The Trinity


Throughout the articles that are cited, there is sometimes a preference for writers to have a particular focus on one or more of the three Persons of the Trinity.  However, the basis for mission is Trinitarian and the doctrine of the Trinity - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and their intrinsic unity - is central to a proper understanding of mission.

 

Essential to the Trinity is communion – a perfect communion between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  The communion is the expression of the relationship within the Trinity, a relationship of ontological equality, oneness in love (So 2006, p265-267).  It is the kind of communion that God desires for humankind, people in communion with God and with each other.  God the Father sent His Son, Christ Jesus to reconcile humankind to Himself, that through Christ Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit people may be made one with God and with one another:  God’s mission founded on God’s nature of love and communion.  As individuals develop their relationship with the Father though Christ Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, then the individual’s communion with the Triune God grows.  And as this communion with God grows, then they, in the ever-increasing likeness of Christ Jesus, will reflect more and more of God’s love for others.  Individuals being transformed in this way will have a growing desire to participate in God’s mission – and amongst many other worthy things, have a desire to respond to the challenges of reducing poverty, motivated by the love of God and the love of others.

 

The development of the doctrine of the Trinity in the early Church was only the making explicit of that which is from the beginning the presupposition and the context, the source and the goal of the mission of Jesus. It is in Trinitarian terms that we have to understand the nature and authority of the mission in which we are called to share.

 

For a true understanding of the Church's mission we need to take seriously this Trinitarian model, rooted as it is in the realities from which the mission comes. Mission is proclaiming the reign of the Father in and over all things, a reign which is the reality with which all men have to deal, whether they believe it or not. Mission is calling men into the Body of his Son, the corporate life of that community which goes through history not as the "winning side", not as the place where "success" will be found, but as the bearer of the marks of Christ's passion, as the place where we share in those groanings and tribulations which are the birth pangs of a new creation (Rom. 8). Mission is responding to the action of the Holy Spirit who, in his sovereign freedom, goes ahead of the Church, prepares the way for the gospel, and leads men and women in his own way into the obedience of Christ. (Newbigin 1977 p214,215)

 

The missionary movement, of which we are a part has its source in the Triune God Himself. Out of the depths of His love for us, the Father has sent forth His own beloved Son to reconcile all things to Himself, that we and all men might, through the Spirit, be made one in Him with the Father in that perfect love which is the very nature of God.... We who have been chosen in Christ, ... are by these very facts committed to full participation in His redeeming mission. There is no participation in Christ without participation in His mission to the world. That by which the Church receives its existence is that by which it is also given its world-mission. (Richebächer 2003, p589)

 

If we are serious about our Christianity we must be serious about our relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  If we are serious about that relationship we will be changed from glory to glory (1 Corinthians 3:18), if we are changed from glory to glory we will change the situation in which we live.  If we change the situation in which we live we will change society.  (Seale 2002, p68)

 

No less than the sacraments, the creed recited in the Eucharistic service reminds us of our Trinitarian faith: in God who is the source of all that is; in Jesus Christ who underwent death for our sakes and was raised from the dead; in the Spirit who was present in salvation history from the very beginning, speaking through the prophets and now leading us through Christ back to God.  (LaCugna 1986, p211)

 

In Catherine LaCugna’s article on “The Practical Trinity” (LaCugna 1992), she explains the doctrine of the Trinity and articulates its importance in understanding the gospel demands and its relation to social transformation.  A better understanding of the communion of the Triune God, will give a clearer understanding of God’s redemptive plan for human communion – where people are in relationship with one another, with equality, existing together in harmony, co-workers in Christ in communion with the Triune God: a single universal communion.

