IT’S ALWAYS a the place to go for comedy scriptwriters, whether it’s the vicar in Barry where Gavin and Stacey have unwillingly attended church to hear their banns, or Peter Sellars the misfit country vicar in Heavens Above! Hapless ministers trying to illustrate the three-in-one of the Godhead can provide plenty of humour in trying to explain something quite counter-intuitive that really needs to be spiritually discerned. The three leaves of the shamrock, used by St Patrick in Ireland, or three strands of one rope, or three conductors which are essential for one electricity connection, are all good attempts which, however, are bound to fall short of illustrating the three individual, but indissoluble, Persons who are at the same time the One Person of the true God.
Scriptures that bring together Father, Son and Holy Spirit
There are more than 20 Scriptures that bring together Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one way or another and they’re not all in the New Testament. Isaiah, speaking of the Messiah to come, spoke for Him saying: “And now the Sovereign Lord has sent Me, endowed with His Spirit”1 . Just those few words tell us quite a lot about the relationship. The Father doing the sending, the Son who becomes incarnate as man being able to be sent and be among us, and the unseen empowering of the Holy Spirit enabling natural man to rise above himself in supernatural ways.
The trinitarian blessing
And here’s a verse that everybody knows — in many churches people will say this to one another at the close of a service or meeting: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” This is a simple but profound statement about how we experience God:
- In the grace of what Jesus did for us, who are undeserving, and in the new life we discover in Him;
- In the love of Father God, knowing that we are loved and accepted by a Father who knows every detail of our lives and cares deeply about us, with us in the trials and difficulties and as close to us as we make ourselves close to Him;
- In the fellowship one-ness and spiritual kinship we experience by the Holy Spirit, so other believers who may appear very different, perhaps of another culture and colour and country, are one in the same salvation experience and the same values of Christian life. That makes the breaking of bread with others in communion (the same word as fellowship) a truly special and uniting time – one with each other and with God.
The Great Commission given by Jesus
Some of Jesus’ very last words were a commission to His first disciples, and by extension, to us, to concentrate on mentoring new apprentices, drenching them metaphorically and symbolically in all three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit2 . Those who have made a commitment to Christ are commonly baptised in water and anointed with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus was, using these words of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the headlines of the ministry that will grow in them
God is love – in three Persons
Perhaps to best way to grasp what the Trinity means, is in how we relate to God as three Persons who are one. God is love3 , and we understand what this means in the three distinct ways we encounter God and His love:
- The Father’s heart of care and generosity, seeing our needs before we say anything, and providing;
- The Son whose understanding love comes out of having this lived this life with its rejection and injustices and slander – He has seen it all, experienced it all, and become the remedy for it all, for us.
- The Holy Spirit and His upbuilding love which we experience from Him as Encourager, Helper and Revealer. If you want to understand the Trinity, The Holy Spirit is the One to ask, because it is something that needs to be revealed in your heart. Is your heart submitted to Jesus and belonging to Him? The Holy Spirit is the person who shows you Jesus, resurrected, alive and present with you now.
The mission of God by Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Finally, let’s take a quick look at the mission of God and how this is a team exercise between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God created the world, and saw it was good, but as we know4 sin entered, man became increasingly independent — and after the flood and Noah, a path of salvation was needed. The Father’s plan increasingly highlighted the Servant who was to come, the Son who would be given — and who would become that plan of salvation. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 NIV.
Jesus, the Son of God and the Anointed One lived his earthly life in total deference to the Father and therefore without sin, but then took on the mantle of sin in allowing Himself to be put to a cursed death. His self-sacrifice paid the price for all who would choose salvation and restoration with God through believing in Him. But who will choose? Who is aware of their rebellion against God and their need of a saving solution? Who can overcome their pride to call Jesus Lord? We have the Father’s plan, carried out by the Son, but the third vital element is the preparatory work of the Holy Spirit in calling people out of darkness into light, and His part in the process of grace, salvation and faith proceeding from God before they arise in a person’s heart, calling them to be born again into eternal life5.
Regeneration is a choice to receive Jesus, but it is a choice which is initiated by God with all three Persons of God involved.