Father, Son, & Holy Spirit
In Ephesians 1:17, Paul tells the Ephesians he prays for them as follows, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” There you have it: Father, Son and Holy Spirit all working together for the Ephesians’ (and our) benefit.
But Paul is not alone in associating Father, Son, and Spirit. In 1 Peter 1:2, Peter writes that his addressees scattered across Asia Minor “have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood...”
The early followers of Jesus steadfastly maintained that there is one God and one God only. At the same time, the writings of the New Testament show Jesus doing the things that only the one God does. To cite one example, in Mark 2:1-12 some people bring a paralytic man to Jesus. In response, Jesus forgives the man’s sins. Some scribes sitting nearby hear Jesus’ words and react appropriately, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (2:7) The scribes are correct. Only God can forgive sins. But Jesus just forgave the man’s sins. How do we explain this identification of Jesus with God? And we haven’t even brought the Holy Spirit into the discussion yet!
Early Christians came to explain this association of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in what we call the “Trinity.” In theological shorthand, that means one God who exists in three persons. A more complete explanation of this concept goes far beyond the scope of this article. But a “Trinitarian” understanding of the one God has stood firmly at the heart of Christian belief across the centuries.
What then is the significance of such a view of God? For one, God who exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is relational. As we saw in the quotations from Scripture above, the three members of the Trinity work together for our salvation and restoration of all creation. In traditional Christian language, the Father sends the Son to accomplish a redemption applied by the Spirit. Furthermore, John tells us that, “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and love cannot exist on its own. Its relational or it doesn’t exist. The three persons of the Trinity exist in love.
Because God exists in relationship, we can also live in relationship with God. We pray to God. We learn to “walk” in God’s ways (see Psalm 1). We experience remorse when we sin. We rejoice when God forgives and restores us in relationship.
Within Summit’s very DNA is relationships. Our church seeks to form biblically functioning communities and to connect people in Christ-centered relationships. Those purposes and goals are built on solid biblical and theological foundations. God exists in relationship. God relates to us and we relate to God. And God intends for us to relate to one another. Living in relationship with one another around a common commitment to Jesus Christ lies at the heart of God’s purposes for us. It’s one way we can live into being created in the image of God.
Jim Miller and his family started attending Summit in 2008. Over the years he and his wife, Ann, have been a part of several missions teams, served as mentors for Marriage Prep, and led a Connect group. Jim teaches New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary.