What Churches can Learn from the Trinity

 What is it that distinguishes the true Church from the false church and therefore the world? This question is critically important because the dividing line between these two separate worldviews is getting smaller. The Church is losing its distinctive that makes it the Church because its foundation is loosely built on superficial solutions. Which inevitably, show their strength in times of intense pressure. Consistently, one can observe Churches closing their doors or separating on secondary issues.  The problem is not a new one and history teaches that this will continue to be a problem. However, there is a solution. The doctrine of the Trinity helps one understand a gospel that provides the context for encompassing one’s entire life.

“The gospel is Trinitarian and the Trinity is the gospel[1].” This is the heart of Fred Sanders book, The Deep Things of God: how the Trinity Changes Everything. As the potential affect when a Christian looks into the Trinity, Fred Sanders hopes that their lives will be radically changed because the Gospel is the Trinity. He develops his argument with three points. One by looking at the (1) extent of the gospel, (2) the form of the Gospel, and (3) the salvation given by Christ. The extent of the Gospel deals essentially with how big one sees God in our life to give humans salvation. He shows that the, “good news of salvation is ultimately that God opens his Trinitarian life to us.”[2] A phrase that seems meaningless almost entirely without taking a closer look into what the Trinity actually is. Sometimes Christians tend to think that the Gospel was a single moment in their life then they can move on to bigger and more difficult doctrines in Scripture. Yet, as one will see, “the Gospel is God-sized”[3] The reason for this is because God gave up everything to save humankind. If Jesus is truly God as He says in John 8:58, then the Gospel ought to impact believers in such a way that is fully committed to the example of this magnificent saving work.

       The Father teaches Christians how to live their life in light of this reality. The Father chooses in humility to disclose himself through his Son. This is the very model that God called humans too. He is so gracious, loving, and despite not needing humanity he wants to “share with us,” the relationship he has with the Son and Holy Spirit.[4] If Christians could get ahold of this glorious truth then the relationships in the Church would look significantly different because there are no secrets in the Trinity. It is not based on competition or who is the smartest, best looking, charismatic, or even best orator. It doesn’t even matter if your an extrovert, introvert, or an ambivert.  Everyone would feel the sense of importance that they desire in this relationship that the Father express to wicked sinners because it demands of everyone to also model this pattern to one another. Furthermore, when looking at the Trinity’s involvement in our Salvation, one cannot escape the fact of how much the Father loved the Son. One will never understand how much God loved humanity until they understand how much God loved his Son. Salvation through Jesus Christ was not some afterthought of God’s saving work for humanity but it was his very heart. Fred Sander writes, “God gives nothing less than himself to be our Salvation.”[5]

       Secondly, the Trinity also has implications in one’s ministry in light of the shape of the gospel. In the chapter that deals with this concept it is shown the importance of the economy of salvation. The economy of salvation shows that salvation was not a work that was brought along by happen-chance or haphazardly put together, but that it had a purpose and each person has a significant role to play in it. Each of the three in the Trinity have distinct functions. Without one or the other there would have been no salvation. Beginning first with the Father, “who planned redemption and sent his Son into the world.”[6] Salvation would have been useless if the Son then did not choose to obey his Father by accomplishing redemption. However, this still was not enough if the Holy Spirit had not submit to the Son and empower dead sinners to make them holy and acceptable before God’s presence.[7] Carefully reflecting on this indicates that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all fully active and necessary to complete what was the only thing that could save humanity (Acts 4:12). That means that the work on the cross was not a mistake and that there was no other way but for Christ to endure all that pain and suffering because God the Father loved mankind. 2 Corinthians 5:21 adds that God’s elect become “the righteousness of God.” Consequently, Christians are now able to experience the same enjoyment that the Son experiences from the Father.[8] Thus, letting the elect participate in the Trinity.

       Finally, the doctrine of the Trinity has implications for the Christian when looking at salvation given to the elect by Jesus. The most serious problem in Churches comes from their false view of Jesus in His saving work of mankind. As a result it potentially produces an independent and self-center model for relationships and therefore a dangerous view of God. That is because, although it is not wrong to focus on the Son, it is not right to forget or ignore what the Father and the Holy Spirit did in our Salvation.[9]  When Jesus becomes the center of man’s understanding of redemption it also become the model, “Jesus becomes my heavenly Father, Jesus lives in my heart, Jesus died to save me from the wrath of Jesus, so I could be with Jesus forever.”[10] This view effectively destroys all what was said before and makes redemption seem thoughtless. The model again shows no participation, no humility and worst of all no love. Love is the foundation of our Salvation and love cannot be expressed independently but can only exist in the context of two and three.

       Moreover, Dr. Matt Sander, a professor at The College of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, reminds Christians that Christ has taken away the penalty of death. Therefore Christians no longer have “to live in fear of the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest.”[11] A concept that has metaphorically suffocated churches, and caused division. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 it says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” If Christians would remember to live as if this verse were true in their life, they would remember that their ministry is an expression of the life of the Trinity in them; and remember that they have even overcame death. In the hope of remembering this it would demand Christians to quit being overly dogmatic and unforgiving, thoughtful and careless to the needs of a brother. When a person is truly converted and understands what Christ did on the cross they, “immediately turn to farming instead of war, and instead of arming their hands with swords stretch them out in prayer, and, in a word, instead of fighting amongst themselves, henceforth they arm themselves against the devil and the demons, subduing them with sobriety and virtue of soul.”[12]

            In summary of Fred Sanders book there were many strengths and weaknesses. The first strength was that it clearly showed that God opened the Trinity for his elect to participate in (as shown from the examples above). He also did well in showing how the Trinity should stir within Christians a new life. Sanders did this by asking reproducing similar conversations that appear in the Church like the example given on page 171. Other examples include giving biographical information of how the trinity changed the lives of other men and women like Nicki Cruz, Susanna Wesley, and even Henery Scougal. He did not do well however in examining the scripture enough to develop a stronger case for his argument. Many times it seemed that he only used a few verses and when he did the verses seemed as fillers because there was minimal interaction done directly with the text. Overall, the book challenges one to see the significance of the Gospel in all of their life by looking at the Trinity.

[1]Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God : How the Trinity Changes Everything (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2010), 10.

[2]Ibid., 98.

[3]Ibid., 103.

[4]Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit : Relationships, Roles, and Relevance (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2005), 56.

[5]Sanders, The Deep Things of God : How the Trinity Changes Everything, 125.

[6] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology : An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2000), 249.

[7]Ibid.

[8]Sanders, The Deep Things of God : How the Trinity Changes Everything, 161.

[9] Ibid., 170.

[10]Ibid., 171.

[11]Sanders Matt, Focus Study in the Trinity; Class Lecture at The College of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 25 March, 2014

[12]Athanasius, On the Incarnation : The Treatise De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press “Popular Patristics” Series (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996), 105.

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