A Plea for Trinitarian Baptist Worship

Holy TrinityWhen I was in high school and early college, I dated a girl whose father was a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in the USA. It always irritated him that I was a Baptist preacher boy instead of a faithful Presbyterian. One day my girlfriend asked her dad if he did not like the Baptists because of immersion baptism. He said that he disagreed with Baptists on the issue of Baptism, but that his real problem with Baptists is that they overemphasize Jesus to the detriment of the Father and the Spirit. When she told me this, I was appalled. After all, Jesus is the one who saves us. Jesus is the one we accept as Lord and Savior. Jesus is the one who paid the penalty for sin. Christianity is about Jesus. Right?

As the years have gone by, I find myself more appreciative of this man's critique. Though he and I disagree on many theological issues, I have to concede he was right on this one. In many Baptist churches we talk so much about Jesus (normally in the context of salvation) that God the Father is little more than a distant deity or kindly grandfather and the Spirit is that guy that gets all the Pentecostals so wired up. While I am obviously exaggerating a little, I think many of you would agree that Baptists are not deliberately Trinitarian enough in our worship ministries. And to not be explicitly Trinitarian is to be sub-Christian.

I am not a music minister and I am certainly not a "worship leader" (a term I detest). What I am is a Baptist preacher who has been in enough worship services to know that we too often have a major gap in our theology of worship. The saints may be gathered down at the meeting house, but the Trinity is MIA. To be fair, in any given worship service all three members of the Trinity may be mentioned, but I have met enough Baptists who believe the Holy Spirit is an "it" and not a "He" to know that merely mentioning the members of the Godhead is not the same as teaching people about the Godhead. And in a strange twist of irony, the very mainline churches who so often deny the Trinity are, because of their liturgy, much more Trinitarian in their worship than we orthodox types who still believe that the Lord is "God in three persons, blessed Trinity." So this is a plea for Trinitarian Baptist worship, which by the way, I do not believe necessitates the use of liturgy.

I want to encourage regular preachers and teachers of God's Word to be tireless in your efforts to present God as he really is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In your preaching, highlight the doctrine when you come across appropriate texts. Take a Sunday a year to preach a doctrinal sermon devoted to the Trinity. Read some of the fine works on the Trinity that have recently been published by evangelical scholars like Bruce Ware and Robert Letham. I would also encourage you to read some of the classic works on the Trinity by great saints who have gone before us. Learn about the Trinity and teach your people about the Trinity. Preach Trinitarian sermons.

I want to encourage those who lead the music ministries of local churches to select songs that emphasize God as the Almighty Three-in-One. Some of the greatest hymns of the faith are explicitly Trinitarian. Many of the newest hymns and choruses emphasize this crucial doctrine. Remember that the songs we sing are as much about catechesis (teaching) as doxology (worship), so pick songs that both exalt the living God and instruct and edify his saints. Sing Trinitarian songs.

I want to encourage those who pray in public services of worship to work hard to make your prayers Trinitarian. When you pray, thank the Father for being the sovereign Lord of life and the Architect of the redemption of this fallen world. Thank the Son for being the promised Messiah, the once-sacrificed Redeemer of the lost and the still to come King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thank the Holy Spirit for being the one who has sealed us in Christ, who has endued us with spiritual gifts and who empowers us for Kingdom ministry. When you pray, be sure to pray to our Sovereign Lord, the Father, in the power of our great Enabler, the Spirit, through the name of our gracious Mediator, Jesus Christ. Pray Trinitarian prayers.

My prayer is that, whatever your church's "worship style" may be, it will be deliberately Trinitarian, fully reflecting the greatness and majesty of our God. And I make that prayer in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.  

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