Who Is the Trinity, and Why It Matters

The Big XII

The Trinity is a mystery. The concept of "plurality dwelling in unity" doesn't seem to have much relevance to the church today. But while we often write off the Trinity as too tough to comprehend, Todd makes the case that Trinity is the basis for everything we believe about relationships, marriage and community and is the foundation of the Christian worldview.

Todd WagnerSep 27, 2009Deuteronomy 6:4-5; 1 Peter 1:1-2; John 1:1-2,14; Acts 5:3-4; Matthew 28:19-20; Ephesians 4:1-6

This Sunday, we are going to be talking about our second in the 12 big ideas that if you don't believe these things, then you are compromised as an orthodox Christian. You are not a God-follower as revealed in the text, in the Scripture, responding rightly to the God who has revealed himself.

The topic we're taking on today is this thing called the Trinity. Before I do that, it just so happens that there's a movie coming out about Trinity that we ripped the trailer from that will be my intro this morning as we get ready to go. As we get ready to talk about the Trinity, you might want to get ready to watch this movie, too. Here's the intro, the premiere, the clip to get you excited about that. Check it out.


Male: Give me a cold one.

Male: Hey! I'm looking for Trinity!

Male: Ain't nobody ever seen Trinity, but word is, he's part man and part fire.

Male: No, I heard he could make a storm by blowing real hard.

Male: No, he doesn't make the storms. He calms them.

Female: I heard he's a prince.

Male: He ain't no prince. He's a king.

Male: I'm telling you; he can blow a storm!


Male: He's a chicken!

Male: He ain't no chicken! He's part dove!

Male: Hogwash. What difference would it make?

Male: He's here!

Male: It's the Father.

Male: El Espíritu Santo.

Male: It's the Son!

Male: It's three-in-one.

Male: It's one-in-three.

Male: There wasn't a feather on him.

[End of video]

All right. I like the line, "What difference would it make?" Obviously not a movie, but our Arts team had some time on their hands, so they helped me out this week. Basically what you can do in Deep Ellum, all right? They shot that thing because we're going to talk about the Trinity today. What difference does it make whether he's a chicken, a prince, a king, one-in-three, three-in-one? What the heck?

I'm going to tell you it's a big deal. I'm going to tell you it's what makes you who you are. Understanding God as he has revealed himself and not as we want him to be is the very essence of truth to help you understand who you are and what life was meant for you to be. It is not just some idea that you're supposed to embrace because your pastor told you to embrace it or because it made its way into some creed in the fourth century. It is how God has revealed himself to us.

Now what I told you I was going to do every single week is break out this idea of truth, this essential to the faith, by giving it to you in three ways. I'm going to tell you about the profession we make, I'm going to tell you the problem if you deny this profession, and I'm going to tell you the practical application of it.

To say it another way, I will give you what we believe, I will tell you why it matters, and I will tell you what it should produce. Or a third way: I will give you the affirmation, I will give you the alternative, and then I will give you the application, because we're not just here to get more information. The purpose of education is transformation.

First of all, what do we affirm? What is the profession we make? What is the core reality? What do we believe? What I'm going to share with you to start this morning is what you have to say if you have a biblical understanding of the person and nature of God. There are three things that you must say, that must be present to have a biblical definition of God.

Let me start by saying this: the word Trinity does not appear in your Bible. It wasn't even really used by the early church fathers until about the fourth century when they gathered together and said, "Let's all get together and make sure we all agree that the Word we believe is God's Word is teaching the same thing."

There were men that came and argued one way or another, but the core of the church, the majority of the church, the leadership of the church said, "This is what we've always said. This is what God's Word teaches." They took a term, and they said, "We are going to express the truth that is in the Scripture in the concept of Trinity."

Don't get freaked out when a Jehovah's Witness tells you Trinity isn't even in your Bible. The word Trinity isn't. The character and person and understanding of God is Trinitarian. If you bump up against one of your Muslim friends, they will mock your intellectual capacity because you embrace the concept, within a monotheistic faith, one God, that there are somehow three expression of that one God. Most of you are already uncomfortable. "What in the world does this have to do with me?" Hang in there. I'm about to show you.

Let me start by explaining to you what you must believe if you are a biblical Christian. First, you must assert to the unity, to the oneness of God, that God exists in one nature. The Orthodox Jew, every morning, every day, several times throughout the day, will say the Shema. It's the first words that they teach their children. Shema means the very breath, the very essence of the life-giving Spirit that is God, the very essence and life-giving spirit that is man.

The Shema is Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 4, and it says this. "Hear, O Israel!" If you get nothing else right, get this right. "The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!" He is echad, is the Hebrew word. That word means, specifically, and there is more than word within Hebrew to express the word one. Echad is the Hebrew word which basically describes plurality in unity.

It's interesting. "Yahweh is elohiym," is what this verse says. The Lord, the covenant God is God, and that word elohiym is the plural word for God, interestingly enough. When it says the Lord, Yahweh, is echad, he is one, it means that he is one, but there is distinctiveness within that. It's in the very word. It's the same word that is used of a cluster of grapes. There is one cluster of grapes; it's one. Yet we know there is distinction within that cluster.

