Some people don’t believe in the Trinity, but embrace Christ. What does God do with that?
A: He grieves. There is no part of our triune God we aren’t meant to experience and enjoy here on earth. The idea of a three-part-godhead is complex and beyond human understanding, so we will spend the rest of our Christian journey getting to know him. Or them, I should say. The God of the Christians is continually reaching out to every person, asking us to reach back (John 3:16). Part of that reaching is to believe in what we cannot fully understand: God is made up of three distinct persons.
The anti-Trinity folks are considered members of “Oneness Pentecostalism,” or “Jesus-Only” churches. They are resolute about the fact that a baptism, for example, must be performed in Jesus’ name only or it doesn’t qualify. Equally passionate is their belief in speaking in tongues, which is interesting, since that spiritual gift didn’t exist until the Holy Spirit himself came to the believers at Pentecost and doled out the tongue-talking ability to all Christian people. Alas, the Jesus-Only folks believe the Holy Spirit and Father God are neatly tucked into Christ - they don’t deny their existence, only that Jesus is God and the other members of the Trinity are alternative expressions of him. I’m scratching my head at such advanced hair-splitting over doctrinal concepts and wonder why on earth they would need this rhetoric? They are thinking “triune” already.
Jesus-Only Christians have also been known to believe that unless a person is gifted with tongue-speaking, they are not truly saved. Their belief is in error and not the case, according to the Apostle Paul: “... that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed’” (Romans 10:9-11, NASB). Water baptism, as well as Holy Spirit baptism, is addressed in other scriptures too, but it is the belief and confession of Christ as the Son of God that gets us into heaven. (Or the thief on the cross would never have made it, like Jesus said.)
The Holy Spirit is a person. Many have seen him (I regularly do) and found him to be full of joy, comfort, assistance and even sometimes, humor; with a radiating, magnanimous personality all his own. Since Jesus ascended to the Father after he opened the doorway to salvation, he promised to send someone in his place who would live with us forever: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). Most Christians find the Holy Spirit the most difficult to grasp, in terms of Trinity members. The term “Holy Ghost” describes their sense that he is a vapor and ill-defined. Yet his is the most hands-on relationship we have with God.
Father God is the most difficult for me to define. My heart sees him as a loving dad because Jesus called him “Daddy” (“Abba” in Mark 14:36), but my mind wants to him in charge of the Trinity since he appeared somewhat ominous to Daniel as the Ancient of Days in his chapter seven. I don’t dwell on my uncertainty since Jesus helped me picture the Father with a needed admonishment to a friend like me: “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” (John 14:9). If we know Jesus as our personal savior, we know our loving, rescuing father equally as well.
I encourage you to pick the member of the Trinity you know the least about and set yourself off on a journey. Study the scriptures, ask God for enlightenment and seek this unique person of our Lord who longs to know you and is desperate to be known. There’s so much more to know.
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Ask Pastor Adrienne column: Trinity or not: saved either way?