A friend of mine who is attending seminary e-mailed me that he was assigned to ask the following question of three men in the ministry: “How does the Trinity impact your ministry and message?”
My first question back to him was: “Do you mean the doctrine or the Persons of the Trinity?”
Answer: “He didn’t say.”
This is a tough one. I’d never considered it.
Well here goes.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that my ministry and my message is the wrong place to start. I must start with my own personal relationship with God. Jesus, in His prayer in John 17:3 said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and the One whom you sent – Jesus Christ.” Tie that with the passages earlier in John’s gospel where Jesus spoke concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and we see the ministries of the three cannot be separated (as we often do in theology class):
”But the Helper (parakletos), the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and will remind you of all things that I told you” (John 14:26).
“Whenever the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father … He will testify about Me” (John 15:26).
“He will glorify Me, because He will take of Mine and He will report it to you” (John 16:14).
Also see John 14:16, 17; 16:7, 8, 12, 13.
In John 17:1, the Son asks the Father to glorify Him, as He has glorified the Father, yet earlier He said the Spirit would be the One who would glorify Him.
Look at the passages about their mutual love:
“But that the world may know that I love the Father and as the Father commanded Me, so I do …” (John 14:3`).
“Even as the Father has loved Me, I also love you” (John 15:9).
“You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
I hope I’m not sounding sacrilegious when I say that we have in the Trinity a sort of “mutual admiration society.” If God’s main desire and purpose is to bring about His own glory, I believe we can conclude that the desire and purpose of each Person of the Trinity is to bring about the glory of the other Persons.
So where am I going with this? The God I know is a Trinity, and it is only as the Trinity that I can really know Him.
So how does this affect my ministry and message? It means that their purpose must be to bring people into this knowledge of the one God who is three persons.
I believe that having a (reasonably) clear understanding of the three Persons is essential for a clear message: knowing not only what it is that distinguishes the Persons, but also their different works.
I believe that the average Christian is very vague in his/her understanding of the Trinity. We hear it in their prayers. We hear the Father being thanked for dying for us. We hear prayers closed “in Thy name,” without, I believe a real understanding of whose name it is. (We can, however, be thankful that though “we don’t know how to pray as we should … the Spirit intercedes for us … and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is …” Romans 8:26, 27.) Many think of Jesus, in His incarnation, almost as if He were some sort of theophany and have little understanding of His real humanity. The Holy Spirit seems to be thought of as some sort of “force” rather than a real Person. We may confess a belief in the Trinity, but to many, the doctrine is avoided or ignored as though it were beyond comprehension by any but professional theologians. Yet the Christian who does have some understanding and is able to relate this to life can really grow.
So the Trinity is central to my message and my ministry. No matter how the gospel is presented, no matter how I tailor the message, it must always involve the three Persons. If not, it is defective.
When we tell people that Christ died for their sins, we have to know and explain Who Christ is – not merely a good man, not merely a theophany – but God in the flesh. And we have to communicate what sin is – an offense against a Holy God – the Father of the One who died. And we must understand that the message itself would make no sense to its hearers without the illuminating work of the Spirit.
And I can only perform my ministry in relation to the Trinity. Following the example of the incarnate Christ, I must live in submission to the Father empowered by His Spirit.