Watch the Video
Listen to the Audio
Read the Notes
- God is all about unbreakable unions. The person of Christ is the union of the divine nature and the human nature. Christ is united with his church, and this is part of what we celebrate as we take communion.
- We are joined with Christ and this is an indivisible union that can’t be broken (when people ask if it is possible for a person to lose their salvation, it is more helpful to frame the question in terms of whether union with Christ can be broken).
- This is also why God hates divorce.
- When we become Christians, we become partakers in the divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:4 and 1 John 3:1-2). We can participate in God because we are like Jesus.
- The Trinity helps us to understand what it is to be human. In principle, a human is someone who can be in union with God, in communion with God and who can be like God.
- At Pentecost, God was indwelling countless human persons and drawing them into union with himself.
“The purpose of the gospel is to make us sooner or later like God.” (John Calvin)
- Becoming like God and in perfect union with him will happen fully on the resurrection day, but it also has big implications for how we think of ourselves now.
- The affects the amount of dignity that we give to other people. We must remember that every person has the potential to be like God – we are all humans who can have communion with God.
- In the Trinity, we see the unity of diverse persons perfectly expressed. This serves as a model for human relationships.
Implications of the Trinity For Marriage
- Marriage is the closest human equivalent to the unity and diversity that we see in God (see Genesis 2:24).
- In marriage there is a genuine physical and spiritual joining, yet the husband and wife are still distinct persons.
- In marriage, we are supposed to grow closer together over time rather than further apart.
- The roles in marriage are equal but different. To many in a Western cultural context, this doesn’t make sense, but it is something that we see in God himself and it should be expressed in our relationships too.
- God works as a team. The Father initiates salvation but it was the Son who came to save us (the names ‘Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Spirit’ are not interchangeable). The Spirit applies our salvation, indwells us and empowers us.
- It doesn’t demean the Spirit and the Son that the Father has the leadership role. There seems to be a mutual delight in God in expressing himself in three persons.
- In 1 Corinthians 11:3, we are told that the man is the head of his wife. This is not demeaning to the wife because we are also told that Christ is the head of man and God is the head of Christ, and neither of those things are demeaning.
- Because of sinfulness, headship can become dominant and oppressive, but this doesn’t mean that original distinction is wrong.
- The Spirit is in some way under the authority of both the Father and the Son as he proceeds from both, but he is not demeaned by this. In a similar way, children come from both the father and the mother and are under the authority of both, but they are not demeaned by this.
Implications of the Trinity For the Local Church
- There should be something of the unity of God expressed in how the church unites in love, purpose and mission.
- People sometimes push back at this as they are cautious against ‘groupthink’. We must take care to watch out for this kind of oppressive uniformity.
- We want both real unity and real diversity.
- This should inform and affect the authority structures in the church.
- This should also affect how we think about the universal church, where there will be no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, and where there will be people from every tribe and tongue and nation.
- God is calling us all together into one united family.
Implications of the Trinity For Wider Society
- Society works best when there is both unity and diversity.
- For example, in a sports team there needs to be authority, but there also needs to be both diversity and university. When a team has this, it is working in a Trinitarian way.
“If authority was willingly submitted to rather than forcibly imposed, if the diversity of everyone’s unique contributions was valued, if there was no gossip or backstabbing, if people were working together for the common good, and if all of this was motivated by love rather than company policies, then our workplaces would be radically different places.” (Matthew Hosier)
- In eternity, this is how it will be.
Implications of the Trinity For How We Think About the Created World
- Trinitarian theology stems from love. In this way it is very different from both fatalism and deism.
- Trinitarianism is a much more satisfying way of understanding the world than Darwinism.
- There is a purposefulness about a world created by a loving God. We should expect that Science will draw us in to the trinitarian God, as we see the vast diversity in the Earth’s ecosystems working together as one united whole (think for example of the unity and diversity that we see in a beehive).
- There are aspects of modernism that keep us from appreciating the natural world, and so keep us from worship (as truly appreciating God’s creation leads to worshipping the creator).
- The Western tradition of music (especially classical music) is built on a trinitarian model – there is an incredible diversity of instrumentation, coming together to create a beautiful unity.
Implications of the Trinity For Mission
- The two great challenges for mission today are Islam and postmodernism.
- Islam tends to celebrate unity without diversity.
- It sees Allah as a solitary monad (even the name ‘Islam’ is based on submission to authority), but there is not much room for love.
