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Community is an Essential part of God’s Nature

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Community is an essential part of God’s nature.

This is where we usually insert the word ‘Trinity,’ which is an important and true doctrine. However when we talk about Trinity, we often use words and phrases that are alien to the Bible and that sometimes conflict with the community heart of what the Trinity is actually about.

The core of Trinity is not three and one, it’s unity and diversity. This is where we start charting a road back to Biblical language.

God by nature is diverse and united. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says this:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

The same Spirit is one with the same Lord who is one with the same God. Because of the activities linked to each (the giving Spirit, the servant Lord and the working or creating God) I believe this is clearly a reference to Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus and Father God.

They are one and the same in person, however there is a diversity in their activities; giving gifts, leading service and working/creating.

Yes there is a three and one, so Trinity – but if we simply label this ‘a Trinity passage’ we loose the contextual thrust which is clearly community.

The rest of 1 Cor. 12 talks about unity and diversity in the Church through gifts and individuality. When the Church masters this kind of community – one soaked in unity and diversity – it will look like Jesus and the world will see Him through it. The reason 1 Cor. 12 starts with such a Trinitarian opening is to show that community in the church is a mirror of community found at the heart of God.

When we pursue community together; being united as one people with one heart and vision, but also celebrating differences and diversity we will by nature look more like God.

We don’t do community because its a way of meeting together to learn about God – we do community because in nature it is an experience of God.

 

Paul is not all about Jesus – He’s all about God as Trinity.

[adapted from a post I put up in my final year of seminary after hearing an amazing view-changing/eye-opening talk by Gordon Fee]

Nearly all modern mainstream evangelical scholarship has claimed Paul to be primarily Christological above all else. This – although in some regards is true and vitally important – is missing something quite substantial: Paul is not primarily Christological, but primarily theological!

Paul’s focus is not Christ at the expense of the Trinity, but Christ to the extent that he operates in and expounds the Trinity. Paul’s focus is God, three in one working inseparably together, mutually indwelling each-other. This is Paul’s focus, not just Christ.

In nearly all of Paul’s introductions to anything – be it argument, admonishment, prayer, prologue, epilogue, grace giving, or doxology – there is a huge intertwining of the work of the Trinity. Just look at the following examples from Romans:

Rom. 1:1-7 – The Gospel of God is raising Jesus ( v.3) by His Father (vv.2,4,7) through the Spirit (v.4).

Rom. 5:1-5 – We are justified through faith in Jesus (v.1), sealed in the Spirit (v.5), so we have peace with God (v.1).

Rom. 8:1-4God sent His own Son (v.3), so that through Him ( vv.1-2) the Spirit sets us free (v.2).

This is simply going through one book, but you find it all the way through Paul’s epistles. It’s not just that Paul teaches the Trinity, but that Pauls theology is profoundly Trinitarian over and above all else.

I guess a lot of people would agree with this so far, so lets see what happens as you start to apply it to a passage that has sweeping applications for how we do church.

I’ve been studying 1 Corinthians 12 for the past few weeks and if you keep a Trinitarian hermeneutic in mind as you read it, the applications become less about how to do church/gifts/worship, and more about how to reflect God’s own nature as a body. Our questions take a less practical focus (‘whats your gifts’, ‘how do we utilize every-member-ministry’, ‘who’s done a s.h.a.p.e. seminar’) to a richer philosophy focus (‘how can we look more like God’, ‘how do our choices reflect God’s personal Triune community’, ‘how should we as individuals in church relate to each other in a God-revealing way?’)

The classic and popular reading of the unity of the body, giving of the gifts, and ordering of the church in 1 Cor. 12 is that the Spirit does it for the clearer revelation of Christ in the body. This passage has been a champion among Holy Spirit texts. In some ways this is right too, but its oh so much deeper and more glorious than this.

Let’s start with the easily neglected prologue to the passage:

vv.4-6:
‘There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.’

The gifts and Spirit obviously point to the Holy Spirit – the giving Spirit. The service and Lord point (I hope still obviously) to Jesus – the servant Lord. Finally, and less clear is the working and God point to the Father. God and Father are often used interchangeably by Paul, and the Father has a oversight and creational role so works with the ‘working in all men’ thing thats going on. The kinds of gifts, service, and working are plural and the Spirit, Lord, and God are singular; many and one, diverse and united.

So the gifts come through the Spirit which serves the church through the Son too and all this is worked together by God who arranged all the parts just as he wanted them to be ( v.18, 24). So all three members of the Trinity are involved in the equipping of the Church…not just the Spirit.

The church is called to be more than just the image of Christ, but the united and diverse giving, serving, working reflection of the many-ness and singleness of the Triune God.

This is profound! All the members of the Trinity are distinct, yet they are all worthy of glory and adoration together as the one perfect spotless divine God. Christ indeed is to be highly exalted, but oh to make this Paul’s primary focus at the expense of the holistic worship of our Triune salvation-effective God is just madness and nonsense and a band-wagon easily jumped on for all the right-seeming reasons.

Let’s remember when we read our Bibles that Paul is primarily THEO-logical, not Christological.