Doctrine week 1: Trinity – The Dance of Love

(notes adapted from Doctrine, by Driscoll/Breshears and The King’s Cross by Tim Keller)

The Reality of God is of grave importance. Everything in this life hinges on what this
Creator God is like. All of the experiences that we encounter in this life affect the way
we view and perceive this Creator God to be. Good. Bad. Mean. Accepting. Impatient.
Angry. Controlling. Impersonal. Masculine. Feminine. Uninterested. Etc.

So who is this God, what is He like, and what does He expect of me. These are just a
few of the questions that we’ll answer this summer as we take the next 13 weeks to
unpack what the Bible says about God, Faith, Salvation, Relationships, Death, etc..

Longings. We all have longings, most of them unfulfilled, but there none the less, and
we strive to fulfill them. We long for unending love and companionship from someone
we can trust to be faithful and helpful. We long for unity, reconciliation, and diversity
among humanity. We long to live in peace and oneness that benefits us and others.

We long to know others and to be known by others. We long to be heard and
understood and to have others trust us enough to hear their hearts. We long for
community, deep, abiding, real, sacrificial and transparent relationships with others. We
long for justice, right living, and freedom to be ourselves without being oppressed,
condemned or abused. We long for a world that is not at war within its members.

Why do we have these, as C.S. Lewis puts it, “inconsolable longings” that leave us
clueless as to how to satisfy them. Why are we compelled to action by these longings?
Where do these longings come from, and how can they be satisfied?

I believe these longings come from the nature of the Trinitarian God of the Bible.
The world and it’s longings are a reflection of the Trinity. Because we are made in the
image of the Trinitarian God to reflect his glory, we will never stop longing; yet, our sin-stained longings distort and hinder our ability to be satisfied.

The Trinity is the first community and is the model for all communities that follow
because they are the only community that has not been stained by the selfishness of
sin. Therefore, in the diversity of God the Father, Son, and Spirit, there is perfect unity
as this one God who communicates truth of Himself, loves rebellious mankind, gets
involved in our lives, becomes a servant & a savior, and makes peace out of our
messes.

I also believe that the Trinity, God being three persons in one being, is proof that
Christianity wasn’t made up by man. If man were to make up a religion, they surely
would never had thought up this complicated, mysterious format for God to exist as.
God’s being in and of itself proves to us that God made this up. Man is too stupid and
smart in the same breath to create the idea of the Trinity.

So today, we are going to do our best to unpack what we know of the Trinitarian nature
of God from the OT to the NT and why this doctrine matters to us today, but beqfore we
get started its important to know that although God is Trinitarian in nature, He is one
God in His essence. There is one God (Deut. 6:4).

In the first paragraph of Scripture, God reveals Himself in a most surprising way:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form
and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was
hovering over the face of the waters. (Gen. 1:1-2)

In this passage, we see both God the Father and the Spirit of God involved in creation.
But it gets interesting when we look at how ancient Jewish rabbis understood this
passage as they did their interpretative translation of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic,
which was the common language of the people. They did a word study of
“beginning” (re’shit in Hebrew; I know, don’t laugh) and found that it is used in
synonymous parallelism with the Hebrew word for “firstborn” (bekor in Hebrew) four
times in the Old Testament (Gen. 49:3; Deut. 21:17; Ps. 78:51; 105:36).

This would mean that the two words, “beginning” and “firstborn,” can have the same
meaning. If this is true for this passage, then the translation of the opening words of the
Bible includes both words: In the beginning, by the firstborn, God created the heavens
and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of
the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Targum Neofiti)

In the opening lines of Scripture then, we find three divine persons at work in creating
the universe as we know it. God, the Firstborn, and the Spirit. This is not a stretch in
translation because we do know from the apostle Paul that Jesus was “the firstborn of
all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and
invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created
through him and for him.” (Col. 1:15-16).

The apostle John also uses this idea as he teaches about Jesus Christ being the Word,
and the beginning of His gospel has similar rings as that of the book of Genesis: “1 In
the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He
was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him
was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3) So we see the trinity on the
outset of the beginning of the story of God.

Then just a few verses later in Genesis, God speaks to Himself with plural pronouns and
says: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26). The God of the
Bible is not only making man in His image, which teaches us a lot about Himself, but He
is also speaking to us about His being. And this cannot refer to God speaking to the
angels (or the heavenly realms) either, since angels don’t create.

We also find the three persons referred to in many other passages. One of the most
important passages is: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has
anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” (Is. 61:1)

We see the “Spirit,” the “me” who is anointed (which is Messiah Jesus), and the
“Lord” (God the Father). We read that Jesus began his public ministry by reading this
passage and identifying himself as the “me” of Isaiah 61:1, saying, “Today this Scripture
has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-21).

Here is another example of the Trinity appearing together in one OT passage: In all their
affliction he [the Father] was afflicted, and the angel of his presence [the Son] saved
them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old. But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to
be their enemy, and himself fought against them. (Is. 63:9-10) The “angel of his
presence” or “angel of the Lord” is another puzzling phenomenon in the OT, but it
makes total sense when you realize that it is coming from a Trinitarian perspective.

Lastly, the Old Testament reveals in advance the divine Son who will come as the
Messiah, God coming to save sinners and crush sin on behalf of God the Father:

• The Lord [Father] says to my Lord [Son]: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your
enemies your footstool.” (Ps. 110:1)
• Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the
time it came to be I have been there. And now the Lord God [Father] has sent me [Son],
and his Spirit. (Is. 48:16)
• I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a
son of man [Son], and he came to the Ancient of Days [Father] and was presented
before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples,
nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Dan.
7:13-14)

*Gen. 19:24; Ps. 45:6–7; Isa. 48:6–7; Hos. 1:6–7; Zech. 3:2; and Mal. 3:1–2 are some of the other OT passages where two beings are distinguished and both are called Lord (Yahweh) or God (Elohim)*

The OT just begins to scratch the surface of the nature of our Trinitarian God. But as the
Scriptures continue to reveal God to us, we begin to see much more clearly who this
great and glorious Trinitarian God is. Thus, the NT!

The New Testament reveals more of the Trinity doing the work of creation, speaking of
the role of the Father, Son, and Spirit (Acts 17:24; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 1:2; 1 Cor. 8:6;
Col. 1:16; Matt. 1:18–20; John 3:5; 1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:5; see also Gen. 1:2; Ps.
33:6; 104:30; Is. 40:12–14).

In the Gospels we see the entire Trinity involved in Mary’s conception of Jesus. Luke
1:35 says, “The angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power
of the Most High [Father] will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be
called holy—the Son of God [Jesus].’ ”

At the baptism of Jesus we witness one of the clearest pictures of the Trinity. Matthew
3:16-17 says, “When Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like
a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said [Father], ‘This
is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ ”

All three persons of the Trinity are present, and each one is doing something different:
the Father is speaking, and the Son is being anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit
to be the Messiah and missionary. This is the most intimate and in my opinion most
telling picture of what the Godhead (the Trinity) is like.

This is what, C.S. Lewis first pointed out, then Tim Keller made more clear, is the dance
of God. Here we see each person in the Trinity glorifying the other through submission,
blessing, anointing each other, and we also see each person in playing a separate role
and following the others’ lead. They are centering/orbiting around each other. We will
refer to this again as we close.

Jesus’ Great Commission is also Trinitarian. Matthew 28:19 says, “Go therefore and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptism is in one name and three persons, an
unmistakably Trinitarian formula.

