The Doctrine of the Trinity for Christian Practice

 

UnknownRecently, I finished a teaching series on the Trinity in my Sunday School Class. I must say that it was a challenging and rewarding series to teach. Trinitarian theology is an important distinctive of Christianity. Trinitarian theology is also significantly practical to our understanding of salvation, prayer, and relationships.

For example, in Ephesians 1 Paul describes salvation in light of the Trinity. God the Father planned our salvation. God the Son accomplished our salvation. And God the Holy Spirit sealed our salvation. Relating to our prayer lives, we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Jesus in Matthew 6:9 taught us to pray “to” the Father. In Hebrews 4:14-16, Jesus is described as our High Priest or access to the Father’s throne room, and in 1 John 2:1, he is our advocate with the Father. In Romans 8:26, Paul teaches that the Spirit prays for us, and Paul also admonishes us in Ephesians 6:18 to pray “in” the Spirit.

But our salvation and prayer lives are not the only aspects of Christian living affected by Trinitarian Christianity. The way in which we relate to one another is modeled after the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit within the Trinity. 1 John 4:7 affirms that “God is love.” Love here is the Greek agape which means a selfless, other-centered love. This verse is an implicit evidence of the Trinity. The Father doesn’t love the Father with agape. Rather, the Father loves the Son and the Spirit with agape, as the Son loves the Father and the Spirit with agape, as the Spirit loves the Father and the Son with agape. So, the relationship within the Trinity pictures for us the love we are to have for one another.

Not only does the Trinity provide for us a picture of selfless love, but it also offers to us a model for submission in relationships. Within the Trinity (as the picture above highlights), the Father, Son, and Spirit are equally God, but each person within the Trinity is distinct. Interestingly, Scripture teaches that Jesus submits to the Father’s will and was sent by the Father (John 5:19-23; as well as numerous other times throughout the gospels). Scripture also teaches that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who comes from the Father (John 15:26). In other words, Jesus is fully God, yet submissive to the Father’s will; the Holy Spirit is fully God, yet submissive to the Son and the Father. Thus the concept of structural submission is necessary to the biblical testimony concerning the Trinity. And yet the submission of the Son and Spirit in no way makes them less God than the Father. As a result, when we are commanded to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) or to specifically submit within relationships (wives to husbands in Ephesians 5:22 or children to parents in Ephesians 6:1 or slaves to masters in Ephesians 6:3) it is not a reflection that the submissive person is less than in dignity, honor, or nature than the one being submitted to. Rather, the pattern of submission creates a relationship of structure and order. As Jesus is our model in all things, so must we adopt his submissive attitude to those in structural authority over us. I’m convinced that if we practice the Trinitarian model of submission, our relationships would be much more healthy and fruitful.

I realize there is much more to be said concerning the Trinity. I hope these few examples remind us to wonder in awe at the beauty and glory of One God in three persons. Moreover, I hope these examples remind us that the doctrine of the Trinity is more than just a theological conundrum to be debated and studied, but also a practical influence on our understanding of salvation, how we pray, and how we relate to one another.

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