The Triune God

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit…”  so begins the Apostles Creed and with great wisdom it states the importance of the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  The Christian Church everywhere holds these truths close to the heart and the use of the word Triune allows us to share a meaningful understanding as we discuss and rejoice in the greatness of Him who was and is and is to come.

Knowing God is the greatest of blessings. He is not some unknowable essence, or a great grandfatherly figure in the sky.  His presence is a personal presence and yet distinct and exacting, beyond the capacity of the human mind to grasp. Furthermore, it is only possible through the self-revelation of God to know Him, we could never fully understand or know the attributes of the Triune God apart from His self-revelation. 

Article 8 of the Belgic Confession “God is one in essence, yet distinguished in three persons,” clearly declares these distinctions, thus

“According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible. The Son is the Word, the wisdom, and the image of the Father.  The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has His personal existence, distinguished by Their properties; but in such a way that these three persons are but one only God.

It is therefore evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless, these persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed our flesh and blood, neither has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only. The Father has never been without His Son, or without His Holy Spirit. For these three, in one and the same essence, are equal in eternity. There is neither first nor last; for They are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.”

It has been argued by some that when the Reformed Church speaks of the Triune God, it is using a word never found in the Bible. Though this is true, it is a term which draws from the biblical record and distills the essence of Truth found there so we, as God’s children, may speak of this part of His mystery in a meaningful way.

God the Father – God of Fear, Love, Wisdom, and Knowledge

We are instructed by the Scriptures to fear God.  This fear is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Psalm 111: 10; Proverbs 1:7) which leads to life and is a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27; 19:23). Surrounding the descriptive of fear in the biblical passages are words of strong significance, “prolongs days, to hate evil, strong confidence, better…than great treasure, leads to life, are riches and honor and life” (Proverbs 8:13, 10:27, 14:26, 15:16, 19:23, 22:4). These are words of love, respect and recognition of authority.  God the Father in the Old Testament is represented as the all powerful, Lord of Hosts, Almighty God, and absolute authority (Gen 17:1, 35:11; Psalm 24:1-10, 46:1-11; Job 8:3-5; 38:1-42:6). The Father’s love was always present even in times where war, pestilence and death were common place; His purpose was always to draw His people to love Him through His revelation of Himself with those He called to be His people. Consider the following verses;

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12).

Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness” (1 Kings 10:9).

For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright” (Psalm 11:7).

The Lord preserves all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:20).

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

It was because of His eternal power and love that the Father promised of the coming of Christ and kept His promises in the fullness of time. The self revelation of God the Father is the believer’s sure harbor and source of all truth and understanding which has been given to guide and direct the Church.

God the Son – Prophet, Priest and King

The words of this self revelation are those which Christ in His incarnation upheld, teaching equally the love and fear of God in relation to proper respect for the truth with the full power of the Holy Spirit.

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:24–33).

Christ revealed God the Father.  Here in these passages, God the Son teaches the importance of proper fear and the love and respect which are revealed in those to whom the truth has been revealed.  For those trusting in anything other than God alone, this message is foolishness and is suppressed in unrighteousness.  We as believers in Christ hold the truth in awe, respect and fear. We fear the destruction which is to be revealed, the sorrow of the lost, the anguish of eternal suffering, and our own inability to do what is right even when we know and want to do it (Romans 7).  Christ as God the Son taught and warned His disciples concerning the challenges which would follow.  His deity was a cause of fear among the disciples and the people (Mark 4:41, Luke 8:25) especially the leaders of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mark 11:18).

He was the Prophet of all Prophets called by God to deliver the message of the Gospel, to reveal the Kingdom of God, and to do all the Father’s will.  As the Master, Teacher and Prophet (Matt 8:19, 9:11, 22:23-33; Luke 5:5, 8:24-45, 9:33-49), His ministry was the absolute fulfillment of the promises the Father had spoken through the Prophets of old (Hebrews 1:1-14). Christ was delivered as the promised One whose throne and ministry began from before the beginning of time (Matt 12:25-30, John 1:18; 6:46; 10:15).

As the Great High Priest, He offered Himself up as the sacrifice for the sheep, a burden placed upon Him from before the foundations of the world (Eph 1:3-6; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Rev 13:8). In complete and total obedience, He went to the cross to become a curse for us (Matt 26:39; John 18:11; Gal 3:13-14; 1 Peter 2:20-25). This He did willingly, for the joy which was set before Him, He endured the cross despising the shame. Through His suffering and death, He was exalted and now sits at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 12:1-2).

Jesus Christ was also the promised King (Acts 2:29-36). Appointed to the office of mediator according to the will of His Father (John7:28), He affirmed time and again that He came to accomplish the will of His Father (Matt. 26:39; John 5:30; 6:38; 8:26-28; 12:49; 14:10).

God the Spirit – Inspiration, Comforter, The Promise of the Father delivered by the Son

The divine revelation of the Father was not only provided by the Son through His time here on earth, but also through the Holy Spirit. It was through the Holy Spirit sent by the Father and the Son that the Apostles, as witnesses of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection were empowered to go into all the world and make disciples. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were the result of the inspiration of holy men by the Holy Spirit. Men such as Moses, David, Jeremiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul were the instruments the Spirit used to communicate the infallible message of the Word of God.

Some of the names used of the Holy Spirit that are found in Scripture include the Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, and the Spirit of God. He was present from the very beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:2). He was the same one who empowered Samson with great strength, and it is He whom Christ Jesus attributed as the one who regenerates a person (John 3:1-8). The one who was revealed at the baptism of Christ in the likeness of a dove also appeared as a mighty rushing wind and as flames of fire above the disciple’s heads at Pentecost (Matthew 4, Luke 4, Acts 2). There followed this empowering by the Spirit the immediate proclamation of the Gospel of God concerning Christ and salvation.  Furthermore it was the same Holy Spirit who brought judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira for their lies and deception (Acts 5).  

The Triune God

There are volumes of pages written on the three persons of the Godhead. He is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one.  This truth has been difficult for many to grasp. Yet our Savior declared that He came to “show us the Father” (John 14:6-11) and the Apostle Paul declared that the Son was the express image of the Father, the invisible God:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:15–18).

Furthermore, the Prophet Isaiah declared the Christ would bear the Spirit of the Lord,

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:1–4).

In bearing the image of the invisible Lord, with the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him, Christ said this of His relationship to the Father:

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:16–26).

To the words of our living Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, nothing can be added.  They speak clearly of a relationship which transcends human understanding. It is through Christ that we clearly see revelation of the Father’s will, love, and care for us His chosen people, the Church.

May the blessing of the living LORD, be poured out on His people, day by day, hour by hour, until we are gathered into the promised keeping of His eternal care.

With all my love,

Elder Matthew Davis
Rehoboth Reformed Church
January 2013