I want to recommend Trinitarian Theology to you. It is edited by Keith Whitfield with contributions by Bruce Ware, Malcolm Yarnell, Matthew Emerson, and Luke Stamps.
Here are three reasons why you should read Trinitarian Theology. First, the book has given me a bigger and clearer view of God. That is priceless. Second, the book challenged my often assumed method of interpretation by calling these men to interact with one another’s methods. Finally, the authors’ interaction with tradition revealed my own ignorance of history and the help of those who have thought these thoughts before.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to J. I. Packer’s warning, “All non-Trinitarian formulations of the Christian message are by biblical standards inadequate and indeed fundamentally false, and will naturally tend to pull Christian lives out of shape” (quoted on page 175).
Each week I consider picking up another topic for “Theology Thursday”, but each week I come across another strong and heartening aspect of our glorious Triune God. Here is our focus for today, Acts 2:33,
“Therefore being exalted to right right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear (NKJV).”
Consider what this verse means if there is only one person in the Godhead: God exalted himself to the right hand of himself while simultaneously giving himself to himself and receiving himself from himself. God then poured himself out on Pentecost.
The denial of the Trinity is untenable. The embrace of the Trinity is glorious.
The Father exalted his Son from greatest shame to the place of highest honor. In love, the Father gave the Son the authority to gift his redeemed people with his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit that unites us to the Son so that we are warmly welcome in the presence of the Father is the gift from the Father to the Son to us.
May the Spirit lead us away from fear and into faith as we cry out to our heavenly Father who cares for us (Romans 8:15).
The evidence for the Trinity is throughout the bible. Here is another example:
John 16:32, Jesus said, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”
A common argument against the Trinity is that God is only person; God is alone. Jesus declares just the opposite. Jesus is not alone. The Father is with him. Think with me, if God is only one person who manifests himself in different forms (as Father, later as Son, and still later as Spirit) then we must affirm that God is alone. If that is true, then Jesus was wrong. The Father is not with him, Jesus is left alone, he has only himself.
Praise God for the Trinity; three in One. We see the great blessing of the Trinity in their perfection relationship of love and joy. When every other person had abandoned the Son, he took heart. He was not alone. There was another person with him. The Father is not always the Son. No, the Bible affirms the Father is always with the Son.
For our Theology Thursday, I recommend this recent episode of Ask Pastor John. In this short talk, John Piper attempts to answer the question, “Where was the Holy Spirit during the crucifixion of Jesus?”
Matthew 11:25-27 is firm evidence for the distinction of persons between the Father and the Son. Listen in, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” When you add 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 the argument for the distinction of persons is quite strong.
Jesus’ point in Matthew 11:25-27 is that his Father, the person to whom he is actually praying, is hidden. The mysterious Father chooses to reveal himself to the humble and the simple. The way the Father reveals himself is through his Son. This Son is a person who knows the Father, also a person, and reveals the Father to those humble people. Jesus is not revealing himself as the Father. Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, is making the invisible God known.
Additionally, there is an interchange between the persons of God. The Father gives all things to the Son so that he can redeem and rule over them all. And there is no paper tiger at work here. God is not three persons on paper but one person in reality. God is one. God is three persons in perfect mysterious unity. There is one God who exists in three persons working together for the redemption of all things and the revelation of the Father.
Ephesians 2:18 is one of the clearest affirmations of the Trinity. It is quite difficult to understand one person simultaneously filling these three roles. We affirm what the Bible teaches: God in three persons, God in perfect unity.
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father (Eph 2:18 ESV).
Our first question is who is the “him” through whom we have access? He is the crucified preacher (see verses 16 and 17). This is God the Son. The Spirit and the Father are obvious. Notice how the three persons of the Trinity work together in unity.
The Son provides access to the Father. Jesus gives us forgiveness, righteousness, and the rights of a first-born son. We receive these gifts by faith. The Spirit is the means by which we have access to the Father who is spirit. Our worship, our enjoyment of God, must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). The Son contributes his person to us, the Spirit contributes his person to us, and all of this is for access to the Father. The Father’s Son and the Father’s Spirit adamantly want us to know and be with the Father. Looking back into Ephesians 1, we see that the Father has planned this very thing (Eph 1:4-5). The persons of the Godhead are not separate phases of redemption existing individually or apart from the others. The persons of the Godhead are simultaneously existing in perfect unity and inviting us to come and be reconciled to God.
I am limiting myself in this post to the major trinitarian emphases in Ephesians 1. In Ephesians 1:3, we note how references to God, when Jesus is also referenced, point to God the Father. Verse 1 introduced a distinction between God and Jesus; it is God who willed Paul to be an apostle and is Christ Jesus who empowers the faithful lives of the saints. Verse 3 clarifies these persons by identifying God as “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Verse 4 grounds our salvation in the fact that the Father chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. Verse 5 identifies one of the means of our salvation, “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.”
Christians have rights as sons before the heavenly Father because we are joined by faith to the Son of the heavenly Father. This is according to the purpose of the Father’s will (v 5). Here we see the glorious distinction of persons in the Godhead and the glorious unity of the Godhead in saving us according to God’s nature. Created beings (us) relate to God on the basis of the Trinity’s roles in creation. We have rights as sons. The classic categories of the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity are quite helpful. In this post we are considering how God relates to creation (economic Trinity), not who God is prior to and separate from creation (ontological Trinity).
The Father willed our redemption by accomplishing that redemption through his Son (v 7). The Father has blessed us with glorious grace by uniting us to his Beloved (v 6). The Father has brought us into his family through adoption; giving us the rights of his Son (v 5). The Father’s plan is for us to be holy; that we look like his Son (v 4). The Father blesses us with everything we enjoy as Christians because of our union with the Son (v 3).
The center and goal of the Father’s will is to bring everything back to a state of unity with and under the Son (v 10). How do we know we will be a part of this in blessing and joy instead of in cursing and shame? We have been given the Holy Spirit as the guarantee of our inheritance (v 14).
The Father is working his plan to redeem and unite all of his creation. That plan centers on the Son who redeems those who are joined to him in faith and justly punishes those who reject the true knowledge of God. The redeemed are currently marked by the presence of the Holy Spirit who seals and empowers them for holy living. Our status is one of sons due to our union with God the Son by faith. Our state is one of power and surety because we have been sealed with God the Spirit according to the Father’s will, predestination, and adoption. The Father, Son, and Spirit are three persons joined in mysterious unity. They, who are one God, are working to the praise of God’s glorious grace. Oh the depth!