The Trinity is more than doctrine, it is relationship. I am purposely capitalizing Trinity throughout this article to make a point.
I love learning about the doctrine of the Trinity, and as June 4 is Trinity Sunday, I was inspired to write on this topic. I’ve been blessed to read books by some great theologians such as Karl Barth, C.S. Lewis, J.R. White, Donald Fairborn, T.F. Torrance, Ray Anderson, and several others. Let me share a few good quotes:
The Spirit poured out on the first Pentecost provides the theological praxis for a doctrine of the Trinity. Paul argued passionately and profoundly for the unity of God in his work as Spirit within us, Christ with us, and Father around us… Practical theology is grounded in the intratrinitarian ministry of the Father toward the world, the Son’s ministry to the Father on behalf of the world, and the Spirit’s empowering of the disciples for ministry. – Ray Anderson, Shape of Practical Theology, pp. 39-40
The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that even before God created anything, he could be love, because the Father loved the Son, and the Son loved the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit loves the Father, and so forth. There was love within the Triune God, even before anything had been created (John 17:24). The three Persons were distinguishable from one another, but united to one another in love. This is important for who God is, and it’s important for who we are, as well. — Michael Morrison, GCS President and resident theologian. (An Introduction to Trinitarian Theology)
The Father initiates salvation (1 John 4:9-10), the Son achieves salvation (John 19:30), the Holy Spirit employs salvation (John 16:8, Titus 3:5, 1 Corinthians 12:3). – Kenneth Samples, Reasons to Believe.
Monotheism – the belief in one true and eternal God, maker of all things – is the first truth that separates Christianity from the pagan religions of the world. Any discussion of the Trinity that does not begin with the clear, unequivocal proclamation that there is one, indivisible Being of God is a discussion doomed to failure. – James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity p. 34
Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” – The Forgotten Trinity, p.26.
I like White’s succinct definition, especially the use of the words “eternally coequal and coeternal.” To me, this makes it clear God has always been Trinity. And it also clarifies that the question, “Who’s in charge?” is irrelevant. God is in charge, and God is equally and eternally, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The vital and beautiful doctrine of the Trinity defines relationship, a relationship shared between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a relationship God shares with humanity via Father, Son, and Spirit, and a relationship we have been invited to participate in.
The more I read about the doctrine of the Trinity, the more I understand about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, their unity and relationships with each other, and their relationship with us. The Trinity is God, and God is the Trinity. But what does this have to do with you and me on a personal level? Let me share two changes the Trinity brought to my life, and likely yours.
The Trinity expanded my view of God
I spent much of my earlier life trying to love God so that God would love me. I know the theology is wrong, but it’s where I was. Getting God to love me meant obeying him and keeping his commandments, which I continually failed to do adequately. It took years for me to really believe that God is love and that we love him because he first loved us, and his love is not based on our behavior or attitude or how much we love him or others; it is solely based on who he is. Further, I see God as a Father who loves me – my “Abba,” and I see him as Jesus – my Savior, Redeemer, friend, and I also see him as Holy Spirit – my comforter, my teacher, my support. I now see God as one who earnestly desires relationship with me. He’s interested in everything I do, say, think, or feel because he loves me completely and unconditionally. Hallelujah, praise Trinity.
The Trinity changed the way I pray
Like many, as I studied the Trinity, I sometimes wondered how to address my prayers. Was I to speak to the Father and thank him for being my Abba? Was I to pray to the Son and thank him for being my Savior, brother, friend? Was I to pray to the Spirit and thank him for his comfort, his teaching, his constant pointing to Jesus? If I pray more to the Father, am I neglecting the Son? If I forget to mention the Holy Spirit in my prayer, is my prayer less effective? What if I neglect to end the prayer in Jesus’ name? Does that mean it goes no higher than the ceiling? It took me a while to understand there is no division or separation in my prayers. When I pray and say Father, I am also praying to Son and Spirit. When I thank Jesus, I am also thanking Father and Spirit. When I ask the Spirit to lead me, I am also asking Father and Son. In other words, I am praying to the “one Being that is God,” and this God is relational. It’s never wrong to focus my prayer talking to my Abba. Neither is it wrong to talk to Jesus or the Spirit throughout a prayer time.
Following is a short synopsis of the Trinity from J Michael Feazell.
- God created all humans in his image, and he wants all people to share in the love shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- The Son became a human, the man Jesus Christ, to reconcile all humanity to God through his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. In Christ, humanity is loved and accepted by the Father.
- Jesus Christ has already paid for our sins, and there is no longer any debt to pay. The Father has already forgiven us, and he eagerly desires that we turn to him.
- We cannot enjoy the blessing of his love if we don’t believe he loves us. We cannot enjoy his forgiveness unless we believe he has forgiven us.
- When we respond to the Spirit by turning to God, believing the good news, and picking up our cross and following Jesus, the Spirit leads us into the transformed life of the kingdom of God.
So, when I say I love you to Abba, I am saying I love you to Jesus and Holy Spirit. When I say, I love you to Jesus, I am saying I love you to Abba and Holy Spirit. In other words, I am saying, I love you, Trinity.
May we continue to grow in love with our triune God,