Glorifying the Godhead: How the Doctrine of the Trinity Informs Service in the Body of Christ
By Jeff Waldron
God exuberantly and abundantly reveals himself to us as one being in three persons. The coeternal and coequal reality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is what gives John the confidence to proclaim that “God is love” (1 John 4:16) - before time was even a thing, in the timelessness of eternity, perfect love was and is flowing between the Father and the Son, in and through the Spirit.
So it should not surprise us that we are saved into a body, the church, that reflects the realities of the Trinity. The church is one in being, but with differing members, all of equal value, but of different function. In some real way, the church reflects certain aspects of the Trinity and by functioning as a member of the body in a trinitarian manner, the Christian partakes in this glory and has access to joy unspeakable and eternal purposefulness.
The Church: A Trinity Emulating Body
Our Lord Jesus prayed to the Father for our oneness in being: “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 17:22-23).
Yet Jesus knew that we would serve different functions as members of the united body. So, when Peter, quite distressed, asks if John will have to experience the same suffering that awaits him, Jesus can declare to him: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22).
You see, we are coequal members of the body, and we are one as the Father and the Son are one, just as Jesus prayed. Yet, at the same time, Jesus calls us to different purposes within the body, some more difficult, some more public, some more glamorous. But one must not fall into the same thinking as Peter and assess his path by comparing it to the other members of the body - what is it that to us? We follow Christ! We must keep our eyes fixed on our Lord and run the race he sets before us with vigor.
Paul confirms the trinitarian nature of the church as he urges us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift” (Epheisans 4:1-7, emphasis added).
Paul highlights the unity of our call by using the word “one” eight times, yet in the last sentence he makes clear that Christ dispenses gifts in differing ways. Moreover, as Paul describes the church, we see that all members of the Trinity are active and functioning in particular ways.
Discerning Our Function in the Body
If the church is a body, it sometimes seems like the American church is disproportionately made up of digestive systems - always consuming and craving. May the Lord protect us from falling into the trap of self-centered subjectivity. May he help us to see the immense joy that is set before us in the invitation to be an active, functioning member of his body.
And there are endless ways in which he might call you to function in the Body of Christ, and it may shift over time. In the body of Christ, a functioning hand is of no greater value than a functioning foot, but a hand that does not know it is a hand or knows it is but wishes it were more than a hand is much to be pitied.
May the trinitarian nature of our God compel us to partake in the Body of Christ in a trinitarian manner, looking to the Father, Son, and Spirit to inform how we ought to seek to be in the church. May we be eager to discern our function and call then, in the power of the Spirit, run the race set before us. Lean into this question with your brothers and sisters, seek their wisdom on where the Lord might be calling you to function. Never be content with being a spectator when the Lord beckons you to partake.