Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | March 17, 2008

St. Patrick and the Trinity

The Trinity is the most relevant and important belief that Christians hold. The mission work of St. Patrick shows us why.

The legend of St. Patrick says that he used the three leaf clover to explain the Trinity to the people of Ireland. As the clover has three distinct leaves but is only one piece of clover so also God has three distinct persons while remaining one God.

Many Christians think that the Trinity is an esoteric bit of doctrine more suited to the advanced study of mature believers than a necessary component of evangelism.

But Patrick, speaking to un-churched, illiterate pagans who had never even seen a bible, thought it important to talk to them about the Trinity. Why?

Because there is no other way to correctly understand who Jesus is! If we tell un-believers that he is the “Son of God,” what does that phrase mean? Biblically speaking it means that he is the one who is the second person of the Triune God, the Son who has lived forever in joyful, open communion with the Father and the Spirit.

Likewise, if we tell the un-churched that Jesus is incarnate – that the Son of God exists now as the Son of Man without ceasing to be God or ceasing to be human, how do we explain what that means? Biblically speaking it means that humanity is now included and adopted into the life of the Trinity. The Son has taken humanity up into the relationship he has with the Father and the Spirit.

Any evangelism that fails to explain this adoption of humanity into the Triune life of the Father, Son and Spirit is failing to express the full truth of the gospel.

In this neo-reformation that we are experiencing we find the Spirit restoring to the Church the reality that the Trinity is the gospel!

Jesus reveals to us that he is in the Father, and we are in him, and he is in us (John 14:20.) This is the good news that we are called to believe and to announce to the world.

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Responses

  1. Your comments led me to some research on the three-leaf clover (shamrook) – the copyrighted symbol for Ireland. (I lived in Ireland for almost a year, so can vouch for the fact there is lots of clover there!) St. Patrick certainly made a great impact with his teaching on the Trinity. May people look back hundreds of years from now and see the impact we have as we share the truth of the Trinity in 2008 and beyond!

  2. “Any evangelism that fails to explain this adoption of humanity into the Triune life of the Father, Son and Spirit is failing to express the full truth of the gospel.”

    Great post, and I was especially struck by the statement above about the content of our evangelism. WONDERFUL! And, how far short we have fallen in this regard… I have Christian friends who believe evangelism consists of scaring people with the imminency of their immolation in an ever-burning Hell (where, by the way, most people that have ever lived are currently roasting) because of their failure to adhere to the “righteousness of God,” (great audio sermon on THAT, Pastor Johnathan) meaning they aren’t keeping His law (here the 10 commandments are trotted out). Upon a heartfelt repentance prompted by this sudden fear about the danger of their position in relationship to God, God “forgives” them, applies Jesus sacrifice and all is well. They have no real relationship of love or trust with their Heavenly Father, their life is still an unexplained mess (leading to cycles of guilt, by the way), but they are saved! Such a sad “Good News!” These friends left our fellowship and their new church is praying for us. One said they were studying the Bible, not “writings.” Sorry to rant, but it hurts. Lord, help us to see You better!

  3. I agree with Jerome. It is interesting that St. Patrick felt that evangelism was so central to his theology. That he could not explain God without explaining the trinity. This doctrine is so minor to so many Christians, but it is part of the original creeds, and it is something that we need to meditate on during this Easter season.

  4. Thanks, guys, for such encouraging comments! Like Glen I am hopeful that we too are making an impact on the world as Patrick did.

    Jerome, I will be praying for you – I know how painful it is to have friends who keep believing a distorted gospel. If only they were studying their bible! Then they’d know it says “Adam’s one trespass brought condemnation for all people, but Jesus’ one act of righteousness brought justification and life for all people.” Rom. 5:18

    By the way, for other readers who might want to know, the sermon on righteousness that Jerome referred to in his comment is at http://tinyurl.com/3dkoh2

    And coldfire, I totally agree – our inclusion in the Triune life is exactly what we need to be mediating on this week.

  5. Thankyou for your great website. Fantastic. Tony O’Faolin.

  6. Thanks for the encouragement, Tony, hope to hear more from you in the days ahead!

  7. im curious if anyone knows of any writings on Patrick’s teaching. im an evangelist and open air preacher and i do explain the diety of the Christ Jesus. im also irish and just wanted to learn about the clover sermon but now that you mention it actually using the sermon or rather explaining the trinity would make it alot easier for me as i usually am fumbling around. so thanks but yah does anyone know if any old scripts were documented? would be a fun little read. thanks!


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