There was another word that was available to them. The word is yachid. I don't know why it always sounds like you're hawking a loogie when you speak Hebrew. Yachid is the word which basically means one unit, singular, separate. It would be like one grape. It did not use that word. It used the word Yahweh is elohiym. The Lord, covenant God, is God, plural. The Lord is one. One distinct essence, but there is, in the midst of that, plurality in that unity.

It's interesting. It's the same word that is used in Genesis, chapter 2, when it says, "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become yachid." They shall become plurality in unity. There is still distinctiveness in person. I'm going to come back in a little bit, and I'm going to explain to you some errors people use and some analogies we try and use to explain the Trinity which creates an unbiblical definition of Trinity and the problems that it causes, but suffice it to say that you are a monotheist if you are a biblical Christian.

This is where the Muslim folks go, "You have to be kidding me. How can you say that you're a monotheist when you have three gods?" Answer: We don't believe we have three gods. We believe we have yachid, one God, unity with plurality inside the oneness. I want to say this: God is one in essence. This is the biblical understanding.

What people do often is go, "I can't get my arms around it, so I reject it. I can't understand diversity and unity, plurality and oneness. It doesn't resonate with me." To which I say, "That is why, though he be veiled in darkness, though the eyes of sinful, finite man cannot see, I still worship him for who he told me he is."

I tell folks all the time, "Look, if there was some cataclysmic event that wiped out everybody on earth except me and my children, I would set us back to the stone age. It wouldn't be like I'd say, 'That's okay, guys. I have it all figured out still.' There would be no electricity. I wouldn't know how to build a phone. I think I could carve out a wheel, but after that, I wouldn't know how to give a haircut. I mean, really. I would set humankind back eons."

At the same time, if one of you guys sits and explains to me my watch, I couldn't make this digital watch for 50 lifetimes. I couldn't invent electricity or the phone or computer. I couldn't take apart my Mac or my Dell and put it back together. I couldn't write a program if you gave me a computer to save my life right now.

But if you spent time with me, you software engineers… If you spent time with me, you electrical engineers, you architects… I couldn't build this building, again, to save my life or my kids lives. Orville and Wilbur are generations down the line from this guy before I'd get you in the air.

But I want to tell you something, if I give myself to it, I can understand space science. I can understand nuclear engineering. If you tutor me, I do have the intellectual capacity to break down and build a nuclear reactor with training. That's why I don't worship nuclear reactors. I don't worship my Timex Ironman because, eventually, I can explain it. I can explain my Mac. I can explain the shuttle, and so I don't worship it.

It doesn't bother me that I cannot, in my finiteness, explain to you what is infinite. It doesn't bother me that in my temporality, I cannot break down and rebuild eternity. It also doesn't bother me that eternity reveals itself to me in whatever capacity I, in my finiteness and my temporality, can understand. What I have to do is respond to what he has revealed. What God has revealed is that he is one in essence, three in person.

Let me say it another way. He is one in nature, but there are three centers to that nature fully expressed. There is one it: God. But there are three ises: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is one what: God. There are three whos. I want to tell you again. This is a mystery, but not a contradiction. Though the darkness hides thee, though the eye of sinful, fallen, finite man cannot see, he has revealed that which eye has not seen, ear has not heard, things which have not entered into the hearts of man.

There is mystery here, but there is not contradiction. Careful… It would be contradiction to say God was one person but three persons. That's not what I said. I said God is one in essence, and in a minute, I'm going to talk about distinctiveness of person. It would be contradiction to say God is one nature but three natures. We don't say that. We believe that God is one nature with three centers of that nature. One essence, three persons. One it, three ises.

What you have to do when you read Deuteronomy, chapter 6, verse 4, is the best interpretation and understanding of this Lord God who is one is Scripture itself. In other words, when somebody makes a statement, let them interpret that statement. There are a lot of directions I could go to explain to you what I'm saying. If you were the interpreters, if you were the spin-doctors, if you were the commentators who heard my speech, you could go, "This is what he meant." Or, you could go, "What did you mean?"

When I say that the Lord God is one, we are monotheists. I'm going to let the monotheistic one explain what he meant by one. He means, "I am one God." Secondly, he means there is diversity or distinctiveness of personage. I will show you that in just a minute, and I will tell you numerous reasons why it matters.

Thirdly, there is equality, sameness in essence. They are all eternal, they are all omniscient, they are all omnipresent. This God who gave you a revelation of himself, that he is one, there are numerous Scriptures that talk about how the Spirit is omnipresent, the Spirit is omniscient, the Spirit is sovereign. The Son is all of those things. The Father is all of those things. I will show you a few of them that say that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God.

Here's what happens if you compromise on any one of these three. If you compromise in unity, diversity, or equality, you get this. If you compromise in unity, you have something that is called tritheism, that there are three different gods that kind of link arms together, contractually go together, and say, "Let's invent a universe and a world, and let's partner together to rule over it in love, kindness, and holiness."

Could that happen? I guess if there were three gods, they could, except that there aren't three gods. There is one. You don't have individuals who are not one. There are not three separate persons and yet one person. That is a contradiction. There are three persons within one essence. That is how God has revealed himself. Can you understand this? I can't completely, but I want to say this. We have a faith that goes beyond our reason but not against it. I told you, there's no contradiction here, but there is a mystery.

I love what Alister McGrath said. He said, "The Christian church was faced [early on] with a choice. It either adopted a God who could be understood, but could not redeem, or a God who could redeem, and yet not be understood. Rightly, as events proved, it adopted the second of these two options." A God who could not be understood but who could redeem. I'm going to explain this. That's what's at stake. Without unity, you get tritheism, polytheism. You get the pantheon. You get mythology. All right?

Secondly, when you compromise diversity and you say there is no distinction, you get modalism. Here is the most common reference that is made, typically, to the Trinity. When people are trying to break down and explain to you an analogy that will help you understand the mystery, they often use water. It's the most famous.

They sometimes use an egg: God is the egg, but then there's the shell which is the Father. There is the egg white which is the Son. There's the yolk which is the Spirit. Or they'll use an apple: the skin, the meat, or the flesh, and then there's the seed, and all of this different stuff. While there is some usefulness to those, they all fall short.

The most common one is H2O. Water is two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. What they'll tell you is that basically what happens is that it's always H2O. There's always clarity in what water is. Sometimes, though, H2O, below freezing, is a solid; it's ice. The Father is substantive. It's rock solid. I get my arms around the Father. Room temperature is the liquid. It's still water; it's still H2O, but that would be the Son. Then there's the Spirit, which is above the boiling point is gas. We go from solid to liquid to gas, but it's always H2O. They'll use this.

This, folks, is the error of what is called modalism, that God is one in person, he just morphs depending on the environment, the need, or the condition. You go, "Well, is that possible?" Certainly it's true in our natural world that that happens with certain chemical compounds, so I guess it could happen with God. It just is inconsistent with what God says he means when he says, "Hear O Israel, the LORD your God is one." So we can't go there. We cannot make him like what would make sense to us because he doesn't say that.

In fact, let me just show you that the Scripture itself clearly debunks this, because there's a time when all three are present at the same time. The baptism… It's in Luke 3 or it's in Matthew 3. In Luke 3, watch this. "Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while he was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on the Son, who was there, and while the Holy Spirit was present in the form of a dove, a voice came out of heaven, the Father, saying, 'You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'"

So we just have to go, "Well, that's because it was room temperature here, and a little colder as you came down through, and then up there it was gas." I don't know how you'd explain it as you move through the atmosphere, but the idea is all three are present at one time. The idea of modalism, the idea that God moves and shifts, which is called Oneness Pentecostalism and a few other heretical ideas and understandings of the biblical Godhead, is compromised.

Thirdly, if you get rid of equality, you have what's called subordination. You have Jesus not being God. You have what the Jehovah's Witnesses would tell you. You have what Mormonism would tell you. You have what Islam would tell you. You have error, and there are problems that go with it.

If I were you, I would say, "Todd, what problems do you speak of, Sir, that are created if we have distinctiveness, unity, or equality compromise by these terrible things you call tritheism, modalism, and subordination?" Let me first of all show you a good chart that explains what I just shared with you. This is a biblical understanding of the Godhead. Here we go.

You have the Father who is God. You have the Son who is God, the Spirit who is God. They are all ises of the it. But the is that is the Spirit is not the is that is the Son. The Son that is the is is not the God that is the Father. The Father is not the Spirit, and so on. That, my friends, is a biblical understanding of how God has revealed himself.

As we get ready to dive in and walk you through this, here's the basic gig. I told you last week that all Scripture is inspired by God and is alone profitable for teaching, for doctrine, for truth. It is also profitable to correct you from your error once it points out what your error is and to help you live righteously.

If the Trinity is not true, then the first big thing that you must believe is not believable. Why? Because the Bible would not be true because the Bible teaches that there is one God and the deity of the Father exists, the deity of the Son exists, and the deity of the Spirit exists. Let me just say this. You go, "Todd, that's a circular argument, that the Bible is true because it it's from God and that the Trinity is true because the Bible says that's who God is."

Albeit, that is true. It does seem a bit circular, but let me go back to why we know the Bible can be trusted, the things I talked about last week. I'm going to show you why it matters, and why God went outside of our understanding to reveal himself in this way. Let me show you, first of all, that the Bible doesn't just have all three persons of the Godhead present at any one given time. Let me show you specifically that the Bible reveals that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. Here we go.

First Peter, 1:1-2. Peter, somebody sent forward from Christ Jesus, to those who were in different regions around the area of which he was sending it to, says, "I was sent forth by Jesus according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." Very clearly there, we go, "Okay, the Father is God." It goes on to talk about the sanctifying work of the Spirit, the obedience that comes with Jesus Christ, and sprinkling with his blood, and all that different stuff, but the idea is here that like many other places in the Scripture, 1 Peter, chapter 1, clearly says that the Father is God.

