“Holy, Holy, Holy.” These music notes will consider Trinitarian theology as exemplified in the opening hymn today. In our modern world, the doctrine of God and the Trinity may be seen as impractical and of little use to the modern Christian. This Sunday hopefully allows us to see the importance of the Trinity to our lives. Let us consider here one aspect of trinitarian theology. The three “Persons” of the Trinity are distinct from one another. Consider Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 4; Luke 3) and the simultaneous presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Galatians 1: 1 states that Paul, the writer, was sent by “Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.” The Father and Son are distinct—the Son suffered and died, the Father did not. In John 14, Jesus asks the Father to send another “Counselor,” or “Comforter,” ie., the Holy Spirit, to the disciples. This is clearly “another” entity and not a manifestation of the Father or a reincarnation of the Son. The Transfiguration account (Luke 9) also implies a distinction between the Father and Son. Yet, these Persons are all God. In John 10: 30, Jesus states that “I and the Father are one.” Knowledge of one is the knowledge of the other, for Christ contends that if “You knew me, you would know my Father also.” (John 8: 19) Similarly, a rejection of one is the rejection of the other, as Christ states in Luke 10: 16, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me.” The Holy Spirit as well participates with and, indeed, is a part of the Godhead, for the “eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God. . .” (Heb. 9: 14) Likewise, a knowledge of God proceeds from a working of the Holy Spirit, for “. . . no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God. . .” (I Cor. 2: 11-12) That there is some intimate connection between God and the Holy Spirit seems to suggest a deep unity of substance.
Amongst the three Persons of the Godhead, the binding characteristic is “love,” for “God is love.” (I John 4: 16) This concept of “love,” however, must not be confused with any sort of human, romantic conceptions. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his Ethics, comments upon this passage that, “This sentence is to be read with the emphasis on the word God, whereas we have fallen into the habit of emphasizing the word love. God is love; that is to say not a human attitude, a conviction or deed, but God Himself is love. . . it is not that we first of all by nature know what love is and therefore know also what God is.” Love is demonstrated most perfectly by the Trinity, from whom all love proceeds. Perhaps the constitution of this love is “giving.” The Father has given of Himself in the creation of the world and in the giving of His Son; likewise, the Son gives of Himself as the “propitiation” for our sins and the Spirit gives of Himself to the Church and Christians on earth. Returning to I John 4, the writer suggests that “God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world. . .” In this way, “sending” and “giving” are constituent and tangible elements of love. Furthermore, the text continues, “We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (13) In order truly to understand and experience love—to understand and experience the full nature of the Trinity, then—human beings must participate in loving and giving. The active, altruistic giving of ourselves to others in service allows for humanity to participate in the universal love that characterizes the love of God within the Trinity. “Love,” then, is not merely some abstract feeling or abstruse notion, since, as in I John 5: 2, we know that we are children of God by “. . . loving God and carrying out His commands.” Love is in active service to one another. The doctrine of the Trinity is not—should not be—a mere academic, theological oddity pondered only by scholastics and monastics-- but can serve as a means by and through which Christians live lives of service to one another and to God.