Wednesday, October 12, 2016

L.I.F.E practical reasons for the doctrine of the Trinity in the Christian life

Image result for Trinity in stained glass windows
Philippians 2:1-4  "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."

So what practical importance does the doctrine of the Trinity serve in the Christian life in the 21st century? This was a question recently asked of me at our church. It is a vital question and it demonstrates the questioner's desire to go deeper in God. Sadly in so many American churches, the doctrine of the Trinity is at most verbally confessed by given far to little thought or attention in the pulpit. 

I can recall once when in seminary a prominent professor desiring to teach a class on the Trinity at the church he was a member and being told that there would likely be little interest in the subject. Writer A.W. Tozer has rightly noted that whatever a person thinks of when He is told to think about God will tell quite a bit about that person. Today I want to offer four practical reasons why the doctrine of the Trinity is l.i.f.e practical by ways of the acronym "l.i.f.e". Let's note each of them in their turn. First, the doctrine of the Trinity is very practical because....

Living for God requires the Trinity. Philippians 2:1-5
The read may had noticed that today's post opened with Philippians 2:1-4. In those verses the Apostle Paul deals with matters pertaining to Christian attitudes and actions. Attitudes and actions are the tracks upon which the Christian life daily rolls. However, this isn't some bare moralism or "will-power" religion. There is a reference point by which our behavior operates. Notice Philippians 2:5-7 "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." In these few verses we have contained the elements contained within the Trinity. Undoubtedly the emphasis is placed upon Jesus Christ as truly God and truly man. 

With respect to His Deity, the Son shares in and reveals the Person of the Father, Who is indirectly assumed. After all, in order for the Son to be equal to God, that One with Whom He is equal must be another Person, who is revealed in other places as the Father (John 1:1; 1 Corinthians 8:6-7). With regards to Christ's humanity, scripture testifies that the humanity of Jesus was miraculously conceived by the union of the Person of the Son with the humanity of Mary by the Person of the Holy Spirit (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21-23; Luke 1:35). 

What we find in Philippians 2:5-7 is the theological foundation for Christian living, namely the Trinity. But now let's notice a second life practical reason for the doctrine of the Trinity, namely...

Intercessory Prayer. Philippians 2:8-10
Why was it that the Son of God came to be incarnated as God in the humanity of Jesus of Nazareth? Moreover, why did He then go to the cross, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven as forever God and man? He did so to provide the basis for which Christians pray. Passages such as 1 John 2:1-2 and 1 Timothy 2:5 describe the exalted Jesus as the Mediator between the Father and believers. Since the Son ascended, He not only occupies the role as the Mediator for the Christian in heaven, but He also had sent the Person of the Holy Spirit, Who takes our prayers directly to Him. 

Passages such as Romans 8:26-27 remind us of the Holy Spirit's work in prayer here on earth. Thus all of Christ's finished work in the cross and empty tomb provided the basis for which He would carry on His work of intercession, and thus our own (see Hebrews 7:24-25). Again, the Trinitarian understanding of God as revealed in scripture makes sense of intercessory prayer, as well as living the Christian life. Now let's consider a third l.i.f.e practical reason for the doctrine of the Trinity...

Faith needs the Trinity. Philippians 2:9-13.
Within these next set of verses, the Apostle Paul is going to focus on two cardinal doctrines that, once again, are linked to the Trinity and which feed the Christian's faith. First, the ascension of Jesus entails His second coming. When Jesus Christ visibly returns, there will be no question regarding His glory and worthiness of worship. "God" (implying the Father) has highly exalted Him and alone knows the day and hour of the Son's return (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). The second cardinal doctrine that is a major article of the Christian faith is that of the Christian's growth in sanctification. Philippians 2:12-13 bears out how we as Christians are to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling", since "God is working in us His perfect and pleasing will". 

Within the Trinity there is One will expressed and exercised by all three Persons. The Father has planned, the Son purchased so that the Spirit can apply the benefits of faith necessary for the Christian to co-operate in their process of sanctification with God. So as we can see, once again, the doctrine of the Trinity is practical for living, intercession and faith itself. Now let's consider one last l.i.f.e practical reason for the doctrine of the Trinity, namely...

Evangelism. Philippians 2:14-15
Paul writes in Philippians 2:14-15 "Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world." The Christian's testimony and duty to share the Gospel with those around him is entailed in the Great Commission. 

Jesus tells us that we are to let our light shine before men so that they may praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). As He then gave the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, it included the doctrine of the Trinity, with the Trinity being the emphasis in believer's baptism following saving faith. In sharing the Gospel, do we not appeal to the Father and the power of His Spirit as we proclaim the Son's death, burial and resurrection? Without the Trinity, our evangelism would be impossible. 

Closing thoughts
Today we gave four l.i.f.e. practical reasons for the doctrine of the Trinity for the Christian living in the 21st century:

Living the Christian life
Intercessory prayer

As we aim to live the l.i.f.e in conjunction with the Triune God, may we think of Him more clearly, draw closer to Him more nearly and love Him more dearly. 

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