The Inseparable Operations of the Trinity in John’s Gospel

james-coleman-741674-unsplash.jpgFew books in the Bible give us more “raw material” about the Trinity than John’s Gospel. While the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, testimony to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is. And in the Fourth Gospel, the works of the Trinity are displayed in their greatest fullness.

Helping us to see the inseparable operations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the ESV Study Bible nicely charts most of the instances of God’s Work. In what follows, notice how every work of God is “shared” by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To say it more carefully, whenever God acts he acts as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Whether it is in creation, salvation, or revelation, each person of the Trinity acts in a way appropriate to their personhood. Yet, such personal properties are never divided from the other members of the Trinity. We can speak variously about the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but we can never speak of them independent from one another, or as if the Father does one thing, the Son another, the Spirit a third.

While personal properties apply in all of God’s actions—e.g., the Father creates as the Father, the Son creates as the Son, and Spirit creates as the Spirit—the triune God always works as one God. This reality helps us to know God in his triune glory and to appreciate how each member works in union with one another. Even more, as we see in John’s Gospel, when the Father sends the Son and Spirit and the Father and Son send the Spirit, we begin to learn who God is through what God has done in redemptive history.

Expanding this vision of God’s triune work in redemption, the ESV Study Bible’s chart will assist greatly.
Continue reading

A Prayer God Hears (Matthew 7:7–12)

sermon05

Sermon Audio: A Prayer God Hears (Matthew 7:7–12)

How deep the father’s love for us / How vast beyond all measure
That he should give his only Son / To make a wretch his treasure

These words by Stuart Townend express in song what Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, namely that the Father in heaven loves his children and longs for us to come and find our greatest reward in him. Indeed, this is why Jesus Christ came, to bring the Father’s kingdom to earth by means of his death and resurrection. In the new covenant Jesus made a way for sins to be forgiven and for forgiven sinners to enter God’s presence.

In Matthew 7:7–11 specifically, we find another place where Jesus’s focus on the Father teaches disciples about the kind of access they have to God and the kind of prayer our Father in heaven loves to hear. On Sunday considered this passage and how Jesus teaches us to pray.

You can listen to the sermon online. Below you can find discussion questions and additional resources, including the majestic rendition of How Deep the Father’s Love for Us by the Austin Stone Church. Continue reading

Drinking Deeply from Our Father in Heaven: Nine Observations about Giving, Praying, and Fasting (Matthew 6:1–18)

didin-emelu-329478-unsplashIn the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives instructions about giving (vv. 2–4), praying (vv. 5–15), and fasting (vv. 16–18). In our church we have taken one sermon per “spiritual discipline,” but really in the structure of Matthew’s Gospel, we should read these three disciplines together. And in fact, when we do there are some observations we discover that we might not find on our own.

So here are nine observations about Matthew 6:1–18 and Jesus’s instructions about these critical elements of worship, discipleship, and spiritual communion with God.

1. Giving, praying, and fasting make up the center of the Sermon.

Sermon on the Mount Overview copy

From the structure of the sermon, we discover verses 1–18 should be read as the center of the sermon. Even more specifically, giving (vv. 2–4) and fasting (vv. 16–18) should be seen as a concentric ring around Jesus’s instructions around prayer (vv. 5–15), which itself is centered around the Lord’s Prayer. And that pray too is shaped to put three imperatives on both sides the words “on earth as it is in heaven.”

In other words, the shape observed in the image above continues right to the summit of the mountain, where we discover that prayer in the presence of our heavenly father is the goal of the Law (5:17–48) and the Prophets (6:19–7:11), as well asthe center of Jesus teaching about discipleship (6:1–18).

Moreover, because of this intentional shaping and the balanced presentation of giving and fasting around prayer, we may find that these various disciplines are not as independent as we often think. In fact, to get the full meaning of Jesus’s words we should read them together. Continue reading

The Center of the Sermon on the Mount: Twelve Truths About Our Father in Heaven

stained glass.jpeg

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
— Matthew 11:27 —

Perhaps of the most surprising (and edifying) aspects of the Sermon on the Mount is the emphasis Jesus’ makes on his Father in heaven. While we may consider the Sermon as a explanation of the Law (see 5:17–48), or instructions for true piety (see 6:1–18), or a warnings to walk in the true way (see 7:13–28), the heartbeat of the Sermon is a love for the Father. And more than that, the Sermon is about how disciples of Christ might know and enjoy the Father’s love.

