What the Trinity Reveals About God and Us
Regis NicollRegis Nicoll's weblog
- 2019 Jun 14
I once heard someone say that the most popular time for pastors to leave town is Trinity Sunday. How true that is, I don’t know. What I do know, is that during fifty plus years in the pews I have never heard a comprehensive sermon on the subject. I suspect my experience is not unique.
Few would deny that the Trinity is one of the most (if not, the most) important doctrines of the Christian faith and also one of the most misunderstood. Whether or not homiletical avoidance is to blame, it is regrettable, because no other doctrine tells us more about God and ourselves.
The Nature of God
Were it not for the Trinity, St. John’s claim, “God is love,” would be little more than glassy-eyed sentiment. Love without an object is frustrated, unfulfilled, and incomplete. Thus, a loving, but solitary God is a God who is contingent, a God who must create to satisfy his yearning, a God who is less than perfect.
On the other hand, a God who exists in a community of uncreated “One Anothers,” is a God who is complete in and of himself from eternity to eternity. For him, creation is not a divine necessity, but an extension—an extravagant extension—of whom he is.
Although Scripture lays out no explicit doctrine on the Trinity, it contains numerous references to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit working in concert. For example:
In the Annunciation, Gabriel tells Mary how the Spirit will come in the power of the Father to produce the Word made flesh in her.
At the last supper, Jesus promises the disciples that the Father will send the Spirit to remind them of his teachings.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reveals that spiritual gifts come from the Spirit, in service to the Son, according to the sovereign purposes of the Father.
Then there is Jesus’s rebuke of the Jews (“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”) that, when combined with his response to Thomas (“No one comes to the Father except through me”) and Paul’s message to the Corinthians (“No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit”), reveals that personal salvation is the synergistic result of the Father’s initiative, the Son’s atonement, and the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
Scripture bears witness to a Godhead of three Persons united in will and purpose. One of those purposes is the creation of beings designed for union in the divine Community. For instance, notice how man’s tripartite nature of mind, body, and spirit relates to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the following verses:
“Who has understood the mind of [Yahweh]…?”
“The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God…”
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
It is sufficiently amazing that God has made us for communion with him. It is more amazing, still, that he calls into partnership with him through the “Greatest Commandment,” the Great Commission, and the Cultural Commission—three (!) directives aimed at expanding his community and uniting it cruciform, vertically with the Godhead, and horizontally with fellowman.
The Greatest Commandment—to love others as Christ loved us—is a summons to work for the sake of others, that they might experience the joy of knowing God and living in harmony with his creation. But only a disciple can know God, and only a world managed by caring stewards will be conducive to the flourishing of nature and mankind. Thus, fulfilling the Greatest Commandment requires that we take up both the Great Commission and the Cultural Commission.
To help us toward those ends, God established three (!) institutions: the family, the state, and the Church, each with its own sphere of responsibility. When each institution fulfills its unique calling, while respecting the others, it creates the conditions necessary for individuals to experience communion with family, neighbors, communities, creation, and God.
Sadly, the cruciform community for which we are created and called, is becoming less and less apparent. Instead of a growing sense of community with our fellowman and God, we are becoming more individualistic, socially and morally. While that may seem unremarkable, what is interesting is one place it has become evident. Continue reading here.