It was such a memorable moment.
A group of 12 of us were seated around a large table in a conference room where we were spending the week in an intensive class on “Systematic Theology.”
I was the only woman in our little group. And, the topic this particular morning was, “The Trinity.”
How Do You Explain the Trinity?
Our professor asked if we had any great ways to explain the concept of the Trinity – a word picture we might use when teaching a class.
Someone tossed out the “water” example. You know, the Trinity is like water. Just as water can be in the form of a solid, a liquid, and a gas, God is in three forms: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, this example eventually breaks down. It’s not a perfect word picture and it doesn’t really explain the Trinity.
Then, another student threw out the “egg” example. This illustration explains that the Trinity is like an egg because of the three parts. Just as an egg has the shell, the white section, and the yolk, so also God is three parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, this example gets sort of messy as well. It’s hard to explain the Trinity using an egg.
In fact, it’s HARD to really explain the Trinity no matter what example, word picture, or illustration you might choose.
Louis Berkhof explains it this way:
“The Trinity is a mystery…
It is especially when we reflect on the relation of the three persons to the divine essence that all analogies fail us and we become deeply conscious of the fact that the Trinity is a mystery far beyond our comprehension. It is the incomprehensible glory of the Godhead.”
(Grudem, page 256)
So, if the Trinity is such a mystery, why study it and write about it?
In short, we study and learn about the Trinity because, according to Wayne Grudem,
“this teaching has implications for the very heart of the Christian faith.”
(Grudem, page 247)
What Are the Main Points We Need to Know About the Trinity?
1} God is Three Persons.
They are three distinct persons. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Spirit. The Father is not the Spirit.
Scriptures on this point: John 1:1-2; John 17:24; 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 7:25; John 14:26; Romans 8:27; John 16:7; Matthew 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; Romans 8:26-27)
2} Each Person is Fully God.
God the Father is fully God.
The Son is fully God. (John 1:1-4; John 20:28, 30-31)
The Spirit is fully God. (Matthew 28:19)
3} There is One God.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Why is This Teaching So Important to the Christian Faith?
First, the Trinity matters because Jesus had to be fully God to save us.
If Jesus were just a good man or a great teacher, He would not be able to die on the cross and save us. He would have just been another created being.
But, Jesus can make atonement for us because He is fully God. Jesus can stand in the gap for us because of His deity.
“If Jesus is not fully God, we would rightly doubt whether we can really trust Him to save us completely.”
Second, the Trinity matters because Jesus has to be fully God for us to worship Him.
In many places in the Bible, we are encouraged to bow down and worship the Lord Jesus. If He were not God, why would be told to worship Him?
But, He is fully God and totally worthy of worship.
Consider Philippians 2:9-11:
“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Third, the Trinity matters because it illustrates the way God relates and His personal nature.
Before creation, the Trinity existed. Father, Son, and Spirit were interpersonally relating. They worked together, they related, they got along, they were in unity, and they were in a relationship.
The word, “trinity” is not found in the Bible, but the idea flows throughout the pages.
The first instance is found in Genesis 1:26–during creation–where God uses the pronoun “US.”
“And God said, Let US make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”
You might also want to look up these verses: Genesis 3:22; Genesis 1:7; and Isaiah 6:8.
Fourth, the Trinity matters because the unity of our universe is at stake.
According to Grudem, “If there is not perfect plurality and perfect unity in God himself, then we have no basis for thinking there can be any ultimate unity among the diverse elements of the universe either.”
(Grudem, page 247)
Why Does the Trinity Matter in our lives?
The Trinity matters to you and me because of what Jesus did for us on Calvary.
Being fully God and fully man, He died on the cross in your place and in mine. Jesus is God! If you have put your faith in Christ, your salvation is totally secure because Jesus is Lord.
The Trinity matters to you and me because it’s a mystery that we really can’t explain.
This means – we don’t know everything, only God does. And, these truths keep us humble and reminded of the fact that He is God and we are not.
Check out Job 11:7-8:
“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know?
Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.”
The Trinity matters to you and to me because it illustrates working together in both unity and diversity.
Just as the three persons of the Trinity are unique, diverse, and yet unified; we also are to live as unique and diverse people who can be unified.
In our families, churches, neighborhoods, jobs, and organizations, God created us all very unique and different. However, the Trinity models for us how three can work together as one.
In closing, I am reminded of the most wonderful example of unity and working together.
It was my joy to serve for several years on staff at a local church as the Director of Women’s Ministries. We were blessed to have hundreds of amazing women involved in our ministry.
One particular event stands out in my mind because of the incredible way everyone worked together.
We were hosting a ladies’ dinner over the course of two evenings. For this event, the ladies were organized into teams. One team handled the food, another the decorations, another the entertainment and music, and others the tickets, the prayer cover, and the volunteers. It was a pretty massive undertaking.
But, everyone came together, fulfilled their roles, followed through on their parts, and worked together. Although we were from various backgrounds and upbringings, we were unified in purpose… we wanted to see women come to Christ.
And, we did.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.”
So, what do you think?
What illustrations have you heard used to describe the Trinity?
Why is the Trinity so important to the Christian faith?
Why is it important to you?
What else would you like to share?
It’s always great to hear from you!
Join us each week on Wednesdays as we take a clear and practical look at some of the most basic and essential tenants of the Christian life – the doctrines of the faith.
Each week, we will highlight and explain a core doctrine. Then, we will pose the question, “Why does this matter to you and me?”
In addition, you can catch all of this year’s “Delight in Doctrine” posts by clicking HERE.
For the purposes of the study, our main texts will be first, the Bible, of course, and Wayne Grudem’s classic, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.
It is our prayer that by the end of 2017, we will all find more delight in understanding what we believe and why we believe it.
“…YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” LUKE 10:27 (ESV)
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