Life in the Trinity: What does that look like?

This post continues a series in the book Life in the Trinity by Donald Fairbairn. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1245678.

Fairbairn refers to the doctrine of the Trinity as "the gateway to understanding Christian life" (p50). Last time, we noted Fairbairn's understanding of the Trinity: God, who is three (tri-personal), is one in substance ("God-ness") and fellowship (triune communion) (p55). But what does this mean for our lives?

According to Fairbairn, just this: though we do not and cannot share in God's substance, God created us to share in his triune fellowship (p56). Indeed, this sharing in the love and life of the Trinity, which the Patristic fathers referred to as theosis, is the essence of human life. He comments:
...We are meant to remain creatures and thus remain lower than God but at the same time to share in the fellowship and love that have existed from all eternity between the persons of the Trinity.... This God who shares such fellowship within himself offers his very self to us in this way, and he is the center of life as it is meant to be. (pp56-57)
But there's a problem: Though we are created in the image of God (the capacity to share in the Triune fellowship), that image was terribly distorted in the Fall, causing us to break fellowship with God - a fellowship we can't restore through our own effort.

But, thank God, there is a solution: Jesus restored the perfection of God's image to humanity through his own continuing, perfect humanity. And through the Holy Spirit, he is sharing his humanity with us - a humanity that is in full fellowship with God.

In Jesus, human fellowship with God is restored.

In that regard, and emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit, Fairbairn quotes Cyril of Alexandria's commentary on Gen 2:7 and John 20:22:
Christ's act [of redemption] was a renewal of that primal gift...the in-breathing [of the Holy Spirit] bestowed on us, bringing us back to the form of the initial holiness and carrying man's nature up, as a kind of firsfruits among the holy apostles, into the holiness bestowed on us initially at the first creation. (p63)
Fairbairn notes that this "holiness," which is our sharing in the Triune fellowship...
...Was not meant to be purely vertical.  Rather people were meant to share that same fellowship among themselves as well...God intended human beings to share his presence both with God and with each other...Human life as God meant it to be...was life in the Trinity...a reflection of the love between the Father and the Son. (pp63-65)
But what does this sharing look like in our lives now? 

Fairbairn suggests four qualities of life that we experience as we share in the life and love of the Trinity:

1. Significance
"Our significance does not ultimately lie in what we accomplish or what we do; it lies in the one to whom we belong...We already possess a significance greater than that of any other created beings, simply by virtue of being made in the image of God. We belong to him" (p67).

Can you imagine the difference in our lives now if we lived knowing that God loves us, accepts us and has included us in his own triune love and life?

2. Peace
Human life is full of anxiety and fear, but Jesus proclaims 'My peace I give you' - a peace unlike what the world offers. Jesus' peace is an "internal peace that does not depend on eliminating the sources of stress and hostility" (p70). The source of that peace, which Jesus possesses and shares with us, is his relationship with the Father. "Being in Christ, sharing in the Son's fellowship with the Father, gives us a radically new perspective toward the stresses of life" (p72).

God does not always calm the storms, but he calms his children; they are never alone.

3. Meaning in work
Remembering the comment above on our significance, we understand that we don't work to achieve it. But then why work hard?, or at all? Fairbairn answers:
[Because] a relationship with Christ is so liberating that it inspires a person to work harder....[spurred on] by the realization that God is at work in and through him. Becoming a Christian enables one to see one's work (whatever kind of work that is) in a new way, as the opportunity for God to work through the person.... When we share in the fellowship that characterizes the persons of the Trinity, we also have the privilege of sharing in the work that those persons carry out. We are in the Lord, and so we labor in the Lord. And this means that our work - far from becoming insignificant - takes on a surpassing importance. We are the one through whom the love between the Father and the Son is expressed on earth today, and we are also the ones through whom the purposes of God are carried out today. (pp75-6)
Awesome! But there's more - and this is the heart of the matter:

4. Other-centered relationships
In our brokenness, we often use relationships to achieve personal power. But as we share the Triune life, self-centeredness makes way for us to share in God's own sacrificial, other-centered love. As Fairbairn notes, "this understanding should dramatically change our attitudes toward relationships in the home, school, church and world" (p81).

In Christ, we are free to love with his own love for others. Amazing; and liberating!

We experience this significance, peace, meaning in work, and other-centeredness as we participate in the Triune life and love. But, "restoring us to share in the Son's relationship to the Father is not something we can accomplish; it is something that must be done for us by another" (p102). Realizing this is not cause for despair. Rather it is a source of great relief - allowing us to "breathe the liberating air that comes from allowing God to do everything because we can do nothing" (p105).

Yes, thank God that he does it for us, in and through his Son Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through this grace, we are given to share in the fellowship of the Father, Son and Spirit; and in their fellowship with all humanity. Dive in!

Comments

  1. This is a very interesting analysis of those qualities of life -- thanks for sharing! Stephen Seamands's excellent book "Ministry in the Image of God" has several good points on this too. After reading his book I reflected on the dynamics of the relationships in the Trinity, and am giving a sermon series based on four ideas I found in Jn 5:16-23 and 14:16,26; 15:26 and 16:13-16. I found giving, honoring, listening and responding there, and we've been having a great time discussing those ideas as we look at our new life in the Trinity. This whole idea of our inclusion in God has opened up enormous (and breathtaking!) vistas for understanding life and how to live loved.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for reminding us about Seamands' fine book, "Ministry in the Image of God." He addresses similar concepts raised by Fairbairn. A couple of Surprising God posts from 2008 comment on Seamands' work:

    http://thesurprisinggodblog.wcg.org/2008/09/participating-in-life-of-trinity.html

    http://thesurprisinggodblog.wcg.org/2008/09/ministry-in-image-of-god.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. Indeed we have an amazing God! Thanks Ted for posting. The first time I finished reading the entire Bible one thing stood out for me, God is a God of relationships! From the first question that the Lord asked the first man and woman "Where are you?" to the conclusion of Revelations "Now the dwelling of God is with men" the Holy Scriptures tell us that our Lord and Father is passionate in pursuing his relationship with us and zealous in teaching us to love one another. All the law and the prophets are summed up in one word, Love :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Can people get out of hell?

Does everyone have the Holy Spirit?

Theology and Biblical Studies - What's the Difference?

The missional character of the church

The nature of our union with Christ

Ministry: sharing in what Jesus is doing

Question on John 3:36

Torrance on the church and its mission

The link between theology and mission

What about mission?