Summary: Why is the doctrine of the Trinity so important to our understanding of salvation?
Today is Trinity Sunday and so I think it is useful to ask the question today - Do Christians believe in one God or Three Gods? as the Muslims claim.
This is often the challenge made by those Monotheistic religions that do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord
What do we mean when we say in the Creed in the Communion service?
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty …and in one Lord Jesus Christ…and I believe in the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit)”.
What do you mean when you say that you believe in One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Holy Communion service?
Do you believe in one God or three Gods?
St Augustine of Hippo took nearly thirty years of his matured life to write fifteen volumes called “About the Trinity” and was constantly updating and revising his work.
If it took Augustine 15 volumes – I will not be presumptuous enough to do anything else than scratch the surface of the Trinity.
Story: St. Augustine - so the story goes - was struggling to understand the doctrine of the Trinity. So he decided to go for a walk on the beach, where he saw a little boy digging a hole in the sand with a seashell. The boy then ran off to the ocean, filling the shell, and rushed back to pour it into the hole he had made.
“What are you doing, my little man,” St. Augustine asked.
“I’m trying to put the ocean into this hole”, the boy replied.
Augustine suddenly realised that this was precisely was he was trying to do…to fit the great mysteries of God into his mind.
But I do think we need to have some understanding of the nature of the Trinity.
Let me try and explain what I understand by the “Three in One” God – the Holy Trinity by way on an analogy.
If I take an egg, I have three parts to it:
The Shell – would you call that an egg
The Albumin – the White – would you call that egg
The Yolk – would you call that egg?
Actually the egg is made up of all three parts – the shell, the albumin and the yolk.
The egg is incomplete without one of these elements – yet you would call all of them egg!
So it is with the Trinity. The Godhead is one – just as the egg is one – yet made up of three persons The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. Just as the egg is made up of the Shell, the Albumin and the Yolk.
Yes, Christians do believe in One God, the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit
If I was to separate the shell from the white and the white from the yolk of the egg – the egg wouldn’t now become three eggs - would it? It would still be one egg!
In the same way, there is still only One GOD when we perceive or recognise the three persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Bible never mentions the word, trinity. However, there are plenty of references to the Holy Trinity.
Here are just a couple:
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:21 and 22)
And of course a passage from last week’s Gospel reading:
"All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:25-26)
Unlike the egg analogy, there are times when we cannot distinguish the various persons of the Holy Trinity.
Jesus himself said "...Anyone who has seen me (Jesus) has seen the Father...Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me..." (John 14:9,11)
So why is it important - you might ask - whether or not we believe in the Trinity.
I would like to suggest to you that the reason is because our salvation hangs on the fact that Jesus is fully God as well as being fully human.
Story: Since the foundation of the Church there have been three basic propositions about the nature of Jesus:
i) The first proposition is that Jesus was fully human, but not God.
This was a heresy championed by the Ebionites, of whom Sabellius was the best known. This doctrine sounds attractive but contradicts passages like John 1:1-14 and John 20:28, which emphasize the deity of Jesus.