For I trust in You;
Cause me to know the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul.
Whenever I write a post I’m frequently left with too much to say, and many times a lot of things get cut or there is reading I still want to do. This was especially true in writing about Romans 8 and the Trinity. After spending time in John 14–16 in writing Romans 8:26–27: The Spirit’s Help and thinking through Romans 8: “If God Is For Us, Who is Against Us?”, there were several things I wanted to catch up on and read. I want to share them with you because they’ve been so helpful to me.
I’m going to walk you through my thinking and reading and how God helped me. Take your time as you read through the quotes on the Trinity. There’s a lot to think about, but there’s a reason why I included them, follow along, and you’ll find out how God newly applied John 15:9 to my heart.
I came across a post Fred Sanders did, Warfield’s “The Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity” Annotated, and in his comments on Warfield’s brilliant, but flawed (see Sanders) essay, this immediately interested me:
“My first reading of it was an intellectual and spiritual event for me. I probably can’t even fathom all the ways this aspect of the essay has helped me put together my own approach to teaching the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that is transparently biblical and keyed to the main, central points of the gospel.”
I printed out his pdf of Warfield’s “Trinity,” and started working through it. Sanders doesn’t reference which section had such an impact on him, but I think Warfield’s description of how the Trinity is revealed within the New Testament is at the heart. The word Trinity is not found within the New Testament, nor do Paul or the other apostles spend time explaining it as they do, for example, justification by faith. Warfield writes:
“What we meet within its pages is a firmly established conception of God underlying and giving its tone to the whole fabric. It is not in a text here and there that the New Testament bears its testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity. The whole book is Trinitarian to the core; all its teaching is built on the assumption of the Trinity; and its allusions to the Trinity are frequent, cursory, easy and confident. It is with a view to the cursoriness of the allusions to it in the New Testament that it has been remarked that “the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much heard as overheard in the statements of Scripture.” …The explanation of this remarkable phenomenon is, however, simple. Our New Testament is not a record of the development of the doctrine or its assimilation. It everywhere presupposes the doctrine as the fixed possession of the Christian community; and the process by which it became the possession of the Christian community lies behind the New Testament.”
Fred Sanders comments in the margin,
“Here Warfield accounts for the casual way the NT has of referring to trinitarian matters. Notice that he takes what is often seen as a weakness (a lack of explicit, formulated teaching) and makes it a strength (confident presupposition of established facts).”
Warfield goes on to explain what he meant above (my emphasis):
‘We cannot speak of the doctrine of the Trinity, therefore, if we study exactness of speech, as revealed in the New Testament, any more than we can speak of it as revealed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament was written before its revelation; The New Testament after it. The revelation itself was made not in word but in deed. It was made in the incarnation of God the Son, and the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit. The relation of the two Testaments to this revelation is in the one case that of preparation for it, and in the other that of product of it. The revelation itself is embodied just in Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is as much as to say that the revelation of the Trinity was incidental to, and the inevitable effect of, the accomplishment of redemption. It was in the coming of the Son of God in the likeness of sinful flesh to offer Himself a sacrifice for sin; and in the coming of the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, that the Trinity of Persons in the Unity of the Godhead was once for all revealed to men.“
Now read what Warfield writes next and marvel at God’s love for you (my emphasis).
“Those who knew God the Father, who loved them and gave His own Son to die for them; and the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved them and delivered Himself up an offering and sacrifice for them; and the Spirit of Grace, who loved them and dwelt within them a power not themselves, making for righteousness, knew the Triune God and could not think or speak of God otherwise than as triune.“
“This sentence rings trinitarian changes1 on the word “love,” by drawing together language from several NT passages.”
And if you’ve been reading my posts on Romans 8, then you know some of the New Testament passages Warfield alludes to in the sentence. This immediately got me thinking about other New Testament passages that ring the changes on God’s love. Here are many of them.
