For many Christians, we are rather familiar with the person of the Son, Jesus Christ; there are those who overemphasise the person and work of the Holy Spirit; but very few are very familiar with the person of the Father – we only mention Him in our prayers or refer to Him in the Benediction at the end of the Worship Service.
But lo and behold! – the Triune God is very involved in securing our salvation, and ensuring that we become His children, and be with Him in glory in the new heaven and new earth. If we fail to appreciate this deeply, we miss out in truly praising and worshipping the Triune God and busking in His glory.
The Triune God did not need to create anything. There is nothing necessary about the universe. But in love and grace, He chose to create everything so that His glory might be the joy and delight of others (Rev. 4:11); He created human beings to reflect the very character and glory of God! Our lives have been created and purposed to image, or reflect, the glory of God.
In Ephesians chapter 1, we see the focus on the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father has blessed us in the heavenly with every spiritual blessing in Christ (vs 3); He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight (vs 4); in love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will (vs 5) – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves (vs 6). In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (vs7) that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding (vs 8), He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ (vs 9), to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (vs10).
In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will (vs 11), in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory (vs 12 TNIV).
We see here in detail the roles and participation of both the Father and the Son in securing the salvation of believers. The Father chose us before the creation of the world; we are chosen in Christ. Union with Christ is there from the outset – even in the beginning, all human merit is excluded. Union with Christ has its basis in Christ’s redemptive work – it is because Christ carried out the redemptive work that this union becomes possible. Through union with Christ, we receive every spiritual blessing; Christ lives in the hearts of believers now and forever; union with Christ has its source in our election in Christ before the creation of the world and its goal in our glorification with Christ through eternity. God predestined us for adoption through Christ; He freely gave us His grace and made known to us His will and purpose in Christ; He is the One who poured out His love and grace upon us in His Son, the One whom He loves dearly. Ultimately, God would bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ, and He will make all things new!
In a subsequent sharing, we will focus on the role and involvement of the Holy Spirit. But at this juncture, we should realise how the Triune God is intimately involved in securing the salvation of His people.
In the previous sharing, we focused on the Father in His choosing of us before the creation of the world and also His role and involvement with the Son to bring about union with Christ, and the uniting of all things in heaven and earth under Christ in the fulfilment, and culmination, in the new heaven and new earth.
We need, however, to elaborate more on the role of the Son of God. The Son, in infinite grace, laid aside infinite dignity in an act of infinite condescension, revealing infinite love and all with a view to producing infinite glory. Jesus ‘descended’ to take our human nature into His person, uniting human and divine nature in the one person. He took the form of a servant, and was made man, but He did not thereby cease to be God. After the finished work at the cross, He was resurrected, and He ascended and was exalted in glory at the right hand of the Father. There, in the fullness of all divine perfection, above the glory of angels and men, still as the God-man, in glorious light, love and power, He continues to intercede for His people and continues His mediational ministry. More than that, in this exalted position and authority, He issued the command ( The Great Commission) to His apostles, and thence to those who believe subsequently (the Church, comprising all races, cultures, and generations) to make disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching them all things He taught them, with the promise that He would be with them always until the end of the age.
The source of our salvation is the Father; the transaction is through the Son, and the execution and application is by the Holy Spirit. Only through the Holy Spirit can we become one with Christ and can Christ live in our hearts. We can only be saved when God makes us one with Christ. The role of the Holy Spirit is to bring us into union with the Lord Jesus, to keep us in that union, and to see that union flourish in communion with Him. The hallmark of the Spirit’s work is ongoing conformity to Christ crucified and raised, causing us to share His death in order to share His resurrection, to taste His suffering in order that we might also taste His glory. The Spirit implants the seed of this at the beginning of our Christian life and nourishes it to the end.
God’s Word (Scripture) is the source of all wisdom and it is the Spirit who is the author and it is He who inspired the Word. The Spirit is the One who reveals the Truth of God and then illuminates our minds in order that we may grasp and understand the Word better. It is the presence of the Spirit of God that transforms our bare knowledge of the truth into our experience of the power of the truth.
Jesus, when He was on earth, obeyed the law of God perfectly and did so in the power of the Holy Spirit in a fully human way. The Spirit of God led Him into a full, perfect and ‘natural’ humanity. Jesus was born of the Spirit, and it is the Holy Spirit who enabled Him to be sinless and pleasing to the Father; it is the Spirit who filled Him fully and anointed Him to fulfil His ministry fully until “it is finished”. God raised Jesus from the dead by the power of the Spirit, and it is the Spirit who strengthened Him and was with HIm throughout His mission on earth.
When Jesus communicated with His disciples in John 14 to 16, He told them that it is good for Him to go away so that the Father can send the Spirit. He further revealed that the Spirit would remind them of all He had taught them. Interestingly, in the Great Commission, the Lord Jesus commanded the Apostles and believers to teach the the disciples everything He had commanded them – the connection suggests strongly that it is the Lord Jesus continues His ministry on earth even after His ascension and it is through His followers by the Spirit, who is exactly like the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit, dwelling in the believers, brings the reality of Christ and the Father into their lives, such that it may be in order to say that the Triune God is spiritually present in the lives of Christians and the Church.
