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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

FAQ: How Can God Be Both Three and One?

by Adriel Sanchez posted February 3, 2023

Christians are monotheists. We believe that there is only one true God and we worship him alone. The Bible says, “O Israel, the LORD our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4).

But God also revealed himself throughout redemptive history as three distinct persons. In the Old Testament, you see this in some places, and in the New Testament it becomes even more clear that God is three as well as one. The Gospel of John, the book of Acts, and the epistles all refer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these persons is equally and truly God.

After his resurrection, Jesus prepared his disciples for his return to the Father in heaven. Here’s what he told them to do: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). We’re not baptized into the name of any created being. We’re baptized into the name of God, the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As the early church saw in the Bible that God was one God in three persons, it struggled to articulate this to the world. How would they communicate this great mystery? Christians want to submit to what God reveals about himself in his word. We can’t just make things up about what God is like. We can’t say, “Give me a God that I can fully understand.” In his essence, God is incomprehensible—we can’t even begin to comprehend him. He’s infinite, and exists in a different category from everything he created.

So we receive what God says about himself in the Bible. Just because our minds can’t fully understand it doesn’t mean it’s not true.

John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This verse reveals two distinct persons: God and the Word. Yet this Word is with God, and he is God. The Word is God the Son, who is God and is with God the Father. Then, referring to God the Son’s incarnation, John said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:18). God the Son became a man, Jesus, who came to be the Savior of the world.

The question is: are we going to receive God’s revelation and submit to what he tells us about himself? Or, instead, are we going to make a god in our minds who seems to make more sense? This is why the Scriptures are so important. The Bible tells us that the essence of sin is making gods we want, gods in our own image. We say, “Give me a God who looks like me, who thinks like me, maybe even who sins in the ways that I do.” We don’t want to be confronted with the God of Scripture.

But we need to be confronted by him. Only the God revealed in the Bible can redeem us, and he has redeemed us. We’re saved through faith in the Word-made-flesh that John tells us about.

God is the Trinity: one God in three distinct but undivided persons. The church has proclaimed this God as the real God for 2000 years because the Bible teaches us that’s who God is.

This article is part of our Frequently Asked Questions series. Listen to Pastor Adriel answer this question on Core Radio here.

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Photo of Adriel Sanchez

Adriel Sanchez

Adriel Sanchez is pastor of North Park Presbyterian Church, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, he also serves the broader church as a host on the Core Christianity radio program, a live, daily call-in talk show where he answers listeners' questions about the Bible and the Christian faith. He and his wife Ysabel live in San Diego with their five children.

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