Let me show you this. Here's the Son. In John, chapter 1, it says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." He, the Word, was with God in the beginning. Who's the word? Verse 14: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten one from the Father, full of grace and truth."

A Muslim would tell you that there is only one God. He was not begotten, and he begat no one. They would disagree with this revelation. That's fine that they disagree. The question is…What is God? Who is God? Is he what we make him out to be in our own understanding, or is it how he has revealed himself? There is a mystery here, not a contradiction.

It's clear, 1 Peter, chapter 1, that the Father is God. It is clear, John, chapter 1, and many others, that the Son is God. It's clear. Acts, chapter 5, verses 3 and 4: "But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.'"

To lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God. Why? Because the Spirit is not a force, not an impersonal idea. The Spirit is God. If you go and look at the Scriptures, you'll see that the Spirit has all of the distinctiveness of personage: a mind, emotion, a will. Let me say again that the Bible clearly teaches that there is one God, and it clearly teaches the deity of the Father, the deity of the Son, and the deity of the Spirit.

It still begs the question: what's such a big deal out of that? Let me give you one more. Matthew 28:19-20, which talks about specifically, and understanding language does matter here because when there's a definite article that appears before a noun, it talks about its distinctiveness. So it says, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, in the name of the Holy Spirit."

A Jehovah's Witness will knock on your door and will say, "These are all just different names of the same God." Or they'll actually not tell you that because they don't believe that the Son is God, but, in effect, what you have here is that article matters. That the means separate and distinct from God. The one God is three distinct personages.

Okay, the Bible clearly sets up and talks about the fact that there's one God and yet distinctiveness in each of them that are all deity. But why? What's the big deal? Who cares? Like my friend in the movie trailer, "What does it matter anyway? Okay, let's say you're right. Big whoop-de-doo. Why couldn't it be monotheism monotheistically?"

Well, first of all, because it's who God is, but I want to give you some basic facts. It means, folks, that community, care, mutual submission, intimacy, humility, and love are not just the best ideas of human nature, evolved through philosophers and poets. They are eternally existent and present in the very nature of who God is.

If you are made in the image of this God, that means that you are made to exist in community, to show experience in care. It means that submission is not done simply out of weakness. For you to be who you were created in the image of that person to be, for you to live apart from community, care, mutual submission, intimacy, and humility is to live apart from the very nature of who you are. You will never find life. We're not just attaining to some high, metaphysical ideas of man. We are racing toward that which defines the very essence of our being.

Let me just explain this to you because this is way too big of a deal to rush through. I want to show you what's going on in the community of the Trinity. I want you to look at how God has revealed himself. This gets very important right here, so lock in. What's happening within the Trinity is a lot of arguments? A lot of competition? A lot of insecurity? Yes?

No! Just the opposite. This is not like a bunch of disciples arguing who's the greatest. Eternally present in the very nature of who our God is is care. It is humility. It is intimacy. It is mutual subjection. Let's talk about it. Think about the Father. The Father says, "Hey, you know what? I'm going to give you, the Son, the name above all names. I'm going to give all judgment to the Son."

That's what the Scripture teaches. "I'm going to tell you to listen to the Son." And in insecurity, he doesn't go, "But listen to me, too!" No, he says, "Listen to the Son. This is the name above all names. I will give all judgment to him." The Son says, "Hey, I don't do anything except by the will of the Father. The Father is greater than I. I only do that which the Father has told me can be done."

The Son says, "I'm going to leave because it's better for you that I go, that you might have the Spirit." The Spirit says, "I'm the Spirit of truth. I'm not here to call you to me." If the Spirit had a chance to grab the microphone, he'd say, "Listen to the Son. Exalt the Son. Follow the Son." The Father says, "The Spirit is my Spirit. Don't grieve him. Be concerned about the Spirit."

There is, in this perfect community, everything that all of us have ever longed for. When I look at a group that does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, his oneness that is distinct, that does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind considers one another as more important than themselves…

They don't merely look out for their own personal interests, but perfectly, forever, without exception are mutually adoring, celebrating, and exalting one another. I go, "Now, Wagner, you sign me up for that small group and I'm in it. I would love to be friends with the likes of them." Well, guess what? This God, who in his very definition and essence is love, says there's only one thing he can't do, and that's deny who he is.

God's not lonely. He is together forever as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the oneness that is the very nature and essence of God. Yet because they're one, they go, "Because we're love, we must share with others." That's what love does. Love is not possessive. Love doesn't keep to its own. So love created. Love created beings who could enjoy him. Watch this. Love sought to open up the circle and say, "Step on in."

First there's the angelic realm. The Scriptures tell us it was created and there was betrayal there. But then, separate from the angelic realm, God created a new realm of humans in his image, which means that we are made to live as he lives, to love as he loves. To love as he loves means we have to have capacity to choose. He made us free, and he said, "Look, you could have all the joy of relationship with me. We invite you into this perfect community of intimacy, humility, love, kindness, and others-centeredness."

