The church throughout history has consistently inquired about the mysterious relationship of the three persons of the Trinity. One of the doctrines that has come from this long sustained discussion is called perichoresis. The term refers to a mutual indwelling and interpenetration of persons. This idea comes out of texts like these two in John.
- “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
- “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11)
Though there is distinction in the three persons there is absolute oneness as well. The unity and intimacy of the Trinity can be seen in this language of being “in” each other. The Father, Son, and Spirit all co-indwell and co-inhere one another. Alister McGrath writes that this doctrine “allows the individuality of the persons to be maintained, while insisting that each person shares in the life of the other two. An image often used to express this idea is that of a ‘community of being,’ in which each person, while maintaining its distinctive identity, penetrates the others and is penetrated by them.”
The practical implications of this doctrine are quite intriguing. This mutual indwelling of the Triune God better helps us understand what is going on when the Spirit indwells us. It is incredible to consider that the Spirit who interpenetrates the Father and Son now dwells within us and connects us to the very life of God. This doctrine also helps us think well about the unity that marks the Trinity and is the blueprint for all Christian unity.