Acts 1:7-8 says, “He [Jesus] said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons
that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea
and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ ”

Another example of the Trinity is in our salvation, in which the entire Trinity is involved,
but with distinct roles, as the following verses indicate:

• In love he [the Father] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ,
according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he
has blessed us in the Beloved [Jesus]. In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his
blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace. . . . In him
[Jesus] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and
believed in him [Jesus], were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:4-13)
• . . . The foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for
obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood. (1 Peter 1:2)
• But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior [Father] appeared, he
saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own
mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured
out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:4-6)

1) God the Father devised the plan of salvation and predestined it. 2) God the Son
came to die on the cross in our place for our sins. 3) God the Holy Spirit takes up
residence in Christians to regenerate them and ensure their final salvation. In this, we
see the Trinity clearly at work in our salvation. One God. Three persons.

On top of all that, the entire Trinity is involved in the imparting of our spiritual gifts: “Now
there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the
same Lord [Jesus]; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God [the
Father] who empowers them all in everyone.” (1 Cor. 12:4-6)

And finally, when the NT authors sum things up they often use Trinitarian formulas:

• The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God [the Father] and the fellowship
of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)
• There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that
belongs to your call—one Lord [Jesus], one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of
all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:4-6)
• Praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of
our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 20-21)
• Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account
of the works themselves. . . . And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another
Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit.” (John 14:11; 16-17)
So before we bring this full circle and close with why this doctrine is so important, let’s
summarize three very important concepts about God’s Trinitarian nature:

1) God is three persons (Gen. 1:1-2)
2) Each person is fully God (Titus 3:4-6)
3) There is one God (Deut. 6:4)

Why does this matter to us today? How does the fact that God is Trinitarian affect our
relationship with others? Here are a few thoughts on how the Trinity influences our lives,
relationships, and mission.

If this world was made by a Trinitarian God, which we learned to be true in Scripture,
then relationships of love are what life is really all about.

You see, different views of God have different implications. If there’s no God… if we are
here by blind chance, strictly as a result of natural selection, then what you and I call
love is just a chemical condition of the brain.

Evolutionary biologists say there’s nothing in us that isn’t there because it helped our
ancestors pass on the genetic code more successfully. For example, if you feel love, it’s
only because that combination of chemicals enables you to survive and gets your body
parts in the places they need to be in order to pass on the genetic code. That’s all love
is: chemistry, which in part, is true.

On the other hand, if God exists but is unipersonal (1 person, not 3 persons in one
being), then there was a time when God was not love. Go with me here: Before God
created the world, when there was only one divine person, there was no lover, because
love can exist only in a relationship. Do you see this?

If a unipersonal God had created the world and its inhabitants, such a God would not in
his essence be love. Power and greatness possibly, but not love. But if from all eternity,
without end and without beginning, ultimate reality is a community of persons (Father,
Son and Spirit) knowing and loving one another, then ultimate reality is about love
relationships.

Why would a Trinitarian God create a world? If He were a unipersonal God, you might
say, “Well, He created the world so He can have beings who give him worshipful love,
and that would give him joy.” But the Trinitarian God already had that, and He received
love within Himself in a far purer, more powerful form than we human beings can ever
give Him.

So why would He create us? There’s only one answer. He must have created us
not to get joy but to give it as the Trinity gives it to one another in a humble,
worshipful, loving, relational, unified, and submissive manner.

He must have created us to invite us into the dance, to say: “If you glorify me, if you
center your life on me, if you find me beautiful for who I am in myself, then you will step
into the dance, which is what you are made for. You are made not just to believe in me
or to be spiritual in some general way, not just to pray and get a bit of inspiration when
things are tough. You are made to center everything in your life on me, to think of
everything in terms of your relationship to me. To serve me unconditionally. That’s
where you’ll find your joy. That’s what the dance is about.”

Are you in the dance or do you just believe God is out there somewhere, or the Trinity
could never be true? Are you in the dance or do you just pray to God every so often
when you’re in trouble? Are you in the dance or are you looking around for someone to
orbit or dance around you?

If life is created by the Trinitarian God in a divine dance, then you need more than
anything else to be in it. That’s what you’re built for. You are made to enter into a divine
dance with the Trinity. This is precisely why Jesus gives the great commandment to the
church: Love God, Love People. This is the very nature of the Trinitarian God that we
serve.

Let’s Pray!

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