The importance of this Father-centered vision of the Sermon cannot be understated. As John 14:6 indicates, Jesus came to bring us to the Father. Likewise, Matthew’s own Gospel identifies how Jesus seeks to reveal the Father to those whom the Father has given (see above, Matthew 11:25–27). Therefore, it is worth noting how in his first discourse, the Father plays a prominent role. In what follows, I’ve notated twelve truths about what Jesus tells us about his Father and his Father’s love for those who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Continue reading

The Arm of the Lord: From Moses to Isaiah to Christ

robert-nyman-442994In the Bible, the “arm of the Lord” is a vivid image of God’s saving power. But is it more than that? In Isaiah 59:16 and 63:5, the prophet tells how God will save his people by his own arm. In context, this builds on an important theme in Isaiah 40–66. But it also amplifies the promise of the messiah. Indeed, as we study “the arm of the Lord” across the Bible, I believe we begin to see how the “arm of the Lord” leads to the Son of God, who as Hebrews 10:5 says, citing Psalm 40, has received a body prepared by God.

Indeed, by better understanding the origin, development, and goal of this phrase (“the arm of the Lord”), we will gain greater insight into God’s Word and the work he planned for Christ to accomplish—namely the salvation of a people from all nations. Even more, we learn something about how the anthropomorphisms of the Old Testament are intended to direct us toward God in Christ.

So to organize our thoughts, lets consider the arm of the Lord in eight steps. Continue reading

Acts: On Mission with the Triune God

[This is the most recent “Feeding on the Word” article for our church newsletter].

In most Bibles, Luke’s second book is entitled, “The Acts of the Apostles.”  However, as many commentators have noted, a more accurate title would be “The Acts of the Holy Spirit” because it is the Spirit who is responsible for convicting, converting, and creating the church. Yet, even this title is insufficient, because it tempts us to think that the Father and Son are absent. Thus, a better title might be, “The Acts of the Triune God Through the Church of Jesus Christ.”  While lengthy, such a title rightly emphasizes God’s work in and through the early church.

With this trinitarian framework in mind, lets consider how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together in Acts to convert sinners and create the church.

Continue reading

Father, Son, & Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware

trinity_wareIn six biblically-saturated, clearly-articulated chapters, Southern Seminary professor Bruce Ware develops an historical, biblical, and practical look at one of the church’ most mystifying doctrines–the doctrine of the Trinity.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is densely packed with biblical data, but clearly outlined to help provided an accessible grip on the uniqueness of each member of the Godhead.

Written at a popular level, Ware argues for unity and diversity, harmony and distinction, authority and submission between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  He follows the Western understanding of the relationship; God is one substance, in three persons; the Father sends the Son, and the Father and the Son (i.e. filioque) send the Spirit.  Ware uncovers the biblical data for these doctrines, but the strength of the book is its attention to application and the direct relationship that the Trinity must have in the church, the home, and in gender relations–hence, the subtitle, Relationships, Roles, & Relevance.

Consider the applications of each chapter:

On the Father: Marvel at the wisdom, goodness, care, and thoroughness of God’s authority; marvel at the perfection of his fatherhood; marvel at the wisdom of his divine delegation; marvel at his unsurpassing supremacy and glory; and look for ways to emulate and incorporate these fatherly traits.  In a world that despises and undermines authority, show gracious servant leadership that sacrifices yourself for those you are responsible to lead or oversee.

On the Son: Marvel at the submission of the Son to the Father for all eternity; marvel at the submission to the Spirit while on the earth; marvel at the relational love between Father and Son.  Personally, I sense this last application whenever I watch, hold, and care for my son.  What a gift that God would let us know the kind of Father-Son intimacy in our own families.

On the Holy Spirit: Be instructed by the Spirit’s humble willingness to participate in the Trinity virtually unnoticed without recognition or overt honor; ponder the willingness of the Spirit to assume authority over the son for a season and then to gladly relinquish that authority when Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father.  Most Christians will never be known, their names never documented by a biography or publicized for their great achievements.  They will be simple people who live lives depending on Jesus life, death, and resurrection.  In this, they are leading exemplary Spirit-filled lives.  I look forward to meeting those men and women. I want to be one of them.

On the Trinitarian Community:  Human relationships model the Triune relationship; the relationality of the Trinity calls for the creation of genuine Spirit-wrought community; the Trinity demonstrate equality in essence and eternal authority-submission that neither demeans nor devalues.  In this, America’s egalitarian church needs to be corrected.  It is wrong thinking to assert leadership and authority equals value.  Children are under their parents authority, but they have the same worth before God.  The authority-submission structure of the Trinity must overrule our culturally-determined proclivities.  Resultantly, husbands and wives must learn from the Trinity how to lead with love and submit with gladhearted respect, and churches must take God at his Word that men are to lead in the church and women are not to teach or have authority over men (cf. 1 Cor 11:4-6; 2 Tim. 2:12-15).  This is not a social construct.  This is a Trinitarian directive. 

In short, Bruce Ware’s book is a great introduction to the Trinity, especially for those who want to see how “Theology Proper” and “speculative” theology impacts our daily lives.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shows how the doctrine of the Trinity has everyday relevance and import. 

May we marvel at God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and may our minds and lives be transformed accordingly.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss