Specifically, the GPS receiver can determine the synchronized time by comparing messages from different satellites. It can then determine precisely how long each signal took to travel from the satellite to the receiver. The signals travel at the speed of light, so a quick computation tells the device how far away it is from each satellite. On the program this week we showed how having only this information--the distances from several satellites--the GPS receiver can determine exactly where it is on the planet using a process called trilateration. How many satellites are needed to make this happen? The more you have the better, but a minimum of 4 is required (3 if you use information about your elevation on earth).
For more information, check out this very detailed Wikipedia entry.