It was a joy to be teaching on the Trinity this weekend, a subject that is still too frequently left in the background of our personal and corporate Christian life, with far too many evangelical Christians statiscally really not certain of what the Trinity really is. Thats serious, because true Christianity stands or falls with our very knowledge of the Trinity and because the gospel itself is Trinitarian from beginning to end. Without the Trinity we have no gospel. Not only that, but our own worship, work and witness are impacted and shaped by the image we have of God.
Yes, the word trinity is not in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there – there are other words we use that are not in the Bible, and we never ask the question of them, in fact in different spheres of life we a find it necessary to come up with words to describe and explain what we are seeing and are dealing with, whether it’s in science, biology, politics etc. or theology.
Then there are the analogies, clover, water, apples, eggs etc.. the fact is no analogy is of much or any use to describe God as they are all created things, and they all fall short. In fact I would say don’t use them, God is totally other than his creation, totally other than we are, he is not his creation and therefore no part is able to make him fully known. God can only be known by revelation and incarnation.
In the Old Testament we discover that the God of Israel is One over against the many gods of the wider world, yet we find plural words used to describe this one God, not only that but we discover God himself speaking in the plural – “God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness….” not the royal ‘we’, and not a reference to angels as some commentaries and study bibles have it, but a conversation ‘between’ God, and so it goes throughout the Old Testament, God is One, and God is plural.
When we step into the New Testament we are immediately confronted by Jesus, the Word, who was in the beginning with God and at the same time he was God. He wasn’t created. He was. But now he was with them, on earth, God incarnate. God and human. Indeed very God and very Man. He said of himself, “I Am.” We’ve heard that before. At the same time he called God ‘Father’ and taught us to address God in the same way. He said those who had seen him had seen the Father. He also said that he and the Father were one. He revealed to them something of the inner workings of The Relationship that had always existed a relationship that was dependent on no one and nothing. He spoke affectionately of the glory that they had shared from all eternity. He also forgave sins, something only God could do. He was accused of blasphemy because he spoke and acted as only God could do, and so they killed him. But then he rose again.
But before he died and rose again he had informed his disciples he was going away. They couldn’t understand it. What would they do, he had only been with them for such a short time. But he said, “I will not leave you as orphans, I will send Another just like myself…” Another? You mean there is Another? Like Jesus? Yes, phew! that’s a relief – but who was he? Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit? A person, not a force, not someone less, but someone of equal standing and ability. Then after his death and resurrection he appears to them and commissions them to go and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons, all equal, each possessing will and personality, yet one God. The gospel was from the start to be Trinitarian, nothing less.
And so it was that on the day of Pentecost Holy Spirit came and presenced himself among God’s people. One God, three Persons, that was their experience, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a holy, loving, happy community of Being.