One of the more complicated doctrines in the Christian faith is the doctrine of the Trinity. Put simply by Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology, the doctrine of the Trinity is:
God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.
Why is it important for Christians to understand, at least on a base-level, the doctrine of the Trinity?
It’s important because it is who God is. The Trinity is not an unimportant fact about God, it is who he is. God has always existed in a Trinitarian form, and when we understand this, it helps to understand other aspects of God’s character and nature.
While it’s important that we have a baseline understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, we must remember that our human minds can never fully understand the Trinity. Because it is who God is, parts of the truth of the Trinity will remain incomprehensible to us. This is a good thing. God, in his infinite wisdom, power, majesty, and goodness shouldn’t be completely understandable to us. While there are mysterious aspects to the Trinity, and the entire truth of God’s nature is not available to us, this does not mean that it is contradictory, or that it must be untrue simply because we couldn’t understand it.
So, we know we cannot fully understand God’s triune nature. However, there are things we can – and should – know. There are things that the Trinity isn’t, and there are things that the Trinity is. For the purposes of this resource, we are going to cover a few of these in hopes to gain a better understanding of God’s nature.
What the Trinity isn’t:
It is not three gods in one.
Instead, we believe that there is one God and one God only. The Bible consistently and constantly teaches that there is one God and one God alone (Deut. 4:35; 1 Chron. 17:20; Isa. 45:5; John 5:44; 1 Cor. 8:4).
It is not that God the Father created the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Instead, it maintains that all three persons have existed eternally. This is consistently taught in scripture, though much clearer in the New Testament than the Old. In John 1:1-3, John teaches us that the second person of the Trinity – the Son – has always existed. In Colossians 1:15-20, Paul teaches us the same thing. We can gather that the Holy Spirit is also eternal because he is identified as part of the triunity of God in texts like Matthew 28:19 but also in texts like John 15:26 and Psalm 104:30.
It is not three persons who each represent a portion of God.
Instead, it teaches that each person is fully God, and thus all the persons are God. They are not components of God, but the whole picture, as they are completely unified. This is evidenced in John 1:1-2 and Colossians 1:15-20.
What the Trinity is:
It is a truth taught in the Bible.
Interestingly, the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible. In fact, it isn’t used when discussing Christian doctrine until the 3rd century. Does this mean that it isn’t a biblical teaching? Of course, not. The reason for the development of certain doctrines – like the Trinity – was primarily because of heretical teachings that were spread through the church. You’ve most likely heard of one of the creeds (The Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed)but what you may not know is that these creeds were developed in response to heretical teachings that needed to be dealt with. In the case of the doctrine of the Trinity, the church fathers developed the doctrine as a response to a few different heresies. These false teachings would either deny the divinity of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. In order to formally combat these false teachings, the church would convene at a council and spell out, in clear terms, what the Scriptures actually taught. Theologians make the case that though the word Trinity does not appear in the Bible, it is clearly taught in the Bible, and this is backed up in the creedal confessions.
It is proof that God values relationships
The three persons of the godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – have eternally existed and comprise a perfect relationship in every sense of the word. God did not create humans so that he could satisfy a craving for relationship. No, among a few other reasons, God created humans so that he could share the love that the three persons have with his creatures. As John writes in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.”
It is completely unique.
There is nothing on earth that the Trinity compares to, and rightly so since it is the very nature of God. Sometimes, in order to help explain the Trinity, we might try to provide a helpful analogy. You may have heard one or more of these. We might say that God is like an egg; a three-leaf clover; water; or a man who is a husband, father, and son. While these might seem helpful in illustrating the Trinity, at best, they fall short of describing God and even worse, they teach something entirely different. For instance, when we say the Trinity is like an egg, in that it is one thing composed of three parts (shell, white, and yolk) we are committing the error of tri-theism. The shell, egg white, and egg yolk are not of the same substance (as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are) instead, this would be like three gods, which is not the case with the Trinity. It is best, since the Trinity is not like anything on this earth, that we do not try to analogize it since it will lead into a false teaching of the Trinity.
However, there is a way to illustrate the basic truths of the Trinity through a simple drawing.
Based on this drawing, we can see that God exists as one being in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each person is distinct in that he is not the other. Each person is also fully God. This is the essential teaching of the Trinity and one that we – as Christ-followers – should cling to as it is the very nature of the God we worship.
New to journaling? Here are five tips from Ben on getting started:
1. Make it your own.
This is your space. Make it serve you, not you serving it.
2. Take all the expectations off.
This isn’t about getting published, it isn’t about filling a page each time or having something really profound written down. Your entry may be 1-2 sentences, bullet points, a paragraph – whatever works. Allow it to be a mental marker board, a place where you work out the things that are rolling around in your head.
3. What to write.
Write out your prayer.
Record what God is doing in your life.
