Barry is the founder and Professor of the M.Div. program for Mindanao Grace Seminary, Philippines.
We develop our understanding of the Trinity from the Bible. The doctrine of the Trinity is a revealed doctrine. It cannot be known through natural revelation alone. We see in Scripture that God is presented as one in essence and purpose and three in persons. The classical description is that there is “one God and three persons.”
Each person is unique. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Son or the Father. Each person is fully God, there is one God and each person is unique. The unique persons of the Trinity have separate operations or roles.
Opera trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa
This Latin phrase is used to explain the unity of the Trinity. The phrase can be translated as “the works of the Trinity on the outside are indivisible.” Simply put, this means that while a specific work of the Trinity may come through one person of the Trinity, all members of the Godhead are united and cannot be separated from each other. When one person of the Trinity is working they are working together.
The Father Elects
Ephesians 1:3-6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved."
According to this passage, the Father blesses us with all spiritual blessings. The Father chose us. And the Father predestined us. Salvation is initiated by the Father. He chose those whom He would before the foundation of the world. This verse says this clearly.
Many will try to avoid the obvious by claiming that this verse is not what it says. They will argue that the verse is emphasizing that those who are saved and predestined are to holiness. Others will say that election refers to Christ and those who are in Him. But the grammar is clear.
He: God the Father
Chose us: Those who will be saved
in Him: Christ is the means of our salvation
“He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.”
When did God choose? Verse four provides the answer.
“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world”
The Son Redeems
Ephesians 1:6-7 “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace”
The Father gives us grace in the Beloved. The Beloved refers to the one and only Son of God. Jesus is the source of our salvation. Our salvation is through the work of Jesus Christ. He redeemed us through His blood. It was the work of Christ on the cross that paid for the sins of those who will be saved. The blood sacrifice of Jesus was accepted by the Father so that the sins of men could be forgiven.
The Holy Spirit Regenerates and Keeps Us
John 3:6-8 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
This is a very fascinating passage. It is helpful to understand the context before we look at what Jesus said in these two verses. This, of course, is the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus tells him in verse three that one must be born again in order to even see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus, in good Jewish fashion, replies that the concept is absurd as one cannot re-enter the womb. And then Jesus, in the verses above, explains to Nicodemus something about the doctrine of regeneration.
The natural birth is of the flesh. The flesh is under the curse of Adan and man is born spiritually dead.
Ephesian 2:1 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins”
What dead men need is life – spiritual life. It is the Holy Spirit that grants this spiritual life. This is what is meant by the term regeneration. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, a person is born again. Like the wind, it is an invisible act. But also like the wind, we can see the effect of the act.
The Holy Spirit keeps Us
Ephesian 1:13 "In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise"
Once a person has been regenerated or born-again, they are safe in the hands of God. They cannot fall away. They are sealed. This has the idea that the act is promised to be completed. This is very much like a down payment on a piece of property, with the balanced will be settled in the future. In fact, the Bible uses this very type of language.
Ephesian 1:14 “who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
The pledge or deposit has been made and we will be fully redeemed when Christ returns.