Theology: Theology as a Framework for Life and Ministry
Theology is important to us because it offers a framework for our belief in God. But there is a lot of theology out there, even within the Christian faith. One of the things that is foundational for GCI as a denomination is our commitment to what’s known as “Trinitarian theology.” Although the doctrine of the Trinity has been widely embraced in the Church down through the ages, some have called it the “forgotten doctrine,” because it is often overlooked.
However, at GCI, we believe that the reality of the Trinity changes everything. The Bible teaches that our salvation depends upon the Trinity. It shows us how each person of the Godhead plays a vital role in our lives as believers. God the Father has adopted us (Ephesians 1:5) as his “dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). This is because God the Son, Jesus Christ, has completed his work, and he is enough for our salvation (Ephesians 1:3-7). We can be confident in our salvation because God the Holy Spirit dwells in us, as a seal of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). Each member of the Trinity plays a unique role in welcoming us into God’s family.
Even though we worship God in three divine persons, the doctrine of the Trinity can sometimes feel like it’s difficult to live out in a practical way. But when our understanding and practice conforms to this central doctrine, it has the potential to transform our daily lives. I see it like this: The doctrine of the Trinity reminds us that we cannot do anything to earn our place at the table – God has already invited us and accomplished the work necessary to get us there. Thanks to salvation through Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can come before the Father, caught up in the love of the Triune God. This love is available to all who believe because of the eternal, unchanging relationship of the Trinity – at no cost to us.
However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t have a chance to participate. Living in Christ means that God’s love enables us to care for those around us. The love of the Trinity overflows to include us, and through us, it reaches others. God doesn’t need us to complete his work, but he does invite us, as his family, to join with him. We are empowered to love because of his Spirit inside of us. When I recall that his Spirit dwells in me, I feel my own spirit grow lighter. The Trinitarian, relational God wants to free us to have richer relationships with him and with others.
Let me give you an example from my own life. As a minister, I can get caught up in “what I do” for God. Just the other day, I was meeting with a group of people. I was focusing so much on my own agenda that I forgot to pay attention to who else was in the room with me. When I realized my worry about accomplishing things on God’s behalf, I took a moment to laugh at myself – and to celebrate that God was there with us, guiding us. We don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes when we know that God oversees it all. We can serve him joyfully. It transforms our daily interactions when we recall that there is nothing God can’t redeem. Our Christian calling is not a heavy burden, but a wonderful gift. Because the Spirit of God indwells us, we are liberated to participate in his work without worry.
You may know that one of GCI’s mottos is “You’re included.” But do you know what that means to me? It means that we seek to love one another the way the Trinity loves – to care for one another in a way that celebrates our created difference while still coming together. The Trinity is a perfect model of love. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enjoy perfect unity, while remaining distinct divine persons. As Athanasius put it, “Unity in Trinity, Trinity in Unity.” The love expressed within the Trinity teaches us the significance of loving relationships within God’s kingdom.
Trinitarian theology defines the life of our denomination. Here at GCI, it motivates how we care for one another. We want to love those around us, not because we need to achieve something, but because our God is a God of community and love. God’s Spirit of love guides us to love others, even when it isn’t easy. We know that his Spirit is not only in us, but in the lives of our brothers and sisters as well. This is why we don’t just meet together to worship every week – it’s why we also eat meals together, why we eagerly anticipate what God might do in each other’s lives. It’s the reason we offer help to those in need in our own neighborhoods and around the world, why we pray for the sick and those who are struggling. It’s because of our belief in the Trinity.
When we grieve or celebrate together, we seek to love each other as the Triune God loves. When we live out Trinitarian theology in everyday life, we embrace our call to be “the fullness of him who fills everything” (Ephesians 1:22-23). We are showered with the Father’s love through the salvation of his Son and the presence of his Spirit – and through the care of his body. From a meal made for a sick friend, to rejoicing with a family member’s accomplishment, to a donation that supports the work of the church, we are able to live out the good news of the gospel.
Author: Joseph Tkach