The doctrine of the Trinity is believed in the Christian church from the beginning – it can be said to be the very essence of Christianity itself. When we look at this doctrine from the practical point of view, a belief of this great truth is absolutely essential to the Christian and to the Christian church. Without it, Christianity would at once collapse. As this doctrine is believed on the one hand, or challenged on the other, Christian life is found to be affected at its roots and over all its extent. Every doctrine is run up to it; every privilege and duty hangs on it. It cannot escape observation that scarcely a heresy ever appeared without coming into collision with the doctrine of the Trinity at some point.
The Father, the Son and the Spirit are always engaged in mutually dynamic relationships and fellowship within the unity of the Trinity. Love existed even before the world was created, for God is eternally a community of mutual love between Father, Son and Spirit. God did not need the world in order to be able to love: the eternal, almighty God is love. Love reaches out to the other, seeking the good of the other and is grounded in the inner-trinitarian life of God, whose creative, outgoing love overflowed from the trinitarian community and created the universe. This love then reached out to embrace and redeem humanity through the incarnation. It continues to be inclusive, in that God now calls us to share in the fulfilment of His purposes, by living a life of love in which we reach out to others. More than that, we who are God’s children are invited into this sacred fellowship and communion within the trinitarian community!
The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that the same God who has created the world has entered it in Christ, lives within it through the Holy Spirit and will redeem it. In God the world has a future; the Trinity offers hope and a new vision to a fragmented world; that is, it also helps us understand the evil, injustice and suffering of the world. Through Christ, and the Spirit, God knows, understands and deals with sin and suffering.
We have looked at dealing with afflictions in the Christian life. Our understanding, appreciation, experience and worship of the Triune God would help us tremendously in dealing with afflictions from a position of strength, security and stability.
We have seen from above that within the blessed fellowship of the divine Trinity there is the purity of love and perfect devotion. This love extends and reaches out to embrace fallen humanity in Adam and to recreate a new humanity in Christ. This new humanity would be characterised with the same love that exists within the blessed Trinity when the plan of salvation is consummated with the second coming of our Lord Jesus. In the meantime, to love God is to obey Him, and to be obedient is to love Him; only lovers of God obey His commands, and only the obedient are truly lovers of God. Love is not emotion without commitment or an attitude devoid of action; love is a commitment to action and a failure to be obedient is a sign of immaturity in love. In the gospel of John, we are told that the Father loves those who are in Christ; the Father and the Son are pleased to make their abode in those who believe, through the ministry of the Spirit. To dwell in this love and to remain in it, the commitment would entail opposition from the world and the evil one, and afflictions and suffering will follow. Lovers of the Triune God will never doubt God and His love in the midst of such afflictions; in fact, those who truly love God would count it a privilege to suffer for His sake and for the sake of the brethren.
We see this exhortation and example in the life of Apostle Paul:
“Do all things without grumbling, or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,..” (Philip. 2:14-15)
“Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philip. 2:17).
If we truly appreciate and experience the fellowship, love and communion of the Triune God, our attitude towards affliction and loving sacrifice for the brethren will be in line with what was expressed by Paul. There will be no room for doubting God, questioning the reality of His love and giving way to murmuring and grumbling against Him.
The gospel tells us that the Triune God did not abandon fallen humanity in the first Adam. Even before the creation of the world, He (the three in One) planned to redeem humanity and to bring it back to “His fold”. The Father is the source of this ‘operation’, the Son is the medium through which it is performed, and the Holy Spirit is the executive by which it is carried into effect. God entered the world of suffering and affliction. Because God is immortal and cannot die, He condescended in His Son to become man and to die for our sins.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philip. 2:5-8). This is mind-boggling! God, the transcendent, the almighty, the holy and unapproachable, the sovereign, was willing to become man, to leave His glory and to make Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant in humility, and dying as a ‘criminal’ on the cross because of love. Remember that the Trinity is involved in all these although the Son took the ‘main role’ in the incarnation. God the Father so loved the world that He gave His Son – the Son loves the Father and willingly took the assignment to be the sacrificial lamb – the Spirit dwelled in the man Jesus, annointed HIm, enabled Him and strengthened Him to fulfil His mission, and the Spirit raised Him up from the dead and caused Him to ascend to the right hand of the Father, regaining His former glory and His exalted place.This is the same Spirit whom the Father and Son would send to us to be with us and to live within us. The Son is the author and perfecter of our faith; we will not travel alone in this pilgrim journey; the Triune God continues to be with His people, to be their Shepherd, their Lover and their Hope and future inheritance. He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ.
If we truly appreciate what the Triune God has done for us to purchase our salvation, we ought to worship Him from the depths of our hearts. If the Triune God was willing to suffer so much in order to save us, should we allow our afflictions (so insignificant in comparison) to cause us to stumble and to turn our backs on Him?
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,…” (2 Corin. 4:16-18). Do we share the same eternal perspective as Paul? The affliction is momentary when compared to eternity; it cannot even be compared to the glory that awaits us. Lest we crumble, look to Him who died for us, consider Him, Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
We live in a fallen world; God’s plan of salvation is unfolding; the kingdom of God has come – it is coming in all its completeness and perfection! The war has been won at Calvary. However, the battles are still going on because the devil never gives up. The mission of the Church is still ongoing; the world needs to hear of the Saviour; she needs to know that God is giving her time to repent. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are looking out for His people; the Triune God knows all and is aware that His people have to go through much tribulations. No matter what happens and what seems to be troubling and perplexing, God is still in control. The Father is still on the throne; the Son is still interceding for us at the Father’s right hand; the Spirit is still with us and in us to enable us to finish the mission and the race. Do we appreciate all these; do we break out in worship and adoration, for we know that the future and eternity belongs to the Triune God and those adopted to be His children and the bride of Christ?