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What is the Trinity and why does it matter? Why Christians believe in this controversial doctrine.

(Editorial note: AI was used in the process of adapting this post from a sermon manuscript.)


Today, we're diving into a topic that makes Christianity unique—the doctrine of the Trinity. This belief has sparked much debate and even caused splits within the church throughout history. It's such an important concept that we dedicate a special day each year to celebrate it. But what exactly is the Trinity, and why does it matter?


One God, Three Persons


The Bible begins with the clear statement that there is one God. Genesis 1:1 tells us, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." This idea is foundational: there is only one Creator worthy of worship. The Old Testament reinforces this in passages like Exodus 20:3, "You shall have no other gods before me," and Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one."


However, the Bible also presents a complex picture of God. In Genesis 18:1-2, where told that God appears to Abraham, but then in the story three men show up, and in Exodus 3:2-6, God speaks to Moses through a burning bush, described as "the angel of the Lord." These passages show that God's interactions with humans are complex.


The New Testament Clarifies


The New Testament makes these complexities clearer. John 1:1-3, 14 introduces us to the idea that Jesus, the Word, is both with God and is God, and then this Word becomes flesh. Jesus also speaks of sending the Holy Spirit on the authority of the Father who will teach his followers on his behalf. Then, in the most telling passage of all, Matthew 28:19, Jesus tells his followers to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These developments clarify things, but also add complexities. While the Old Testament had some complexities, these new developments indicate that God is encountered through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Early Church Insights


To make sense of these scriptures, the early church developed the doctrine of the Trinity. They described God as one God in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This doctrine helps us understand how God can be one and yet interact with the world as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Michael Bird says this about the earlier church's work in developing the doctrine of the Trinity:

"The early church arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity out of their reflection of Scripture, thinking about God’s nature in relationship to God’s actions, striving to find language to distinguish and correlate the three persons, and attempting to give verbal expression to their experience of God. The Trinitarian doctrine partly demystifies the mystery of God’s tripartite being and gives us a way of describing the God who revealed himself as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in both his essence and in his operations. ("Evangelical Theology," 100, Zondervan, 2013)

Why the Trinity Matters


The Trinity is not just a theological concept; it has practical implications for our understanding of God. First, it shows that God is relational by nature. The early church fathers used the word "perichoresis" to describe the relationship within the Trinity, often likened to an eternal dance of love. This eternal relationship is the source of all creation and love.


Secondly, the Trinity reveals that God's essence is love and that he desires a relationship with us. This unique view of God underscores his deep love for creation and his desire to know us and be known by us.


Conclusion


On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the mystery and beauty of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Understanding the Trinity helps us grasp who God is and how he works in the world. It reminds us that God’s nature is deeply relational and that his love for us is an outpouring of his eternal love.


(To dive deeper into this topic, listen to this sermon below.)




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