How do we explain the Trinity? Is it like an apple? Like water vapor? Like three parts of one egg — shell, white, and yoke? Or is the reality of the divine Three-in-One something more mysterious and complex than all those examples?
As God was revealed in the Old Testament, still we affirm today: God is one. The core principle of Israel is still true of the Church: Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Listen, Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”
Jesus affirms in Mark 12:29-30 that reality, “Jesus answered, “The most important (commandment) is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
However, what we learn from Jesus in passages like John 14 is that the idea of “oneness” is not necessarily an idea of “singularity” or “simplicity.” Theologian Millard J. Erickson, in his book, “Making Sense of the Trinity,” discusses the oneness enjoyed by the Godhead like this:
- The life of each flows through the others as well.
- Each has immediate access to the consciousness and experiences of the others.
- Each is dependent on the others for his own life and for his being deity.
The union is so utter and complete that though they are three persons, "it would not be possible for one of the members of the Trinity to cease to be, or to separate from the Godhead, and the other two to continue in existence as God" (p. 62).
Therefore, we are not speaking of three separate gods. That would be the fallacy of tri-theism. But Christianity is monotheistic. Notice what Erickson stated: “a union in which (. . .) the life of each flows through the other as well.”
Neither are we speaking of three different faces of the same god. That would be the heresy of modalism — think the same person with three different masks — and has been put down many centuries ago.
A society founded on love
Thus, Erickson posits perhaps the best analogy we could use to describe the Trinity, as a society that is a “complex of persons, who, however, are one being” (Erickson 58). One in which there is perfect sharing of life and experiences, and in which perfect love binds all interactions and guides all shared activities. "Love is such a powerful dimension of God’s nature that it binds three persons so closely that they are actually one. There is a sense in which the fact that God is love requires that he be more than one person. Love must have both a subject and an object" (p. 58). It is a society of persons perfectly united and bound by love (here defined as “the attractive force of unselfish concern for the other person”).
Thus, if the author of reality is fundamentally social, then the fabric of reality is fundamentally love! This, then, makes sense as to why God, who is love, has commanded us, at the most basic essence of all his commands, to love.
Invited to the table
Therefore, it leads us to this one teaching of Jesus, from John 15:
Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love. If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. (. . .) My commandment is this—to love one another just as I have loved you.
Let that sit on you a minute… How has the Father loved the Son? Describe it in words as best you can.
And we have been invited into his fellowship! Jesus made a way for us.
He said it in verse 13: “No one has greater love than this — that one lays down his life for his friends.”
Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, gave the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because he was fully God, he was blameless and fulfilled all the righteous requirements of God’s law. Because he was fully human, he was able to offer a suitable sacrifice for us — the righteous for the unrighteous — that we might be reconciled to God. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And because Jesus was the author of Life, and one with the Father, he did not stay dead! After he died on the cross, he rose again on the third day to life immortal and glorious.
When you come to him in faith, trusting in his sacrifice for your sins, you are freed from the penalty and power of sin, you are spiritually raised to new life as the Holy Spirit brings life to your human spirit, and you are adopted as God’s own child. You are deeply known, seen, and loved.
Through faith in the finished work of the Son, we are given a seat at the table to enjoy the fellowship of the Trinity!
Not that we ourselves join into the Godhead, but that we as children at our parents’ table have been invited to sit and enjoy their company. I have two kids who are in elementary school. When they sit at the table to eat with my wife and I, they don’t always understand what she and I are discussing, but we are able to show them our love and provision.
In the same way, as we sit at the table with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, sure, they’ll say things we won’t understand all the time, but we will know their love, their goodness, and their provision.
What love has been poured out on us! Jesus said,
I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete (John 15:11)
Friends, this is our source of joy: God the Son has invited you and invited me to make our hearts at home in the perfect divine love of the Trinity!
When life gets hard, when the people in your life reject you or are disappointed in you, remember this: You belong to Christ and your heart is most at home in the perfect divine love of the Trinity, where you are accepted, embraced, safe, and enjoyed. This is the place you are invited to start, from which you are invited to live your life.
It can be so hard sometimes to love the people God has placed in our lives. Sometimes the biggest barrier is the fear of rejection — "Will they respond to in the way I hope they do?" For all the ways that fear can manifest itself, this open invitation from the Son is like a safe haven of acceptance — one that can become the harbor from which we embark into these tenuous relational waters.
You have a place in the beloved family of God! You are a child of God, and your place with him is secure because the Son has invited you in!
Brothers and sisters, as we are so filled with wonder and awe at the perfect divine love of the Trinity on our behalf, it will be natural for us to do as Jesus commanded us — to “love one another,” as he has loved us! From this place all ministry in the Holy Spirit must flow: You are perfectly loved by God; and so, love others in that manner.
Content originally posted at Jonathan's blog. Republished with permission.