The Trinity: Practical Implications in Worship
If, as we believe, God is Triune, what difference does it make in our daily Christian lives? If God is Triune, how does this shape our Christian lives and our church life. First, the value of the Trinity is not primarily the benefits that we receive or how it shapes us. God’s glory and majesty are inherent to who He is. We should always approach God with a sense of awe and wonder that exalts Him first. In other words, the first importance of the Trinity is about God and not about us. We are coming before the God who is Holy, Holy, Holy. With that important qualification out of the way, let us consider three important ways the Trinity shapes worship and spiritual life.
First, the Trinity should shape our worship. We worship one God, the living and true God of the Bible who reveals Himself as the I AM WHO I AM. This God reveals Himself to be Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The one God is three eternal persons. We sing to God but we should also make sure that we adorn each of the three persons in equal worship. We do not prioritize one person over the other in worship. We glorify the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who are one God.
We might then ask ourselves, does our singing in worship direct attention and exaltation to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Our singing should magnify the Son not merely as a means of approach God as our Father but also as one who is worthy of all worship. In the Trinity, the Father glorifies the Son and the Son glorifies the Father (John 13:31-32; 17:3). Similarly, the Father and the Son send the Spirit who is “another” but equally qualified as God in the bodily absence of the Son from His people. Indeed, it is the Holy Spirit who unites us in spiritual union and communion to the Son. Therefore, we give praise, worship and adoration not only through the Spirit but also to the Spirit.
Second, how do you and I conceive of prayer? Again, we are praying to one God but we also address and pray to the three persons. It is entirely appropriate to pray “dear God” and address the one God who is three persons. But it is also appropriate and indeed necessary to address the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus himself taught us to pray “Our Father who is in heaven.” We can only address the Father as Father through the intercessory work of the Son as our mediator. Similarly, the Holy Spirit enables us to prayer even making up for our weaknesses in our praying (Rom. 8:26-27). Notice the importance of the Trinity in all our coming before God: “For through Him [the Son] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph. 2:18). Paul ends 2 Corinthians with a Trinitarian benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
We must ask the question: do you pray to the Father? Do you pray to the Son? Do you pray to the Holy Spirit? The answer to all three should be “yes” but you only ever are praying to the one living and true God. This is not modalism but rather you address three eternal persons who are co-equal in power, might, glory, and majesty. Consider here the language of the Athanasian Creed:
So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords… But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.
Let me speak more specifically to those of us that are pastors or are involved in public teaching and preaching of the Word: is your practice Trinitarian? I do not mean merely to ask “do you believe in the Trinity?” Does it shape the way you conduct yourself in ministry. For example: as you pick songs and hymns for worship, do you give consideration to the Trinity and each of the persons? One song or hymn does not have to reflect on the whole of the Trinity or every aspect of God’s work in redemption but as a whole is their balance? Good music will have melody, harmony, and rhythm and we notice when aspect is lacking. How much more should good worship bring attention to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God in three persons. Would we notice if one person is absent from reference in our singing? We want to be neither tritheists nor unitarians in our worship.
Third, in your public praying, do you bring attention to the Trinity. I would suggest that you directly address the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in your prayers. Make it clear that we pray to the Father as “Our Father” but He is our Father because of the work of the Son on the cross, yet that work of the cross is only applied to us because there is the person of the Holy Spirit at work. So in a pray you might address the Father and then later shift and say something like “Lord Jesus, we thank you and exalt you for your willingness to die on the cross.” Still again we might take a moment to give praise and glory to the Spirit for opening our eyes to see the gospel.
God is glorious, wondrous, and beautiful. His glory and majesty is beyond what we can even imagine and conceive. Yet our worship and prayer should be our feeble attempts to address God as who He is. He is one God in three eternal persons. In the same way, it is pastorally important that we model for our congregation how we conceive God. A true Biblical doctrine of God should impact and shape our worship and our praying.
Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church, currently serving as pastor of Faith Bible Fellowship Church in York, Pa. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.