The Trinity for Us

Matthew 28:19

Trinity Sunday does not appear on our Salvation Army calendars, but that does not absolve us from the need to instruct our people in the meaning of our third Article of Faith. Our Handbook of Doctrine admits the difficulty of the task, saying that “It is impossible adequately to picture… the complete truth concerning the mystery of the Godhead.”

From the work of theologians, ancient and modern, guidelines can be singled out. Paul Tillich said that “Trinitarian monotheism is not a matter of the number three. It is a qualitative and not a quantitative characterization of God.” That is to say, when we speak of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we are not making a mathematical statement. We are using the only language at our disposal to attempt to define what lies beyond definition, for in the Godhead there exists a richness of personality which is both beyond our conceiving and our describing. In the scriptural sense a mystery does not contradict reason though it may transcend it. No way can we describe infinity.

The doctrine of the trinity is more than a means of expressing what men have thought about God; it declares what God has revealed to men in history about His own nature.

In the fullness of time came the Incarnation, and in the life, death and rising again of Jesus the church of the New Testament saw God at work. Their experience of Jesus was nothing other than an experience of God. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 KJV).

More was to follow. Jesus told His immediate followers that it was expedient for them that He should go away, at which announcement sorrow filled their hearts. But their sorrow was turned into joy when the company of about 120 found themselves visited by the very Holy Spirit of God in their lives, both individually and corporately.

Yet the last truth must be that for all the unimaginable richness of His complex nature, God is one. The verb was, is and ever must remain, singular. The three persons share every act of thought, will and feeling.

How then does this affect my habit of prayer? Only to help me recognize that there is no activity on the part of the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit that is not shared by the entire Godhead.

These revealed truths, even if apprehended only through a glass darkly in our personal experience, help us to appreciate the mystery and yet the reality of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Frederick Coutts, In Good Company

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