God in Community: The Trinity

Some of the splashes on this blog have a bit more heft to the droplet that makes them. This is one of those. Honestly, this might be one topic that qualifies for “so-deep-you-can’t-find-the-bottom” status. Trying to use words to navigate it seems almost silly, but you know I have to try. It’s who I am.  🙂

Chapter 2 of Invitation to the Jesus Life begins with one of the most difficult theological concepts to grasp: the Trinity. This isn’t something you fully lay out and comprehend in 300 words or less, so buckle your seat belts, friends. Here we go….

It’s not a tremendous leap to say that God exists in community. Most of us are familiar with what I’d call the “Big Three” names of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Scholars of the Hebrew names will have a larger arsenal from which to draw, but these three names are all over the scriptures. But, where do scholars have basis for the Trinity, the tri-unity, in scripture?

We have an understanding of God in three persons from several sources in scripture.

  • The verbs used for God are plural (Genesis 1:26, 2:22, 11:7; Isaiah 6:8).
  • There are passages identifying two persons as God (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:41-46; Hosea 1:7; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:4-6; Jude 20, 21; John 1:1-2).

For some reason, I have little trouble with the concept of an infinite God having a vast character I cannot fathom. It’s very much like knowing certain aspects of various people I know. I can see that the people I know are very complex, so why not an infinitely more complex character attributed to my Almighty God? Are you like me in this?

The concept of a loving father is desperately desirable to us. God the Father, our Abba, is a piece many of us deeply crave in the puzzle of the Trinity. Whatever our experience with our earthly fathers, the Heavenly Father is a whole other thing, yet God used the term father to describe himself (Matthew 5:48; 6:14; Luke 11:9-13). Don’t miss Luke 11:13; I love that one!

Perhaps we relate deeply to the person of the Trinity known as the Son for other reasons. He is fully God and fully man, the one present with the Father at Creation, our “God with us” on this earth, the Son of Man and the Son of God, the one who paid for all our sins–Jesus! As Jan Johnson says, “Jesus didn’t speak of a ‘plan of salvation’ because he was the person of salvation (see John 14:6; 17:3)” (p. 30). When we look at Jesus, we see God’s gift of grace in response to our going our own way (Isaiah 53:6). Need more evidence of Jesus being divine in nature? See the following: Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Romans 9:5.

The third person of the Trinity may be the most difficult to grasp. Can we agree to call him a person from the start? The Holy Spirit is often referred to in genderless and almost non-person terms. (I wonder if that hurts his feelings sometimes.) Since the Father and the Son are persons, it’s not a huge leap to say the Spirit is also a person. The confusion may come from the Greek language using a genderless term in places, but the masculine term is used, and the other descriptive terms specifically relate to people. So, since few of us are scholarly to the point of knowing the linguistic specifics, I’ll just say this error originates in not knowing the Spirit is, in fact, a person.  😉  He is actively involved in the Christian’s life, and this alludes to a relationship we can have with him, but we’ll save that for another post. Here are some verses to read regarding the person of the Holy Spirit: John 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7.

This little post cannot do the Trinity justice. I know that. You know that. But, we can begin to say that the persons of God exist in community. I love how Jan Johnson quotes Mark Shaw from Doing Theology with Huck and Jim: “These ‘three distinct Persons live together in full, unchallenged equality, glad submission to each other [and] joyful intimacy with each other'” (p. 31). Now that’s the kind of community I’d like to fully grasp…and participate in! There’s the unity in community!

I wrote this post using the following resources: Invitation to the Jesus Life; The Life Application Study Bible (NIV); God’s Blueprint: A Systematic Theology for Everyday People (The Chapel); Crosswalk.com’s Bible Search Tools.

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