And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. – excerpt of the Athanasian Creed
I could go on, but you can read the rest here. The Athanasian Creed represents one of the Church’s classic defenses of the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine is by far one of the most confusing for many people to attempt to understand, as it is so big and so complex. Yet, it is so central to orthodox Christian faith. God is one God in three persons. As high up of a doctrine as this is, it is not disconnected from the day-to-day life of a Christian, nor is any other doctrine. What follows is a brief look at a few areas in which the doctrine of the Trinity is shown to be deeply practical in our Christian lives. This is certainly not an exhaustive listing, nor are any of these sketches comprehensive, yet they present an introduction.
Many have said something to the effect that salvation was ordained by the Father, secured by the Son, and applied by the Spirit. We love the Cross and celebrate the resurrection of Christ. We love and celebrate the birth of Christ, which began the march toward Golgotha. Yet, the fullness of the Godhead was, is, and continues to be at work in the process of salvation. One place we see this is in 1 Peter, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood,” (1 Peter 1:2, ESV).
Each of the prepositional phrases in this verse are modifying “elect exiles” from verse 1, thereby referring to the salvation of those elect exiles. These exiles are elect according to the foreknowledge of the Father, affirming the fact that the Father ordained their salvation. These exiles are elect in the sanctification of the Spirit, in that they were set apart. This idea of setting apart builds on the foreknowledge of the Father. Finally, these exiles are elect for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood. Karen H. Jobes, in her commentary on 1 Peter, feels that the obedience and sprinkling should be seen as a hendiadys (one idea expressed by two words), which is therefore ultimately referring back to the establishment of the covenant with Moses in Exodus 24:3-8. In that passage, the people express their obedience to the covenant and then are sprinkled with blood (Jobes, 72). Therefore, these phrases not only refer back to elect exiles, but also build on each other. The exiles are elect by the Father, in the setting apart of the Spirit to obey Christ and be covered by his blood.
The work of the Godhead in relation to salvation is clear in this passage. Each person of the Godhead is working in unity to accomplish salvation. The knowledge of the mechanics of this not only informs us, but leads us to a properly informed worship, prayer, and Christian life.
In a similar fashion to salvation, there is a formula of sorts that exists for Trinitarian prayer. We pray to the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We often address the Father as we began our prayers and many of us close our prayers, “in Jesus’ name.” As Romans 8 tells us, the Holy Spirit helps us as we pray, and more explicitly helps us to pray. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words,” (Romans 8:26, ESV).
There are various passages that discuss that we do come to the Father through Christ, and we can apply that coming to the Father to prayer. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6, ESV). This verse is explicit in naming Jesus as the way to the Father. Later in that chapter Jesus specifically mentions prayer, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” (John 14:13, ESV). This prayerful access to the Father through Christ not only facilitates connectivity with the Father, but also glory to the Father, in the Son. Finally, a classic text for this concept is found in Hebrews 7, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them,” (Hebrews 7:25, ESV). This intercession that Jesus makes is certainly in relation to salvation, but intercession is essentially prayer, therefore our hope of intercessory prayer to the Father comes through Jesus.
It is in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit that we have access to God the Father. While this is a doctrinal truth brought to us through concepts and promises as discussed above, it is also the way in which Paul understood prayer. We want doctrinal truths to come alive and be practical and Paul shows us that with this particular truth. “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf,” (Romans 15:30, ESV). Paul is genuinely asking for prayer here, he is not explicitly speaking in a didactic tone. It is significant though that the way in which he asks for prayer from them is by acknowledging that the prayers are to God (that is the Father) by Jesus and by the love of the Spirit. Paul’s request for prayer is an acknowledgement to the Trinity’s work in prayer.
A final way in which the Godhead can be practically experienced in our Christian lives is in fact one of the most practical parts of our Christian lives. The nature of our spiritual lives or our everyday walk with Christ through all that life brings us, is that bedrock, practical side of our Christian experience. To impose a formula to this as with the other areas, I would say that the spiritual life of a Christian is lived in obedience to the Father, in the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
A passage that encapsulates this, among many other things, is Romans 8:1-8. One of the ways that this passage could be summarized is that the Father worked in Christ so that we could walk in the Spirit. Another passage that also speaks about walking in the Spirit is Galatians 5:16-25. One way to summarize this passage is to say that those who inherit the kingdom of God are those who also belong to Christ and thereby walk in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit therefore is inextricably linked to the Father and the Son. A final passage that shows the Godhead working together in our Christian experience is in Romans 15, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope,” (Romans 15:13, ESV). This blessing that Paul is speaking to his readers is calling for the Father to fill believers in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit with joy and peace that they may abound in hope. Joy, peace, and hope are tangible, life-altering things to have in a life and they are received from the Godhead.
We don’t have to work very hard to make doctrinal truth practical. Scripture shows us again and again how these big truths come to us and meet us down in the dirt where we walk. The doctrine of Christ comes to us by way of the Incarnation as the Son of God stepped down into time, identifying with us by adding humanity to his divinity. Michael Horton, in the introduction to his systematic theology, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way says that drama (or story, i.e. the Bible) should lead us to doctrine and doctrine should lead us to doxology (or praise), which should ultimately lead us to discipleship (or life). Theology is something that we not only study, but experience and live. This is true for such a big truth as the Trinity. The one true God, who is eternally existent in three persons, encounters and interacts with us in real, tangible ways. That is a real blessing and mercy to us. Thanks be to God!