Math. 28:16-20; John 14
Who remembers the story of the Four Muskateers? How many of you can remember the underlying rule which bound the four together?
On Trinity Sunday, 30th May, we meditate on and celebrate God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and the relationship between them which is “All for One and One for All”
As part of the Great Commission Jesus instructs his disciples to baptise in the name of the Trinity. How can one God be three persons? Most of us find such concepts hard to fathom. God is so large that many aspects of his character are beyond even our imagining and we can only grasp a little understanding. One day of course when we are with God we will know in full. God, however, does reveal something of himself in scripture. So let us examine this concept and what it means for us as Christians.
Many times in scripture we are taught about the Trinity, even though the word Trinity never appears there are references to Father, Son and Holy Spirit as v.19 of Matt. 28. Jesus had just beaten death and He was now passing on the information that the Father and the Spirit are equally God as well. It seems that he is telling us that there are three Gods. It is on this point that Muslims insist that we are polytheistic rather than monotheistic and this is an obstacle in their conversion to Christianity. But let us look at other Scripture that seems to tell us that this is not the case. James states in 2:19 “You believe there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.” It would appear that James is telling us that it is pretty common knowledge that there is only one God. That God is a family is a scriptural idea[ see Rom.8:11; 1Cor.12:4-6; 2Cor.13:14; Gal.4:6; Ephes.4:4-6; 2Thes.2:13] Jesus spoke a good deal about the Father, but not so much about the Holy Spirit, which is an Old Testament expression, but He did link himself with the two.John 14. Here clearer than perhaps anywhere else in the Bible we have the Trinitarian message and the role of each member of that Trinity. Jesus said “No one comes to the Father, except through me, for I am in the Father and the Father is in me. The words I speak, and the miracles I perform, are not just my own but rather it is the father living in me that is doing the work.” John 14: Jesus also tells his disciples that he will ask the Father to send the spirit of truth and goes on to say that the Holy Spirit will live in them (us) and that he (Jesus) will not leave them orphans – he will come to them (v.18), presumably via the Holy Spirit who dwells in Him and also in them (us). And the spirit is mentioned in connection with Jesus’s own baptism [Matt.3:16].
How can this be? How can Father, Son and Holy Spirit all be God and there still only be one God?
Perhaps, a non-scriptural way of illustrating the Trinity is by using the analogy of water. Water can exist as liquid, as a solid in the form of ice or as a gas in the form of steam. All are the same substance, H20, with similar properties but nevertheless also distinctly different properties characteristic of the different phases. They also perform different functions; ice to cool, for example, and steam to drive turbines to give us electricity and water as liquid making up 80+ % of the substance of all life. We could say three phases but one substance; all different, yet all the same.
Although the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most fundamental beliefs of the Christian church I am not going to go into the history of the revelation of a triune God or to engage with anti-Trinitarian groups. But I am going to attempt to demonstrate that the concept of the Trinity is scriptural, natural, and necessary to the life and faith of the believer. The doctrine makes a significant contribution to the way we understand our relationships with one another and the God whom we seek to serve.
One of the first things we can say about the Trinity is that it is a relationship that demonstrates an inherent perfect unity in diversity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are co-equal different expressions of the same God specialising in different functions in God’s economy of creation and redemption. God the Father is primarily concerned with creation but Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also concerned; Jesus is mainly concerned with redemption but God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also involved and the Holy Spirit is mainly concerned with sanctification but God and Jesus are also involved.
St. Patrick explained the Trinity using a three leafed clover. There is one clover with three separate leaves making it up. Let me coin a word: symtheistic, to describe the relationships in the Trinity and this can be explained by an analogy with lichens. These plants are made up of two organisms, a fungus and a unicellular alga, which are interdependent on one another and perform essential functions for the whole organism, which takes on a morphology determined by the union. Each symbiont is unable to lead a separate existence long term and yet has separate and identifiable DNA.
