Meaning what, precisely?
When the Bible uses the word “love,” it means something very specific:
“Love is . . . not self-seeking” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, NIV).
Love, by definition, is self-giving and other-centered. In order for love to exist, there must be more than one person. If you lock yourself alone in a room and stay there for the rest of your life, you will never experience love. A solitary self cannot experience love. So then, since God is love, it logically follows that God is more than one personal being while at the same time existing as one essential divine entity.
Throughout the Bible God is described as one God and yet more than one: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Father is God (Isaiah 64:8; John 3:16). The Son, Jesus Christ, is God (John 1:1; Philippians 2:5-6). And the Holy Spirit is God (Job 33:4; Luke 1:35). This is why we call God the Trinity—because God is an eternal fellowship shared by three distinct divine persons who are of one essential nature, one in purpose, mind, and character.
There is a pure, self-evident genius to the fact that the Bible identifies God as three who are one. Let’s think through the logic of the number three as the minimum numeric value of love. Before reading the next paragraph discuss the following situation: a close friendship exists between two people, and then a third person enters the picture. What are the possible relational dynamics that may occur?
We sometimes say, “Two’s company, three’s a crowd.” The reason we regard this as a truism of life is because we subconsciously know that we are naturally self-centered and therefore threatened by the introduction of a third person into a relationship. Perhaps you remember having a best friend, only to have someone else come along and leap into the middle of your nice little relational enclosure and divide the focus your friend had on you.
And yet, a third person is actually what’s best for the relationship, because if the third person is accepted, then self-centeredness will have to give way to a more selfless quality of love. Now you not only have to receive the love of your first friend, you also have to accept that your first friend is also friends with another. You have to accept a divided interest that is not exclusively focused on you. For this reason, three is the minimum numeric value of pure love. Where there is only one person, love cannot occur. Where there are two, each is the sole recipient of the other’s attention, giving potential for self-centeredness. But the moment there are three, each recipient must also humbly defer attention to the third party, and each one must occupy the position of the third person to the other two. Pure selflessness can now occur by virtue of the fact that each one must love and be loved with both an exclusive and a divided interest.
If the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were not eternally coexistent, it could not be said with any coherence that “God is love.” Scripture’s revelation of God as a three-way unity of perfect love is convincing evidence that the Bible is, in fact, the revelation of the one and only true God, whose essential nature is love. Yes, aspects of this truth are beyond our comprehension. After all, this is God we’re talking about. We are mere finite creatures attempting to comprehend the Infinite. What we can begin to comprehend is that God is essentially a relational being of other-centered love. God is a social unit, a self-giving friendship of three who are one. And this picture of God is beautiful in the extreme.