Summary: God as Trinity teaches us that relationships matter, that evangelism is an imperative, that joy in community is central to the Christian life and it gives us a living hope that God has a future prepared for us in the new heaven and the new earth.
This is a series based on and heavily dependent on Timothy Keller’s Best Seller "The Reason For God" for which I’m deeply grateful. It uses much of his argument though with various additions by myself or the other preachers of the series.
What is God like? What’s your image of God? We began this series by commenting that everyone has a picture of God in their heads, even if they profess to be atheists. Whether or not it’s an accurate picture, in order to say you don’t believe in God you actually need an image of what this supposed god is like.
So what is your picture of God? Is he the all powerful creator of the universe; powerful yet remote? Is he the kind, forgiving grandfather figure who loves you no matter what you do? Is he the scolding father who watches your every move and disciplines you when you get it wrong?
Of course, there are many perceptions of God in our world. Each religion has its own view of what God is like. But where Christianity varies from all of the rest is that every other religion sees their god, or gods, as unitary beings; singular beings around whom the universe revolves. If there are multiple gods then they’re either each doing their own thing or they’re competing with each other for popularity.
Christianity on the other hand sees God as triune: three persons in one God. Not that the Bible ever explains how this works. That would be too simple. But it does make it clear that there are three separate manifestations of God, sometimes working alone and sometimes appearing in the same setting.
Have you ever thought about the way the Bible portrays God? Are Jesus and the Holy Spirit simply different manifestations of the same being, or is there a difference between them? The Bible is clear that there is only one God, yet we see examples where the one God appears in more than one guise at the same time. So how do we explain it, and what does it matter in any case?
In our Gospel reading today we read: “After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). In the previous chapter Jesus has said: “When the Spirit of truth comes, ... 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14). So Jesus had a clear understanding of a relationship between the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit of mutual glorification. Someone has described this as like a divine dance where each member of the Trinity focuses glory on the others. Each person loves, defers to and rejoices in the others. So it’s like a dance where each member of the group rotates around the others in a pulsating celebration of love and joy. None is greater than the other, none is less than the other.
Let’s think about what we can learn from the concept of God as Trinity.
First it teaches us that relationships matter. Love matters. If there were no God then the concept of love would be an empty thing. The evolutionists would be right. Love would be simply the result of evolutionary forces creating certain biochemical effects in our brains.
But if there is a God and that God is triune as the Scriptures teach us then things are different. The loving relationships in community that make up the reality of God become the centre of our reality. What we learn is that love is at the centre of who God is. It’s of his essence. The love we experience is an expression of the love that God experiences within his own being. That’s why in the creation account of Gen 1 we’re told: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27) The male and female bit isn’t just an add-on to explain reproduction. It’s central to who we are as people made in the image of God. We’re made for relationships, we’re made to love one another.
This is why when God renews creation through the Holy Spirit, he does it in the context of a Church. Remember the new commandment that Jesus gave his disciples? “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) Why will they know that we're Jesus’ disciples? Because love is the prime indicator of God and his people.