Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Trying to make sense of the Trinity
Graeme LoftusMar 20, 2023, 12:42 AM
Graeme Loftus wrestles with the nature of God. It's complicated but it's worth our attention.
Dr Mal Couch, president of the Tyndale Theological Seminary, once said, “Argumentativeness usually comes from heresy. There is really no desire to study deeply. The main purpose is to destroy.” This needs to be especially guarded as we seek to understand the nature of God. It's easy for us as human beings to approach something overwhelmingly sacred with no sense at all of how sacrosanct it is. Moses, intrigued by a bush that was on fire in the desert but didn't burn up, approached it with a scientific curiosity. As he did so, the God of the universe spoke to him out of the fire, saying, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground!” (Exodus 3:5).
Such is the nature of the Christian's triune God. There is one God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—a unity of three coeternal Persons. Although it isn't intrinsically illogical, this belief has always puzzled humanistic thinkers, a fact that has led to disputes at various times in history.
To take off our shoes in this matter is to prepare our hearts to be receptive to what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible does concerning the nature of His mysterious being, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the personality of the Holy Spirit.
God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer and Sovereign of all creation. His absolute ultimacy is well expressed by Paul when he says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36); and, He is “King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Timothy 1:17); also, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11).
When we as His created beings limit ourselves to thinking of God in these terms, we are focusing on those aspects of His nature that are wholly other from us in power, knowledge, holiness and essence. We gain a primitive glimpse of that holiness in the Ten Commandments, which were later enfleshed in greater detail in the life of Jesus.
The law of God is an expression of both His character and moral values.
Even a casual reflection reveals a heart of absolute purity and love for His creatures.
If the transcendence of God were all we knew about Him, we would tremble before Him in fear, overawed by His presence. And there is a real sense in which we should never forget these aspects of His nature, for He is the one to whom we shall have to give account for our wilful rebellion against His wisdom and holiness (Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 20:11-15).
But that isn't all that is to be said about God the Father; He reveals other aspects of His nature besides those of holiness and justice. His greatest revelation of Himself in the Old Testament is expressed in the immortal words to Moses after Israel's great sin in building a golden calf to worship at the bottom of Mount Sinai. “The Lord , the Lord , the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6, 7, emphasis added).
His holiness and His compassion for His creatures go hand in hand. The significance of these words come fully into focus in the sacrificial life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the second person of the Godhead. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The Father did not lend Jesus to us while we were in rebellion against Him; He gave Him. Jesus irrevocably bound Himself to humanity with a tie that will never be broken, whether we accept Him as our Saviour or not.
The qualities and powers exhibited in Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father. Although He has been “with” the Father for all eternity, and is just as much “God” in nature as the Father (John 1:1, 2; Philippians 2:5- 11), He made it clear that His purpose in coming to earth was to reveal the Father to us (John 14:9).
When Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), we usually misunderstand His intent. Seen in their context, Jesus is saying that He is the way to the Father, the truth about the Father, bringing the life of the Father.
When we come to Jesus as our Saviour, we have only come halfway. His following statement, “No-one comes to the Father except through me” makes it clear that His ultimate destiny for us was to come to the Father, and know by experience the heart of the Father. “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7).
God the eternal Son assumed human nature in Jesus Christ and became the God-man. Through Him all things had been created, the character of God was revealed, the salvation of humanity was accomplished, and the world was judged.
Forever truly God, He became also truly man, Jesus the Messiah of humanity. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as the original man Adam, but perfectly manifested the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He demonstrated God's power through the empowering of the Holy Spirit and was attested as God's promised Christ. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to minister in the heavenly sanctuary on our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things.
God, the eternal Spirit, was active with the Father and the Son in Creation (see Genesis 1:1, 2). During the Old Testament times He occasionally came upon selected individuals, usually prophets, priests and kings, to empower them for ministry.
It was not until the ministry of Jesus was coming to an end that Jesus asked God the Father to send God the Holy Spirit into the world in all His fullness (Acts 2:14-18).
God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father in the incarnation of Jesus (Luke 1:35), the empowerment of Jesus (Luke 4:14-21, Acts 10:38) and the redemption of humankind (2 Thessalonians 2:13). He inspired the writers of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21). He draws and convicts human beings (John 14:16-18, 26; 15:26, 27; 16:7-13), and those who respond, He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children (John 14:16,17), He extends spiritual gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:11, 12), empowers it to bear witness to Christ (Acts 1:8), and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth (John 16:7-15).
No wonder Paul broke out in a poem of praise in his famous benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14), “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
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