My blog platform enables me to see how many times my posts are viewed. Let’s just say that last week’s initial post in a new series about the Trinity did not set any records! I think I understand why. To a lot of people, the very term, Trinity, evokes images of medieval monks chanting in Latin. Perhaps it doesn’t seem like a very practical subject to spend much time thinking about.
But I believe the biblical teaching that God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is vitally important. And here are three simple reasons why:
1. The Trinity is important because Jesus is important.
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Just a few verses later we are told that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This is an amazing claim! Jesus of Nazareth was more than just a man – He was the “Son from the Father” who existed with God in the beginning and through whom God made the world.
But John also says, “the Word was God.” Wait – I thought he said the Word was “with God.” So how can the Word be with God, and at the same time be God? This is not how relationships work with human beings. I am with my wife, but I am not my wife. Yet somehow, the Word can stand in relation to God while at the same time being identified as God.
The doctrine of the Trinity solves this riddle by explaining that within the life of the one God there are relationships such as Father and Son. And thus the Son can be “with God” and yet also be God. This is the inevitable conclusion we must reach because of the New Testament witness to the identity of Jesus. And so, the Trinity matters because Jesus matters.
2. The Trinity is important because the love of God is important.
First John 4:8 says that “God is love.” But before creation, who was God loving? If God was just the Father, without the Son and the Spirit, could He rightly be said to love anyone? Or for that matter, without the Son, could He even be properly called “Father”?
But Jesus tells us that before there was a world, He shared in a loving relationship with the Father. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24). God did not suddenly start loving when He created the world. Because God is Father, Son, and Spirit, God dwelled in mutual, eternal, indescribable love before there was a universe. It is inherent in the very nature of God to love. And God invites us into that eternal love story.
Indeed, in the triune God is the love behind all love, the life behind all life, the music behind all music, the beauty behind all beauty and the joy behind all joy. In other words, in the triune God is a God we can heartily enjoy – and enjoy in and through his creation (Michael Reeves, Delighting the Trinity, p. 62).
So the Trinity matters because the love of God matters.
3. The Trinity is important because the Gospel is important.
The gospel is the proclamation that Jesus is King, the Savior sent by God to free us from our sins and redeem us into new life in the Spirit. Paul summarizes the gospel like this in Romans 1:1-4-
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
It is hard to find any summary of the gospel that does not mention the Father, Son, and Spirit together. Consider this passage:
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:4-6).
There is a good reason for this trinitarian shape to the gospel. After all, the reason we need a savior is because we have sinned. We have ruptured our relationship with God. So we stand in need of someone who can reconcile us to God. That’s what the Bible teaches Jesus did for us on the cross. But who is able to make things right with God? Only God is! God came to reconcile us to God (2 Corinthians 5:18). How is that possible? Because God is Father, Son, and Spirit.
The relation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to man corresponds to a relationship in God between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and the love which is poured out to save us is the expression of that love which has dwelt eternally in the bosom of the God. Ah! The doctrine then becomes for us so touching and profound! There we find the basis of the Gospel, and those who reject it as a speculative and purely theological doctrine have therefore never understood the least thing about it… (Adolphe Monod, quoted by Fred Sanders in The Deep Things of God, p. 166).
So the Trinity matters because the gospel matters.
It is the doctrinal glue that holds together the most basic elements of Christianity, such as the incarnation and the atonement. It is what distinguishes the Christian concept of God from other world religions, including Judaism and Islam. And it is the very essence of the gospel itself. It is the “revelation of God’s own heart” (Fred Sanders, The Triune God, p. 240).
[Over the last year I have read many books on the Trinity, but the three that I have cited in this post were the most influential in my thinking – so much so that I don’t know where my thoughts end and their thoughts begin! If you would like to explore the topic of the Trinity in more depth, check out these excellent books.]