Summary: Whether we understand the Trinity or not, God bellieves in us.
A Three-Legged Stool
You may have heard the story about a little girl in Sunday school drawing with all her crayons. Her teacher asked her what she was drawing. “I’m drawing a picture of God,” the little girl responded. “But nobody knows what God looks like,” her teacher said. To which the little girl replied, “They will when I’m finished.”
There is some sense in what that little girl was doing. To draw a picture of God, to know what God looks like, to know what God is all about is what one hopes and expects is behind this place we call church. And it is what one of our most confusing doctrines is all about—the doctrine of the Trinity.
This is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after Pentecost, a day the Christian Church historically has celebrated one of its central beliefs— the idea of a triune God, “God in three persons, blessed Trinity,” as the hymn we just sang and Presbyterians say they love to sing more than any other, puts it.
The Bible teaches us that God lives in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each person is equal is stature to the other. READ from the Second Helvetic Confession. We must not confuse the Father with the Son or the Son with the Spirit. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit.
How is God three and one at the same time? And who do we pray to? Can we pray to Jesus, as well as the Father? Is Jesus less than the Father in terms of his status? If not, why did Jesus say that the Father was greater than I am? God is one and God is three. God is here and God is everywhere. God is spirit and God took on flesh.
Saying that there are three persons in the Godhead leads some people to think that there are three gods who work in partnership. This is called Tri-theism (three gods) or Polytheism (many gods as - opposed to monotheism, one god). The doctrine of the Trinity is like a riddle to some people.
A man collapsed suddenly on a busy city sidewalk, the victim of a heart attack. A priest happened to be nearby and rushed over, and asked, “Are you baptized?” There was the faintest nod of his head. “But are you baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?” The man opened one eye and said, “Here I am, dying, and you’re asking me riddles?”
The problem with the doctrine of the trinity is that there is no one place to look for it in the bible. The Trinity is not an explicit teaching of the Bible. In fact the words Trinity or Triunity are not even used in the Bible. But the idea of the trinity is implicit throughout scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Genesis 1:26, “Let us make humankind in OUR image.”
The 3 persons in the Trinity do different things. GOD WORKS FOR US. JESUS CHRIST WORKS IN US. THE HOLY SPIRIT WORKS THROUGH US.
The standard formula goes in this order: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s how it’s always said. But how it works is just the opposite. First, we are grabbed by the Holy Spirit who leads us to Jesus, and then Jesus restores us to God the Father. We can’t worship the Father and ignore the Son. We can’t worship Jesus and forget the Spirit. And we can’t worship the Holy Spirit and overlook the Father. All three are essential to the Godhead.
Three-legged stool illustration
All of this confusion leads to errors. One is the Holy Spirit Error. Several modern movements emphasize the work of the Holy Spirit, to the exclusion of the other two. These movements focus on the filling of the Holy Spirit. But too much or exclusive emphasis on the Holy Spirit is dangerous and creates a lopsided form of Christianity. The Holy Spirit is the quiet member of the Trinity. By this, I mean that the Spirit diverts attention from itself to Jesus.
Another problem is when the focus is on Jesus only with God the Father and the Holy Spirit basically ignored. It’s a “Me and Jesus” thing. But, believe it or not, Christianity is not just about Jesus. It’s not just about a personal savior. When people came to Jesus he pointed them away from himself to the Father, just as the Spirit points away from himself to the Son. John 12:49, says, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.”
What we need to do is when we look at Jesus, we need to look at the big picture to see Jesus in relationship to the Father and in his relationship to the Holy Spirit.