Summary: an exposition of the Trinity, in two parts - this being part one
God In Three Persons, Blessed Trinity
October 16, 2011
Sometimes the view younger children have of God is fairly insightful. Sometimes it’s confused. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it’s all of the above. Here are some examples in children’s letters to God.
A little girl writes:
I read the Bible. What does 'begat' mean? Nobody will tell me.
Or how about these?
Is it true that my father won't get into Heaven if he uses his bowling words in the house?
Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?
Who draws the lines around the countries?
Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy.
This next one’s from a little boy named Bruce. Hmmmm.
Please send me a pony. I never asked for anything before - you can look it up.
I think about you sometimes even when I'm not praying.
We read Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday school they said you did it. So I bet he stole your idea.
We adults sometimes struggle with some of the concepts of God we hear about, or those we read about in scripture. We don’t always get it right either, or if we get it right, we don’t always understand why it’s right.
Today, and next Sunday, we’re going to spend some time looking at a theme that’s very biblical, an idea that’s distinctively Christian in its understanding, but one with which most of us, if we’re honest, would have to say we struggle, or at least have at some point in our Christian lives. We may not struggle to believe it, either because someone whose spiritual maturity and understanding we trust has told us this is true, or because we’ve seen it spoken of or hinted at in scripture ourselves, even though it’s not entirely understandable to us. But the doctrine of the Trinity is a challenging one to our finite minds, despite the fact that it’s referenced in the Word of God more times than we can cite this morning, or even next week.
The New Testament especially assumes the existence of the One God we serve, revealed to us, and relating to us, in three separate persons.
It’s interesting to note that the word Trinity is never used in scripture. But then again, neither is any word in scripture translated as Bible. Neither is the word incarnation. So the absence of this word alone is not enough for us to dismiss it as an unbiblical idea.
We have to wrestle with what we read, what scripture reveals to us, what God has chosen to reveal to us about Himself. This is the way God is, and for us to try to explain it away somehow, because we cannot fully understand it, is to do less than what Jesus told us to do:
John 4:24 (NIV) God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
To worship God in truth, we must worship Him as He reveals Himself to us. And the way He reveals Himself to us, as difficult as it may be for us to fully engage and understand, is as One God, in three persons. Here’s a doctrine that the early church understood at least in part by experience, before they could articulate it well, and even begin to explain it or understand it, as much as any human mind can truly understand. One infinite God who reveals Himself to us in three persons.
Among the reams of material I read and studied in preparation for this message, I found that one author says essentially that believers in Christ already have experienced the reality of the Trinity, and they know this doctrine, even if they don’t realize it. We know God as three persons, even if we can’t explain it. Theologian Fred Sanders of Biola University in California, wrote a book called The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. Another theologian, James White, wrote a book called The Forgotten Trinity.
Among the many resources I studied for today’s message, I can recommend both these books if you’re interested in a more detailed study of this doctrine.
But quoting first Fred Sanders about the Trinity:
Reality comes first, and understanding follows it. If you want to cultivate the ability to think well about the Trinity, the first step is to realize that there is more to Trinitarianism than just thinking well. Instead, Christians should recognize that when we start thinking about the Trinity, we do so because we find ourselves already deeply involved in the reality of God's triune life as he has opened it up to us for our salvation, and revealed it in the Bible. In order to start doing good Trinitarian theology, we need only to reflect on that present reality and unpack it. The more we realize that we are already compassed about by the reality of the gospel Trinity, the more our Trinitarianism will matter to us. Evangelicals in particular should recognize that we have everything we need to think about the Trinity in a way that changes everything.