The Triune God (pt 2)
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3. HOW THE TRINITY OPERATE
3.1 Their Unity
It is often difficult even to distinguish between the Holy Spirit and Jesus or the Father, as shown by the frequent descriptions of him as ‘the Spirit of God’ (see above) and ‘the Spirit of Christ’ (Rom. 8:9 – which uses both!).
Jesus said ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (Jn. 14:9) and, ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn. 10:30). The principle upon which this unity is based is that ‘God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him’ (1 Jn. 4:16). Jesus’ ultimate desire for his disciples is ‘that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.’ (Jn. 17:21).
- It is an amazing thought that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8,16) does not merely mean ‘God loves,’ but that love is built into the very nature of God; such that there could be no God like this without love.
Christians sometimes wonder who exactly it is that has come to live in them when they became Christians: the answer is all three! Jesus said ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him.’ (Jn. 14:23) Jesus, addressing the Father, expressed it as ‘I in them and you in me.’ (Jn. 17:23) He also told us that the Holy Spirit ‘lives with you and shall be in you.’ (Jn. 14:17). Paul asked the Father to ‘strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.’ (Eph. 3:16-7) Predominantly, however, it is the Holy Spirit who is our point of contact with both Jesus and the Father (more of that later).
3.2 Their Interdependence
In virtually every act of God all three persons of the Trinity are involved in some way. Of creation we read that ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.’ (Gen. 1:2-3) We have heard already that Jesus was the Word through whom everything was made (Jn. 1:2-3, Heb. 1:2). Concerning our salvation we read of ‘Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God’ (Heb. 9:14). Concerning his resurrection we read, ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.’ (Rom. 8:11)
The natural consequence of this is that if we detract in any way from any one of the persons of the Trinity we end up with a lopsided view of God. For instance, if Jesus were not part of God we would have a God who, faced with the plight of sinful men, chose someone else to suffer: whereas in reality he suffered himself. If there had been no Father, how could Jesus have set us an example of obedience to follow? If there had been no Spirit where would we find the power to follow him?
3.3 Their Distinctive Characters and Ministries
3.3.1. The Father
The Father holds ultimate authority (1 Cor. 15:24-8) and is almost always the one meant when ‘God’ is used in an individual sense. Both Jesus (Mt. 27:46) and the Spirit (in numerous prophecies) address him as ‘God’. Both submit their own wills to his (Jn. 6:38 & Rom. 8:27).
The fact that Jesus most commonly used the title ‘Father,’ both with regard to himself and us shows clearly that Fatherhood is one of his principal characteristics. He was the one who first conceived of us and set a value on our lives: and he continues to take an amazingly intimate personal interest in each one of us (Mt. 6:4, 25-33, 10:29-31). His relationship with us is not that of a stern, Victorian authority figure, however, but that of a warm, approachable ‘Abba’ (the Aramaic equivalent of ‘Daddy’ – Rom. 8:15).
To know and explore the amazing character, wisdom and power of the Father is our highest destiny. Jesus said ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ (Jn. 17:3)
3.3.2. The Son
As the ‘Son of Man’ Jesus is our example. As the ‘Son of God’ he is the main revelation of God’s nature (Heb. 1:1-3). As ‘the Word’ he is our Creator (Jn. 1:2). As ‘a priest after the order of Melchizedec’ he is our Saviour (Heb. 5:8-10). As ‘the risen Lord’ he sends the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:7), rules the Universe (Phil. 2:9-11) and will return to this earth as ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’ (Rev. 19:11-6). (Note that whereas ‘the Lord’ in the Old Testament may refer to Jesus or the Father, depending on context, its use in the New Testament applies almost exclusively to Jesus.)
3.3.3. The Spirit
The Holy Spirit is our Guide and Teacher (Jn. 16:12-4). He is responsible for the work of conversion and spiritual growth in our lives (Jn. 16:8-11, Jn. 3:5-8, 1 Pet. 1:2). He is ‘with’ even the unconverted, working to bring conviction of the truth, and ‘in’ every Christian, constantly interceding for them (Jn. 14:17, 20:22, Rom. 8:9 & 26). He is the source of spiritual power when he comes ‘upon’ men (Acts 1:8) – even Jesus did no miracles until then (Lk. 3:21-2, 4:14, 18).
4. HOW THIS SHOULD AFFECT US
To use a simple illustration, if you address a letter concerning your income tax to ‘H.M. Government,’ or even ‘Dept. of Social Security,’ it will (hopefully) find its way to the Inland Revenue office who will set about dealing with the matter. However, if you are really concerned to get things moving you will make it your business to know the name of the department handling the matter and even the name of the person responsible.
Far too often we muddle along spiritually, not really knowing what we should be after or who we should ask. Jesus has purchased us an incredible priviledge – that we should be able to come to know the Father personally and have direct access to him with our prayers (Jn. 16:23-7). The way to the Father’s heart is via the cross and then through a life which acknowledges the Lordship of his Son in every area. The Holy Spirit is longing to show us how: we only have to ask him to teach, equip and direct us.
This study is no more than a superficial introduction to the amazing character of our God. May we be determined to find out as much as we can!