Take notes on talks, conferences, weekend talks, group meetings, etc.
Let your creative side come out (sketch, draw, graph, write poetry).
Talk about something that happened that you don’t want to forget.
Track tough days/good days – what made them so?
4. Keep it with you everywhere.
You never know when or where you will be struck by something.
5. Store keepsakes/notes in the back.
Notes, encouraging quotes, concert tickets, etc.
Already been writing or journaling? Try Ben’s next level tips:
Develop some way of helping yourself quickly browse your journals. There is nothing more annoying than remembering a thought or quote you heard and not being able to find it, or not having a good way to go back to a topic a few years later. Here’s what I do:
Save the first 2-3 pages in your journal for a Table of Contents.
Organize your Table of Contents with 4 columns at the top labeled: Entry
Number, Date, Location, Topic.
At the start of each new entry or journaling time, put the entry number, date, location and topic (if it’s clear at that time) in the upper outside corner, then keep using that same entry number in the same spot on each page you fill for that day. If it’s not a clear topic, leave that blank and come back and fill it in at the end.
Update your Table of Contents as you go.
Take all the expectations off.
Try something new. Let your creative side come out. Sketch, draw, graph, write a poem, make a list, or write out a verse as a writing prompt.
Go back to a similar time frame in a past journal – what did you write about? What were your worries, joys, concerns and prayers? Use your current journal to record your reactions, thoughts, and what God has helped you to see with greater clarity.
Looking for a framework to help you journal? Scroll down for the S.O.A.P. Journaling method, a popular, easy-to-use framework for journaling.
S.O.A.P. Journaling Method
Scripture: Ask God to point out one text in particular as you read. Write it down at the top of your entry for that day.
Observation: What does it say? Ponder its meaning, tone, and purpose. Make an observation about what’s happening, who’s affected, and what’s taking place.
Application: How does this apply to me? Write how you plan to put into practice the verse that has just been brought to your attention. Application makes the difference between hearing and doing God’s will.
Prayer: Write a prayer asking God to help apply to your life what you’ve learned.
WHAT IS FASTING:
Biblical fasting, frequently practiced in the Old and New Testaments, especially by the early church, is a voluntary abstinence from eating or drinking certain foods for a specific period of time. We are inviting the CedarCreek Church family to come and unite and fast together. It is purposefully denying the flesh- our natural cravings, the things that we desire most. This can be complete meals or certain foods or drinks that you love but are willing to give up temporarily such as meat, sweets, caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol, etc. Other fasts besides food can include abstaining from certain recreational activities, social media, technology, television, etc.
To increase our spiritual alertness and seek God for specific things individually and as a church. Fasting turns attention from ourselves and focuses on God. When we make God our priority over food and drink or other things that we desire, it gets His attention!
HOW TO FAST:
We are asking each participant to consider fasting one or more meals a day for 21 consecutive days. If you have a medical condition that prevents you from altering your eating habits, then consider the other fasts mentioned above that aren’t food-related.
While you’re fasting, it may be beneficial to limit strenuous activities and distractions like extreme physical work or exercise that requires intense thinking and concentration.
If you are part of a household and have roommates or family members, there’s value in fasting at the same time so that you can encourage and support each other (lessen the temptation!) and pray and seek God together. You may even consider taking communion as a family during select times of fasting.
One other thing you can do is write in a journal. Journaling is a great way to remember your fasting experience and the lessons God taught you during your fast. If you’re not sure how to do this, here are some helpful tips:
Write out your prayers.
Record what God is doing in your life through the fast.
Let your creative side come out (sketch, draw, write poetry, make a list).
Talk about something that happened that you don’t want to forget.
Track tough days/good days – what made them so?
WHEN TO FAST:
We will begin the fast the day of January 9th and will fast until the morning of January 29th.
WHAT TO PRAY AND FAST FOR:
Try to focus and pray for one main thing each time you fast. Here are some suggestions:
PRAY AND FAST FOR YOURSELF:
Overcoming temptation – Matthew 4
To seek God’s will and guidance- Judges 20:26; Acts 14:23
Repentance from sin- 1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 12:16, 21-23; Jonah 3:5; Joel 2:12
Concern for the work of God- Nehemiah 1:4
To humble self- Psalm 35:13; 69:10, 11, 13; Isaiah 58:5
For deliverance and protection- 2 Chronicles 20:3; Ezra 8:21-23
To worship God- Luke 2:37; Acts 13:2, 3
For mourning or sorrow- 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:11, 12; Daniel 6:18
PRAY AND FAST FOR OUR CHURCH:
For our pastors to be God-honoring and humble leaders.
For strong families and spiritual protection.
To be a church that the community falls in love with as we serve them.
For many people to come to faith in Jesus and lives transform.
That God would bless us financially as we seek to bless others.
For direction for our future.
Click here for more tips on Journaling from Ben Snyder.