John 3:16; 13:1, 34; 14:21, 23; 15:9, 12–13; 16:17; 17:22–26
Romans 5:5–8; 8:28–39; 15:30
2 Corinthians 13:14
Ephesians 1:3–6; 2:4–7; 3:14–19; 5:1–2, 25–30; 6:23
2 Thessalonians 2:16–17; 3:5
1 Timothy 1:14
2 Timothy 1:13
1 John 3:1, 16; 4:7–21
2 John 3
Revelation 1:5; 3:9, 19
As you have time read through them, ask God to enable you to know Him, to remove wrong and distorted ideas of who He is, and to know Him in truth. For many, including myself, old relationships and patterns still echo their lies within our minds, denying God’s goodness and love for us, especially as we wade through hurts and daily interactions that scrape against our hearts. When I read John 15:9 it was as if I was reading it for the first time.
I thought, now wait, Jesus is describing how He loves me. He loves me as the Father loves Him. That’s how He loves me. It was mind boggling. All I’ve read about the love God the Father has for His Son came home. I searched for any who had commented on this and found that Charles Spurgeon has a sermon on John 15:9 called “The Utmost Love.”
“The pith of our text lies in this, that to make us know a little of how much he loves us, our Lord has paralleled his love to us with the Father’s love to him. What kind of love was that? Here we get into deep waters.
Spurgeon chooses a few examples of the Father’s love for the Son to describe the Lord Jesus’ love for us: without beginning, without end, intimate, immeasurable, immutable. Two of the passages he quotes are Isaiah 49:15 and Isaiah 54:10. Both chapters have meant a great deal to me.
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.”
Spurgeon also reminds us that God’s love did not preclude His Son’s suffering and neither does it for us, and quotes 2 Corinthians 4:17.
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison
He also describes many effects of Christ’s love upon us, including:
Love has also a melting influence. The hammer of the law breaks, but the heart, when thus broken, is like a broken flint, every bit of which is still flint. When the love of Jesus performs its office, it dissolves us, turning the flint into flesh.
I think that is applicable to more than the hammer of the law. When suffering breaks our heart we can be left with the broken pieces of flint of anger, resentment, bitterness, and despair. We need to know and remember the great love that God has for us and ask Him to melt these broken pieces of flint and heal our hearts, trusting that in all these things—things we don’t understand, things that make no sense, things that devastate our hearts—God will cause all things to work together for good.
One last word from Spurgeon:
“And when thou art once immersed in this love, continue in it. Christ does not love you to-day and cast you away tomorrow…Abide in his love…I admit that you will not reach it by your own power, and as you are in yourself. But I am not talking to you as you are in yourself. I am talking to you as you are in Christ; and as you are in Christ all power is given unto you.”
Take the time this weekend to think through these things. Look through your Bible. Write verses down on a 3 x 5 card or a small piece of paper, carry them with you, stick them on your mirror, and ask God to write His truth on your mind and heart. May God “cause us to hear” His lovingkindness in the morning and throughout our day and times. I will be praying for you, and I ask that you pray for me.
Morning, just after sunrise, Namibia: Olga Ernst. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Shield of the Trinity: This diagram goes back 900 years, dating to 1210. It was originally known as the Shield of Faith from Ephesians 6:16. Today it is called the Shield of the Trinity. According to Wikipedia it was designed to depict the beginning of the Athanasian Creed which states in part: “That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.”
LSB: Legacy Standard Bible
1“Ring the changes” is a phrase from the ancient English tradition of church bell-ringing. “This phrase derives from the practice of bell ringing. Each pattern of the order of striking the bells is called a change. In order to ‘ring the changes’ all the variations of striking pattern are rung, bringing the ring back to its starting point.”
2This translation of John 15:9 is from The New Testament for English Readers by the renowned 19th century Greek scholar, Henry Alford, including the punctuation. I’ve updated the archaic hath to have and used abide as he suggested. After reading Spurgeon I wondered if he also used Alford in his sermon, because of Spurgeon’s phrasing and the unique colon.
Copyright ©2021 Iwana Carpenter