Post by Mike Miller on Feb 12, 2014 11:01:22 GMT -5
Ok, you've asked three questions, so let me take them one at a time. First, "What does it mean for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be one in essence and three distinct persons?" Well, it means just that. You have articulated the definition of the Trinity. When we talk about the Trinity, we are talking about the very nature of God as revealed in the Bible. Scripture is clear that there is only one God. Scripture is also clear that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God. There are no differences in deity, attributes, or essential nature between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is fully God. The Son is of the same nature of the Father, lacking in nothing in His essential being. The same can be said of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, they are distinct persons. The Son is not the Father, and the Father is not the Son. The Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. The Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Son. Think about the term "Trinity." It means "three (tri-) in one (-unity)." The reason this is so hard for us to grasp is that God is unique. We have nothing with which to compare Him. Nevertheless, this is the very nature of His being.
Second, you ask, "How does this not equal three Gods?" How? I have no idea. That's like asking how God made all of creation by the power of His word. Or how God can perfectly know everything all the time. I don't really know how He does those things. I just understand that He does. God has revealed Himself as one God, yet three persons. That is who He is and has always been. How does this not equal three Gods? By the very definition of who God is. If there were three Gods, there would not be only one God. We might say, "How is a square not round or a circle not square?" The answer would be that by definition, circles are round, and squares are square. By definition, God is triune. That is simply who He is.
Third, you ask, "Do they each play different roles?" I would not say that they "play" different roles, for that would indicate that they only do certain things randomly. However, they all do have different primary functions because of who they are. While I cannot possibly give an exhaustive answer here, let me just share some examples of their different functions. In creation, the Father spoke words, the Son carried out those words (John 1:3), and the Holy Spirit was "hovering," apparently manifesting God's presence. In redemption, the Father planned and sent the Son, the Son obeyed and carried out the plan, and after the resurrection and ascension the Holy Spirit applies redemption by regenerating, empowering, sanctifying, and sustaining us. Therefore, while they are all fully God and equal in essence and being, they have different roles unique to their respective identities.