A few months ago I talked with some roofers during a “Timmy Tuesday.” (Every Tuesday afternoon I practice the ministry of presence at a local Tim Horton’s coffee house.) Eventually the conversation moved to faith, and I learned quickly: these men were not your ordinary “Christians.” They informed me in no uncertain terms that the God of the Bible is one, and that because I believe that God is triune, I’m not truly saved. As you can imagine, we had a lively conversation about the doctrine of God. I had never heard of their particular “Christian” church. It appears to be a rather small and obscure group. But actually, their understanding of God is ancient. Originally it was called Modalism, which refers to the idea that the One God reveals himself in different “modes” as recorded in Scripture. In a way I can see where these men are coming from, as the Bible doesn’t use the word “Trinity” or “triune,” but it does refer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in various places. In an effort to discern God’s will regarding such movements as Modalism, the early church fathers carefully studied Scripture, which led them to develop the doctrine of the Trinity. Over time this doctrine became established as orthodox, and was articulated in the ecumenical creeds (i.e., Apostles’ Creed) and in our Reformed Confessions. I don’t have time to explain the doctrine in full, nor could I do that if I wanted to, as it is rather complex. The best explanation that I’ve heard regarding the Trinity is that our triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is a divine community of perfect love. As Rev. Leonard Vander Zee explains, “Each person of the Trinity is irreducibly and uniquely itself, distinct in three persons, and yet is perfectly united in being, love and purpose. It is a true community of perfect love. . . But here’s the truly amazing thing. We are invited to join the dance! It’s not just that God is Trinitarian—our salvation is Trinitarian too. . . .The triune God. . . is the original and eternal community of love out of which we were created, and this One Holy Trinity is our true and eternal home.” (The Banner, “The Holy Trinity: The Community of Love at the Heart of Reality,” Feb. 26. 2016)
The other day I asked a few people about the Acts 2 story that we will study today in our worship service (Pentecost Sunday). This is a relatively common Bible story, and I wondered what more I could say about it to make it seem new and fresh. As we talked about it, one person asked, “So, why do we need the Holy Spirit? I mean, we pray to God the Father as Creator in the name of Jesus the Savior. But why the Holy Spirit? What is his role?” A great question which I will reflect on for a moment. In Acts 2 we see God send the Holy Spirit to indwell the believers in Christ. So, why did he do this? Why do we need the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit does many things for us. I think this stanza from Our World Belongs to God does a nice job of summarizing the work of the Spirit: “The Spirit renews our hearts and moves us to faith, leads us into truth and helps us to pray, stands by us in our need and makes our obedience fresh and vibrant. God the Spirit lavishes gifts on the church in astonishing variety—prophecy, encouragement, healing, teaching, service, tongues, discernment—equipping each member to build up the body of Christ and to serve our neighbors.” (Stanza 29) Is Jesus your Lord? If so, then he gives you the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you as the third person of the triune God. This indwelling began long ago as recorded in Acts 2 and continues today. Thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit! May the Spirit convince us of the gospel of grace and send us out to love our neighbors next door and far away.