The Trinity: The Basis for Community, Love, and Intimacy with God
The Trinity is one of the most difficult teachings of the Christian faith and yet one of the most necessary to affirm. Often, one can detect whether a group or church is part of the historic faith based on whether they affirm or deny the teaching that God eternally exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Though the term “Trinity” is not found in the New Testament, it is a concept that is clearly taught and confirmed by the early church (see passages like Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2 Corinthians 13:13).
All branches of Christianity—Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant—affirm the early creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople in giving language to the Trinity. In many ways, these creeds were trying to avoid three teachings that were already determined to be false. First, they wanted language to avoid teaching “tritheism,” the misconception that Christians worship three separate gods. Second, they wanted terminology that shunned modalism, the teaching that one God (Person) appeared to us in three different forms or modes. Finally, the early church discounted Arianism, the teaching that denied the full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.
One way to understand the language of the Trinity is to consider the following statements:
- The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God
- The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father
- God is one.
OK, perhaps I have lost you. There is certainly mystery in the Trinity, and yet it is gloriously true in a way that our limited minds cannot fully conceive. There is much more that could be said about the Trinity and you can consult any work of Christian Theology to reflect more deeply on this astounding truth.
But is there any relevancy or practicality to belief in the Trinity? Without a doubt, there is!
God has eternally existed in community and did not create humanity or other living beings because He was lonely or in need. There is rich fellowship within the members of the Trinity, and even a tendency to honor the other member. The Father glorifies the Son. The Son glorifies the Father. The Holy Spirit bears witness to the Son. And so on.
In the Farewell Discourse in John 13-17 we see a lot of Trinitarian language. Jesus reveals the Father and Jesus is in the Father (14:7-11). The Father and Son send the Holy Spirit, and through the Spirit God will indwell believers (14:15-21). This is the type of language we see throughout these chapters. The Trinity addresses our longing for community, and invites us to be a part. Because God is a tri-unity, He eternally exists in a relationship of love which becomes the basis of all love. God invites us to experience this type of community as He indwells us by His Spirit and enables us to love and experience community even with each other. But God, the origin of community and love, takes the initiative. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
The cry of the human heart is to belong, to be loved, and to experience the ultimate intimacy that can only be found in our relationship with God. The Triune God invites you to enter into this love, to be a part of community, and to experience the intimacy of God indwelling you by His Spirit. “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (Romans 8:15). Have you entered the fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?