.” They are united in their essence (spirit, nature) but not identical persons.

1 Corinthians 8:6: “Yet for us there is but one God.”  

We worship one God who exists in three persons.

Understanding the Trinity- Words "Father-Son- Holy Spirit spelled out in scrabble squares on white background

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Trinity Illustration 

Analogies for the Trinity exist to explain the unexplainable. How can we ever explain our Most High, exalted, powerful, uncontainable, and most glorious God? Some have taken on the  task of explaining how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist as one. Here are a few common illustrations:

•Trinity Egg Analogy 

The Egg- One egg has three parts: shell, whites, and yolk. The problem here is it describes each part of the Trinity as 1/3 parts of the overall “egg.” Father, Son, and Spirit are each fully God (their own “egg”)- not fractions of one.

Similarly, people have used the example of the apple in the same way- skin, flesh, and seeds. The apple seed alone is not an apple.

•Trinity Water Analogy 

This is the one I used long ago when trying to explain the Trinity to a group of 1st-5th graders. (Which I just found out is in error…)

Water is water, but exists in three different forms: liquid, frozen, or steam. Again, this analogy doesn’t work because God doesn’t morph, change, or become different aspects of Himself. The Trinity are three distinct persons who exist apart from each other.

•Another wrong illustration is using ourselves: I am one person, but also a wife, mother, and writer. God does not play three “roles.”

•There are some analogies that come close. One is a musical chord with three notes. The three distinct notes come together to make one beautiful sound. They have a common purpose in making harmonious music, but each note is its own separate entity.

No analogy is perfect, but we want to be careful of using wrong ones that may confuse people.

How to Explain the Trinity to a New Believer 

The Trinity is foundational and at the heart of our Christian faith. We can admit it is a mystery and accept that our incomplete knowledge cannot fully comprehend it.

His ways are higher than ours, but isn’t that a comfort?! He has the world and our individual lives within His supremely capable hands.

It is still important that we have some understanding of the concept, however. Not just for explaining it to others, but to bolster our own faith and see how each One works in our lives.

Try starting your explanation with a simple definition and then ask for further questions:

“No one can completely know or understand God. But the Trinity is our belief as Christians that God is one being who exists in three Persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

A good follow up verse to help explain is the baptism of Jesus. We find it in all four Gospels. Jesus was standing in the Jordan River, His Father speaks from heaven above, and the Holy Spirit descends upon Him as a dove.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Before I even began writing this post, I had an unusual song stuck in my head– “Holy God, we praise thy name. Lord of all, we bow before thee. La da dee dee dum dum (I couldn’t remember the in-between parts). Infinite thy vast domain, everlasting is thy reign.”

I bet I haven’t sung or heard this song in years!

On a whim, I looked up the lyrics at a later time. Check out verse four:

“Holy Author, Holy Word, Holy Spirit, three we name thee;

Still, one holy voice is heard; undivided God, we claim thee, and adoring bend the knee, while we own the mystery.” ¹

Somewhere in the recesses of my mind lived the doctrinal truth about the Trinity. I’m giving God the credit for stirring this memory, and am extremely grateful. His ways are not my ways!

The wonders and ways of God may not be apparent or fully known at present, but we can still marvel at His supremacy and worship Him in wonder- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!



Photo Credit: Canva,

All Scripture is taken from the NIV version unless otherwise specified

¹Author Ignace Franz, translated by Clarence A. Walworth

2 thoughts on “Understanding the Trinity”

  1. Cynthia McCarthy

    So cool that God imparted that song in your mind and heart before you even wrote this blog post! Another analogy that Tim remembers, being Irish Catholic, is the analogy of the shamrock with its three parts. You’re right, they’re all good but not perfect because only God IS perfect. Thanks, Ann!

    1. I can only shake my head when He does these things! I did read about the shamrock analogy! Thought of Tim 🙂 It’s amazing to think that everything will be so clear when we het to Heaven!

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