Truly, seeing the role and involvement of the Three Persons of the Godhead in establishing and securing our Salvation could only cause us to break out in adoring praise and worship of God, the Trinity!!
At this juncture, we can consider the implied applications in the outworking of our salvation.
It is the Triune God, before the creation of the world, who chose us, who called us and predestined us, according to His purpose, to be conformed to the image of the Son, that the Son might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He called, He also justified, and those He justified, He also glorified. From eternity to eternity, it is the Triune God who works out His will according to His good pleasure; it is not man – it is not about ourselves and our works which determine our salvation and destiny – it is always about God! And the three Persons of the Godhead are involved in this calling and are together united in the purpose to recreate a new humanity from the fallen humanity in the old Adam (in the Fall) with Christ as the second Adam, the head of this new humanity in the renewed creation in the new heaven and new earth (Roms. 8).
In the eternal harmony and love in the Trinity, according to the united purpose, grace, and love within, the Triune God embarked, from eternal past, to redeem fallen mankind; the eternal Father sent the eternal Son in love – the Son, in love of the Father, willingly took on the role to identify with human beings and to be the substitute for their sin – and the Holy Spirit was with the Son even from the beginning of His incarnation.
God chose to love an unholy people at the incalculable price of the life of the Son whom He has loved from all eternity. He did this so that He might transform an unlovely people into a radiantly beautiful bride for that Son. Our salvation is not finally about us. Our salvation is finally about the display of God’s glory (notice the number of times God’s glory is mentioned in Ephesians 1) in the eternal love of Father for Son and Son for Father. And this eternal love is sacrificial, longsuffering, full of grace and mercy.
God’s eternal salvation plan is from eternal past and would culminate in the eternal future; the Triune God continues to work out this plan – the Father continues to exercise His sovereign rule and oversee the outworking of this plan – the Son continues to exercise His mediatory role, ascended at the right hand of the Father, still working out the salvation plan through His church by the Spirit to bring in all the elect to be a people of God – and the Spirit, who is the executor of this plan, resides in the lives of God’s people, teaching them, guiding them, transforming them, and transforming them from within, in the context of the church (with the sacraments, the Communion, the preaching and teaching of God’s Word from the Spirit who is the author and interpreter of God’s revelation of His eternal purpose in establishing and recreating a new humanity with new communities on earth).
The Spirit is the seal and deposit of our salvation – He is the guarantee that, even against all odds and spiritual warfare, God’s plan shall be fulfilled. God’s people are to persevere, to endure, to walk by faith and to live in love in God’s community and to reach out to the rest of the elect as the Spirit directs and enables.
When we appreciate the role and involvement of the Triune God in securing our salvation, we need to communicate the story of redemption – but redemption is needed because of the fall of Adam and Eve, our ancestor and representative. Adam and Eve rebel against the One who gave them Paradise, following the insinuation of the evil one (Rom.3:23). In judgement and mercy, God thrusts them out of the perfection of His presence into a world that is now cursed and fallen (Rom. 6:23).
But God, who is love, seeks to save fallen humanity – however salvation comes only through judgement (Heb. 9:27). And this judgement is borne by Himself, in the person of His own Son. It is in the cross that God’s glory is seen, in the suffering and sacrifice of Him who is most worthy for those who are not worthy at all. Jesus sacrificed on the cross for sinners, bearing the judgement they deserved, that God’s glory might be displayed in salvation and mercy, even as He met the demands of justice Himself.
Jesus Christ has accomplished redemption for everyone who listens to His call to repent and believe. We preach a salvation accomplished on the cross, and we call men and women everywhere to lean hard on Jesus with repentance and faith.
Jesus is not only a substitute – He is the only substitute, for no one else has ever lived a perfect life. On the cross, Christ endured the wrath of God against our sin, and exhausted it. He is the last sacrifice, because He is the first true sacrifice and the only effective sacrifice that has ever or will ever be made (John 14:6). There will be no second chances after death, no alternative means of getting to heaven. There is only one sacrifice that reconciles sinners to God, and so there is only name under heaven by which we may be saved.
We love people who deserve to be loved. But not God. God’s love is free, gratuitous, and unconditional. You cannot earn it. You can only receive it by faith in Christ Jesus. We cannot earn it; we cannot lose it if we respond to Him in repentance and faith. God’s love in Christ is changing us to be like Christ. The perfection of God’s love for us is not measured by how well He is managing our agenda for life. No, the perfection of God’s love for us is seen in the goal He has set for our life – and that goal is nothing less than likeness to the Son He loves. From the beginning, after the fall, God desires to have a people of His own and they shall be His people and He shall be their God – hence the Triune God sets out to do from eternal past until eternal future.
For God means to fully and finally deliver His people, not just from the guilt and condemnation of their sins, but from the very body of death. And He is preparing a bride for His Son, unblemished and glorious in the new heaven and new earth!