John Wesley is quoted as having said: “Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the triune God.” A clever statement indeed, but just as every analogy of the Trinity that has ever been offered breaks down under scrutiny, so Wesley’s analogy of a worm’s comprehension of man compared to our comprehension of God breaks down as well. First of all, worms are not made in the image of man. Secondly, worms have not been given special revelation from man, and, what is more, no man ever became a worm, even though at times our wives may be led to think otherwise. We were made in the image of our triune God with minds carefully crafted by God to understand certain things about God. Our Creator then provided us with certain information about Himself through His revelation to us. As a result, we have been given the ability and the knowledge to understand all that God has intended for us to comprehend — and such comprehension comes only through faith given to us by God, for the natural man cannot understand the things of God.
At the heart of Wesley’s statement is the truth that no mere man can comprehend God completely. But the mistake is often made by the people of God in thinking that we cannot comprehend God rightly. In fact, in many circles, for someone to speak of God as some sort of unknowable, mysterious figure that is beyond reality is thought of as super-spiritual. The Bible does teach that there are certain things God has hidden from us (Deut. 29:29). The Bible also teaches that God is not completely comprehendible by men, nor are His ways fully understood by men (Rom. 11:33–34; 1 Cor. 2:16). Nevertheless, as we examine the Bible, many divine mysteries are unfolded by God Himself. Though we may not understand completely how God is three in person and one in essence, we do know the simple truth that He is.
We who are finite in our capacity cannot fully comprehend our infinite God, for the infinite mystery of our triune God is contained only by He who is infinite. And although the explanations that our Lord provides are simple, they are indeed true. For that reason, we should be less concerned with trying to figure out those things about God that He has not given us the ability to comprehend and be more concerned with living coram Deo, before His face, according to all that we can comprehend about our gracious and holy, triune God.
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.