Embracing The Trinity
Sermon date: 16th June
“The term by which is expressed the unity of the three persons in the one God. Trinity is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
How can God be three entities and one entity at the same time?
How would you answer this question if a non-Christian friend asked you?
Time – past, present and future
Space – length, width, height
Matter – solid, liquid, gas
Please feel free to use whatever is helpful for your group, don’t feel you have to use all the notes given.
Consider the following statements.
Do you find any of them helpful in the debate about the Trinity?
“If you deny the doctrine of the Trinity you could lose your soul, but if you strive too hard to understand it, you could lose your wits.” (Robert Smith, English preacher, 1634-1716)
“We believe a lot of things that we don’t really understand. For example, light – some say it is made up of particles, others that it is composed of waves. Others say it is a combination of the two. We might not understand it but we still believe it.”
“God meets us where we are and reveals Himself to the degree that suits His purpose and to the degree that we can understand. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29.29).”
“If you can understand it, it is not God.” (Augustine)
“We can only see 10% of an iceberg – there is much more to God than our finite minds can understand.”
“The Shack” was a very popular – and controversial - book written by William Paul Young some years ago. In it God the Father was seen as a large black woman who was outgoing, warm-hearted and kind. God the Holy Spirit was seen as an Asian woman dressed in bright clothes who danced about in Tinkerbell-like fashion. God the Son was seen as a workman with jeans, flannel shirt and a tool belt.
You might like to ask if anyone remembers reading the book and how they reacted to it. It was an attempt to give the Trinity personality, but it fell short in capturing the real theology of the Trinity.
Q.1 What is the basis of our belief about the Trinity?
There is one true God (Isaiah 44.6; James 2.19).
There are 3 Persons that the Bible reveals to be True God (i.e. God by nature), so we can conclude that God is a Trinity. This biblical doctrine leads to the belief that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God but that there is only one God by nature.
The following section looks at Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with selected biblical verses to back up the statements. Please consider whether such a survey will be helpful to your group.
The suggestion is that the group works through these verses and discusses what is said about Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
GOD THE FATHER – this is not really something that is disputed so we need not reflect on this further today!
GOD THE SON, JESUS
Identified as God in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (Isaiah 9.6; John 1.1; Philippians 2.6)
Claimed the divine name “I AM”, the name Yahweh used when he revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush (John 6.35)
In Jesus dwells the fullness of God (Colossians 2.9)
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end (Revelation 22.13)
Shares the glory of God (John 17.5)
Creator (John 1.1-3)
King of kings and Lord of lords (Deuteronomy 10.17; Revelation 17.14)
Eternal (Psalm 90.2; Hebrews 7.3)
Accepts worship which is for God alone (Exodus 34.14; Matthew 28.8-10)
Omnipresent (Matthew 18.20)
We might conclude that Jesus, the Son, is less in position but not less in nature. His divinity was veiled while on earth, and he never used it for his personal comfort.
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
Not much seen in the Old Testament, but the New Testament makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is a PERSON and is, in fact, God (John 1.1-3)
Takes the place of Jesus (John 14.16)
Many times in John 14-16 Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as he/him
Referred to as God (Acts 5.3-4)
Described as Yahweh (Hebrews 10.15-17)
Eternal (Hebrews 9.14)
These are just a few selected verses, but it is reasonable to conclude: “There are three Persons all working in perfect harmony as One God.”
Q.2 Why should we care about the Trinity, and why is it important?
From the early days of the Church, various heresies about God circulated. The two main ones were:
Modalism – one God who appeared in three different roles
Subordinationism – The Father is supreme; Jesus and the Holy Spirit have a subordinate role
It was to correct such heresy that the CREEDS were formulated – firstly the Apostles’ Creed (not formulated by the Apostles themselves) and later, in 325, the Nicene Creed. Both these creeds are widely used in Christian worship today.
Our understanding of God is based on what we see God has done and is doing. Without a balanced view of Father, Son and Holy Spirit we can easily misinterpret the work of God in the world.
If we look just at the Old Testament and subordinate Jesus and the Holy Spirit, then we are left with a God of wrath and judgement; one with little compassion.
If we put too much emphasis on Jesus, then we miss out on salvation as the work of God (John 3.16).
If we put too much emphasis on the Holy Spirit (and the gifts of the Spirit) then we lose sight of our Creator God, of Jesus as our Redeemer, and the full role of the Holy Spirit.
Q.3 Are there lessons we can learn and put into action in the life of our church?
The Trinity offers a model for community. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are seen to relate to one another, show love for one another, and work together. Is this a valid picture for us?
It helps us to discover that we too have a MISSION. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
“As followers of Jesus we are loved by the Father, and led by the Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead are at work in our lives, in the life of our church, and in the life of the world.”
I hope you and your group have found these notes helpful and challenging. The Trinity is not an easy topic to cover. When at College, students training for the ordained ministry are told that Trinity Sunday is a good Sunday to invite the Bishop to preach! Perhaps next time we can ask the Bishop to produce some notes!
Either close with a time of prayer for each other and then say The Grace
Pray this prayer of St. Patrick together (389-461 AD)
I arise tomorrow through God’s mighty strength,
His power to uphold me, his wisdom to guide me
and His hand to guard me.
I arise tomorrow through Christ’s mighty strength,
through his death and resurrection.
I arise tomorrow through the Spirit’s empowering,
through the presence of His angels and the love of his Saints.
Through the threefold Trinity to protect me from every evil.
Malcolm Raby, 06/06/2019