For many Christians, this past Sunday was Trinity Sunday, a day when Christians remember the teaching that God is Triune, both three persons and one essence. Many of those same Christians speak the Athanasian Creed , which describes in detail the doctrine of the Trinity.
For many people, talking about the Trinity seems like it is just a dry, academic exercise. Pastors and theologians use jargon-filled sentences with technical words like, “essence” and “persons.” If they really want to be impressive, or intimidating, they might even say it in Greek, “ homoousious.” They complain that talking about the Trinity has no practical implications for the Christian life.
But the teaching on the Trinity is practical. It reveals to us many things about the Christian life and how we are to interact with each other. Here are a few of them:
We Must Take God As He Presents Himself
But that’s not true. If you want a relationship with God, you need to have it with him as he is. Let’s use Israel as an example of what I mean. When Moses was at the top of Mt. Sinai receiving God’s law, God’s people were at the foot of the mountain making a golden calf. If you carefully read the story, you’ll see that they didn’t create a brand-new god.
When the calf was formed, English translations have the people say , “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” The plural form of the word, “god,” is translated as singular when referring to the true God. I believe that the people thought that the golden calf was the true God. The Bible further supports that when Aaron says in verse five, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.”
God’s people thought that the golden calf was the true God. Rather than receive God for who he reveals himself to be, they remade God after the image they had in their hearts. Christians are no less likely to do that. In fact, a recent study finds that most people who identify as Christians don’t understand the teaching on the Trinity. The god they worship is made up after the image of God in their own hearts.
We Have Unity in Christ
The three persons of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, have a mystical unity with each other. Their unity is completely beyond our understanding. There is nothing that exists that is both three and at the same time one. And yet, we believe that God is both three and one. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit exist separately, but they are also united in one God.
That unity is an image of the unity all Christians have in Christ. The Bible says that all Christians are united in Christ . We have a mystical unity with each other that is as mysterious and incomprehensible as the unity that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have.
Being united in Christ, we ought to live in the unity that we have like the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit do. They work in perfect harmony with each other, having one goal and one will. They do not fight against each other. They do not spread rumors about each other. They are simply one.
Your Value Is Not Related To Your Role in Society
The Trinity teaches us that all three persons are of equal value, since they are all one God. Yet, the Bible tells us that there is an order in the Trinity. Take, for example, John 3:16-17 , “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
In this verse, Jesus tells us that the Father sends the Son. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, follows his Father’s orders. He is subordinate to the Father in role, but not in essence. He obeys even though he is equal to the Father. He says something similar in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
The Holy Spirit also obeys the Father and the Son. In John 14, Jesus tells the disciples that he will ask the Father to send the Spirit, and the Father will do it. In John 20, Jesus breathes on the disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit.
In the Christian church, we are all of equal value, because we all derive our identity from Jesus Christ. We are all sons of God. There is, however, also an order. Parents tell their children what to do. Pastors are the shepherds of their congregations. Christians must sometimes put their own will behind the will of others. When we are subordinate to someone else, it does not change our value, because God himself has subordination within the Godhead.
A professor of mine once said, “All theology is practical theology.” Every teaching, every doctrine, has practical implications about how we live and act. The teaching of the Trinity might seem like it is just some ivory tower, academic exercise without a relationship to our lives, but we can learn numerous practical lessons from examining God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.