God in Three Persons: A Doctrine We Barely Understand
- Thursday, July 08, 2010
Francis Schaeffer emphasized this point in his books. This, he says, is where the human desire for intimacy and communication comes from. We were made to communicate. That design is part of the image of God within each of us.
It also teaches us that God is never "lonely." He didn't create us because he "needed" us. God could have existed forever without us. That he made us at all is a statement of his great love and the wisdom of his plan.
B. The Trinity sets the limits on human speculation about the nature of God.
There is so much we would like to know about God, but our finite minds cannot comprehend it. We are not free to create God in our own image. The Trinity sets the limits for human speculation. God is more than the Trinity, but he is not less than that.
C. The Trinity teaches us that God is beyond all human comprehension.
After all, if we could explain God, he wouldn't be God. I have no doubt that God is much more than "one in essence, three in Person," but since I can't even understand those simple phrases, I don't worry at all about what else might be true about God. If you feel baffled by the Trinity, join the crowd. The greatest minds of history have stood in amazement before a God so great that he cannot be contained by our puny explanations.
D. The Trinity exalts the Son and the Spirit.
We all know that God the Father is to be worshiped. But what about Jesus Christ? If he is God, should we not also worship him? The answer of course is yes. But that truth leads us back to the Trinity. He is not merely the Son of God but also God the Son. The same thing may be said about the Holy Spirit. He is not just a "force" but a Divine Person. Not an "influence" or some vague power, but the Third Person of the Trinity.
Let me draw one important inference. Since all Three Persons of the Trinity are equally God, we may pray to any member of the Trinity. That, by the way, is the number one question I have been asked about the Holy Spirit since writing Names of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians simply do not feel comfortable praying to the Spirit even though we often sing songs that are essentially prayers to the Spirit, such as "Spirit of God, descend upon my heart" and "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me." Surely if we may sing to the Spirit, we may also pray to him. If he is God, our prayers may be directed to him.
I do agree that Christian prayers will customarily be made to the Father (e.g. The Lord's Prayer). But let us not quibble or imagine that the Father is slighted if we direct our prayers to the Son or to the Spirit, according to the need of the moment. There is no jealousy among the members of the Trinity nor could there ever be.
E. The Trinity helps us understand what really happened at the Cross.
At the climax of Jesus' suffering, he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" What do those strange, tortured words mean? We have a hint of the answer in that every other time Jesus prayed, he used the term "Father." But at that moment, when he bore the full weight of the sins of the world, when all that is evil and wretched was poured out upon him, in some way we cannot begin to fathom, God—who cannot look upon sin—turned his back on his own Son. Sin as it were (though not in ultimate reality) caused a rupture in the Trinity. Instead of "Father," Jesus cries out, "My God, my God!" It is God speaking to God. The eternal Son cries out to the Father at the moment when the penalty of sin has been laid upon him. If it be asked, how could one man pay for the sins of the entire race, we find the answer in the doctrine of the Trinity. Only an infinite God could bear the sins of the world!
A Doctrine that Unites and Divides
The doctrine of the Trinity has been called the most puzzling doctrine in the Christian faith and the central truth of the Christian faith. Which is it? Inscrutable puzzle or central truth? The answer is, both are true.
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