We're like, "Ah, this is paradise! This is amazing. Goodness is defined by the very essence of the community I just walked into; I don't need to know goodness. I don't need to know a life apart from love. I have it completely here." But guess what? There's a liar over here that said, "Guess what? You don't want that. You can be your own god. Don't make God your god; be your own god.

Don't do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit and with humility of mind consider others more important than yourself. That's weakness. Come on over here and you can be a god. You can do what thou want. Doesn't that sound better than thinking what good and evil is by asking him? How about figuring it out on your own? You can be a god."

Into this community of perfect love, submission, care, intimacy, and humility, there was a betrayal. We ran. We went over here. God wasn't needy, but he decided to give us love. Guess what? The Trinity, God, knew that was going to happen before he even created us. He's going to go, "Guess what we get to do? We get to show that which we've created what love looks like. How to handle rebellion, how to handle hard-heartedness. So here we go."

The Father says, "Son, this is your moment. This is when you go. We're going to send you. We're not going to, in any way, compromise your nature, but we're going to give you the nature, also, of man. We have been perfectly offended, and we need a perfect sacrifice, because man could never earn his way back. Even if he just made one mistake and goes from there and gets a 99.9 on the test, we can not let imperfection dwell with perfection because that compromises our character.

The second he chose to rebel and chose what was not light, darkness came into him. He cannot fellowship with us anymore. What fellowship does darkness have with light? We are loving, to be sure, but we will never compromise our nature. We can't do that, but what we can do is be just. Perfect holiness has been offended, and the only way to satisfy it is to have a perfect sacrifice."

The Son said, "I'm in. I'll go." And off the Son went. Even though he found himself in the likeness of a man and being made in the appearance of man, he had no sin. He became perfectly obedient, obedient even to the point of having death come upon him, death on a cross, so that the perfect and full wrath of God turned his back on sin because God can't fellowship with sin.

The Trinity, in that moment, the Son cries out, "O God, Father, why have you forsaken me? Where are you? You've been near to me the whole time I've been here. The Spirit has been with me, you have been with me, but now, when I take on the sins of the world in order that our perfect justice would be satisfied, where are you?" That loneliness, that eternal, perfect community is shattered in that moment. The weight of our sin fell on him.

Let me just stop you right here. Here's Islam: "There's just Allah, baby." What's Allah like? "Well, I don't know." Do you know what we do with Allah when we don't have him revealing himself in the Son? We have to make up what Allah is like, and Allah is probably a bit like us. He's a bit impetuous. He's probably pissed. He's righteous altogether.

He is alone the good one, so what do you do to get back in favor with the good one? You'd better do it all day, all the time, and these five pillars, you better fully embrace. The only way you can be sure that you can appease Allah is if you die in service to him, so martyr yourself killing infidels. That's how you appease him. Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.

Exactly! It makes perfect sense to me because I'm a fallen, corrupt fool who doesn't know what love is like. If I have to make a god, I'll make him in my image. God says in Psalm 50, "You thought I was altogether like you, and I will reprove you and rebuke you to your face. You think your little wickedness could martyr yourself to win back into my fellowship and my presence? You are wrong, friend, because all you're doing when you die is getting what you deserved because you left me."

When you jack with the Trinity, you jack with substitutionary atonement. You jack with the character and nature of God, and there is no way your little finite imperfection can make its way back to perfection. But if there's perfect love and fellowship of hearts, and the Father loves you, and in the very nature of who he is, he died for you so that he can still be just and at the same time, the justifier of those who acknowledge their sin and come to the sentence that the Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment and woos back, and we come on our face to him.

We say, "I have betrayed you. I have left you. I deserve death and judgment." They say, "Hey, I am the Lord your God. I am your Redeemer and the lifter of your head. Get up here. Let me show you what love looks like. Love looks like me taking your sin upon me so that I would become the wrath of God poured out." The Trinity was compromised in that second, in that moment, so that the holiness of God could still be satisfied and those that he loves could be brought back in.

The Spirit of truth now indwells us again, and we are here. We love them, we follow them, and we serve them. We are still broken. Even though we have been delivered from the penalty of sin through what Christ has done, and even though now we are just in the process of learning to follow the Spirit, to honor the Father, and to seek the Son, to be conformed into his image so that we can be a part of this perfect community, the presence of sin is still there.

The Spirit gives us the ability to have power over sin. The penalty has been paid for. We have the power to be righteous, to love God, and to do good, but guess what we do? Even having come back, we, every now then, go, "You know what? I'm going to grieve the Spirit. I'm going to quench the Spirit, and, boys, I'm going to do what I want to do." When we do that, we leave, and they're heartbroken again.

Guess what? The Spirit still seeks. The Spirit still convicts and brings us to our senses and calls us back in and says, "Come here, Todd." I go, "I am such a jerk. You guys are the greatest community, and all I ever do is screw it up. I'm selfish, I'm impetuous, I'm arrogant, I'm lustful, I bring sin into your presence." They go, "Todd, Todd, Todd, we know. That's why we died for you. Acknowledge it. We forgive you. We love you." Not only that, he says, "I'm going to teach you to love."

"Really? You're going to teach me to love?"


