The Trinity: What's Love Got to do with it?
Let me pose a question: while meditating on God are we sufficiently Trinitarian? I don’t mean do you believe in or confess the Trinity. Many would happily check the box marked “Trinity." However, having confessed it, many of us quite frankly do not know what difference it makes.
Using Galatians 4:4-7, let’s draw this out in three successive points concerning the Trinitarian work of God to show God’s love. We should note while “love” and “Trinity” are not mentioned in these verses per se, it is clear from the whole of Scripture what God is described as doing in these three verses is grounded in His love. Second, this passage does not “work” unless God is Triune. In other words, we cannot conceive of the actions undertaken by God in this passage apart from God being Triune.
First, the love of God is accomplished by the sending of the Son. The love of God is an active love. As the saying goes “love is a verb.” It is something that you actively express for someone.
God the Father accomplishes His love by the sending of the Son. Let’s highlight a couple of words here:
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
There are two aspects to notice. First, God the Father and God the Son existed together in heaven from all eternity past. There is no point in eternity when the Son did not exist and enjoy fellowship with the Father.
Second, there was a point in time when the Son was sent. It was “in the fullness of time.” So, the Son who existed from all eternity is at a point in time sent so that He would be born of the woman. Not only this, but he comes as a Jewish child under the Old Testament covenant law of God.
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, came to be our redemption. He died on the cross to bear the curse of sin (Gal. 3:13). Jesus died on the cross so that we could be set free from sin. This is the love of God flowing to us from the Father and Son. So God the Father loves us and sent His Son for us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10) but the Son also loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). Thus, there is no conflict between the Father and the Son in this plan. Jesus obeyed the Father’s will but Jesus also loved us and did not balk “do I have to do this?”
Second, the love of God is applied by the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit pours God’s love into our hearts by virtue of His presence in us and we in turn can cry out in loving communion with God because of the Holy Spirit in us:
Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Romans 5:5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit in them. In fact, God’s love came into the world when God sent Christ, but God’s love came into our hearts when the Holy Spirit regenerated us with new life.
We find here that we are unrighteous and filthy in our sin with nothing good residing in us. But what did God do? He cleansed us. He renewed our hearts by the Holy Spirit and made us born again by the Holy Spirit. He poured out the Holy Spirit richly upon us; He did this through the work of Christ. This means the coming of the Holy Spirit as the application of redemption is directly tied to the accomplishment of redemption on the cross by Jesus Christ. Unity is fundamental to their working because they are unified in their essence.
So God the Father sends the Spirit but it is the Holy Spirit of the Son (a) because Jesus had a perfect spiritual experience with the Holy Spirit in His earthly life, and (b) Jesus is the one who went back to heaven so that the Holy Spirit could be sent. He too is involved in the sending.
Third, the love of God is experienced by us in our adoption. God’s love for you is shown in that all His working on your behalf by each of the three persons results in your adoption into His family, so that you become a full heir of the inheritance that Christ won.
Galatians 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
We should immediately note that our sonship by adoption is not the same as Jesus’ sonship. We do not share in the essence of the Godhead. Jesus is the eternal Son; we were adopted. We have the privileges but we do not, nor will we ever, exist as God.
Yet, God’s love in our adoption brings a status to us and an inheritance for us. We are in the family now. We share communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in a manner analogous to their communion so long as we clearly understand we commune with God as creatures. In the Trinity, the persons commune as equals in their divinity.
Let us conclude with the following two thoughts.
First, the Trinity is who God is. God is Triune—one God in three persons. Your intimacy, fellowship, and relationship is directed at one God manifest in three distinct persons. If you are a child of God you can say “The Father loves me; the Son loves me; the Holy Spirit loves me. But there are not three gods loving me but one.”
Second, each of the three persons show their love to me. In this there is unity. The Father shows me His love by decreeing Christ’s work. God the Father sends the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son and the Holy Spirit perfectly accomplish what the Father planned. The Son shows me His love by dying for me. Jesus obeys and so loves His Father. He loves me too and willingly lays down His life for me. Equally, the Holy Spirit loves me. He is the agent that draws me to the Father. He is the presence of God’s love in me and has perfectly united me to the saving work of Jesus via union with Christ, a union the Father decreed in eternity past.
There is one love from God and one will of God, not three. The love of the three persons functions in perfect unity. One God accomplishing one salvation for one people of God. God is triune and His love is perfected in the unity of the accomplishment and application of the love of God, which is our salvation. God in His unified working perfectly accomplishes His love. Since only the love of God is perfect, only God’s love perfectly fulfills us. When we grasp this, we arise in sweet communion with God praising the Almighty one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Tim Bertolet is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and Westminster Theological Seminary. He is an ordained pastor in the Bible Fellowship Church, currently serving as pastor of Faith Bible Fellowship Church in York, Pa. He is a husband and father of four daughters. You can follow him on Twitter @tim_bertolet.