Fasten your seatbelts everyone, this is a heavy one. The doctrine of the trinity as I understand it goes like this:
- The Father is God
- The Son is God
- The Holy Spirit is God
- The Son is not the Father
- The Son is not the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit is not the Father
- The Holy Spirit is not the Son
There has been all kinds of debate and speculation through the centuries about how God could be one, with the same essence, yet have 3 separate individualities. I am not really going there; I am affirming this nature of the trinity. However, I am going to speculate based on the truth of this nature of the trinity.
The separateness of the persons of the Godhead are not to be diminished or glossed over; this separateness of identity is extremely important. For example, we have this:
16 Jesus therefore answered them, and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.
17 “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.
18 “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
(John 7:16-18, NASB).
28 Jesus therefore said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
29 “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”
(John 8:28, 29, NASB).
42 saying, “Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.”
(Luke 22:42, NASB).
If Jesus had no autonomy, and could not of His own volition choose to do the will of His Father, then how would He have the ability to SEEK His Father’s glory? It is an essential piece of the Godhead that Jesus is able to CHOOSE, not His will, but His Father’s will. It is not that the Father controlled Jesus like a puppet in forcing Him to lay down His life:
17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
(John 10:17, 18, NASB).
We see a similar thing with the Holy Spirit:
4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.
(Hebrews 2:4, NASB).
26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
(John 14:26, NASB).
The case for the individual autonomy of the Holy Spirit from the scriptures is not as strong, yet we can know that it is foundational doctrine of the Christian faith from antiquity.
So, what are the consequences for us? Within the very Godhead, it is autonomous choice based on love and desire, that maintains the unity among the Godhead’s persons. There is love because there is freedom, and there is freedom because there is genuine liberty of choice. So it is with us. We are not to seek to die in the sense that we become God’s robots or puppets. Our obedience, our virtue, our righteous acts, are always from choice, and always from the joy set before us.
Why do I think that the nature of the relationships within the persons of the Godhead relate to us? Let’s look at this passage:
1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense,
3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
(Hebrews 2:1-3, NASB).
In context, the author of Hebrews has just gone on at length proving that Jesus is better than the angels. Here we see the stinger, the reason why this point is so important. When he writes about the word spoken through angels, what does he mean? The answer is right in the verse. It is a word in which every transgression is spelled out, the line of disobedience is defined, and recompense and punishment is spelled out. In other words, according to the scripture, the word spoken through the angels is THE LAW. The word spoken through Christ is different – it is SALVATION. The word of Christ is greater than the word spoken through the angels, because Christ is greater than the angels.
So we are invited into a kingdom which is above the kingdom of the angels.
3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life?
(1 Corinthians 6:3, NASB).
We are invited into a world where love is always the motivation, never the coercion of punishment. Our lives are not measured by conformity to standards of practice. In fact our lives are not measured – we have entered a gift culture where the only currency is gratitude. We are invited into a world where it is no longer we who live but Christ, and yet we retain our individual autonomy and choice to act. We are forgiven so that the barriers to the entrance into this world are removed, so that we may come boldly to this throne of grace, where the persons of the Trinity choose freely and autonomously to love, where their essence is one while their personhoods are distinct. This is the world we are invited to, because we are greatly loved.
To sum up, the Godhead is held together by nothing except love; there is otherwise complete freedom to choose. This is true on from eternity to eternity. We as believers are invited beyond any other coercion into the same place. This is amazing!