 

The Doctrine of the Trinity, to summarize, is a doctrine about God.  But because it is a doctrine about the God who shares life with us in an economy of redemption, it is also a doctrine about salvation.  Further, because it uses the idea of “person” and “relation” to affirm that God is essentially personal and relational, the doctrine of the Trinity is also the foundation for a theology of the human person, and a theology of right relationship.  Finally, because it affirms that persons, whether divine or human, are made to exist in loving communion with one another, the doctrine of the Trinity is also the foundation for a vision of society and a vision of the church which is to be a sign to the world of the ultimate destiny of all creatures...  Living the Trinitarian faith entails living as Jesus Christ did: with total confidence in God; as a peaceful, merciful, healing, forgiving presence; praying and praising God constantly; welcoming the outcast and sinner.  Living God’s life means living according to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit – becoming holy and virtuous, and contributing to the unity of the Christian community and the harmony among all of God’s creatures. (LaCugna 1992, p681,682)

 

In Vinay Samuel’s consultative report (Samuel 2008) he writes of the community of believers and their relationship with the Trinitarian God:

 

People hood: From a Christian point of view this is the ‘being’ aspect of a community. It is ontological in character. It draws its identity as a people and community not just from shared concerns and commitments, but also from reflecting the presence and image of the Trinitarian God. It is here that Christian communities have a unique witness. They are more than a gathering of believers. They are Being in Communion. In religiously plural contexts one of the most powerful demonstrations of the transforming power of the Gospel is the quality of community, communion and people hood that Christians experience and share. (Samuel 2008, p24)

 

Since there is ontological equality between the three Persons of the Trinity, Christ Jesus gave an objective revelation of God the Father as he lived in unbroken communion with his Father through the Holy Spirit (So 2006, p278).  Thus to know God the Son is to know God the Father (John14:9).  With the objective revelation comes total confidence that what God the Son revealed about God the Father is the truth, and will always remain the truth.

 

The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, while working through the objectivity of the Son, is also working through the subjectivity of believers.  Subjectivity led by the Spirit provides Christians the freedom and flexibility to live out the gospel message, to serve God and humankind, to participate in God’s mission in differing ways.  Thus there is no legalistic blueprint for a Christian life or way of doing things; there is no fixed blueprint for the life of a Christian organization.  A Christian in the power of the Holy Spirit, united to his or her Christian community and to God, can arrive at a conclusion on what to do, with a confidence based on God’s objectivity, as revealed in His Word, which includes biblical commands, principles and values that need to be upheld.

 

Subjectivity, while providing Christians with flexibility, can introduce possibilities for error. While truth and perfection exist in the three divine persons, falsehood and imperfection can enter through the participation of believers.  To reduce the likelihood of error it is important to: maintain close communion with God at all times; have a good understanding of God’s word; and apply biblical commands and principles sensitively and wisely.  The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in all these is thus essential within an organization – in all areas: with technical issues; policy; strategies; specialism; economics; administration; bureaucracy; and so forth.  It is God the Holy Spirit who according to the objectivity of the revealed Son of God will guide and empower the staff and work of the Christian organization.  There is no other objective and subjective source of energy and guidance.

 

The Holy Spirit as the third person of the Triune God is (Mix 2000):

  • omnipresent - at work in all places, at all times;
    • And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever (John14:16)
    • Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139: 7-10)
  • omnipotent - with unlimited power and authority;
    • All these (gifts) are the work of the one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Cor 12:11)
  • omniscient - knowing everything
    • but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit, the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor2:10,11)

 

Thus the Holy Spirit is at work at all times in all things, with total knowledge of the Father; there is absolutely no activity outside His sphere.  The Holy Spirit will provide Christian organizations with a proper understanding of truths, new ways of doing things, fresh approaches to problems, and abilities to carry out the tasks ahead – the apparently attainable tasks, and tasks that appear impossible.

 

The Holy Spirit does not impose Himself upon those people who in their vanity presume that they can accomplish God’s mission by their own human strength.  But the Holy Spirit comes alongside with those who acknowledge their need for Him.  Christians need to be open to the Spirit and to work with the Spirit, and as the Spirit works in them, they become more knowledgeable and wise in the mission of God.

