Written By Con Campbell, Australia
Con Campbell is Senior Vice President of Global Content and Bible Teaching at Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s an Australian New Testament scholar, author, speaker, and documentary presenter. Con enjoys playing jazz saxophone, lifting weights, and playing chess . . . though not normally at the same time.
Misconception #3: It Doesn’t Really Matter if We Believe in the Trinity
Our three-part series, “Three Misconceptions about the Trinity”, concludes with misconception number three—belief in the Trinity doesn’t really matter. The short response to this is that nothing could be further from the truth! But let’s go back a few steps. You may have heard people suggest that believing in the Trinity is not all that important. What really matters is believing in Jesus. Others have a hard time thinking of Jesus as God, and prefer to focus on the Father. And yet others really like the Spirit and give Him more attention than the Father and Son. But these are all mistakes that will hurt the way we live as Christians.
First, if we want to know God truly, we need to know Him as Trinity because . . . well, He is Trinity! (See article 1). We don’t get to decide what God is like based on personal preference any more than we can decide who other people are. They are who they are. It’s up to us to learn who they are and relate to them accordingly. So, too, with God. He is who He is.
Second, we can’t really understand the Christian faith without God as Trinity. The ways that Father, Son, and Spirit work together (see article 2) complement each other to bring God’s blessings into our lives. In the New Testament, we often see God’s will enacted in Jesus and empowered by the Spirit. God chooses the people whom the Spirit sets apart for obedience to Jesus. The Spirit brings us into Jesus’s presence and Jesus connects us to the Father. The Spirit enables us to have faith in Jesus, and faith in Jesus brings God’s blessings to us. We use the gifts of the Spirit which are given by Jesus to serve God. Our prayers are carried by the Spirit and are offered in Jesus’s name to the Father. Every aspect of the Christian life involves the work of Father, Son, and Spirit.
We can get into trouble if we don’t appreciate this. If we neglect the Spirit, we will not harness God’s power for us. If we neglect Jesus, we will not enjoy access to the Father. If we ignore the Father, we will not appreciate what Jesus has done for us. Father, Son, and Spirit must be held together in our minds as Trinity so that we can fully appreciate who God is and all He does for us.
A dramatic example of this is the death and resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus is not fully God, He is an innocent third party who dies for guilty humans to appease an angry god. But as God the Son, Jesus’s death is God Himself stepping in to take away our guilt and sin. There is no third party involved since Jesus is fully God (as well as fully human—but that’s a topic for another time). And without the Spirit, Jesus would have stayed dead. But as the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit raised Jesus to life in response to the Father’s will. The Spirit exercises the life-giving power of God because He is God. And so, without the Trinity, the heart of Christian belief—the death and resurrection of Jesus—would not theologically work!
Understanding God as Trinity affects our lives because it helps us to know who God really is. It helps us to understand prayer, gifts of the Spirit, the work of Jesus, and the will of the Father. Without the Trinity, we will get all of these things wrong, and more. And that will negatively affect our Christian walk. It is for good reason that orthodox Christians have affirmed God’s trinitarian nature for 2,000 years.
As we close out this little series, it’s worth saying that theologians have puzzled and wrestled over the Trinity for millennia, so if you’re still feeling a little confused, you can take comfort in that. But don’t let it get you down! Continue to search the Scriptures, talk to others about it, and talk to God about it too. Let’s ask Him to open our eyes to the wonder and awe of His triune nature as we seek to live faithful lives toward Him.