A TRINITARIAN PERSPECTIVE
By Mark Anderson
The term ‘Trinity’ is a word that we believers tend to take for granted. Many universities and churches are named after it; St Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate it and Karl Barth called it the Christian name for God.
You would be hard pressed to find the word ‘Trinity’ in the Bible, and that’s because it isn’t there. It was Tertullian, an early Christian author and apologist who actually used the term ‘Trinity’ and subsequently developed a Trinitarian theology in reaction to ‘Modalism’ which states that there is only one person in the Godhead. Just like an actor could play three roles, so Modalism states that there is one God in three offices as opposed to three persons. This notion is commonly expressed today in ‘Oneness Pentecostalism’
To the believer the Trinity means the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God is one and yet three; not three Gods, but God in three persons. A vivid picture of the Trinity can be found at the river Jordan after Jesus was baptized.
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17).
Jesus, God the Son was baptized; God the Holy Spirit came upon Him and God the Father spoke from Heaven.
While many believers acknowledge the Trinity, the question is are they Trinitarian in practice? Many can recite the benediction which is Trinitarian, but the Holy Spirit is not to be locked away in a creed for safekeeping, but rather to be acknowledged and fellowshipped with in daily life and ministry.
It’s fair to say that many believers are binatarian in practice acknowledging the Father and the Son, while excluding the Spirit on the grounds that He is to glorify Jesus. However the Scripture also states that the Father glorifys the Son and the Son glorifies the Father and yet this doesn’t present a problem.
Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians:
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Cor. 13:14).
At the heart of this text is the gospel itself. John 3:16 is probably the best known verse in the Bible. God’s love is expressed and demonstrated in His giving His only Son because of love for the world. Paul speaks of the love of God which finds its expression in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit which appropriates God’s love and grace in the life of the believer. It is the Spirit who draws the believer into that intimacy with the Father and causes him to participate in God’s grace and the benefits of salvation. This essentially describes what Paul calls the fellowship of the Spirit - a fellowship not just created by the Spirit, but a fellowship in which we participate in, where God the Holy Spirit indwells us and empowers us.
The Trinity should shape the believer’s prayer life. We pray to God the Father in and through the name of The Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18).
As believers, God has called us to worship Him. He is seeking worshippers who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23). What does it mean to worship God the Father in Spirit and in truth?
What does it mean firstly to worship ‘in truth?’ In John 14:6, Jesus refers to Himself as being ‘the way, the truth and the life.’ In John 17:17, He says ‘Thy word is truth,’ and in John 3:21 He spoke of those who live by the truth. From these three sayings of Jesus, we can conclude that to worship in truth, is to give our lives in total surrender to Christ in obedience to the gospel; to embrace His teachings and submit to His word and to allow His word to affect, influence and govern our daily lives. What does it mean to worship ‘in Spirit?’ To worship in Spirit is to recognize that through the Holy Spirit, time and place no longer matter when it comes to worshipping God. The Holy Spirit transcends all geographical boundaries and God no longer dwells in buildings made by human hands. It doesn’t matter if one is in a mud-hut in Africa, a jungle in South America or a church in Australia – God can be worshipped everywhere.
Whenever God speaks today, it is also in Spirit and in truth. God the Fathers speaks and we have access to Him through the Son and His voice comes to us by the Holy Spirit. His voice will never contradict His truth, but will always be in harmony with Scripture and the teachings of Jesus.
Again the Trinity affects our worship of God. We worship God the Father in truth (God the Son who is the Way the Truth and the Life) by the Holy Spirit.
It’s not only the individual believer’s life that should be Trinitarian, but also the life of the church. In 1 Corinthians 12 when Paul describes the make-up of the body of Christ and in particular the workings of the various gifts, he presents them in a Trinitarian manner.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. (1 Cor.12:4-6).
In the above, Paul demonstrates that it is God the Father who empowers the gifts of the Spirit in the life of the believer, while it is God the Son administrates them and it is God the Holy Spirit who diversely manifests them.
It is evident from Scripture that the believer and the church should be Trinitarian in perspective and outlook, allowing for the fellowship of the Spirit whereby all the promises of God can be appropriated and experienced. It is in Christ that the fullness of the Godhead indwells bodily (Col.2:9). As believers we should identify with the Godhead by adopting a Trinitarian perspective in life and strive to ensure that when sinners come to Christ, that they make a public identification with Him, by being baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.