salvation

Over the years, I’ve had plenty of questions about Scripture and issues of faith. One of the deepest questions I’ve experienced concerns the nature of God—specifically God as Trinity. I think one of the reasons for these questions is that the doctrine of the Trinity is both fascinating and mysterious.

Illustrations have been applied to assist us in explaining the Trinity: the egg (shell, yoke, white) or water (ice, liquid, steam) or a person (husband, dad, employee). These illustrations lack because they fail to justly explain the nature of God. They fall incredibly short because when we talk about the Trinity because we are talking about the nature of God himself: One God in three Persons.

The Bible affirms several truths about God’s nature as revealed in the Trinity.

First, God is One. Christianity is monotheistic. There is only one God.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

Deuteronomy 6:4

Second, God the Father is God. Jesus teaches us to pray to God the Father as holy and Sovereign.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”

Matthew 6:9

Third, God the Son is God. When Thomas saw the risen Jesus, he called Jesus Lord and worshipped him. Only God can be worshiped. Jesus himself affirmed that only God can be worshiped.

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:28

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Matthew 4:10

Fourth, God the Holy Spirit is God. When Annanias and Sapphira lied about how much they sold their property for, Peter said they lied to God.

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”

Acts 5:3-4

Fifth, God is One, yet in three persons. God is Trinity as the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. At Jesus’ baptism, each person of the Trinity acted in the event uniquely (Matthew 3:13-17). This is an important distinction that reflects the Trinity.

In Jesus’ own baptism, there are not simply three names but three actors—the Father who speaks (“This is my beloved Son”), the “beloved Son” who is baptized, and the dove who hovers above Jesus, suggesting reference to the Sprit hovering over the waters in creation and concurring with the benediction on all that God has made.

Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, 275.

Trinitarian heresies of a variety of sorts have risen throughout church history. Arianism taught that Jesus was not God. Modalism taught that God revealed himself in different modes at different times. For example, God revealed himself in the Old Testament as Father, in the Gospels as Jesus, and now to the church as the Holy Spirit. These heresies, along with others, misconstrue the truths of the Trinity affirmed in the Bible in order to try to make sense of the Trinity. But instead of trying to wrap our finite minds around the mystery of the Trinity, we need to believe what the Bible affirms and accept that the mystery of Trinity means God is greater than we can understand.

With Augustine, we must say, “I believe in order that I may understand.” 

The Trinity is a staggeringly practical and important doctrine. Even as it may be difficult to fully understand, we can clearly understand the implications of the doctrine for our Christian experience.

Without the Trinity our salvation according to Scripture would not be possible. Take a look at Ephesians 1:3-14 and note how each person of the Trinity participates in our salvation. The Father planned our salvation, the Son accomplished our salvation, and the Spirit convicts us to salvation (John 16:8-12) and assures us of salvation.

Without the Trinity our prayers would be meaningless. We pray to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. We don’t talk to the Father on the evidence of our own goodness, but we talk to the Father based on the righteousness given to us by Christ. And it is the Holy Spirit that both prays for us (Romans 8:26) and empowers our prayers.

Without the Trinity, we would not have a God who is love. When John affirmed that “God is love” (1 John 4:7), he used the Greek word agape for love. Agape is love that is other-oriented, relational, selfless. But God has always been, and there was a time when only God existed. So how could God be love? He could only be love in the definition of 1 John 4:7 if God is Trinity, existing eternally in the Persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Tim Keller explains this concept beautifully.

If God is unipersonal, then until God created other persons there was no love, since love is something that one person has for another. This means that God was power, sovereignty, greatness from all eternity, but not love. Love then is not the essence of God, nor is it at the heart of the universe. Power is primary.

Tim Keller, The Reason for God, 225.

Be thankful that the God whose greatness and nature in Trinity is greater than our understanding, yet gracious enough to condescend to be our Savior and Friend.

In last week’s post, I noted that salvation can be broken down into three parts: justification, sanctification, and glorification. In previous posts, we’ve addressed justification and sanctification. In today’s post, we will briefly examine the doctrine of glorification.

Glorification is that aspect of salvation where God makes us like himself. To clarify, we will not be gods or deity in any sense. But in glorification, God will grant us perfection: morally, spiritually, intellectually, and bodily.

Before explaining the wonder of what God will do in glorification, let’s set a biblical foundation. There are several Scriptures that underscore what we mean by glory and glorification.

Psalm 24:10 teaches that God is the King of glory who displays splendor and wealth in his person.

Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory

Psalm 24:10

John 17:1-5 teaches that Christ glorified the Father with the fame, brightness, and splendor worthy only of God.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

John 17:1-5

Later on in Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, Jesus prayed that his followers would share in this glory.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

John 17:22-23

Paul reflects on this glory shared with believers as one of the purposes of salvation.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-29

It is important to note that Christ shares his glory with his followers through his redemptive work on the cross. God’s glory is displayed and declared through Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection to a glorified body.

In one sense believers are glorified in two states similar to how we described sanctification. We share at least in part Christ’s glory now (as with positional sanctification). But we await the fullness of glorification until we enter God’s presence and he resurrects our bodies to a glorified state.

The wonder of glorification is that God in his greatness, splendor, wealth, pomp, weight, and magnificence would even notice sinners like you and me. But not only does he notice us, he provides the means for our cleansing and salvation through Christ. Beyond that, his salvation promises that we will share in his glory. When we really consider this, it boggles the imagination. Glorification can be defined in this way:

Glorification is multidimensional. It involves both individual and collective eschatology. It involves the perfecting of the spiritual nature of the individual believer, which takes place at death, when the Christian passes into the presence of the Lord. It also involves the perfecting of the bodies of all believers, which will occur at the time of the resurrection in connection with the second coming of Christ. It even involves transformation of the entire creation (Rom. 8:18-25).

Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 1008.

When God glorifies us, he will make us morally perfect. We will no longer be bound to our sinful state.

When God glorifies us, he will also make us spiritually perfect. We will no longer be subject to internal desires and longings that are outside of God’s will.

When God glorifies us, he will make us intellectually perfect. God will give us right and correct knowledge of himself, ourselves, and all that he has made. While I don’t think this means we will omniscient as God is, I do believe that in our glorified state, our knowledge of God will be more full and clear.

When God glorifies us, he will make us bodily perfect. God will resurrect our body and unite body with soul perfecting us as he intended humanity at creation.

As I finish up this post, I’m humbled. That God would stoop down and step into his creation to save sinners like you and me is an amazing thought. That he would give us the honor of sharing in his glory is astounding. Here are some suggestions on responding to the doctrine of glorification.

  • Praise. God is glorious and he is worthy of our praise. Praise him for his glory and salvation.
  • Pray. God wants us to know him. Thank God for his salvation and that he will hear us when we seek him.
  • Worship. God’s glory deserves our worship. Make time this week to worship alongside other believers for God deserves it.
  • Glorify. God’s grace is beyond imagination. Glorify God that he would save us and privilege us to share in his glory.

Photo by Anna Gru on Unsplash