Each member of the Trinity act in harmony with one another; there are no separate agendas. For example the Father sends the son (Jn.3:16) and draws attention to Him (Mtt.17:5), the Son is obedient to the will of the Father (Jn.17:4), and seeks to glorify Him in Himself (Jn.13:31-32) and both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit (Jn.14:26, 15:26) who glorifies the Son (Jn:16:14). This unity with equality was recognised by Augustine when he said: “There is so great an equality in that Trinity, that not only the Father is not greater than the Son, as regards divinity, but neither are the Father and the Son greater than the Holy Spirit.” The whole is in each and each is in the whole.
The mathematical expression 1x1x1 = 1. Is a metaphorical expression of the concept of the Trinity
One for All and All for One.
The unity, equality and harmony that is evident in the Trinity should be reflected in the life of the Christian and the Church. But such harmony is not natural to the nature of man and can only be obtained through fellowship with God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit(1Jn1:3, 2Cor13:14). Paul recognises how the three persons of the Godhead are operative in unifying the many diverse gifts and activities of those in the body of the church (1Cor12:12-14).
This unity that God desires in the functioning of his church is a reflection of the perfect unity that exists in Himself.
The doctrine of the Trinity is also significant for us as Christians in the union that we experience in Christ. To be in union with Christ means that all things can be done in Him (Phil.4:13), and a godly life can be lived (2Tim.3:12), with the result of bearing much fruit (Jn15:5). Not only is the believer in Christ, but Christ is also in him or her (Gal2:20). This union that Christians have in Christ also brings union with the other persons of the Trinity. Christ told his disciples that both He and the Father will dwell in them (Jn14:23); and also the Holy Spirit (Jn14:16-17). All three persons are active in our Christian experience of God, yet it is not three separate experiences but one.We as believers are in relationship with the Father as Creator & Sovereign, with the Son as saviour and redeemer; and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit in regeneration, knowing Him as comforter advocate and sanctifier.
Union with Christ, therefore, also includes union with the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Through this union we enter into the most intimate place of relationship with the triune God; being raised up to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus(Eph2:6), having our sinful lives hidden with Christ in God (Col3:3).
Probably the clearest area where the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is significant for living the Christian life is in the whole area of worship. From NT times, believers worshiped the Father, in the Spirit, through Christ (Eph2:18; 5:18-20) and sometimes worshiped Christ directly (Mtt14:33;28:9,17. Jn9:38), because they recognised Him as fully God. Although the early church also recognised the Holy Spirit as being God (Acts5:3-4), the explicit worship of the Spirit appears to have developed at a later period. However, there exists such a harmony in the triune God that to worship one is to worship Father, Son & Spirit together. For God to be truly present by the Holy Spirit in our lives the whole activity of God must be active. St. Ambrose discerned this about Christian worship when he wrote “ …by unity of power, Christ is jointly worshiped in the Father when God the Father is worshiped. In likemanner then, by unity of the same power the Spirit is jointly worshiped in God, when God is worshiped in the Spirit.”
One for All and All for One.
In connection with worship, prayer also has a distinctly Trinitarian mould. Luke records a prayer of Jesus to the Father, and specifically mentions that He was full of joy through the Holy Spirit (Lk10.21). Before his matyrdom, Stephen, being full of the Holy Spirit, saw the glory of God and prayed to the Lord Jesus. Jude (20-21) encourages us to pray in the Holy Spirit, keep ourselves in the love of God and hope in the mercy of Christ.
It could be said that just as there can be no genuine reality of prayer apart from the mediation and union that we have in Christ, neither can there be any true Christian prayer apart from the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our Christian lives.
Much more could of course be said on the subject of the Trinity but I hope that I have in some small way shown that it is only through the actions of every person of the Trinity that we are able to live out life of faith at all.This is evident in every area; from the fellowship that is enjoyed in the Church, to God’s complete work within us as individuals, and the devotional life that we seek to live in Christ. In fact through the work of the Triune God in our lives, we should seek to live.
One for All and All for One.