Friday, October 4, 2013

Grace, God's Love and the Trinity

"The end of the dispensation of grace being to glorify the whole Trinity, the order fixed on and appointed wherein this is to be done, is by ascending to the Father's love through the work of the Spirit and blood of the Son. The emanation of divine love to us begins with the Father, is carried on by the Son, and then communicated by the Spirit; the Father designing, the Son purchasing, the Spirit effectually working: which is their order. Our participation is first by the work of the Spirit, to an actual interest in the blood of the Son; whence we have acceptation with the Father."
-John Owen Communion with God Works Vol. 2 pp.179-180.

Just a few thoughts in relationship to this quote:

1. Many evangelicals today do not have this conception of the Trinity shooting through their veins with respect to their relationship with God. The Trinity could fall away into the dust bin of obscure doctrines for them and it would make little difference in how they conceive their faith in God, their love for God and more importantly God's love for them. Yet, to read Owen, and indeed many of the Puritans, is to be pricked by men who have the Trinity flowing in their veins. It is behind the gospel, redemption, the covenants and their spiritual lives. 

This is not to say that theologians don't have a conception of the Trinity or that pastors and pew don't believe in it but rather to say it makes little functional difference. Many Christian today would probably consider a doctrine "fight" over precision in our language of the Trinity to be akin to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Or you say tomato [toe-may-toe]; I say tomato [toe-maw-toe].

2. Owen sees an ordering of the Godhead that flows in both directions. So that Father plans, the Son accomplished and the Spirit effects or applies. Yet in our drawing close to God--i.e. our ascent to communion with God--there order flows the opposite direction: The Spirit regenerates, this applies the blood of the Son so that we have an interest in it and faith in Him and then we are accepted by the Father.

We see this working out in Titus 3:4-7.

4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 
Thus there is an ordering to the accomplishing of redemption that is reflected in the ordering of the persons of the Godhead. The Father pours out His love, which he has had for his elect from the before the foundation of the world. The Son comes, dies and His resurrection. The Father and Son pour out the Spirit.

Yet in this sending of the Spirit, the believer experiences in the application of redemption first a washing of regeneration. This leads to us being justified, adopted and sanctified "in Christ" with respect to a union to him that is experienced by faith. Finally in this justification we are "right with God" the Father and have peace with Him.

3. There is no communion with one person of the Godhead without there being equal communion with the other remaining persons. So that we address God the Father as our father but not without the reality of Jesus Christ, his shed blood and our union with Him, and the presence of the Holy Spirit as our sealer and enabler to cry out "Abba, Father." Similar things could be said about our relationship to the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Yet, it also says something about the unity of the Godhead. We do not have relationships with three gods but only with three persons who are one God.

Thus, the Trinity is absolutely integral to my "relationship" with God.

Finally, just a couple of practical questions. I asked this early today on my Twitter feed: 

Agree or disagree?- Too many evangelical would see little change in their faith in/love of God if the doctrine of the Trinity was dropped.

I think its a fair question to ask but not in an abstract way. Rather make it more personal: in your relationship to God is it fundamentally important to you that God really is Triune?

Even more: Pastors does the Trinity make a difference to the what and the how of your preaching?

This post was cross posted at Tim's Blog "The Voyages". Tim Bertolet tweets at @tim_bertolet.

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