by Jeremiah Hill

We believe that there is one, and only one living and true God, an infinite intelligent Spirit, whose name is JEHOVAH, the Maker and supreme Ruler of heaven and earth; inexpressibly glorious in holiness, and worthy of all possible honor, confidence and love; that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; equal in every divine perfection and executing distinct but harmonious offices in the great work of redemption.

Who is God?

Of utmost importance to the confession’s next article was not to determine who we are, but whose we are. It is to whom we belong that must define us. Humanity is constantly in flux, but God as Trinity has not and never will change. The identity of God is our existential constant. It is the identity of God which will determine your entire Christian paradigm. Michael Reeves says, “The Trinity is the cockpit for all Christian thinking.”[1] For the Pharisees, God was a divine dictator who cared about the external appearance of things. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute….this God is terrifying. Every waking moment you teeter on the fence of salvation, it’s like sprinting across a freshly-glazed ice rink. Your understanding of God is such that salvation depends entirely on you. Following this line of thought, Adam and Eve fled, Abraham sold his wife, Moses (initially) refused to go to Pharaoh, David murdered, Israel refused God’s promise for the land, Peter denied Christ, Jonah tried to commit suicide, the rich man went away sad… Who they viewed God to be wreaked havoc around them.

Praise be to God that the identity of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ, who “loved me (us) and gave himself for me (us)” (Gal. 2:20). It is this God who promised us the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. It is in the face of Jesus Christ that we have seen the Father, because Christ is the perfect revelation of the Father’s love and grace (Jn. 14). It is through him we have access in the Spirit to the Father (Eph. 2:18). It is the Son of God who is both the means and end of our salvation (Heb. 12:2). He is able to save to the uttermost those who come (Heb. 7:25). It is this Christ who washes not just our feet, but our souls. It is the Christ who, as did the apostle John, we lean up against at the table and hear his words (Jn. 13).

Ontology vs Economy?

Too often, salvation for us is just a thing. Jesus bought it and gives it to us. After we put it in our pocket, we then keep on walking past Jesus to get to whatever is next, after all…he’s the entry point of course, but when do we get to the God that is just behind Jesus’ back? What else do we get? This line of thinking is of course, unbiblical at best. Jesus is salvation. He said, “I am the way, truth and the life…” (Jn. 14:6), not, “I know the way…” “He is offering himself to us as a person, that we might share in his most deeply personal relationship, the relationship he has with God the Father.”[2]

Traditional theological textbooks tend to divide the discussion of the Trinity into two categories, the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity. The ontological Trinity is who God is in his very being (his essence) apart from his works. The economic Trinity deals with God in his Trinitarian works and in his dealings with us. This is not unhelpful as we study, but it may give the impression that who God is in himself, as eternal Trinity, is different than how he works. However, Fairbairn suggests that “as we come to know the Son, we too see God’s glorious presence, and this is eternal life. The presence that God has shared within himself, between the Father, Son, and Spirit, is the heart of that knowledge of God which he gives to us and which constitutes eternal life.”[3] Michael Reeves spends a little over 100 pages to convince the reader that who God has always been in himself – The Father beholding his Son and the Son his Father, while the Spirit, the bond of their love proceeds out from them to us – is that very same God working for and toward us (I highly recommend the short read for anyone). The Trinity is “turned outward.”

Worship

Do we continue to need mediation? With the death of Christ and our legal justification, can we now claim to worship him perfectly, pour out our prayers perfectly, commune in the church perfectly? The truth is, though brought from death to life, we yet only have our life continually in the Son through the Spirit. Our weak and feeble prayers are brought to Christ, through the Spirit, and are presented perfectly through his blood to the Father. Our worship, as vulnerable and humble as it may seem, still carries with it a personal sense of self-centeredness which is brought through the Spirit and purified through the blood of Christ to the Father. Ephesians 2:18 says, “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Robert Letham writes, “The worship of the church is the communion of the Holy Trinity with us his people.”[4]

In this understanding of worship we can discern a double movement of grace – (a) a God-humanward movement, from (ek) the Father, through (dia) the Son, in (en) the Spirit, and (b) a human-Godward movement to the Father, through the Son in the Spirit. This double movement of grace, which is the heart of the “dialogue” between God and humanity in worship, is grounded in the very perichroetic (this term refers to the Trinitarian “in-ness” of each member of the Trinity “in” every other person in the Trinity – See upper room discourse for this frequent language) being of God, and is fundamental for our understanding of the triune God’s relationship with the world in creation, incarnation and sanctification. What God is toward us in these relationships, he is in his innermost being.[5]

Select Bibliography:

Letham – The Holy Trinity

Fairbairn – Life in the Trinity

Reeves – Delighting in the Trinity

Torrance, J.B – Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace

Notes:

[1] Reeves, Michael. Delighting in the Trinity, 16

[2] Fairbairn, Donald. Life in the Trinity, 27; See also the rest of the upper room discourse

[3] Ibid. 30

[4] Letham, Robert. The Holy Trinity, 416

[5] Torrance, J.B. Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace, 32-33