The Trinity is not an introductory doctrine, meant to be set aside after our intellectual assent, to move on to more “practical” subjects. The Trinity is a mystery that defines our relationship with God. We are not talking about the kind of mystery found in a Sherlock Holmes novel, in which we search for clues and deduce a conclusion that is perfectly reasoned and accounts for all the evidence. The mysteries of God are secrets which, in part, have been or are being, disclosed to His people.
Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Matthew 11:25-27 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
This passage is at the heart of the Christian Faith. It is God who reveals himself, in nature to everyman, and in special revelation to those who believe through His Spirit. Indeed, what is revealed belongs to us and to our children forever. Yet, we have to understand that even what is revealed about the Trinity is itself a mystery. There is a progressive revelation in regards to the doctrine of the Trinity. Some aspects of it remain beyond our comprehension. The Trinity, in many ways, will always be a mystery because the finite cannot comprehend the depth and breadth of the infinite. But what is revealed about the Trinity teaches us about our world. A tension between the one and the many permeates our existence; individuals and the collective. This tension is at the heart of our marriages, churches, communities and politics. Self or selflessness? It’s fundamental to being human. And the answer to this tension is Jesus Christ, who reveals the Trinity to us. Who in himself has two natures, divine and human, and what we learn is that harmony between the individual and the collective is found in divine Love.
The specific word ‘trinity’ is nowhere used in the bible. It is a word the church has developed to synthesize what we understand about God from God’s self-revelation. Like John the baptizer, it is the church’s way of saying “behold, the lamb of God.” The Old Testament explicitly teaches Monotheism; that there is one God. Yet there are many instances when a messenger arrives in the story and attributes to himself characteristics, motivations and reverence that belongs to God alone (Genesis 15:1-6). These messengers are looked upon and talked to as if they are men (Judges 2:1-5). Yet, God told Moses that to look upon God would kill any man who did so. Then the New Testament refers to the Father, the Son Jesus and the Spirit interchangeably as if God were an intermingling of multiple characters.
What is going on? Is there an intermediary or is God coming in various forms to communicate with Man? If there is an intermediary what is his status in the creation order? If God manifests himself as various personifications (Joshua 5:13-15, Exodus 24:9-11), why not just say so? Why the secrecy? Why the mystery?
Furthermore, mankind fell out of face to face relationship with God and no longer walks with God in the cool of the day. Man is at war with his neighbor. Husband and wife are at odds. Nature no longer produces freely. Separations permeate man’s existence. Who will restore these broken relationships? Further still, man is at war within himself. Man does what he wishes and yet guilt and turmoil pervade his life. What is God about? God has not been silent. His answer throughout the first 39 books of the bible are distinct statements and poetic references to God’s character and ultimate vision for creation, but it seems to be a mystery wrapped in a riddle, hidden inside an enigma.
Jesus truly is the light that enlightens men. By Him we see God clearly. By Jesus we see ourselves clearly. By Jesus we see one another and our purpose clearly. Jesus is the entry point to understanding the Trinity; He truly is the gate to the happy land of the Trinity, to which we are cordially invited. Jesus unlocks the secret doors of our existence. Yet, not matter how systematic and thorough our theology, we inevitably come to the edge of human understanding and can only kneel in awe at the infinite holiness, grace, loving-kindness and expanse of that happy land.
The Trinity unlocks the mysteries of human existence, closes the separation that permeates our lives and shows how awe-inspiring our God is. The point of this is to instill in us the only proper response we can give; worship.
I am not saying that the Trinity is a mystery and we just need to sing for joy at our ignorance. What I am saying is that the revelation of who God is sheds light on every relationship and action of man. Yet, the Trinity is so vast that it not only shines light on all of that, there is still so much more beyond our comprehension that we ought to be awed to reverent delight in our God.
Think back to before the scientific revolution. Medieval man understood nothing about the inner workings, distance or stability of the sun. But as time went on and more was revealed through progressive revelation (scientific discovery), mankind came to grow in its understanding about how the sun works, and yet there is a great deal we still do not know. The New Testament does that to our understanding of the Trinity. We have come farther than anyone in the Old Testament could have imagined and yet still know so little.
Another example of this is marriage. One man and one woman make one flesh. One plus one equals one. This is a mystery about Christ and His church, so we see we are one with Christ like we are with our spouse, yet how does that actually work? This revelation at once sheds a great deal of light on marriage and our relationship to God, yet possesses more depth than we can truly comprehend, because it is ultimately about the eternal God. So, in awe we give thanks and pray to comprehend and conform to this reality. We apply it and we worship.
Let’s turn to a passage that we are going to spend a lot of time on. Read it and write down three things it reveals that clarifies the Trinity for you and three things that it reveals about the mysterious wonder of the Trinity for you.
Ephesians 1:3-14 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The mystery of the Trinity reveals the wonder of God. If we were just like God; if we thought His thoughts, were Holy and good on our own, then we wouldn’t need Him. We come to a point in Theology where we can’t get any farther. We come to the edge of our knowledge and what lies beyond it, in every category is an infinitely gracious, endless and holy God who stoops to our level. Who, Himself, crosses the divide between Him and us and between you and me, to make us part of His eternal community of Love. This mystery causes awe that leads to the only appropriate thing that we can do. In light of what God reveals of himself to define our relationship with him and to each other; we worship.
The God of the Bible is a mysterious, holy, sovereign and good God. And what we come to understand from studying the doctrine of the Trinity is that He is greatly to be praised daily; in our private lives, our families and in our community, capped off by gathering in His presence at His beckoning call to lift Him up in adoration and veneration on the Lord’s day.