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The Working of Father, Son, and Spirit in the One Work of God

6 November, 2008

brannansmall1On Being Trinitarian

All Christians would heartily affirm that ‘God alone is the creator of heaven and earth’ and that ‘God alone is the savior of all who call on him’. Too often, though, we slide into a way of thinking and speaking about our God, the God of the Bible, that isn’t…well, particularly biblical or Christian. The God of the Bible is the Trinity — or, to say the same thing in different words, the Bible taken as a whole teaches that

  1. there is only one true God,
  2. that the Father is truly God, the Son is truly God, and the Spirit is truly God, and yet
  3. these three are not personally identical or indistinguishable from one another, but are rather distinct and unique with respect to one another, while enjoying the most intimate and mutual communion with one another as one God in three persons.

These are not logical contradictions or obscure grammatical jumping-jacks or mathematical loopholes we’re dealing with here, but the revealed mystery of the trinity and unity of the God who is our creator and redeemer, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Don’t we confess with the Bible that there is only one God? Don’t we confess that the Father is God and our Father for Christ’s sake? Don’t we confess that Christ is also God, the Father’s Word who has taken on our humanity? But that doesn’t mean that as God he’s the Father or the Spirit — because he’s the Son. Don’t we confess that God himself is the Spirit, our comforter and sanctifier and the one who upholds us and is the guarantee of our inheritance, himself the very Life of the age to come who brings about effectually the salvation that Christ no less effectually accomplished, and the Father no less effectually purposed together with the Son and the Spirit? Even if it takes a lot of care to think and speak of these things faithfully, it doesn’t change the fact that being trinitarian is part of the warp and woof of Christian faith and experience.

Shouldn’t we, then, as clearly and consistently as possible seek to think and speak and pray and teach and preach as biblical trinitarians, in line not only with our confession, but with the very truth of God? How do we go about doing that well? This subject is richer and ‘more precious than much fine gold’, of course, so I can only talk about a little of the ‘gold dust’ here. Still, the basic building blocks are the most important ones to get planted firmly. Here I want to focus on the way we think and speak of the working of God, or the way we begin to understand in a trinitarian way who God is through what he does, particularly in creation and salvation.

The Triune God as Creator

The  Bible teaches that the one true God alone is creator of heaven and earth. At the same time, the Bible teaches that the Father is creator, the Son is creator, and the Spirit is creator. The Father and the Son and the Spirit aren’t merely different aspects of the one creator God, and on the other hand they aren’t three creator Gods. They are one God in three persons, working distinctly and mutually to accomplish the creating work of God:

  1. The Father creates, through the Son in the Spirit
  2. The Son creates, from the Father in the Spirit
  3. The Spirit creates, from the Father through the Son

In sum, *Creation is the work of God alone, from the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit*
Turn over in your mind and heart especially the following passages: Gen 1:1-3; John 1:1-3; 2 Cor 4:6; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:2-3.

The Triune God as Savior

The Bible further clearly teaches that the one true God alone is savior of all who call on him, and it claims this together with the testimony that the Father is savior, the Son is savior, and the Spirit is savior. Again, Father, Son and Spirit are not merely aspects of the one savior God, and neither are they three savior Gods. They are one God in three persons, working together and in total harmony to accomplish all the saving work of God:

  1. The Father saves, through the Son in the Spirit
  2. The Son saves, from the Father in the Spirit
  3. The Spirit saves, from the Father through the Son

In sum, *Salvation is the work of God alone, from the Father, through the Son and in the Spirit*
For this marvelous mystery of our salvation, really chew on the following passages, as just a few examples: John 16, 17 throughout; Rom 8 throughout; Gal 4:4-7; Eph 1:3-14; Col 1:13-14, 18-20; 1 Ptr 1:2.

Especially if you haven’t studied these things or if you’re struggling with making sense of these things, reading this quick overview isn’t going to do it for you — you really need, as we all do, to immerse yourself in the scriptures, and I really think it’s important not to do anything with what I’ve said here apart from prayerfully and thoughtfully getting into the passages I’ve refered to — and believe me, they’re a whole lot more convincing (and edifying) than I am!

Feel free to bring up questions/concerns/difficulties in the comments. You can find a lot more from Creed:or:Chaos and others on these things here.


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