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Essential Elements: The Trinity

At Gateway Church in Austin we began a new series called “Essential Elements: Building Your Core Faith.” This week RIck Schurtz shared via video. Here are some of his insights:

“Today’s topic, put plainly, is God. I was talking to my dad this week. He asked what my topic was this
weekend. I said, “God.”

To which he said, “Isn’t that what you talk about every week?”

Yes, but we want to zero in on one aspect of God that you hear from time to time, but quite frankly, it can sound confusing.

What is the Trinity?
It’s the TRI – UN God. Tri means three. UN – means 1. Tri-un or Trinity means 3 in 1. I can wrap my brain around 3. I can wrap my brain around 1. Try to do both at the same time, though, and we’ve got a mathematical contradiction. I don’t do 3 AND 1, I do 3 OR 1. I get 3 gods or I get 1 god, but I don’t get a god who is 3 in 1. That’s a bit odd.

Scripture is very clear, from it’s earliest writings: ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.’” – Deuteronomy 6:4

‘Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”’ – John 5:17-18

For this reason the religious leaders tried all the harder to kill him: not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

What’s John saying? He’s giving us the implication of being God’s son. He’s giving definition to the title: Son of God. He’s telling us what it means, what’s implied, what is inherent in being the Son of God. John was saying, ‘Let me tell you why these people didn’t like his claim to be God’s son. They didn’t like it, because a claim of being God’s son is a claim
of being of the same stuff as God, a claim of being cut from the same cloth, as God, a claim of being one with God, and to their ears, this was blasphemy.’

Scripture teaches the solidarity of humanity, the oneness of humanity, but it also teaches our distinction from each other. We are individually accountable before God, for example.

You might say we are many, but we are one. Similarly, there is a oneness and a distinction within the Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit. They are of the same stuff, but they are distinct from each other.

Their threeness and their oneness refer to different aspects of God. If their threeness and their oneness referred to the same aspect of their being, this would be a contradiction, but Scripture doesn’t teach it that way. From one aspect, I’m of the same stuff as my dad, and am one with him. From another aspect, I’m distinct from my dad, I’m my own person.
As it is with my father, so it is with God the Father and God the son. They are distinct, but they are of the same stuff.

The Trinity isn’t then some abstract academic conversation about doctrine, but it’s a window into both God and humanity.

How is it that Scripture describes God?

One grouping of descriptions would be passages that describe God being beyond us, being over there, holding a vantage point you and I don’t have: ‘God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.’ Ecclesiastes 5:2

And as corrective as that sounds, it brings me comfort. Why would my words be few? Because God has a perspective you and I don’t have, and quite frankly, I’m glad somebody’s got that perspective. Or put another way, God says, ‘I’m the Father. I’m over here, I’ve got a vantage point you don’t have, be still. It may seem to be raging out of control, but I’m the Father, I’m the shepherd. I have a plan. You can be still.’

Jesus was sent by the Father. He crossed over. He came down to get involved in this mess. He’s come to be a liberator…a freedom fighter…a healer. He’s not just over there. He’s over here. He’s involved. He’s available.

I don’t just need the son of God to come over here. I don’t just need to know he was here 2000 years ago. I need help and guidance today.

‘Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’ – Galatians 5:25

God is both over there, and right here. God is above all, and who then gets involved in all. God has revealed himself in a way that maps directly onto the needs of humanity.”

You can watch the message John shared here in a couple of days and the rest of the series at http://www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.

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ebryant@churchleaders.com'
Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Eric previously served at Mosaic in Los Angeles and his books include Not Like Me: A Field Guide to a Influencing a Diverse World and A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership.