By Andy Constable
Last week we were at a conference for gospel centred churches who are working in housing scheme/housing estate ministry. The conference was focused on the book of Titus and the main speakers did a great job at expounding it for the context of estate ministries. One of the things that struck me at the conference was Titus 1:1: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” Duncan Forbes spoke on this passage and made a great point that we are to explain the truths (or the doctrines) of the Bible to new believers (in fact all believers) because they lead to godliness. One of the doctrines that we need to know well is the doctrine of the Trinity and its application to believers. Here are a few things that I’ve learned about this important doctrine for our lives.
Firstly, the Trinity challenges us to be gracious people. Before the world began there was no, ‘you and me’. There was no world, no stars, no galaxies, absolutely nothing. There was simply God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit in perfect harmony, unity and love. There was perfect serenity and peace. Ed Sanders calls this the ‘Happy Land’ of the Trinity. God was happy and satisfied and needed nothing else because He was and is completely sufficient in and of Himself. And then God spoke and He created this universe and, eventually, you and me. He didn’t need to, and didn’t have to, but He did because everything is an overspill of His great love. All creation is an act of grace. Our lives are an act of absolute mercy. The world and all its fullness is not something that we deserve to have but its something that God created because of His great love. This is the very core of His character.
This grace is further shown in the fact that He then sends the eternal Son to die on the cross to buy back a people that He had originally created for his glory. The cross shows what has always been at the center of God’s character – grace. Everything we have, including our salvation, is undeserved. He doesn’t need to save us. But He chose to save us because He is gracious. This challenges me deep down. We live in a culture that is inherently self-centered. We give us little as we can away and keep as much as we can for ourselves. We are to reflect a God who is constantly giving to us by giving to those around us in time, energy, and finance.
Secondly, the Trinity challenges our individualistic society. Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in perfect harmony with one another. They are one and three, three and one. God is a community. And then God created humans to reflect this community. The Trinity says to itself in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” As one famous person said: “no man is an island.” We cannot live a full life without a network of relationships around us because we are wired to be in relationships. We are created with community in our DNA. In contrast, we live in a society that tries to push people away. We live highly privatised lives and try not to share too much with those around us. This has taken root in our churches. We see each other on a Sunday and a Wednesday and try to bypass people in between. And we wonder why nearly 1 in 4 people suffer with depression and isolation? In Acts 2:42 we see the model we are called to reflect as the Apostles met regularly with the people, preached, prayed and everyone shared everything with one another. The is something that challenges my way of life and the choices I make.
Thirdly, the Trinity challenges our selfish nature. The Godhead lives to serve one another and love one another. The Son is obedient to the Father and wants to bring Him glory. The Holy Spirit wants to point people towards Christ. They don’t live to serve themselves but each other. This is a challenge to a human race that looks after number one first. We sort ourselves out first and make sure we are all right but Father, Son and Holy Spirit are other centered. They are all co-eternal and co-equal. Think about this verse from the gospel of John (chapter 17) when Jesus prays to the Father: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Now think about the conversations that we have everyday. We want respect. We want glory. We want adoration. We want to serve ourselves. But Jesus Christ came to earth and wanted to glorify His Father and carry out the work that He had been given before the world even began! God’s very nature challenges us to serve and to not look to our own interests first. God’s very nature challenges us to bring Him glory alone!
The Trinity is a complex subject but at the heart of understanding as much as we can, there are deep truths that we can use to apply to our lives. Let us continue to study God’s very nature not simply so that we can know God but so that we can reflect His character in our lives. He is a gracious God who calls us to be gracious people. He is a communal God who calls us to live in community. And He is a selfless God who challenges us to be selfless people. These doctrines can change churches and housing schemes and nations.