Theologians discuss the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity. The ontological Trinity focuses on the relationship the Trinity has within the Triune God totally apart from the creation. The economic Trinity shows the relationship between the Trinity and people. In this post we will talk about the onotological Trinity.
A. H. Strong calls the ontological Trinity the “Social Trinity.” Ryrie refers to this relationship between the persons of Trinity the opera as intra or the inner works of the Trinity. Does Scripture speak of the relationship within the Trinity? In John 17:24, Jesus prayed to the Father concerning the love that God the Father had for the Son before the foundation of the world. This is possible because “God is love” (1st John 4:8). There are three practical benefits from the ontological Trinity.
The first practical benefit is love for one another as the three persons of the Trinity enables us to love each other.
Tim Keller argues because God is love there has to be three persons (or at least more than one person) in the Trinity. Love demands an object with whom there can be a loving relationship (The Reason for God, 216). No one loves in isolation. This proves Sabellianism or Modalism wrong for one manifestation cannot love another manifestation. Only persons can love. Just as the persons of the Trinity loved each other in eternity past before there were people to love so we love one another in the family of God. We can love because God’s love has been poured into our hearts at salvation (Romans 5:5). Husbands can love their wives because we possess the love that God possesses by which He has loved each person of the Trinity.
No Christian mate should ever say about his/her Christian mate, “I just cannot love my husband or wife any longer.” We can love each other because of the example and provision of the Trinity.
Another practical benefit of the Trinity is subordination to our leaders.
Paul clearly states in 1st Corinthians 11:3, that the differences in the roles of each person in the Trinity does not mean inferiority in the persons of the Trinity. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”
The Father is officially first (1st Corinthians 11:3), the Son second (John 14:28) and the Spirit third (John 15:26). God the Father is seen to be the leader of Trinity when it is said that God the Father sent the Son (John 20:21). It is never said that the Son sent the Father. God the Father also “gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
God the Father eternally gives life to God the Son (John 5:26). It is never said that the Son gives life to the Father. This is called “eternal generation” in the language of classic orthodoxy. God the Father and the Son sent God the Spirit (John 15:26). It is never said that the Spirit sent the Father or Son. This is called “procession.” Dr. Walter Yoho defines “procession” as the exclusive work of the Spirit (in this work the Spirit receives the entire divine nature, necessarily and eternally, from both the Father and the Son) as found in John 15:26.
Paul uses the Trinity practically in 1st Corinthians 11 where women in the church at Corinth were not submitting to male leadership. Just as Christ is subordinate to the Headship of the Father so should women be subordinate to male leadership in the church. Submission does not mean inferiority just a different role. A lineman on a college football team may be superior to the quarterback in I.Q. but the quarterback still calls the plays. Someone on the team has to be the leader.
A third pratical benefit of the Trinity is unity.
In 1st Corinthians 12:4-6, Paul practically employed the Trinity to promote unity in regard to the abuse of spiritual gifts that had divided the church. The Trinity is the perfect example of unity. Never has there been a disagreement among the persons of the Trinity. Never has one person of the Trinity stomped off mad. The “Social Trinity” is a model for believers to love one another, to be submissive to one another in the God assigned roles in the home and church, and to be united together in a local church.