Trinitarian Theology In Worship
I have found myself in some exciting churches over the years. The theology within these buildings has ranged from eye-opening to depressing while typically embracing the fullness of Jesus. Consistently, however, many of these Christian gatherings seem to leave congregations spiritually hanging in the balance surrounding the fullness of the Trinity. Many Christians proclaim a Trinitarian theology, yet our churches struggle to incorporate this theology into weekly liturgies, leading us to wonder whether Trinitarian theology is an archaic response to God or an actively shaping component needed in worship gatherings. But sometimes, as the quote goes: “before you ask which way to go, one must remember where you’ve been.”
As you ponder these opening words, you may be tripped up on the term Trinity. Although not an actual name found in the Bible, Trinity is a word Christians use as theological shorthand regarding One God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Throughout the Bible, we can trace this Trinitarian theological thread, finding the idea of Father, Son, and Spirit, fully supported. Three distinct individuals, yet three united as one.
One Biblical passage that articulates distinction within the individuals of the Trinity is found in 1 John 4:9–10 [Christian Standard Bible], “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” This passage clarifies that the Son is not the Father. Equally, scripture notes that the Spirit is not the Son. Jesus said in John 14:26 [English Standard Version], “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Lastly, the Father is not the Spirit. Romans 8:27 [New International Version] informs us that “He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. This individuality surrounding the persons of the Trinity is also experienced at the baptism of Jesus found in Matthew 3:16–17. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him, and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Notice the interactions between the three separate and distinct persons adding greater revelation that the Son is not the Father; the Spirit is not the Son, and the Father is not the Spirit.
These distinctions around The Trinity’s persons are not the only known characteristic; a doctrine of unity is also found within the Trinity. Take a look at the first scripture in the Bible, Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” In this passage, Elohim, the name for God, is a plural noun, emphasizing from our first reading of God’s word that God is both singular and plural in his very nature. This theme continues in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Another example resides in John 14:16: “And I (Jesus, the Son of God) will pray the Father (God), and He shall give you another Comforter (the Holy Spirit).” Three united in purpose, set forth as one God. Jesus speaks another example of this in John 10:30: “The Father and I are one.”
Since many of the people who will worship with us over any given weekend generally shape their view of God by the music we lead, we have to be proactive in maintaining and teaching Trinitarian theology in our liturgies. Often churchgoers cannot name the last sermon they’ve heard, much less the teaching’s scriptural text. In contrast, however, many can quote the lyrics to their favorite worship songs. If you don’t believe me, ask your congregants. Ask the people who serve with you on any given weekend. The answers most likely will reinforce the idea that what we sing shapes the theology of what we think about God.
Three distinct individuals, yet three united as one.
By cultivating honest conversations and using the tools available to us, we build upon the ways Trinitarian theology has shaped our worship gatherings for many years. Through creeds and confessions, such as the Nicene and Apostle’s Creed, prayers (to the Father, by the Spirit, in the name of the Son), and baptism, our congregants find connectivity to the Triune God. In addition to the means above, there is music. Hymns such as Holy, Holy, Holy; Praise Ye The Triune God; and Come, Thou Almighty King, among worship songs such as How Great Is Our God and King of Kings, which are all rich with theology surrounding the Trinity. These songs of faith shape us as believers and worshippers. [Consider creating a playlist of songs that contain Trinitarian theology in the lyrics and share these playlists with your congregations to expand their theological and musical palettes. A link to my Spotify Trinitarian Worship Songs playlist is below at the end of this blog¹.]
In partnership with these tools above, we must also commit to seeing God’s triune work as a common denominator in all Christian salvation stories. Since we all come to Christ the same way, we must worship in one belief centered on our Triune God who saves. The Apostle Paul words this beautifully in 2 Corinthians 1:21–22, “Now it is God who strings us together with you in Christ, and who has anointed us. He has also put his seal on us and given us the Spirit as a down payment.” God’s triune work is indeed a connector among us, and as we lead people, our passion is shaped by the theology we maintain in our lives. Remember that the Father, Son, and Spirit have wooed us to worship since the dawning of creation. Resulting in testimonial proof that Trinitarian theology is one of the most shaping components in the lives of those who participate in Christian worship.