Trinity and Salvation
Last Sunday morning's sermon was a bit more theologically intense than normal, especially as I introduced a doctrine that has been greatly neglected in our time: the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Jesus' teaching on the Spirit in John's Gospel involves some intense Trinitarian theology, so I thought I might offer some introductory comments on this topic. The Trinity is another name for our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one shared and divine being. The Bible teaches salvation in an explicitly Trinitarian manner, so a sound grasp of salvation will trust in the work performed by each member of the Trinity for us.
Theologians speak of the economy of the Trinity, which refers to the arrangement of their work for our salvation. Since the members of the Trinity share one divine being, each Person is present in the work of each of the other Persons, so there is no work of salvation in which all three Persons are not involved. Yet we may rightly speak of a particular member of the Trinity taking the lead when it comes to certain aspects of salvation. In general, the breakdown is this: the Father ordains, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies:
· God the Father: "Chose us" from eternity past for salvation (Eph. 1:4). Believers are "predestined" according to "the purpose" of God "who works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11). Salvation is therefore according to His sovereign ordination and plan.
· God the Son: Was sent by the Father's love to accomplish our salvation (Jn. 3:16). Jesus said that He came to save all those "whom the Father has given me" (Jn. 6:39). What did Jesus accomplish for the elect: He lived a perfectly righteous life, died a sin-atoning death, conquered death in His resurrection, and took up His royal authority for us in heaven.
· God the Spirit: Was sent by the Father and the Son to apply to us all that the Father ordained and the Son accomplished. We must first be born again of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:6-7) and receive the gift of faith by His power (Eph. 2:8). We then are conformed by the Spirit into the likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), and are empowered by the Spirit to do Christ's work (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 3:16-21).
When we turn to the saving work of Jesus, there is also a three-fold categorization, corresponding to the three offices of God's design. We see this in Jesus' title as the Christ, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means the "Anointed One." There were three anointed offices in the Old Testament: prophet, priest, and king. The prophets revealed God and His Word to the people. Jesus is "the Word" (Jn. 1:1) and in His person He reveals God perfectly to the world (Jn. 14:9). The Old Testament priests had the job of cleansing the people and admitting them into God's presence for worship. Jesus fulfilled this by being the true sacrifice for sin (Jn. 1:29) and by being the true High Priest who presents this final sacrifice in the presence of the Father (Heb. 9:11-14). Finally, the kings ruled the people on God's behalf, seeing that God's will was obeyed. Jesus is the true King who rules from His throne in heaven, securing His people by the ministry of the Holy Spirit and ruling us by His Word (Jn. 18:37; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 1:8-9).
This is where I picked up last week, speaking of the Holy Spirit. The question is, what does the Holy Spirit do for us and in us today? The answer is that He continues Jesus' ministry: as Prophet, Priest, and King, Jesus accomplished our salvation, so the Holy Spirit now applies Jesus' work as Prophet, Priest, and King in our lives:
- Prophet: The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Holy Scriptures and He illuminates the Word in our hearts today with the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).
- Priest: The Spirit pleads the merit of Christ's blood to our hearts so that our consciences have peace and we are enabled to come into God's presence with joy.
- King: The Spirit empowers us with Christ's royal provision so that we have spiritual power to obey the commands of our king and so that His kingly will is done on earth through us.
This is why the New Testament teaches that believers in Christ are, by the Holy Spirit, made to be prophets, priests, and kings on behalf of our Savior Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:20; Col. 1:28; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:5-6; 5:10). Indeed, we may summarize our Christian duty by these offices: we are to be prophetic witnesses of the gospel, to minister priestly prayer, and to reign with Christ by doing His will. What a high calling we have in Christ, the Anointed One, who as Prophet, Priest, and King has called us by the Spirit's power into the knowledge and service of our great God!
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