Our exploration into the doctrine of the Trinity continues as we are about to see exactly how the gospel is the story of the Triune God. Here are links to the other articles in this series:
In this article, we'll be seeing God at work as Trinity in the redemption and salvation of mankind. First, let's do a quick recap. Here's a concise outline of the doctrine of the Trinity:
1. There is only one God.
2. The Father is not the Son is not the Spirit.
3. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.
Working in Harmony
The fact that God is Trinity implies that God is a relationship. He has relationships within Himself – between the three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. This characteristic of God as being a relationship is shown through the three members of the Godhead working as one in harmony, through differing yet complementary parts like the notes of a musical chord.
The gospel is the prime source from which this can be observed as it recounts the workings of the Triune God in the pivotal moment of history – the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Let's attempt to unpack the gospel with specific focus on God at work as Trinity.
In a colour coded article, for ease of understanding, references to the Father would be highlighted in red, the Son in blue, and the Spirit in green, when the Bible is quoted. This is a black print news sheet. Father will be bold, Son underlined and Spirit in quotes.
We'll start the story from the beginning, at the conception of Jesus Christ. Luke 1 verse 35 recounts the moment when Mary was given the news that she would give birth to Jesus. "And the angel answered her, "The 'Holy Spirit' will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God." In the conception of Jesus, we see each person of the Trinity at work in harmony as one, yet they remain clearly distinct from each other.
Here, the Son is to be incarnated through the work of the Spirit under the power of the Father.
It should be noted that God appears to work through specific relationship orders. In essence, these relationship orders concern how the three persons of the Godhead relate to each other at different stages/aspects of God's redemptive work. In the case of the conception, the order appears to be Father à Spirit à Son, the Father sends the Son through the Spirit.
The use of the preposition 'through' simply means that the workings of the Spirit was the means from which the Son was conceived.
Mark 1 verses 10-11 describes the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the river Jordan.
"And when he, Jesus, came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the 'Spirit' descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
All three persons of the Godhead are at work at Jesus' baptism, the Spirit is embodied as a dove – a symbol of gentleness and peace, and the presence of God the Father can be seen through the voice from heaven. Once again, we witness the beautiful harmony yet distinctiveness that is inherent to God as Trinity.
Here in the baptism of Jesus, we observe a relationship order similar to that in the conception: Father à Spirit à Son, the Father sends the Son in the Spirit. I use the preposition 'in' rather than 'through' here because this particular passage highlights the unity between the Son and the Spirit, instead of the role of the Spirit as a means of actuating an event such as in the conception.
In this passage, we also get a glimpse of the perfect mutual love between the three persons of the Godhead as the Father declares His love and contentment for His Son.
This passage from Hebrews 9 verses 13-14 tells of the completeness and sufficiency of Jesus' death as a means of purification but also highlights that Jesus' death is the work of God as Trinity, "For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal 'Spirit' offered himself without blemish to God."
Take note of the preposition 'through' in "through the 'eternal Spirit'", indicating that the work of the Spirit was the means through which Jesus was sacrificed to God. At this point, I think it is necessary that I confess some gaps in my knowledge. I'm not entirely certain whether the use of the word 'God'is referring specifically to God the Father or to the Godhead as a whole. Whatever the case, it remains clear that God works as Trinity in the death of Christ.
Resurrection and Ascension
Romans 1 verse 4 speaks of Jesus' resurrection, "– and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the 'Spirit of holiness' by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord."It is according to the Spirit that Jesus was appointed as 'Son-of-God-in-power' through his resurrection from the dead. He is at the right hand of God the Father and is the mediator between God and man."Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." – Romans 8 verse 34.
So far, we've seen that the doctrine of the Trinity is at the heart of the gospel – from the conception of Christ to His resurrection and ascension.
Day of Pentecost
Let's examine another crucial moment in history with focus on God as Trinity – the Day of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. Have a look at this passage from Acts 2 verses 32-33, "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the 'Holy Spirit', he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing."In this passage, we observe a relationship order that is different to the ones discussed above.
Here, the order appears to be Father à Son à Spirit, the Father sends the Spirit through the Son. The passage captures this by accentuating the role of the resurrection and exaltation of Christ as the means through which the Spirit is poured out.
All that God Does
At this point, it's quite obvious that all that God does, He does as Trinity. When one of the persons of the Godhead is at work, the others are also present. For example, let's consider the doctrines of:
Revelation – We know the Father through the Son by the Spirit (John 1:18; 1 Corinthians 12:3).
Election – We are called by the Father into union with the Son through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 1 verse 9; Colossians 2 verse 12; Romans 8 verse 15).
Salvation – We are reconciled to the Father through the death of the Son offered through the Spirit (2 Corinthians 5 verse 18; Hebrews 9 verse 14).
Sanctification – We are transformed by the Father into the image of the Son through the indwelling of the Spirit (Colossians 3 verse 10; Romans 8 verse 29; 2 Corinthians 3 verse 18).
Prayer and worship – We approach the Father through the Son in the Spirit (Hebrews 10 verse 19-22; Galatians 4 verse 6; Romans 8 verses 26-27).
There is order, there is harmony, and there is distinctiveness in the way that God works as Trinity in everything that He does. This includes the history of redemption and salvation that is the gospel – the story of the Triune God.
I conclude this article with quote from the American systematic theologian, Dr. Fred Sanders, "We are surrounded by the Trinity, compassed about on all sides by the presence and the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
Anton Zhang is studying aeronautics and arts at the University of Sydney, he is part of a family of four, his hobbies include music, hiking and fencing. He is an active part of the Christian youth work at the Padstow Chinese Congregational Church.
Anton Zhang's previous articles may be viewed at