The Trinity in salvation
This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).
In his book Reordering the Trinity, Rodrick Durst notes that there are 75 Trinitarian references in the New Testament. Many of these passages reveal the collaborative work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in securing our salvation. Space does not permit a full exploration of every reference, but we list several for the purpose of demonstrating how the Trinity is woven into the fabric of the greatest story ever told.
Romans 8:14-17 – “For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and coheirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
Followers of Jesus have received the indwelling Holy Spirit, who also serves as the agent in our adoption as sons and daughters of the Father. As adopted children, we are coheirs with Jesus in His inheritance of all things. This includes glorification, which is received when we are resurrected from the dead and clothed in Christ’s immortality. Paul shares a similar message of the Trinity’s work of adoption in Galatians 4:4-7.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 – “But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, so that you might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
From the beginning – that is, before the creation of the world – the Father chose / elected followers of Jesus. This action was grounded in His foreknowledge (see Rom. 8:29-30). The means God uses to bring about salvation, in addition to the finished work of Christ, is the work of the Holy Spirit, who calls, regenerates, indwells, baptizes in the Spirit, seals, and sanctifies. The human aspect of salvation is “belief in the truth” of the gospel.
1 Peter 1:1-2 – “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ …”
Peter describes Christians as chosen, or elected, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. We also are sanctified, or set apart and made holy, by the Holy Spirit. All of this hinges on the blood of Jesus, who cleanses us from sin. In a passage known as the “golden chain of redemption,” the apostle Paul links the Father’s foreknowledge to predestination; predestination to calling; calling to justification; and justification to glorification – an unbroken chain stretching from eternity past to eternity future (Rom. 8:29-30).
1 John 4:2-3 – “This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit [person claiming divine gifting for service] that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.”
John is writing against the Docetics, adherents of an early form of Gnosticism who deny the humanity of Christ, and who maintain that Jesus only appeared to take on a body. The apostle counters this by insisting that Christ is both divine and human.
Further, John says we will know if a person truly possesses the indwelling Spirit of God if he or she affirms both the deity and the humanity of Jesus. The Father has not sent the false prophet who disputes the Incarnation.
Hopefully, this column, and the previous one, have opened our eyes to the divine tapestry of the Trinity’s work of salvation. Yes, Jesus is our Savior. He, and only He, took on human flesh and bore our sins on the cross. He, and only He, rose physically from the dead to secure everlasting life for us. Yet, Jesus didn’t act alone.
In collaboration with the Father and the Spirit, Jesus volunteers to temporarily set aside His privileged position at the Father’s right hand and come to earth to rescue us from sin. The Father is in full agreement with this. After all, He is the one who sends Jesus (John 6:38). The Father also takes an active role in our redemption as the one who foreknows, elects, and predestines us.
The Spirit – whom both the Father and the Son send – comes to call us to salvation, to regenerate us, indwell us, baptize us spiritually, sanctify us, and seal us. The Spirit also serves as the agent through whom believing sinners are adopted as children of the Father and made coheirs with Christ.
One day, when Jesus returns, His followers are glorified, or fully conformed to the image of Christ. And we enjoy everlasting life in the face-to-face presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Apart from the three persons of the Trinity, and their collaborative work of salvation, we would still be dead in our sins and without hope of being restored to a right relationship with God. Christ is our indescribable gift (2 Cor. 9:15), whom the Father sends and the Spirit signifies. The triune God is worthy of all our praise.
Next: The Trinity and Scripture