"Okay, I'm going to go over here and put on my best face. I'm going to tell this girl I want to love. I want to be her friend."

She says, "Really? How are you going to love me?"

"I'm going to love you like Christ loved the church. Come here."

"You're going to love me like that?"

"Like what?"

"Like this."

Listen to what the one-anothers of Scriptures are. I'm going to read you through what has been eternally present in the very nature of God. Watch this. Community is where we love one another, care for one another, serve one another. The Spirit of God and the Father and Son don't need to admonish one another; nonetheless, it's there. They show forbearance to one another and forgive one another.

We keep fervent in our love for one another. We are hospitable toward one another. We employ our gifts in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. We greet one another, have the same mind toward one another, are kind to each other. I speak to you, sweetie, all the rest of my days with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. I'm going to build you up. I'm going to encourage. I'm going to pray for you. I'm going to live in peace with you. I'm going to seek after that which is good.

I've learned all of this from God and from the Spirit. I'm going to clothe myself in humility toward you. I'm going to live in subjection to you. I'm not going to beat you up and say, "You're the wife; submit to me." I'm going to live in mutual subjection, just like it says in the verse before it tells women to be subject to their husbands. It says, "Be subject to one another in love." I'm going to do that. I'm not going to club you.

I'm going to live in peace. I'm going to give preference to you in honor. I'm going to encourage you day after day lest you not become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and move away. I'm going to love you just as God commanded me and as he loved me. We get in here, and this is a beautiful relationship. We're in this community together. It is awesome.

Guess what happens? She annoys me. She bothers me, and I go, "Can you believe her? What is wrong? Remember how good it was?" I sit down, and I just go, "Lord, today, I don't know… I'm sorry; I thought she was good, but I invited her in and look at the hell we're in the middle of. What? I do that to you? I do it worse to you than…?

The gap between me and you is infinitely further than…? Yeah, I know. Yeah, I know. I'm an arrogant… Yeah, I know. Get the log out of my eye. Okay. Thank you. I'm so sorry. I keep messing up this great community. Come here." I get over here, and the Spirit of God is on me again, praise God. I go over here… Can I tell you something? The truth of the Trinity saved my marriage this week. This is a fact. The truth of the Trinity saved my marriage this week.

I went to my wife in the last 36 hours, and I said, "Sweetie, will you forgive me? I have not loved you as Christ loved the church. I have not initiated with you. I have not been gracious toward you. I have not done what the Trinity does. What does the Trinity do? The Trinity loves. What is love? Check this out: 1 Corinthians 14:4-7. I have not been patient. I have not been kind.

I have boasted. I've been arrogant. I have acted unbecomingly. I have sought my own. I've been provoked. I have not rejoiced in righteousness but sometimes rejoiced in unrighteousness. I have not borne all things. I have not believed all things. I have not endured all things. My love has failed for you. I have not done what my community exhorts me toward, and I need to ask your forgiveness. I want to focus on what you do that provokes me. I want to focus on what you do that makes me… You know what? I am not easy to be in community with."

By the way, can I just throw this out? Guys, listen to me. Because you are made in the image of God, there is in the very essence and nature of who we are as man, male and female are made in the image of God. When you have just God and there's no plurality in unity, what men do is say, "We're made in the image of God, and woman, because we're the bigger and stronger of the two made in the image of God, you'll do what I tell you to do when I want you to do it." You have all kinds of horrors committed upon women within certain belief systems.

In our belief system, I go, "That is a woman made in the image of God. There is equality here. There is distinctiveness; there is not sameness." We're not the same. Let's quit trying to make ourselves the same. Male and female are not the same, okay? Men, your role is to lead. That is not your rank. What you are called to do is to serve, to care, and to love, just what they do, just exalt. This is the idea: do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church.

"Sweetie, come over here. I need to ask your forgiveness. I'm the one who broke this. Whatever happens, if there's a failure in this relationship, it's my failure. I haven't loved you this way. If you do something that really makes me angry, guess what? I should learn that…so what?" "Go pursue her just like we pursued you. Go get her. Go love her. Go model what we did."

Then guess what else he does. He says, "You two, as you begin to walk with me and care for one another and practice the one-anothers of Scripture, tell others about this. I am an infinite God, and when you invite others to be adopted into this family, since I'm an infinite God, you're not cutting yourself out of a portion of the inheritance. There is no fraction of infinite, so don't worry that you're going to cut down on your acreage and your cash. Go get them!"

Who? "Them, those who don't know me. Love each other in a way, and go over there and tell them about who I am, not who they think I am, who I am, and invite them in. Guess what's going to happen. You might be a little bit more mature than them. You might be further down the road. We might have some real good unity working here in your marriage, but you're going to love your neighbor. You're going to love your lost friends.

They're going to come in and screw up your community. They're going to offend you, and they're going to hurt you. They're going to break your heart, and you're going to get show them what love looks like. You're going to go tell other folks and invite them in. Bring them in. What's going to begin to happen is that folks are going to start to experience the goodness of who I am as you, my children, begin to let my Spirit inform you. As you walk and conform into the image of the Son, you're going to glorify the Father so that others can come to know me.

