In this week’s Bible study, we will reflect on the identity of Yahweh as a complex being—one God and at the same time Father, Son, and Spirit. The theological term for this concept is called the Trinity. God is united within himself as a community of eternal love. Love is not just one of his attributes; love is who he is. Because of this, when the Father, Son, and Spirit created humanity, it was an expression and an invitation to eternal love. Humanity rejected this invitation at first, but God went to every length to make a way for us to participate in his community of love.
If you walk into a crowded room and start asking people “who is God,” you’ll get all kinds of answers based on people’s religious or non-religious beliefs. If you talk to someone who respects the Bible, you’ll likely hear about one all-powerful deity, the big guy upstairs who created and watches over us all. But what does the word “god” actually mean in the Bible?
What’s one thing you were most surprised by in this video?
First of all, the spiritual being that the Bible calls God is transcendent and the author of all reality as we know it. Any knowledge that we have about such a being will always be limited and partial because a Creator by definition is above and beyond that which is created. But the story of the Bible also describes a God who wants to connect with his creation in a genuine partnership to reveal the divine purpose and plan. And so when God appears to people in the Bible, it’s both understandable to them (people can see, hear, and interact with God as a person), but it also breaks their categories at the same time. It’s not just that understanding God is complex; it turns out that this God himself is also extremely complex.
In this study, we explore the complex portrait of God in the Bible and how he reveals himself in ways that both make sense to us and simultaneously break our understanding of reality. When God’s attributes are described in the Hebrew Scriptures, or when God’s Spirit is talked about, we find divine beings that are both divine and distinct from God at the same time. When the biblical authors want to talk about humanity’s future partnership with God in ruling the world together, we find a figure called “the son of man” (in Daniel 7). And this figure, like God’s attributes and Spirit, is both distinct from God and also a part of God’s own identity.
God’s very essence is love. He has eternally existed within a community, or triunity, of love. Jesus’ prayer, recorded in John’s Gospel, gives us a glimpse into the love and unity Jesus has always shared with his Father. It also shows us how committed he is to helping us participate in this divine community of love and oneness.
What questions or thoughts surface for you as you reflect on the passage?
Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one just as he’s one with God the Father (see vs. 21). How do you practice oneness in your relationships right now? Where is more practice needed? Take some time to echo Jesus’ prayer for oneness.
Consider vs 23. What happens when followers of Jesus live in oneness with God and with one another? What if onlookers can’t find a unified expression of love on earth? How might this affect how they view God?
Describe the way the Father loves Jesus. Reflect on the reality that God the Father loves his disciples “even as” the Father loves Jesus (see vs. 23). What comes to mind as you reflect on this?
He claimed to be the embodiment of the biblical God in human form. Jesus is presented as both distinct from God and also God. He addressed God as “my Father,” but he also claimed that he and the Father are the One God of the Bible. And when Jesus experienced the love of the Father, it was through the personal presence of the Spirit, who is both one with Jesus and the Father and yet distinct from both. And while our minds aren’t fully capable of comprehending a being who is both one and more than one, this is precisely the portrait of God that is presented to us in the story of the Bible. The Hebrew Scriptures prepared us for the concept of a God who is a complex unity, and the New Testament claims that in Jesus we see the most perfect portrait of this Creator being, who is an eternal community of unified love––the one who is three and one.
This is not an easy concept to understand, but the biblical story isn’t asking us to simply comprehend the idea of God. Rather, in the story of Jesus we are being invited to know and be known by this being, who wants us to participate in his eternal love. The Bible isn’t just giving us some new ideas to think about God. It’s an invitation to know your Creator and discover why you exist in the universe. And the answer, it turns out, is remarkably simple: You exist to be loved, just as Jesus was loved from eternity past by his Father. This video is an introduction to the wonderful and complex portrait of God that leads us to a deeper understanding of Jesus and of ourselves.
Paul urges his listeners to live a life that matches God’s call to unity. He understands that without humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearing love, unity cannot exist. So he calls people to make every effort to keep the habits of unity that exist in the Spirit of God. God is one, and we too are called to be one.
Notice the repeated words in this passage. What do you think Paul was trying to communicate by repeating these words?
Where have you noticed expressions of humility, gentleness, patience, or love most recently?
Think about a time when you were experiencing brokenness in a relationship. If you could travel back to that time, with this passage in mind, what would you do differently? What can you do today to build or rebuild a bond of peace?