Preaching the Trinity

Preaching the Trinity

The greatest and highest focus of anyone’s mind is the thought of God.  How a person thinks about God matters.  If left to our own human reason, our understanding of God would be extremely shallow.  By nature, we would know God exists.  However, we can only come to know the details of who God is through the revelatory lens of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:14).  In a similar manner, if left to our own deficient human reason, we would have an inappropriate view of ourselves.  That’s why God commissions preachers to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-5).  However, preaching the Word is not the end goal.  Preaching the Word involves preaching the Trinity.

My assignment for the 2016 G3 Conference is: “The Calling to Preach a Triune God from a Trinitarian Book.”  As I prepare my mind for this sermon, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about Jesus’ expectations of us as revealed in the Great Commission.  Matthew 28:18-20 is one of the most memorized and quoted texts in the Bible.  It’s often used to teach the importance of evangelism and missions.  As I travel to conventions and conferences, I cannot recall one single sermon that was delivered through a trinitarian lens from the text known as the “Great Commission.”

I can recall lots of statistics (mostly negative) about evangelism efforts among evangelicals.  I can recall passionate charges to live radically for Jesus.  However, I can’t recall one time where a man opened his Bible to Matthew 28:18-20 and explained that our calling is to proclaim a triune God to rebels and then baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  The overwhelming emphasis is typically placed on our need to go to the nations and Jesus’ substitutionary work on the cross.

Bruce Ware, in his book, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit writes, “The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most important distinguishing doctrines of the Christian faith and therefore is deserving of our careful study, passionate embrace, and thoughtful application.” [1]  I agree with his statement, and that’s why it’s so shocking to consider that so few distinctively Trinitarian sermons are preached in our evangelical pulpits.  In a day where pragmatics overshadows doctrinal fidelity, we should expect this – right?  Sadly, yes we should expect it, but it doesn’t make it right.  Furthermore, even among conservative evangelicals who pride themselves on doctrinal depth and expository preaching, it’s often the case that the sermons preached from their pulpits are focused on the person of Jesus or a generic God without clarification.

Fred Sanders writes, “Nothing we do as evangelicals makes sense if it is divorced from a strong experiential and doctrinal grasp of the coordinated work of Jesus and the Spirit, worked out against the horizon of the Father’s love.  Personal evangelism, conversational prayer, devotional Bible study, authoritative preaching, world missions, and assurance of salvation all presuppose that life in the gospel is life in communion with the Trinity.” [2]  You wouldn’t get that from most evangelical preaching on a weekly basis.  We’ve chopped up and segmented the three Persons of the Trinity and turned our God into a dysfunctional deity in modern preaching.

If we’re preaching the gospel, we’re preaching the doctrine of the Trinity.  As B.B. Warfield makes clear, “the nearest approach to a formal announcement of the doctrine of the Trinity which is recorded from Our Lord’s lips, or, perhaps we may say, which is to be found in the whole compass of the New Testament, has been preserved for us, not by John, but by one of the synoptists…It is embodied in the great commission which the resurrected Lord gave His disciples to be their ‘marching orders’ ‘even unto the end of the world’: ‘Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Mt. 28:19).” [3]

Not only should we preach with a distinctively Trinitarian accent, we should undergird all mission efforts, sermons, conferences, church planting efforts, and personal evangelism with the doctrine of the Trinity.  Preaching a generic god to hopeless sinners is worthless.  They get that each time the sun rises in the morning.  The world needs to hear about a triumphant, sovereign, sinner saving, devil defeating, sin conquering, death destroying, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, righteous, loving, wrathful, triune God.

After sinful rebels bow to King Jesus, they are to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  At this point, the work of preaching is not complete.  Now these people are to be taught the Scriptures through an intentional Trinitarian lens from a Trinitarian book – the Bible.  Until Christ returns and sinners are reconciled before the personal presence of God – our preaching must prepare people to live for eternity with the triune God who has revealed Himself to us in the pages of the Bible.

Matthew 28:18-20 -And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (English Standard Version)

  1. Bruce Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance, (Crossway, Wheaton, 2001), 15.
  2. Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, (Crossway, Wheaton, 2010), 9.
  3. B.B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. II, Biblical Doctrines, (Oxford University Press, New York, 1932), 153.
The Trinity and Marriage

The Trinity and Marriage

It may come as a surprise to you, but we can learn much about marriage by examining the Trinity.  God isn’t married and Jesus never married in His earthly ministry, but the relationships and roles among the persons of the Trinity provide great examples for us to follow.  Radical feminist leader Sheila Cronin once said, “Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the women’s movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.”  People often have a faulty view of marriage because they likewise have a faulty view of God.

