Below is a repost of something I wrote in April this year. It contains a great article from Piper unpacking Jonathan Edwards' explanation of the Trinity:
Wrestling with the Trinity
Billy Graham saved my life. Well, more accurately, God saved my life through Billy Graham. I was 14 years old. My dad and uncle took my cousins and my sister and I to hear Billy Graham’s 1991 Seattle Crusade in the old Kingdome. I remember we were sitting way in the back. I remember the bright lights. The funny thing is that I don’t even remember much about Billy Graham---what he sounded like, what the program was like, what he looked like, or what he was wearing. What I do remember is the experience of God turning a light on in my soul as I heard Billy Graham speak the words I had heard many times before and even committed to memory:
“John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
When these words rang out in the Kingdome, they pierced my heart. I finally saw that I could be with God Almighty forever (starting right then!) because Jesus made a way for me. I finally understood that my sin separated me from the Perfect God of the Universe and that I could never repay that debt. I understood that Jesus, God in flesh, lived a perfect sinless life and was worthy to repay my debt. I understood that Jesus did in fact repay my debt by dying on the cross and enduring separation from God the Father. I understood that Jesus is Lord of All and King of Kings and that I needed to submit to Him as Lord and King of my life—and that I wanted to as I saw His character and His worthiness! I understood that life with Him was mine through faith--and faith was not just head knowledge, but it entailed a trusting, following, willing submission to him kind of belief. I understood the treasure I gained in this transaction--through no merit of my own--was relationship with the Living God Himself and that nothing else in my life mattered more than this. During the alter call that night, I felt God's compelling call to trek down the many flights of stairs and onto the field below. When I did, Billy Graham led the huge crowd of us in prayer. After he prayed, there were volunteers who prayed with us and talked with us. The volunteer who found me was a young woman who was probably in her 20’s. She gave me some literature and her address and told me I could write to her if I had questions. I stayed up all night that night reading. I read all the literature and the book of John, and God met me that night. I corresponded with the young volunteer for a while as well. I was so encouraged by the words God gave to her to encourage and teach me. I remember writing to her about my many questions—most of them were about the Trinity.
I've been thinking of this night. This past Sunday night, Kristian and I had dinner with a delightful family in our church. They had also invited a friend over who is struggling with whether the God of the Bible is real and can be trusted. One of this man’s main questions about Christianity is with the Trinity. I can certainly understand why he has questions. The Trinity is such a marvelous, mysterious concept. How can there be One God in three Persons? Almost 20 years after becoming a Christian, I still find this to be such a mystery. Yet, I also love to plumb the depths of Scripture for insight into this mystery. God has met me in His Word. What I find there is solid, profound, and transformational. Still, I know what I see now is a dim reflection of what I will see next year, which will still be an even dimmer reflection of what I will see one day when I am face to face with the Savior. But as I walk with God and seek Him out in prayer, Bible reading, study, and by listening to faithful teaching from gifted teachers, God has opened my eyes in increasing measure to His character as Triune God, and also to what that means for my relationships as an image bearer of God. Two resources that I have been particularly helpful to me are: 1) Jonathan Edwards, “An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity”; and 2) Bruce Ware’s book, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Roles, Relationships, and Relevance”.
Edwards’ essay is available here:
Here is a short article by John Piper that summarizes Edwards’ essay well and so eloquently hits on the beautiful mystery of the Trinity:
Love Seeking Understanding
A Meditation on the Trinity
By John Piper February 6, 1984
Human language is never wholly adequate to communicate personal life. How I feel when I look at four sons leaving their childhood behind cannot be wholly carried by words. But we still try. We stammer. We use metaphors (it’s like throwing things overboard on a voyage). We write poems and songs. The inadequacy of language is only surpassed by its indispensability. What else have we got? Inadequate does not mean useless. Language may not carry all there is, but what it carries can be true and valuable.
So with talk about the Trinity. No doubt it will always exceed our full comprehension. No doubt our language is inadequate to carry this deep reality. But the depth and value of the Trinity is precisely why we must speak. You don’t throw out the love poem because it falls short of the love. It is precious nonetheless. So is the doctrine of the Trinity.
In a nutshell (following Jonathan Edwards), I would describe the Trinity like this: The Father is God existing in the primal, unoriginated, most absolute manner. The Son is God eternally generated by the Father’s having a clear and distinct idea or image of himself, so much so that his image or reflection of himself is God—the Son. The Holy Spirit is God existing as the infinite Spirit of love and delight flowing eternally between the Son and the Father.
The Father has always existed. And there never was a time when he did not have a perfectly exact and full Idea or Image of himself. This is the Son who therefore is equally eternal with the Father. “God’s idea of himself is absolutely perfect and therefore is an express and perfect image of him, exactly like him in every respect; there is nothing in the pattern but what is in the representation—substance, life, power nor anything else…But that which is the express, perfect image of God in and in every respect like him is God to all intents and purposes…” (Jonathan Edwards, An Essay on the Trinity, p. 101). Biblical passages that point to this understanding of God the Son are 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.
When God is said to “be love” (1 John 4:7, 16), we must think that there has always been two Persons in God between whom love could flow. And the Scriptures teach plainly that the Father loves the Son (Matthew 3:17; Ephesians 1:6; John 5:20; 17:26) and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). God’s infinite love for his own glory (Isaiah 48:11) was satisfied from eternity in his beholding and enjoying his own glorious Image in the person of his Son.
Therefore, the Father and the Son never existed without an infinite delight and love flowing between them. It was not possible they could be indifferent to each other’s glory. 1 John 4:12-13 shows that the love that God is (v. 7) is the Holy Spirit: “If we love one another God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him…because he has given us of his Spirit.”
The Spirit of God is the river of love and delight flowing between God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is the esprit de corps of the Godhead. In responding to each other’s infinite glory, the Father and Son put all that they are into the act of love. And therefore the Spirit is all that they are and exists as a Person in his own right, yet one with the Father and the Son.
We grope. We stammer. We reach for ways to say the mystery. Why? Because something has gone before. Falling in love always precedes the love poems (no matter how bad they are).
Claritas quaerens intellectum,
Dear Father, Thank you for giving me life and breath and for inviting me into your precious and mysterious fellowship between Father, Son, and Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price for me to enjoy fellowship with you, the Triune God. Thank you, Spirit, for walking with me daily and revealing truth to my heart. God, I pray that you would continue to open my eyes to the glories of your character and to your relationship with Yourself—Father, Son and Spirit. I pray that you would show me how you are calling me to image you in relationships and how the Trinity plays into that. Show us how to love like you do—with delight, affection, sacrifice, headship and submission. I pray this for your Church—that we would know you in increasing measure and that we would worshipfully reflect you in our lives so that you would be exalted and many would come to have joyous fellowship with you. In Jesus Name, Amen