From the teachings of scripture, we know that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4). Yet, the God of the scriptures is one in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We know the Father is the one who sent the Son, and the Son sent the Holy Spirit, but that does not allow room for the conclusion that the Son and the Holy Spirit are inferior to the Father. They are each truly God, and each possesses different roles in relation to each other in the work of creation (Genesis 1:26, John 1) and the salvation of man (Ephesians 1:3-14). However, we see their distinctive roles working harmoniously.
In today’s article, we seek to emphasize and clarify the individual and harmonious work of the Trinity in the salvation of humanity. Every member of the Trinity is involved in the work of our salvation from the beginning (the choosing) to the end (glorification).
The Father – The Author of Salvation
In his letter to the saints in Ephesus, Paul reminds us that God authored salvation before the beginning of time (Ephesians 1:3-4). Paul ascribes praise to the Father who chose them before the foundation of the world and foreordained their adoption as his children through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3). God has already determined/chosen those who are his. Some have already been made aware of his choosing, and some are yet to know. But we know those who are his are by his choosing. The doctrine of election is not an idea someone came up with; it is a teaching we see all over scripture (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 9:10-24, 11:1-6, Isaiah 65:1, John 15:16).
The choosing of the saints is not because of anything they have done. Because of his purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Timothy 1:9), God sent his Son that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17, 6:38). He purposed Christ to be the focal point of our salvation. By faith (Ephesians 2:8-10), we know that our salvation is entirely the work of God for his glory. It is a gift (Romans 6:23) given to us. Salvation is by His Will, to His purpose, and by His design to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:9-10). What a humbling, wonderful, and comforting reality this is!
The Son – The means through which Salvation is Acquired
The Son, who is eternally one with the Father, stands under the headship of the Father (1 Corinthians 11:3, John 8:28-29). His incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension were acts of obedience to the Father. He is the means through which our salvation is achieved and perfected (Ephesians 1:6, Hebrews 12:2). Everything the Father does for our salvation, he does through Christ. We know that our sinful nature makes it impossible for us to reconcile ourselves to God (Romans 3:20). Thus, it is fitting that we have one who is holy, pure, unstained, set apart to atone for our sins and reconcile us to God.
Through his willful obedience to the Father in his sacrificial, substitutionary death, we receive redemption and forgiveness of our sins (Philippians 1:6-8, Ephesians 1:7). Through his resurrection and ascension, we are made alive in him and raised with him in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6). The means of salvation is about more than just following a to-do list. Those in him, given to him by God, stand justified by faith before the Father through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1) and await an inheritance promised and kept for us in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3,10,11). In Christ, the Son of God, you believe and have eternal life (John 3:16).
The Holy Spirit – The Seal and Guarantee of Salvation
A seal is a mark of ownership. In Paul’s day, a seal indicated a letter or scroll was closed or completed. When a king or dignitary wanted to show an identifying mark with a letter, he would seal it with a resin imprint of his ring. The Holy Spirit is God’s mark on believers and seals their belonging to Him (2 Corinthian 1:22). When Jesus says no one can snatch the believer from the Father’s hand (John 10:27-29), the promised Holy Spirit is the mark of this assurance. Geoff Thomas put it this way, “Not us saying, “We belong to Jesus,” but God saying, “This person belongs to me: hands off!” God has signified that you are his by putting within you the seal of the Holy Spirit.”
The seal is not a thing; he is a person of God that resides in the hearts of believers. The promised Holy Spirit is the evidence of our adoption into the family of the Father (Ephesians 1:13). The Holy Spirit works in us obedience and testifies to the authenticity of our Salvation (John 15:1-7) and our relationship with God.
The believers are promised an inheritance kept in heaven (Ephesians 1:10-11). This inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Peter 1:4). The Holy Spirit guarantees the believer’s awaited, promised inheritance—eternity in heaven with the Lord. During Paul’s time, a guarantee was like a transaction’s downpayment, which we would today refer to as a deposit. John Stott wrote, “A deposit on an item is more than a guarantee of payment; it is itself the first installment of the purchase price. So it is with the Holy Spirit. In giving him to us, God is not just promising us our final inheritance but giving us a foretaste of it.”
Praise God for Our Salvation
Their roles and relationships mark the unity and harmony of the Trinity in the work of salvation. Their Equality of essence does not conflict with the distinction of their roles, and distinction in roles does not mean that the value of the persons of the Trinity is different. How beautiful to see the harmonious work of the Trinity in our salvation as they work their distinctive roles to accomplish what was planned before the beginning of time. Bruce A. Ware commented that their “unity of purpose and harmony of mission yet with differentiation in lines of authority and submission within the Godhead is truly a marvel to behold.” No wonder Paul begins the Ephesians letter with gratitude for God’s work through the working together of the Trinity. To the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit be glory, praise, and glory forever. Let us echo this praise as in Ephesians and praise God for the work of the trinity in our salvation.
Ware, B. (2005). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance. Crossway