In the early part of the 4th century the Church faced its greatest theological crisis. Vast swaths of Christians were turning from orthodoxy to Arianism, a fashionable new teaching about the nature of God. Church leaders could clearly see that the souls of millions hinged upon the answer to this question: "who is the one true God?"
Learn more by listening to All Souls' newest course:
"Know Your History"
Q: When is the last time you heard a sermon on the Trinity?
This is a little strange isn't it?
If the God of the Bible is Triune in nature, and if Jesus said eternal life involves true knowledge of God (John 17:3)... well... shouldn't you be hearing about the Holy Trinity from time to time?
One would certainly think so...
This coming Lord's Day is Trinity Sunday and in light of this ancient Christian celebration I wanted to encourage my readers to learn how a robust understanding of the Trinity can enhance the life of a-given church. Now at first it might seem that these two things simply don’t go together – after all the doctrine of the Trinity seems to have very little to do with the “practical” realities of church-life.
Church-life should be about people, and fellowship, and Christian witness! Things that are more or less unrelated to Trinitarianism… right?
Let me offer just one example to get you thinking... (I know it would be more Trinitarian to offer three examples! But I'm only trying to get you thinking about the Trinity... you can come up with a couple others on your own.)
Here's my example:
Understanding Trinity Helps a Church Understand Christian Love & Unity
What is the Church?
The church is a united body comprised of multiple members (kinda like the Trinity - huh?).
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit."
(1 Corinthians 12:12-13, ESV)
And how should this unity impact the “practical” realities of church life?
Well, in all sorts of ways... here's just one:
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."
(Philippians 2:5-7, ESV)
Within the church we are to be of one mind and "other-oriented" because we are witnesses to the radical self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is our example and if His radical self-sacrifice is our goal then His attitude of service will be adopted as our own. Surely during His earthly ministry our Lord expressed His unity with God the Father by not living for Himself and/or His own self interests. Instead the Lord Jesus committed Himself to the Interests of His Father and the Father's desire to save a people for Himself through the work of God the Holy Spirit. This powerfully demonstrates the loving unity that from all eternity existed between the three Persons of the Holy Trinity.
When a church embraces this pattern of unity through radical self-sacrifice it reflects the unifying dynamic at the heart of Trinitarianism itself.
For More on the Holy Trinity Read
The Athanasian Creed
Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith:
That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
The Father is uncreated,
the Son is uncreated,
the Holy Spirit is uncreated.
The Father is immeasurable,
the Son is immeasurable,
the Holy Spirit is immeasurable.
The Father is eternal,
the Son is eternal,
the Holy Spirit is eternal.
And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.
So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings;
there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being.
Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.
Thus the Father is God,
the Son is God,
the Holy Spirit is God.
Yet there are not three gods;
there is but one God.
Thus the Father is Lord,
the Son is Lord,
the Holy Spirit is Lord.
Yet there are not three lords;
there is but one Lord.
Just as Christian truth compels us
to confess each person individually
as both God and Lord,
so catholic religion forbids us
to say that there are three gods or lords.
The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten from anyone.
The Son was neither made nor created;
he was begotten from the Father alone.
The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten;
he proceeds from the Father and the Son.
Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers;
there is one Son, not three sons;
there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits.
Nothing in this trinity is before or after,
nothing is greater or smaller;
in their entirety the three persons
are coeternal and coequal with each other.
So in everything, as was said earlier,
we must worship their trinity in their unity
and their unity in their trinity.
Anyone then who desires to be saved
should think thus about the trinity.
But it is necessary for eternal salvation
that one also believe in the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.
Now this is the true faith:
That we believe and confess
that our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son,
is both God and human, equally.
He is God from the essence of the Father,
begotten before time;
and he is human from the essence of his mother,
born in time;
completely God, completely human,
with a rational soul and human flesh;
equal to the Father as regards divinity,
less than the Father as regards humanity.
Although he is God and human,
yet Christ is not two, but one.
He is one, however,
not by his divinity being turned into flesh,
but by God's taking humanity to himself.
He is one,
certainly not by the blending of his essence,
but by the unity of his person.
For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh,
so too the one Christ is both God and human.
He suffered for our salvation;
he descended to hell;
he arose from the dead;
he ascended to heaven;
he is seated at the Father's right hand;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
At his coming all people will arise bodily
and give an accounting of their own deeds.
Those who have done good will enter eternal life,
and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.
This is the catholic faith:
one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.
"Of God and of the Holy Trinity"
Westminster Confession of Faith
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Maybe you've heard this one...
You were part of a group that was enjoying an amicable discussion of theology but when the doctrine of the Trinity came up everything changed.
Suddenly the otherwise unremarkable person at your left dons his mortarboard (metaphorically speaking) and assumes the character of a wise sage addressing a group of rather stupid children in short-pants with food stuck to their faces. With a condescending smile that betrays his misplaced confidence the self-appointed professor proudly announces "Oh, the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity is no mystery to me. You see, God is like an egg. There's the shell, the white, and the yolk. Three parts but jut one egg." After offering this gem of "wisdom," the would-be wiseman resumes his seat with the air of a man anticipating applause. Not receiving same, he becomes sulky and the group awkwardly disperses for parts unknown.
But in all honesty what other response could there have been to his astounding claim that "God is like an egg."
The God of the Bible is NOT like an egg.
So what is God like? And how are we to understand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity? Or perhaps a better question - what practical difference do these things make in a Christian's day-to-day life?
Well, the Bible has answers and the Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes these answers very helpfully in chapter 2.
Why not listen to last night's "Know Your Confession" class where we examine these things in some detail.
Rev. R Crabtree
"...a son, a husband, a father of 6, a friend, a Presbyterian
(not the liberal kind), an eccentric, and a minister of the gospel... I am also the Pastor of All Souls Church and a Professor of Religious Studies at OCBC."
All Souls Church
Attributes Of God
Irenaeus Of Lyons
Journey Of Faith
Means Of Grace
Order Of Salvation
Westminster Confession Of Faith