I love them, Todd. I love every single one of them. The reason I haven't absolutely eradicated sin's existence is because I'd have to eradicate you. I've delivered you from the power of sin. We're working right now through that, but one day, I'll deal with the presence of sin. I have to ultimately judge. Everybody who hasn't had sin judged on the cross is going to get sinned judged in them. Those are my children, and I love them, so you go invite them in. Widen the circle. Care for them.

When they blow up and they act in a way that's not consistent with light, don't be surprised. Love them, admonish them, encourage them, help them, just like we admonish, encourage, and help you, and bring them in. Don't let sin sit in the circle by any stretch of the imagination, but let forgiveness forever dwell here. Let mercy forever dwell here. Let grace forever dwell. Let mutual subjection, care, and maturity grow here so that there are more godly folks with the Spirit, the Son, and the Father intimately working through them so that more can come and be shepherded and discipled."

Isn't it beautiful? Do you see what's going on here? This isn't just some grand idea. It's the very essence of who we are. Let me read you some other things that I've said. It means the longing that you have in your heart for connection is not a result of imperfection. Living outside of community is not strength; it is weakness. It's what folks who don't know how to love the unlovable, who don't know how to forgive those who have wronged them… It's what weak people do.

Do you know what the strength of the Godhead does? This is what the strength of the Godhead does. The strength of the Godhead fleshes out. Ephesians 4:1-6 says this: It says what God does, with all humility, gentleness, kindness, tolerating your brokenness, is go after you. It makes provision for sin.

Guess what? You don't have to die for that person because Jesus already did. You just get to point them to the cross and invite them in. Once they're in, once my cross has brought them here, once you guys have come together in marriage, once you guys have committed to each other to be part of a community in the local church, live like the Spirit informs you. Live like the Spirit really did bring you all together through the sacrifice of the Son.

Paul says: "Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness…" Church, this is you. "…with patience, showing diligence to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit, the unity the Spirit created through the sacrifice of the Son to glorify the Father, that we might all be one, be diligent."

You work, day and night. It's going to be hard. She's going to offend you, and you're going to think, "I have to get out. I married the wrong person. My soulmate is over here." BS. Your soulmate is right here, and let him convict you of sin, righteousness, and judgment that comes on those who don't love that way. You go show her what love looks like.

You invite others in because Todd, when you come in, this is the church now, not just marriage. There is one body. There is one Spirit, just as you all were all called with one hope in your calling. There is one faith, one baptism, one Lord, one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all. So don't jack with unity.

If truth, lies, and deception come in, okay. Truth does not fellowship with untruth. Light doesn't fellowship with darkness. It matters with these big ideas, but call them, love them, be gracious, and get them back. Reason with them, compel them to come in, acknowledge that they've never seen truth lived out in that way. It makes it hard for them to understand."

Church, do you see what's at stake here? It's the very essence of who we are. You jack with the Trinity, you jack with what righteousness is, who God is, how God can allow sinful man to brought near to him, you jack with an understanding of your very nature. You jack with what the church should look like. You jack with what marriage is. It's the only analogy in Scripture. No wonder the world doesn't know that God is plurality dwelling in unity because we, who say we know God, can't even love one person. We're just like the world.

"The Trinity, bah. It's just an idea. It comes and goes." Wrong. It's the eternal character and nature of God. You were created in the image of him, and every time you break this, it's like you die. It's suicidal when you break fellowship with one another. I want to say again: The longing for connection is not a result of imperfection, but perfection. Living outside of community is not strength; it is weakness. It means the more we become like the Son, the more authentic, the more loving, the more other-exalting, caring, and relational we become. How are you doing?

Can I show you something else? This is the last thing. This is all built into the Trinity. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. There is one body. There is one Spirit. Let me show you what's at stake when you jack with the Trinity. One body, right? What do you do when your stomach is hungry? You use your mind, you use your hands, you use your legs, you use your strength to take care of your stomach. Why? Because it's one body.

People ask me, "Todd, tell me about giving biblically." Here's giving biblically. New Testament has nothing to do with tithe. New Testament has this: Do nothing more than Jesus has done. Don't give any more than Jesus had done. When the body was in need, what did Jesus give to allow the relationship God wanted you to be made whole. How much did Jesus give? "Everything." I tell people, "Don't give God any more than that, because that's the model."

How did Jesus do it? Kicking and screaming? "I'll go to the freaking cross if you guys want me to go rescue Wagner in brokenness…" Some of you guys are carving $10 and 10 percent out like, "I'll give him my 10 percent." You don't know a thing about giving. You don't know a thing about loving. You don't know a thing about educational injustice, church. You don't know a thing about generosity, church.

Here's your New Testament model. Has God given you fields and storehouses? Well, guess what? He hasn't given everybody else that, and they're part of the body. The Trinity solves hunger. The Trinity solves poverty. The Trinity solves loneliness. The Trinity solves buildings that can't be built because some people go, "Well, I know what I've already done." Guess what? Maybe you have more than them, so you should give a lot more than them.