I know, the word Trinity doesn’t appear in the Bible, but God has revealed Himself as a Trinity and we must know, love, and worship Him through “trinitarian glasses.”  God exists as three co-equal and co-eternal persons.  That means that the Father is no more God than the Son.  The Son is no more God than the Spirit.  The Son and the Spirit are not lesser God than the Father.  However, within the Godhead, we see distinct roles and responsibilities that must be recognized.

For instance, the Father didn’t die on the cross for sinners.  The Spirit didn’t create the world.  The Father didn’t appear above the early believers in the upper room on Pentecost as flaming tongues.  Although all three persons are co-equal and co-eternal, they have their own specific roles and responsibilities.  All three are involved in our salvation – at different levels.  The Father chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).  It was the Spirit that brought us conviction and did so by the preaching of the gospel – through the holy Scriptures that He inspired (John 16:8-11; 2 Peter 1:21; Romans 1:16).  It was the Son who died for sinners as the Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 9:28).

As we look at marriage between husband and wife, God has likewise established specific roles and responsibilities in marriage.  Although man and woman are both equal in personhood and value as human beings, they do have set boundaries and responsibilities.  God designed man to be the head of the woman – but that does not imply inferiority.  The feminist movement has done much damage to the God ordained role of the woman in creation.  The idea that no gender distinctions exist among human beings is simply not true.  To recognize gender distinction, roles, and responsibilities does not imply superiority of males nor does it signify inferiority of females.


Among the Trinity, God exists in a state of complete sovereignty and unity among the three divine persons.  There is a relationship that exists among the Trinity that can be seen in glimpses from the pages of Scripture.  Notice how the Son speaks of His relationship to the Father in John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”  As Jesus is preparing to die on the cross, He prays to His Father and talks about their relationship before the world existed.  There is perfect unity among the Trinity, and this is evident in the work of salvation.  As Steven Lawson explains, “God’s Word teaches that the Godhead acts as one Savior in saving one people.” [1]

God created man with a desire for a relationship.  Not just any relationship, but an intimate relationship with one of his kind.  That is exactly what God did in Genesis 2:18-24 as He created Eve and presented her to Adam.  Immediately, Adam recognized that she was not like any of the animals.  She was not a man either. She was distinct, but she was like him too.  She was human.  Adam responds, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Gen. 2:23).  Therefore the plan of God for marriage followed:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. [25] And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. – Genesis 2:24-25


The Godhead exists in perfect unity. The Son is not jealous of the Father. The Spirit is not jealous of the Son. They are co-equal and in perfect unity. However, the Father is eternal and the Son is eternal and the Spirit is eternal. The Son is submissive to the Father and the Spirit to the Son and the Father. This is visible in the earthly ministry of Jesus.

The Father is head of the Son:  1 Corinthians 11:3 – But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

The Son is submissive to the Father’s will:  John 8:28-29 – So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. [29] And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

Since the Son and the Father are both eternal, the Son has always been submissive to the Father and the Father has always had authority over the Son.  When it comes to marriage, many among the radical feminism movement suggest that women should never submit to their husbands.  However, as we examine the Bible, that’s simply not true.  In fact, not only does it violate the God’s Word, it violates the image of God and the distinctions that reflect the Trinity.  Simply put, the submissive wife and the headship of the husband put on display the interpersonal relationships of the Godhead.

The Greek term used in Ephesians 5 – “submit” is ὑποτάσσω – and it carries a meaning of “to obey, be obedient, bring under control, put in subjection.” This word is used in many places in the Bible, but not once is the husband told to be submissive to his wife.  Ephesians 5:22-24 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. [24] Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Although male and female were created equal, they were not created neutral.  They were created with set roles and responsibilities.  Equality in personhood and value does not negate roles and responsibility. These distinct roles likewise don’t imply inferiority of the wife.  That same pattern from Genesis 2 can be seen in the New Testament as Paul writes to the church at Ephesus (Ephesians 5).  The submission and role distinctions between husband and wife put on display our Creator.

In like manner, the husband who doesn’t rightly understand what headship is and seeks to be abusive, rude, and domineering in his leadership not only disrespects his wife, but he likewise dishonors God.  How is that type of attitude like the interpersonal relationships among the Trinity?  How does that fulfill the command to love your wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25)? The wife who has a rogue attitude and refuses to submit to her husband not only disrespects her husband, but she in like manner dishonors God.  The next time you’re trying to figure out exactly how you’re to relate to your spouse, take a good look at the Godhead and the relationships between the co-equal and co-eternal persons of the Trinity.

  1. God’s Sovereignty in Salvation and the Unity of the Trinity by Steven J. Lawson