Economic Trinity

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Devotional Word for Friday, June 12, 2020

Equality does not mean sameness. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the complex manner in which God created human beings and about the way God Himself works. God made human beings to be three-in-one creatures, that is, to be composed of body, soul, and spirit. Each of the parts is as equally and fully human as the rest of the parts. Our spirit is as much a part of us as our soul; our soul is as much a part of us as our body; and our body is as much a part of us as our spirit. So, there is equality without sameness.

This is also true of God. He exists eternally as the three-in-one God, that is, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of three persons of the Godhead are equally divine, equally God. But they function in different roles. This is called the economic Trinity. When we speak of the economic Trinity, the primary area of focus should be on God’s plan of redemption and how it is fulfilled.

Why should this Trinitarian exactness be of interest and importance to us? First, because it precludes some easily misbegotten errors on our part. One of the common errors is represented by trying to convey the notion of the Trinity as that of water, steam, and ice. Three different things, but yet all the same. That’s the very problem! God is three different persons at the very same time – and throughout eternity! Water cannot be ice at the same time it is steam. In fact, it cannot be ice or steam at the same time it is water. Do you see what I mean? But God is always at all times Father and Son and Holy Spirit, throughout eternity. Completely equal, completely divine.

Second, though there is and never can be any subordination as to the essential being of the persons in the Godhead, there is, as theologian Louis Berkhof says, subordination in respect to order and relationship. [Systematic Theology, p.88] We can see that in the plan of redemption. That famous verse, John 3:16, illustrates this: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. We see the Father here as the Administrator and the Son as the One who executes the plan of the Father. What is the role of the Holy Spirit, then? Just as redemption is brought to us by the Son, so He sends the Holy Spirit to bring it to full completion. Jesus is the Redeemer; the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier. 

Here’s how that “sounds” in the NT. Jesus said, I can do nothing on My own initiative . . . I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. [John 5:30] Jesus is intent on doing the Father’s will, that is, winning redemption for the people of God. Jesus, however, also speaks of the Holy Spirit and says, But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears He will speak . . . for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. [John 16:13-14] The Holy Spirit is intent on glorifying Jesus, not Himself, by drawing people to Christ. Jesus goes on to make a statement that is a Trinitarian statement, one of those that fill the Bible. Jesus says, All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He [the Holy Spirit] takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. [John 16:15] In the plan of redemption we see perfect equality right alongside order and submission. 

Finally, this Trinitarian reality is important for it declares to us and shows to us that all the resources of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are directed toward us, our salvation, our sanctification, and our glorification. I’ll give you two verses that demonstrate this.

The first verse is Ephesians 2:10. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we would walk in them. The Father has a plan for our lives, we are redeemed from our sins and made new through the work of the Lord Jesus, and then the Holy Spirit shapes and molds us according to the plan. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are conjoined in making us into the people He’s called us to be.

The second verse is Philippian 2:13. For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. When we read that verse now, we know that “God” means all of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all the resources of God, are at work in us. Our response is one of great gratitude and a determination to serve Him completely, with body, soul, and spirit. 

Three-in-one creatures seeking to glorify the eternal Three-in-One God, who said, Let US make man in OUR image according to OUR likeness. Hallelujah!

Let’s pray: Almighty God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we worship and adore You. We thank You for Your great power. We thank You for Your great goodness. We honor You because You are the one, true, living God – and You made us Your own. We are overwhelmed with gratitude. Help us praise You and glorify You more fully day by day. We pray in the name of the Lord Jesus. Amen.