Chapter 1 – The God Who is Community
We desperately need a new viewpoint. We need to see things from God’s perspective. But in order to do this, we need to have our minds renewed. The old way of thinking will never do. We need to think with new minds and see with new eyes. Only with these tools will we be able to understand what has been in God’s heart since before eternity. Only in this way will we be able to understand God’s purpose.
The first thing that we will need to see will utterly shock you. It will shock you because you have probably never dared to think in this way before. In your mind you have formed God into your image and therefore, always relate to Him in this same way. But the first thing you must see is:
GOD IS NOT AN INDIVIDUAL!
He never has been, and He never will be. However, we think of Him as one, don’t we?
We are “individual” Christians trying to relate to an “individual” God. This is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t fit! God is not like us. We need to see who God is first.
I will say it again: God is not an individual. He is a fellowship of three Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He does not think as an individual and He does not act as an individual. He is a community of three distinct personalities who are one. He is TRI-UNE (three-one), or three-in-one. There is only one God, but He is made up of three distinct Persons. These Persons are different but they are not separate individuals. They each have a unique personality, but they do not live or function as separate entities. Each one of these Persons is God but yet there is only one God, not three. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. Yet there is only one God! How can this be? Why is it so difficult for us to understand this? It’s simply because we think with the “individual” mind and something that does not fit into that paradigm just doesn’t compute.
But God has never been an isolated individual like you and I; therefore His thoughts are totally different from our thoughts (Is. 55: 8, 9). Since He is not an individual, He does not think like an individual. He thinks in terms of community.
The Community Viewpoint
God thinks and acts as a community, not as a separated individual. God is community, therefore He thinks communally. This difference in viewpoint has been a major problem ever since the fall of man. We believe that God thinks like we think and therefore we can understand Him because He is just like us! Not so. He is nothing like us and the only way that we will understand Him or understand what He says is by changing our viewpoint. We must see things from the viewpoint of God and this viewpoint is communal, not individual.
The divine threeness is not simply a declaration about how we experience God. Nor is God’s threeness merely the way God appears to us. Rather, the one God is eternally three persons. God actually is the Father, Son and Spirit. Just as God is characterized by oneness, therefore, threeness also belongs to the way God actually is.
“Created for Community”
Baker Book House 1998, p.45
A good example of this communal viewpoint can be seen in the earthly life of the Lord Jesus. He never worked alone. He spoke the words from the Father. He did the works of the Father. He cast out demons by the Spirit (Matthew ). Jesus lived by the life of the Triune God. He could have lived alone and worked alone but that was not His choice. As a person, He has a will and the power to choose. And He chose, as a man, to live and work in the communal life of God. He had a “communal consciousness” and was aware of where He had come from. He was part of a Community and He was not going to act independently of that Community just because He was here on earth. In fact, the Father sent Him to continue that fellowship, that corporate lifestyle, here on earth so that His disciples would begin to “see” with new eyes. He wanted them to begin seeing from God’s viewpoint.
One of the greatest needs among believers today is to be able to “see” from this communal viewpoint.
At the risk of sounding redundant I will say it again:
God is not an individual!
Our God is community. He is Three-in-One. He thinks in communal terms and He speaks in communal terms. He lives a communal “lifestyle.” He lives as three distinct Persons who all have their own unique personalities and yet are one. They live together, they act together, they fellowship with one another continuously. They share the same life, substance, and essence.
The oneness of God is not the oneness of a distinct, self-contained individual; it is the unity of a community of persons who love each other and live together in harmony . . . They are what they are only in relationship with one another . . . There is not solitary person separated from the others; no above and below; no first, second, third in importance; no ruling and controlling and being ruled and controlled; no position of privilege to be maintained over against others; no question of conflict concerning who is in charge; no need to assert independence and authority of one at the expense of the others. Now there is only fellowship and communion of equals who share all that they are and have in their communion with each other, each living with and for the others in mutual openness, self-giving love, and support; each free not from but for the others. That is how Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are related in the inner circle of the Godhead.
