The temptation to reshape the trinity is not just prevalent in liberal circles. Recently not a few evangelicals, have latched onto ideas of the trinity to support their agendas. They do this to argue for specific male-female relations. According to a book by Matthew Barrett, many evangelicals have drifted away from the orthodox trinity of the Bible. Instead, the truth of the trinity has been manipulated by being recreated in our own image to justify our social agendas. When we do this, we start to think of the trinity as a community of separate people united by love and agreed purpose rather than one eternal godhead sharing the same essence subsisting in three distinct persons. What is at stake when the trinity is used as a means to an end? Not just doctrine, but devotion also. Our understanding of God shapes our worship of Him.
Perhaps the reason we are tempted to distort the trinity is that we want to make it like us even though it is something entirely different. But if we make the trinity like ourselves the Godhead no longer has a uniquely divine glory that is worthy of worship. The trinity is altogether different and impossible to find orthodox everyday analogies for. It is challenging for us to grasp it fully and sometimes we want to avoid that, but the more we seek to appreciate the complexity, the more we will be drawn to worship. James Durham explains the nature of the trinity and how important it is in relation to our worship of God in the following updated extract.
1. We Believe in One God in Three Persons
(a) There is only one God although there are several persons mentioned, yet God is always spoken of as one. There cannot be more than one God for if the one God has in Him all perfections, there can be no perfection besides Him: and so, no God beside this one true God.
(b) Although there is only one God, yet there are three Persons, the Father, Son, and Spirit.
(c) These three, Father, Son, and Spirit, are really distinct one from another; and so are three persons. Now, if the Father is God, and the Son God, and the Spirit God also; and if there is but one God, and yet these three are really distinct, then they must be distinct persons in respect of their personal properties, seeing they are persons, and distinct.
(d) Although they are three distinct persons (when their personal properties are considered) yet they all three are one God, essentially considered. All have the same infinite indivisible essence, though we cannot conceive how. If there are three persons, and each of them are God, and yet there is only one God, then each of these persons must be the same one God, co-equal and co-essential.
(e) These three blessed persons, who are one most glorious being, have an inconceivable order in their subsisting and working, which is to be admired rather than to be searched out. We shall merely say this:
- They have all the same one essence and being
- They all have it eternally, equally and perfectly: none is more or less God, but each has all the same Godhead in perfection: and therefore, must have it equally and eternally. The Godhead is the same, and the Son is the first and the last, as the Father is. The Father and Son were never without the Spirit, who is the Spirit of God, and each of them is God.
- The Father subsists of Himself and begets the Son by an inconceivable and eternal generation: the Son does not beget, but is begotten, and has His subsisting, as the second person, from the Father. The Spirit proceeds both from the Father (therefore He is the Spirit of the Father) and from the Son, therefore is He said also to have the seven Spirits of God. The Spirit neither begets, nor is begotten, but in an inexpressible manner proceeds from them both.
2. We are to Worship God Alone
God is the only object of divine worship and there is none other. This is because no one has these infinite attributes and excellencies which are requisite in the object of divine worship except God. These are things such as omniscience, omnipotence, infiniteness, supreme majesty, glory etc. Adorability [being worthy of worship] flows from these and is an essential attribute of the majesty of God just as immutability and eternity are. He is adorable because He is infinite, immense, omniscient etc. Adorability cannot therefore be given or communicated to any other any more than these other incommunicable qualities can be. Yet none can be worshipped who is not adorable, therefore we are to worship God alone.
3. There is only one kind of Divine Worship
There is only one kind of divine worship: that which is supreme and befits this infinite majesty of God. In a word, it is that worship which is required in the first table of the law [first four of the ten commandments], as that which is suitable for this glorious excellent God. This follows from what has been said already, since if there is only one object of worship, there can only be one manner of worship. Therefore, in Scripture, to worship God, is always opposed to worshipping any other, and allowing any worship to God, which is not authorised (see Revelation 19:9-10 and 22:9).
4. There are not three objects of worship
Although there are three persons in the glorious Godhead and all are to be worshipped, there are not three objects of worship, but one only. Nor are there three kinds of worship. There cannot be three objects, because these three persons are the same one infinite God, who is the object of worship. This is because:
(a) Although the three persons are really distinct from each other, none of them is really distinct from the essence of the Godhead. Therefore, the Father is that same object of worship with the Son, because He is that same God. And
(b) Although the Father is infinite and the Son is infinite etc. yet, there are not two infinitenesses, but the same infiniteness and immenseness, that which is the Father’s is the Son’s also. This is because these are essential properties, and so common to all the persons. Therefore, although their personal properties are distinct, because their essential attributes are in common, they are not distinct objects, but one and the same object. In worship respect must be had to their essential attributes and so to the Godhead, which is common to all. It is the deity (which is one) that is the formal object of worship. And although sometimes these three persons are named together, that is not to suggest they are distinct Objects, but to show who this one object God is, i.e. Father, Son and Spirit, three persons of the same one indivisible Godhead. The unity of the Godhead is taught for this purpose (Deuteronomy 6:4).
(a) That the mind of the worshipper is not to be distracted in seeking to comprehend, or order, in their thoughts, three distinct persons, as distinct objects of worship; but, to conceive reverently of one infinite God, who is three persons.
(b) That whatever person is named we are not to think that the other is less worshipped. Rather in one act we worship that one God, and so the Father, Son and Spirit.
(c) That by naming one person after we have named another, (e.g., the Father first, and afterwards the Son) we do not vary the object of worship, as if we were praying to another than formerly. It is still the same one God.
(d) That because our imagination is ready to permit such divided conceptions, it is safest not to change the name of the persons in the same prayer. This is especially when we are praying in the hearing of others, who may possibly have such thoughts, though we have none. I suppose also that this is the way ordinarily taken in Scripture.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and receive an updated article every week.