Quit saying, "What are they going to do?" Don't worry about what they're going to do. Worry about what he did. You're supposed to become like him, not like them. "Maybe I gave you stuff I didn't give them, so you do what you're supposed to do, just like we did what we were supposed to do, so we can be one." It solves overcrowding. It solves inner-city and suburbs because we're one.

When we jack with the Trinity, we can dumb down God and say, "Well, be kind to the poor every now and then. During Ramadan, don't eat during daylight and do some acts of kindness for the poor." Really? That's not Jesus' model. Jesus' model is what is mine is yours, and what is yours is ours. It's not Communism; it is broken servants following the godly example, literally, of their servant leader.

Does this matter? It is everything. We go, "Trinity, shminity," and that's why the church is broken. That's why people are hungry. That's why marriages break apart and kids are lonely, because we have made God in our image. God is pursuing you this morning, and he's calling you back.

If you have more than somebody else, God says, "Glory! You get to watch and live out what I did. I had righteousness; you didn't. I gave all my righteousness so that which I had could be given to you in your lacking, so that your lacking would be a cause of praise to God because I met it. My giving would be a cause of praise to God because I gave it, and in all things, the Father would be glorified, and we'd be one."

People go, "Sign me up for that." God goes, "I wrote a book. I entered into history. I want you in the story. You don't have to sign up for it. Come. Come." This, folks, is a big deal. It's what makes you who are. It's not the invention of any man. It is God revealing himself to you. Do you want in? I do.

O Father, I pray that I wouldn't just go through these messages, and we wouldn't just hear them and go, "Okay, I'm going to believe the Trinity." No. I pray that we would act on it. This Lord, this God who is one, who is distinct, who is equal, Father, I want to be conformed to his image. I want to do what verse 5 says, right after the Shema. I want to love you with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want to become like Jesus.

Lord, I am a wretch. I keep screwing up your community. Thank you that you seek me. Thank you, Lord, that you'll make the man that will go to my wife and say, "I hurt our oneness. I want to love you like Christ loved the church. It has to start though; I need your forgiveness. I need you to forgive me like Christ forgave me because you want to love like Christ, too."

Lord, I want to be a man who doesn't take advantage of grace. I want to run toward godliness, brotherly kindness, self-discipline, sacrifice. I don't want to just have a creed. I want to live creedily. I want you to take the truth of the Trinity and make me who I am, a person who has been redeemed, who has been brought back into the fellowship of love, who loves as you have loved and brings glory to the Father as a result. Make that this church. Make that this man. Make us your people. Amen.

I want you to sit and listen to this song as long as you can, and then we're going to call you to sing it. May we not just be people who sing it, may we live.

Does it matter? It's what makes you who you are. When you trifle with the Trinity, you come up with some perverted, dead, works-based, non-substitutionary atonement, incapable finite man to appease an infinite God, broken relationship, lack of one-anothering, materialistic, self-serving church. Boy, we've lost the Trinity.

Can I tell you something? If you jump into small group with me, and I invite you in because I say I know the Trinity, guess what? These guys aren't going to hurt you, but I am. I am not a perfect pastor. I am not a perfect husband. I'm not a perfect dad. I'm not a perfect friend. We are not a perfect church.

We serve a perfect God, and we are saying, "O Spirit, live in me. O Son, I want to be conformed to your image. O Father, I want to do your will because when I do your will, it blesses those around me. I need your forgiveness." I want to extend you forgiveness, and the kind intention I've received from them, I want to give to you. We're going to encourage each other and admonish each other.

If you're still over there lost in the darkness of sin, we've been there. We get it. We're here, and we sometimes still go over there. We want to invite you in through the sacrifice of the Son. I want to tell you: you can be accepted here. You may think you're a vile wretch. Well, welcome to the circle of vile wretches redeemed by the perfection of who God is. We're going to become more like him so we can love each other and grow with each other so that we can go out together and seek more.

I have to learn to give like Christ has given. I need that part of my life to grow. I have to learn to seek the way the Spirit seeks and convict the way that the Spirit convicts. That's who we're going to be. This matters. If you're here today, and you're still way over there, will you come? Will you come through the blood of the Son, sent by the Father, resurrected by the Spirit? Will you come?

If you're here in this circle with me, in all our imperfection, will we get serious about letting that Spirit live in us so we can become like the Son, so we can be more of that community others can recognize God in. Oh, it matters. It's a big idea. If you jack with the Trinity, you jack with the very essence of who you are.

This is not the invention of Watermark. This is God revealing himself to you. If you don't know it, come. If you know it, worship him. Worship him with me, in grace, until we become like Christ and he deals with sin forever. Come. Go. Worship with me. God bless y'all.

About 'The Big XII'

"This series will cover twelve truths that if you don?t get exactly right, the ramifications and the impact on your life will be enormous. They matter today and eternally. If you want to call yourself an orthodox follower of Christ, these are truths that you cannot miss. These are twelve central, non-negotiable principles of theology and we will discuss what it means to embrace them, the alternatives to them, as well as the application of them. In other words, what it should look like when devoted, orthodox followers of Christ live them out." Todd Wagner