“The Trinity and Subordinationism”
Divine Life is Communal
The scriptures speak much about divine life or eternal life. We need to understand that it is not only the quantity of life that is depicted, but it is the quality of life that is most important. Eternal life is divine life, that is, the very life essence of the Triune God. Eternal life is the “stuff” that makes up the Divine Trinity. This is a community life. This is a life of oneness. This is a life of co-working and co-operation. This is a life of profound fellowship and unity. This is a life of complete self-dedication to one another and a laying down of life for one another. This is the inner life of God!
Divine Life is Relationship
The essential element in this life is relationship. The origin and foundation for all relationship is the Triune God. The relationship within the Godhead is The relationship. In other words, there is no other relationship that exists. There is the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All other “relationships” are but a reflection of that one relationship.
All natural relationships are but a picture of the one divine relationship that exists within the eternal community of the Godhead. There is only one relationship on this earth that is not a picture or reflection of the divine relationship but is rather an expression of the fellowship of the Godhead. This is the relationship of the members of the Body of Christ. This is because the Body of Christ is constituted for the specific purpose of expressing the community life of God.
God longs to express His own life. His desire is to pour His eternal life into a vessel so that this life can be expressed in a tangible, visible way. It’s important that we remember that this life is God Himself. When He gives away this life, He is giving away His very own self! This life contains the essence of all He is. It’s not that this life is a force or energy of some kind that is separate from Him. The life is Him! And this life is communal because He is community.
The essence of the life is the relationship. In other words, divine life, God’s life, is corporate in nature. Each of the members of the Godhead is dependent upon one another. The life does not flow within this community unless the members cooperate with one another. There is no life without the mutual cooperation of the Persons. Without the Father, there can be no Son. Without the Son, there can be no Father. Without the Spirit there can be no Father and Son. They are totally dependent upon one another. The relationship constitutes the flow of life. If there is no relationship, then there is no flow of life.
A Description of the Community Life of God
The apostle John tells us that God is love (I John 4:16). There is much meaning to this statement; much more than we normally realize. John is not saying that God loves or has love. He says that God is love. The very nature of God is love. In other words, love is the essence of who God is.
Now we know that God loves. But He loves because that’s who He is. Love is His life. Love is His being. Love is His very existence! So this word of ours “love” is a good way to describe the communal life of God.
Love demands a relationship. Love must have an object. One separated, independent individual cannot love. That individual must have an object for his love. There must be another to love. Now we are getting at the heart of God’s nature. He is love. He is relationship. The Father loves the Son because He gives away His life (His very self) to His Son. The Son gives away His life to the Father. The Spirit also gives away His life to the Father and Son. John chapters 14 -17 describe this love relationship within the Godhead.
If God only contained one Person within Himself, then there would be no love because there must be an interaction taking place between a minimum of two persons. So now we can see that love is the description of the life going on within the Triune God. Love itself can only be defined as the interchange of life going on inside the Godhead. They are one because they share the same life, the life that is continuously being given away from one to another.
The Coinherence of the Godhead
The Father, Son and Spirit are not just united together; they are one (John 17). This means that the Father is in the Son, the Son is in the Father, and the Spirit is in the Father and Son. They are in one another mutually. This is called coinherence (John 14:11; 17:21). Obviously, they are not independent, isolated individuals functioning separately from one another.
When Christ came to earth, He brought the Father and the Spirit with Him. Later, when the Spirit came to earth, He brought the Son and the Father with Him. Both the Father and the Son sent the Spirit to us (see John ; ). The Father sent the Spirit in the name of the Son and the Son sent the Spirit from (with) the Father. This is the wonderful mystery of the Divine Trinity. They always work together because they are one. No one Person considers His life to be His own. They are each continuously giving away their lives to one another.
Why is it that we have such a difficult time understanding this mystery of the Godhead? The answer is simple. Our fallen minds simply cannot think in corporate terms. That is the nature of the fall. We only think in terms of the isolated individual. We can only think individualistically. This is why we have tried to understand God as an individual. But, as we have seen in this chapter, He is not an individual. Therefore, He does not think along the same lines as we do.
It should be obvious to you by now
that we desperately need to have our minds renewed. This must begin with us seeing God’s eternal
purpose for man. Then, by God’s grace,
we will move on to see how God is fulfilling this plan.