I once heard theologian Fred Sanders lecture on the doctrine of God. He began his talk with this timeless adage: “The Trinity. Try to understand it and you’ll lose your mind; try to deny it and you’ll lose your soul.”
As pastors and ministry workers, we’re tasked with teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and this includes those things revealed to us through the Spirit who searches God’s depths (1 Cor. 2:10). How can we approach the herculean task of teaching on something as difficult as God’s Trinitarian nature?
One solution is to never talk about the Trinity. Many pastors and ministry workers are paralyzed by the idea of teaching this doctrine. They’re afraid they’ll misspeak and confuse their congregations.
Recognized in both Western and Eastern traditions, Trinity Sunday is the perfect opportunity to teach a robust doctrine of the triune God.
A better solution is joining Christians around the globe in celebrating Trinity Sunday. Recognized in both Western and Eastern traditions, Trinity Sunday falls each year on the Sunday after Pentecost. It’s the perfect opportunity to teach a robust doctrine of the triune God.
Here are five encouragements that will help you teach about and celebrate God as three-in-one this Trinity Sunday.
1. Remind your church that knowing God means knowing the Trinity.
The people in your congregation know more about the Trinity than they realize. They profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. That means the Holy Spirit has already worked in their lives so that they can know the Father. When they don’t know the right words to pray, they ask the Spirit to intercede with groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26). And they pray “in Jesus’s name,” approaching the Father through the Son in accordance with the Spirit’s work.
Jesus tells us it is through him, the Son, that we know the Father, and this knowledge leads to rest for the weary and burdened (Matt 11:27–30). He tells us that the one who loves Jesus, and his Father, is the one who keeps his words, and that person will be given the Holy Spirit as a teacher too (John 14:23–26). Our Trinitarian God is the active agent in our discipleship, working in us to grow us in the knowledge of Scripture and practical holiness. When we grow to know God, we’re growing to know the Trinity.
2. Use the biblical text, not invented analogies.
Leave the analogies behind when teaching your church about the Trinity. There are more biblical ways to talk about the eternal relations between the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit than comparing them to a three-leaf clover or the three states of water. These analogies are more apt to cause confusion than clarity. There’s no need to use these invented analogies when the Bible already describes the relations with excellent words like “begotten” and “sent” (Ps. 2:7; John 3:16; 15:26; 20:21; Acts 13:33; Heb. 5:5).
What’s most important when teaching these texts is to help Christians grasp that the Father is truly the Father, the Son is truly the Son, the Spirit is truly the Spirit, and all three are truly divine. If you can communicate that the divine persons are one in essence but distinct in person, you will have taught your congregation more than enough to see the Trinity throughout the Bible.
3. Equip parents to talk about the Trinity with their kids.
On Trinity Sunday, you have an opportunity to plan a special Sunday school class for the parents in your church where you talk about how to explain the Trinity to kids. Model for moms and dads how to point out for their children each person of the Trinity in Bible stories like the creation account and Jesus’s baptism. Give them simple questions to ask their children like, “How many persons are in God?” or “Who is ‘the Word’ in John 1?”
And share helpful resources like the children’s songs for New City Catechism questions two and three (My niece and nephew adore those two songs!). Resources like these teach children to marvel at big truths like “Jesus is God!” and give them clear language to describe biblical truth: “There are three persons in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
4. Choose songs and hymns that praise our God in three persons.
This may seem obvious, but it’s good to plan your Trinity Sunday service around congregational music that emphasizes Trinitarian ideas. You can’t do better than “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “All Creatures of Our God and King,” “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,” and the “Doxology.” All these songs are richly Trinitarian and focus on God’s providence. I’ve worked with The Gospel Coalition to put together a Spotify playlist that includes versions of these hymns as well as more contemporary music with Trinitarian themes from artists like Andrew Peterson, Matt Boswell, and Keith and Kristyn Getty.
5. Recite a creed corporately.
Finally, consider leading your congregation to recite the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed aloud. The Nicene Creed is one of the earliest and most articulate statements of Trinitarian theology. Churches around the world will rehearse it together on Trinity Sunday. Be sure to introduce the creed and explain the place of the creeds in Christian worship, especially if you’re in a church setting where corporate reading is unfamiliar. You might say, “Since the earliest days of the church, creeds have been used in Christian worship. They’ve been used to outline biblical truth, help new converts prepare for baptism, and express praise to God in worship.”
Trinity Sunday falls each year on the Sunday after Pentecost. Seize the opportunity to train your congregation in the deep truths of the Christian faith. Recite a creed. Sing hymns that rehearse the truth of the Trinity. Equip moms and dads to train their kids. And help your congregation grow in their knowledge of and love for the triune God.