- Democracy often struggles in Islamic societies. In Islamic worldviews there is no separation between ‘church’ and ‘state’. This is necessarily the case because of the view of Allah as a oneness.
- Islamic music tends to be much more monophonic in comparison to polyphonic Christian music.
- Unless you have a true (trinitarian) understanding of God then you cannot have a true understanding of what a human is, so this will need to be part of the missional conversation.
- On the other hand, postmodernism celebrates diversity but struggles with unity.
- There is a lot of talk about diversity and tolerance but not much unity (for example, it seems as though the ‘United Kingdom’ is becoming increasingly fractured).
- This supposedly diverse culture actually leads to a lot of uniformity.
- In our evangelicalism, we have tended to stress personal salvation rather than the community aspects of what God is doing. This was born within modernism, but postmodernism takes it further. There is a lot of talk about community, connectedness and authenticity, yet our personal experience becomes increasingly important.
- In church life, we are increasingly starting to ask, ‘What am I getting from it?’
- This leads to consumeristic fragmentation, and can also lead us to look for what is new and become very dismissive of what is routine.
- True Christianity embraces unity in diversity. There is a place for both creativity and rhythm.
- If we are to connect with a postmodern culture in mission, we need to emphasise diversity and creativity, but we also need to disciple against individualism.
Implications of the Trinity For Worship
- How many of the songs that we sing in church could also be sung by Unitarians, Orthodox Jews or Muslims? At what point does it cease to be truly Christian worship?
- God is Trinity, so our worship needs to be Trinitarian.
- Undue focus on one member of the Trinity can actually deflect from the Trinity. For example, when we say ‘it’s all about Jesus’, are we neglecting to worship the Father and Spirit as we should?
- True worship is to understand how God delights in himself and how worthy he is of our worship. God is already worshipping God, and when we worship we are joining in with that.
- Worship is not our act but God’s gift. It doesn’t depend on how we feel but it is a response to what God has given us.
- If our songs aren’t Trinitarian, we can get confused as we pray (for example ‘Father, thank you for dying for me’).
In what ways have you brought aspects of creation that point to the Trinity into evangelistic conversations, and what response have you had?
- It depends on the interests of the person that you are talking to.
- For people who are interested in nature, it can be a helpful line of conversation.
What advice do you have for bringing postmodern people into committed community?
- There is a longing for in-person participative community (for example music festivals).
- There are things like parkrun. In a sense, this is like church for a lot of people – they come out every week and are very committed to it, there is a core and a fringe.
- Though there is a desire for community there is also fear of it (our expectations have been burnt by a divorce culture).
- Try to process these things through with people and help them to be confident in engaging in community.
What do we do in a culture where Christians are thought of as intolerant for their views on certain issues (e.g. homosexuality)?
- This can be a lose/lose scenario.
- Skipping the passages that talk about it doesn’t help people from who it is a big issue that they need Biblical input on.
- Spending too much time talking about it will be unhelpful for other people.
- We should try to be wise about how we address the topic when we do speak about it.
- We want to make clear that everyone is welcome to follow Jesus, but for each one of us there be different challenges in what God calls us to do.
The Psalms are worship tools. Are they sufficiently trinitarian?
- We don’t use the Psalms enough in our worship.
- The Psalms don’t name Jesus directly, but they do talk about Yahweh a lot, and the speak of Jesus prophetically.
- The Psalms are helpful to pray and worship through the full range of human emotions.
- We shouldn’t use only the Psalms. The New Testament speaks of ‘Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’.
How do we keep a trinitarian perspective in settings where we need to exclude people from certain things?
- Have an eschatological perspective.
- There are times where people do need to be excluded from things. We can’t always get these situations right.
- We should always be looking for reconciliation. This is easier when both parties are believers.
How can leaders demonstrate the Trinity as well as teach it?
- It comes down to ‘team’.
- A Christian leadership team should have both diversity and unity (an age spread and also a gender spread – it is hard to be trinitarian if one gender is totally excluded).
- Make sure you have good accountability structures, be open to correction and receive input from apostolic ministries.
How do we strike the balance between evangelistically speaking to people’s individualism, and yet at the same time challenging that individualism?
- Diversity can be measured in a lot of different ways. We often focus on racial diversity, but for many people class diversity can be more of a challenge.
- The evangelical focus in the individual is a good thing – but it has been overemphasised.
- You can only truly realise who you are as a human when you are in community. This involves lots of sacrificial love (not just social media ‘slacktivism’).