The church has struggled to define God in the three ecumenical creeds — the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian. We confess that we worship God in Trinity–the mystery of three persons in one God.
And yet we do not understand the mystery of God by studying dogmatic propositions. The Bible reveals God in connection with what He has done and still does for us and for our salvation. In regard to the Trinity, there always remains a mystery that is revealed only by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.
The key to the belief in God, who reveals Himself in three persons, is the fundamental belief of faith that Jesus is the Son of God, true God, from eternity. The basic question of faith is posed by Jesus: “Who do you say that I am?” This question was answered for us by the apostle John. John wrote his gospel to reveal the three-in-one nature of God by showing how God saved the world from sin by sending His one and only Son in human flesh (John 20:31): “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” John’s Gospel shows the down-to-earth importance of the doctrine of the Trinity in connection with our salvation.
Let us see how John reveals the “doctrine” of the Trinity by showing in his Gospel that Jesus is the promised Old Testament Messiah and the “only” Son of God. John also shows the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit in revealing Jesus as the Messiah. I would suggest that you read John’s Gospel in its entirety at one sitting and trace the theme of ‘the Trinity and Our Salvation’ through this Gospel.
John begins with the mystery of the eternal “Word” who was with God and who was God (John 1:1-3). John ties this in with the wonder of our salvation. The eternal Word became flesh and we beheld His glory in His life and at the cross (John 1:14).
In the Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday (John 3), we see how only the person born of water and the Spirit is able to see the significance of God giving His only Son to be lifted up on the cross. The love of God is revealed in the activity of the three persons of the Trinity.
The Wondrous Mystery
When the “Word” (Jesus) revealed Himself as the Son of God by miraculous signs, it provoked the Jews to question His authority. Jesus left no doubt as to His relationship with “the Father” (John 5). “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:22-33).
In the Gospel reading from the sixth Sunday in Lent, the people understood perfectly that Jesus was claiming to be the eternal God (John 8:56-59). When Jesus claimed that Abraham saw His day and was glad, the Jews tried to stone the eternal ‘I AM.’
After Jesus said: “My Father and I are one” (John 10:30), the Jews lost it. “The Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me? The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:31-33).
Jesus revealed to the apostles His Father and the Way to the Father as He prepared them for His death (John 14:9-11). Jesus is in the Father and the Father in Him. Jesus is the Way. No man comes to the Father except through Him. This “Way” would lead Jesus to the cross where He would cry out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”
Is not this a wondrous mystery?
Jesus revealed His Father to us through the saving glory of the cross. “And this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:3-5). Jesus then promised to send the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) who would guide us in all truth.
As you read John’s Gospel, every chapter reveals that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah. You find revealed the saving nature of God, who has saved you from sin and death.
Find in the doctrine of the Trinity the story of your salvation and your hope of everlasting life.
–Pastor John Schierenbeck