Apprehending the Trinity

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When Jesus Christ was on the cross crying out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Mark 15:34)* was He praying to Himself?

This is one of the reasons that we believe in the Trinity. We believe Jesus is not talking to Himself. We do not believe that Jesus is Himself the Father. We see that there is a subject-object distinction between the Father and the Son. The Father sends the Son (John 5:36-38; 8:14-18; 12:46). The Son prays to the Father (Matt. 26:39, 42; Luke 23:34; John 11:41-42).

The Trinitarian belief is that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; Psa. 86:10; Isa. 44:6; 1 Tim. 2:5; Jas. 2:19), but within the Godhead, there are three distinct persons. There is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The reason we believe that is the Bible clearly states that the Father is God (Matt. 6:9; Jas. 1:17; 1 Cor. 8:6), the Bible clearly states that the Son is God, in passages like John 1 or Colossians 1 or Hebrews 1 or Revelation 1, the Bible also clearly and emphatically states that the Holy Spirit is God (2 Cor. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:21; Acts 5:3-10; 28:25-27). Not only so, but the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct (John 1:1; Col. 1:17; Rev. 1:17, 2:8; cf. Isa. 41:4, 44:6 and 48:12; Heb. 9:14). The Father never becomes the Son or the Son never becomes the Father. We believe in one God, revealed in three persons, who are eternally distinct.

Now because there are subject-object distinctions within the Godhead, we see the Father sending the Son or the Son praying to the Father or in the case in which Jesus is saying, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Remember in His incarnation, Jesus voluntarily takes on the limitations of humanity without divesting Himself of a single attribute of deity. He is now asking His Father, “Why have you forsaken me?” And what He is in this case drawing our attention to is Psalm 22. There’s a context there. What does Psalm 22 tell us? In verse 24, it tells us “He has not despised or distained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to His cry for help.” We know that ultimately Jesus is not forsaken. What we have here is what is typical in the Psalms, a contrast between emotional despair and faith in God that is being highlighted.

Which member of the Trinity do I address in prayer?

I think it is perfectly appropriate and biblical to pray to the Father, to pray to Jesus Christ the Son, and to pray to the Holy Spirit. For example, you can thank the Father for sending the Son. You can thank the Son because the Son has saved us from our sins. You can thank the Holy Spirit that He empowers us for service. Because there are personal self-distinctions within the Godhead you can pray to each member as it were of the Godhead, each Person within the Godhead.

We say there is one “what”—one God by nature or essence—and three “whos”—three Persons. Now that is something that I have confessed many times on the Bible Answer Man broadcast that I cannot comprehend; I can only apprehend. Now if the Bible is telling me to believe that there is one God and three Gods that would be an obvious contradiction, but what the Bible is saying is that there is one God by nature or essence and three in person, and that is not a contradiction, though it is beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study:

Is the Trinity Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Who Is the “Us” in Genesis 1:26? (Hank Hanegraaff)

If God Is One, Why Does the Bible Refer to Him in the Plural? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

Loving the Trinity (James White)

The Trinity: A Case Study in Implicit Truth (Ron Rhodes)

This blog adapted from “When Jesus was on the cross he wasn’t talking to himself was he?” and “The Trinity

*All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.

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