Knowing God as Trinity
For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
1 Corinthians 8:5-6
‘The Christian books that really fly off the shelves are the “how to” books, the ones that give you something to do. And to the “how to” junkies, the thought of reading a book on the Trinity must feel…rather hard going but pointless. Yet Christianity is not primarily about lifestyle change; it is about knowing God. To know and grow to enjoy him is what we are saved for—and that is what we are going to press into here.
Nonetheless, getting to know God better does actually make for far more profound and practical change as well. Knowing the love of God is the very thing that makes us loving.’
From Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, by Michael Reeves
Ever since probably my freshman year of college, I have been convinced of a few things. 1. I need to dig deeper into the idea of the Trinity, 2. I’m not sure I’ll ever actually come to a semblance of understanding it, 3. The doctrine of the Trinity must be central to the life of the church. So early on back in 2005, I began my trinitarian explorations in Augustine’s book called The Trinity (De Trinitate). This is not a very easy place to begin. I have come a long way, and I think that this quote from Michael Reeves reminds me of my desire for the teaching on the Trinity to be foundational in the life of the church.
Christianity is primarily about knowing God. One of the major aspects of the God’s work was to reveal himself as Triune. The word of God makes known to us the nature of our glorious God. He isn’t someone far away, he isn’t inaccessible, he isn’t indifferent and unloving. He has shown his steadfast love to his people. He has made himself known to us, and he is worthy of devotion. As creatures we find our fullest satisfaction when we know and come to know the God who created all things.
If we were to take a step back historically, we would notice that the doctrine of God often gets forgotten. Sometimes this is because churches don’t regularly read the creeds. Other times it is because other issues seem more pressing. Sometimes the elders of the church neglect to incorporate Trinitarian speech in their sermons and prayers. The issue is that it is forgotten. I am not saying that every single sermon ought to be about the Trinity. I’m saying that the Triune nature of God must permeate our actions. Even something as simple as reminding people of the basic processions and missions of the Trinity is beneficial. That is, God the Father sent the son to redeem his people. The Father and Son sent the Spirit to seal the church and guide her. From these things we have great truths. The gospel itself is the story of the triune God working to save sinners. The whole New Testament gives us an implicit and explicit paradigm to understanding the Trinity. And therefore it teaches us how to know him more and more.
One of the many places in the New Testament where we see the triune nature of God is in 1 Corinthians 8. Paul is alluding to the Shema of the Old Testament. This is the famous passage that is read aloud daily amongst traditional Jews. This is the famous verse on Monotheism. Judeo-Christianity was different from every major world religion. It held steadfastly to the belief that there is only one God. Nearly every other religion accepted multiple deities. The Old Testament is clear though: there is no other God except Yahweh, and every other God is just a piece of wood or metal. But in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul weaves in words about Jesus. Yes, Paul is a Monotheist, but he is also affirming that Jesus is a part of the one nature of God. Elsewhere we see the same language applied to the Holy Spirit. We are to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit according to Jesus. Traditionally we call Father, Son, and Holy Spirit persons, and we say that all share in the same nature. But we must not assume that person or nature means 100% what we mean when we say person or nature. Instead we have to let these categories be shaped by the Scriptures.
The point of all this is that God is not incomprehensible. He is not simply far off. Instead, he has come near to us through his Son who made known to us the Father and through whom came the Holy Spirit. And the nature of our triune God is all glorious. His work in the world is wonderful, and this is why we sing praise to our Triune God alone.