May 17, 2024

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Sinclair Ferguson
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

The New Testament regularly describes our redemption in Trinitarian terms. Today, Sinclair Ferguson shows that knowing the work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in salvation can enrich our worship of the triune God.


The Christian life is Trinity shaped. That’s been our theme all this week on Things Unseen. I wonder if you’ve ever seen those puzzle pictures where you’re told there are twelve things hidden in the picture and you must try to find them? For some cognitive reason, we seem to vary a great deal in our ability to spot things like that. But what I used to find when I did those puzzles was that it might take me a minute or two to spot one, or perhaps two, and then for some reason, probably related to the way our perception works individually, I would see another and another and another quite quickly. And then things would slow down before I might or might not spot the last one or two.

I think spotting the Trinity in the pages of the New Testament is a bit like that. And I rather suspect that there are some Christians who faithfully read the New Testament but hardly ever think about the Trinity, but then someone says: “Do you see that? Look at this passage. It’s about the Trinity. Do you see the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit here?” And you spot a reference or two, and then somehow you get it. And then you start finding references to the Father and the Son and the Spirit all over the place, and then you begin to see that the Father and the Son and the Spirit—one God—are present everywhere you look, even when they’re not mentioned like that.

I think of one example. Galatians 4:4 is a great Christmas text. It’s about the coming of Christ: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under a law, so that eventually we might receive adoption as sons.” That’s a Christmas text, but it’s actually also about the Father. It’s the Father who sent the Son. And Paul goes on to say that when we receive the adoption as sons, the Spirit comes into our hearts, the Spirit of the Son, crying, “Abba! Father!” In other words, he’s saying, for us to be conscious of what it means to have God as our Father in Jesus Christ—God as the Father who sent His Son into the world for our salvation—the Spirit also has to minister in our hearts to give us such a consciousness of His fatherly love that we call out, “Abba! Father!” So, there’s a text about Christmas that has actually got to do with Trinity.

The Apostle Paul works this out in some detail in Romans 8. Now, I know that may be one of your favorite chapters, perhaps your most favorite chapter in the Bible, but I wonder if you’ve ever noticed that it’s actually full of references to the Trinity? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit weave their way into almost everything he says. Nor is it just Paul, the great theologian, who teaches us this. It’s also the man who had the fishing business in Galilee and perhaps only a synagogue-school-level education. I mean, Simon Peter.

Have you ever noticed how his first letter begins? It’s rooted in the Trinity: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood.” No wonder he adds, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you,” because when the Trinity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—engage together for your salvation, then indeed grace and peace are multiplied to you.

I value a work written somewhere over 350 years ago by the great Puritan theologian John Owen. It has a rather quaint title, I think because it didn’t have a contents page, actually. It’s this: Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Each Person Distinctly) in Love, Grace, and Consolation: Or, the Saints Fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Unfolded. John Owen’s thesis is actually very simple, but it’s wonderfully profound. He argues that since each person in the Trinity has a particular role in the work of God, the work they all do together, we can worship the one God with respect to what each person does. So we praise God the Trinity for saving us, but we especially praise the Father for planning and sending the Lord Jesus. We praise the Son for coming and dying and rising. We praise the Spirit for revealing and indwelling, and so on and on.

And I think we instinctively understand this. You may have a new assistant minister who comes, and he leads in prayer in a service, and he’s a little nervous. He begins his prayer by addressing the Father, and within about thirty seconds he’s thanking the Father for coming and dying for us on the cross. He’s just got a little confused. We don’t accuse him of the early church heresy of patripassianism, believing it was the Father that died on the cross. But we realize he’s confused because we know the Father didn’t die for us on the cross, only the Son did. And what Owen is saying is, therefore, it’s the Son we thank for dying on the cross, and actually we don’t thank the Father for doing that, but we do thank Him for sending His Son to die on the cross. And when you think about the various operations of the Holy Spirit in that way, what happens is that your sense of wonder and appreciation of who God is as Trinity and what He has done in this marvelous Trinitarian conspiracy to bring us salvation fills your heart with joy and love and adoration and praise, and your fellowship with God is therefore wonderfully enhanced.

So, maybe we should end this week when we’ve been thinking about the Trinity with the words of the doxology:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

And I hope you’ll join us again next week.