 

Any transformational development that is not guided, empowered, and made effective by the Holy Spirit will not prove sustainable.  Furthermore, expecting and praying for supernatural interventions by the Spirit must be part of the spirituality of Christian development workers.  (Myers 1998, p40)

 

... the Pentecostal Christian framework that affirms the Holy Spirit’s intervention in their lives contributes to many individuals engaging in heroic and self-sacrificial commitments. (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p114)

 

Definition:  ...define Progressive Pentecostals as Christians who claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and the life of Jesus and seek to holistically address the spiritual, physical, and social needs of people in their community.  Typically they are distinguished by their warm and expressive worship, their focus on lay-orientated ministry, their compassionate service to others, and their attention, both as individuals and as a worshipping community, to what they perceive to be the leading of the Holy Spirit. (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p2)

 

With the Holy Spirit as our teacher and guide, we are going to be one step ahead of our time, as He reveals to us the things that are to come.  We are not going to take our cue from the world.  We are going to be leading the way.  (Boyce 2002, p64)

 

Within the ranks of Progressive Pentecostals are many individuals who are middle-class, upwardly mobile, and highly educated.  These individuals are engaging in social analysis that reflects their class.  They are not afraid of interaction with the world, because this is the sphere in which they operate on a daily basis in their employment.  ...  What is remarkable about this new strain of Pentecostalism is the heroic intensity of the ministries, which have not yet evolved into tired bureaucracies.  The founders of these programs are driven by a sense of calling, a feeling of thankfulness for how God has intervened in their personal lives, and they are constantly reinventing their programs in response to what they perceive to be the leading of the Holy Spirit.  (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p127)

 

The church can fulfil its mission only as it is dynamically empowered by the Holy Spirit, God’s empowering presence; and the church is most effective in its mission when its members are in continual life-giving contact with the Holy Spirit and when these encounters with the Holy Spirit are integrated into the live of the church.  And the church is, in its very being, a missionary church, in so far as it shares the divine life of a sending God.  (Peskett & Ramachandra 2003, p11)

 

...Every time we mentioned “her ministry” she (Jackie Pullinger) would correct us.  She resisted all categorizations of St. Stephen’s Society as an organization.  There was no fund-raising strategy.  There was no budget that we could discern.  They did no strategic planning.  Instead, she said, they were guided daily by the Holy Spirit; they knew that God would provide for their needs if they were doing his work.  Jackie also resisted the idea that this was a church.  No, it was a collection of broken people who tried to love each other as God gave them strength. (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p100)

 

... many of the young adults we interviewed referred to a reality that goes beyond the social and psychological variables referred to thus far.  Namely, they had an encounter with Jesus – often mediated by what they described, according to their worldview, as the Holy Spirit – that transformed their lives.  In a few instances, these encounters came in the form of visions and dreams; other respondents simply referred to the presence of Christ.  Whatever the ontological reality of these encounters, the affective role they played is palpable.  If one were to remove this element, it is doubtful that many individuals would have made the dramatic lifestyle changes they did. (Miller & Yamamori 2007, p86)

 

The church is dependent on the Spirit for her very existence.  So its words and deeds are meant to be the means for the present manifestation of the Kingdom not to be explained as merely human deeds and words.  (Padilla (1999): in Samuel & Sugden 1999, p447)

 

We must also recognize that the work of a Christian organization is fighting against the visible and invisible forces.  The latter are at actively at work, keeping the vulnerable and marginalized pinned down.

 

...the real enemies are the spiritual forces that stand behind all institutions of government and control the lives of men and nations. (Caird 1976, p91)

 

In its wider thrust the prophetic ministry calls into question, exposes and challenges the forces and powers of injustice, unrighteousness, oppression, corruption, violence and greed which are at work in society.  (Taylor 2002, p76)

 

 

   
 

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