Why do you go to “church”? That building, that home group, the coffee shop fellowship, wherever you go; why do you go? Now let me ask you this. Do your reasons for going have anything at all to do with anyone other than yourself? Sadly, one of the things we have done is make our relationship with God mostly a personal experience. No doubt, we have turned inward. Our songs, our “worship,” our whole life in Christ; you name it- it’s “me” centered. I think this has a lot to do with our concept of the doctrine of the Trinity.
For the most part, we give a mere head-nod to the Trinity. In our “belief statements” we acknowledge that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that’s about it for us Western Christians. I have recently begun to think that maybe we have been a bit deprived. Most of us have never heard of Gregory Palamas, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John of Damascus, or Athanasius. Anyway, it’s interesting to look back through history and see where the Eastern and Western church fathers kind of went their separate ways, and how we came to be where we are today. The “brand of Christianity” we practice here in the West comes largely from the teachings of Augustine. (As this is not intended to be a lesson in Church History, I’ll leave it to you to study and see if what I’m saying is accurate.) Put very simply, it goes kind of like this: Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato, and the Reformers were GREATLY influenced by Augustine; as a result, the Christianity that has been passed down to us has evolved into an inward, individualistic experience, having little to do with the way God has revealed himself in scripture as a Triune being. And, this has direct implications upon the way we understand salvation and the way we see each other.
Growing up here in the buckle of the bible-belt, I was taught that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior. If I did that, I’d be spared hell, and would get a mansion somewhere on the streets of Gold. I was never told that I had been invited by God to participate in the very life, the very communion of the Trinity. My salvation was about me. “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’.” We didn’t spend too much time on verses like:
“… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23)
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (I Corinthians 12:13)
Can you see the connection? If we have no concept of salvation as an invitation by the Father, in Jesus, through the Spirit, to be freed from sin and partake in the very life of the Triune God; it’s hard for us to understand how necessary we are to each other. When we reflect on the Triune nature of God, it begins to make more sense as to how our salvation, our relationships together in the body of Christ ought to reflect the very communion of the Trinity.
So many go to “church” because: “I need to get fed.” or “I want to get my praise on.” We come, we sit, we “pick up the remote control,” and if the praise team doesn’t sing my favorite songs, or if my favorite preacher isn’t preaching, I simply press the “mute button,” or maybe even turn the channel. We forget that Paul tells us,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you [ the “you” is plural in the Greek ] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
Ephesians 5, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”
We are to be in communion with each other, and as Jesus speaks his words into our lives, we are to teach each other. As a result, we are continuously being filled with the Spirit. Can’t you see how this reflects the very Triune nature of God? Doesn’t it make sense for God who has enjoyed communion, love, and WORSHIP in himself for all eternity (in a way we can’t completely describe or understand) to design our salvation experience to be that which “mirrors” himself? It is as we are in relationship with each other, mutually submitting, clothed in humility, putting others before ourselves that we more closely resemble Him who is three in one.
We may come to Christ as individuals, but w e live in Christ as his body, members of one another.When we grasp the reality of how our salvation and life together in the body of Christ reflects the very Triune nature of God, we will stop being mere religious spectators. When we realize that through faith in Jesus we are made participants in the communion of the Trinity, we will begin to view each other as we should, and understand how we are indeed one body, each a living stone being built up as a dwelling place for God, in the Spirit.