The Trinity: Praying to the Father through the Son by the Spirit
The Christian doctrine of the Triune Godhead is often thought more in terms of an intellectual puzzle to be solved than a truth to be adored. But the fact of the matter is that the truthfulness of this Scriptural teaching is of immense practical comfort for the child of God. It is the Triune God who conceived of the plan of redemption, who accomplished it in history, who applies it in our own experience, and who upholds and supplies our every need.
Let’s consider our prayer and communion with God as an illustration of this reality. We who are children of God by grace come to a loving heavenly Father, through the intercession and ongoing heavenly ministry of our sympathetic high priest Jesus Christ, by the helpful ministrations of a caring Holy Spirit. To put it another way, we are not alone in this world. When the breakers of the storms of life crash against our souls, we have a God who watches over us and cares and provides for us.
Even as Christians on the pathway of faith for some time we tend to think the Father is an irascible curmudgeon. We fall into the trap of thinking the Father is stingy with his love and grace and care. We gratefully acknowledge that the Son may love us, but we wonder about the Father. Consider what the apostle John says in I John 3:1a “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…” (ESV). We could paraphrase the verb “give” as “lavish” as some translations do. I don’t believe that is an overstatement. The Father indeed loves his children.
This erroneous view perhaps arises from a misapprehension of the Son’s atoning cross-work. Many Christians live with an understanding of the death of Christ that robs them of spiritual joy and assurance and prevents them from entering fully into communion and prayer with the Father. The Son does not by either his death on the cross nor by his continual intercession for us have to twist the Father’s arms as if the Father begrudgingly grants his forgiveness and ongoing care. The Son does not earn the Father’s love for us by his death. On the contrary, the Son’s death is a manifest token of the already existent Father’s love (Romans 5:1-11). When we come to faith in Christ we gain a loving heavenly Father. In prayer we come to a loving heavenly Father. The fact that some of us have had the horrific experience of a demeaning abusive father should not rob us (although I know it often does) of our Father’s loving concern and care.
We come to a loving heavenly Father through the eternal intercession and heavenly ministry of Jesus Christ, our sympathetic high priest. In the Covenant of Redemption, the Son voluntarily agreed to become incarnate and undergo the miseries of this life and the excruciating death of the cross and the victorious resurrection from the grave for us. And when he ascended, he entered into the loving heavenly Father’s presence with our (now glorified) human nature where he represent us and has ongoing sympathy, indeed empathy, for us. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us throughout his letter that Jesus has undergone miseries and temptations with which we are ourselves quite familiar. I would say that Jesus has undergone more severe trials because he never once gave into temptation. In other words, he felt the full weight of his temptations whereas we typically give up long before that point if it can be truly said that we even tried to resist temptation. Jesus also bore the brunt of our own punishment. Our Lord has demonstrated his love and care for us and he continues to do so from heaven.
That is not all. The Holy Spirit assists us when we fail to know just how we should pray. He prays for us on our behalf (Romans 8:26). The Spirit searches our hearts and minds and conveys our jumbled and confused thoughts and emotions to the Father and the Son and he corrects our prayerful defects. This is beautiful indeed. The Holy Spirit, who Augustine and Jonathan Edwards remind us is the bond of love between the Father and the Son and the bond of love between God and us is on our side.
So, we see that not only our redemption narrowly conceived is a work of the Triune Godhead, but so is our ongoing fellowship and prayer. We come to a loving heavenly Father, through a sympathetic Son, by the loving and caring Holy Spirit. Knowing this and living our Christian lives in light of this is immensely practical. There is no Christian life without the Triune God.
Jeffrey C. Waddington (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) is stated supply at Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He also serves as a panelist at Christ the Center and East of Eden and is the secretary of the board of the Reformed Forum. Additionally he serves as an articles editor for the Confessional Presbyterian Journal.