Summary: Take a trip back in time to 320AD to see what people REALLY thought of the Trinity...
If you had gone to the pub some 320 years ago there would have been one thing that everyone would have been talking about: the Doctrine of the Trinity. I don’t know if you all are the type of people who down a pint and sing really loud, rowdy songs but if you are then there the songs you would have been singing in 320AD would have been about the Doctrine of the Trinity. If you thought that the trinity was over your head or it was boring or something for the legalists or fanatical to worry about you would be very much mistaken. This is something people were passionate about on different sides of the earth- there fights about this and riots in the streets of Alexandria. The doctrine of the trinity was the subject on everyone’s lips. Everyone was talking about it.
Think back to 10 years before this and you will remember that Christians had been persecuted by the Romans , they had been thrown to the lions, tortured and murdered. The Roman General Constantine , who was born in this country I hasten to add, had converted to Christianity. He had marched in Rome, conquered it and became Emperor. He made Christianity legal and some believed that there would be no more persecution and no more suffering. However there were problems – people started crawling from the woodworks who before had not been noticed.
A priest named Arius who was a bit of a brain box, a philosopher who read Plato and Aristotle spoke about this subject and confused everyone. He said
“Look at God up there, pure and perfect. Our world is so very far from perfect, surely God can’t get his hands dirty. I know what happened. One day God made Jesus and the Holy Spirit so they could do the dirty work for him and so God could stay up there all safe and untroubled”.
As you can imagine there were plenty of Christians who didn’t like that. One person in particular was the secretary to the Bishop Athanasius. He believed and said quite the opposite. This was a risky move. Orthodox Christians began to suffer and they were persecuted. Athanasius stood up for them and as a result he was exiled 5 times. You know if my ministry at Holy Trinity were to exile me 5 times and I was sent to Siberia or Brussels I’m not sure how long I would keep on preaching. I would still believe it on the inside but I’m not sure if I could keep on saying it outside. Not Athanasius, he kept on preaching. He made great arguments using vivid images and paintings to show God, to show that the Holy Spirit IS God.
Let’s now just imagine for a second that I’m painting a portrait of someone. They are sitting in front of me while I sketch them. But then another person comes along and spills some red paint over it and the painting is ruined. To make it alright again I need the person to come back and sit for me again. Athanasius uses the same analogy. We were making God’s image and it got messed up and God had to come back and sit for the portrait again. Just as the heat and light are the parts of the sun, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the parts to God.