A couple of years ago, may nasakyan akong Grab at nalaman ko sa driver na “Christian” daw siya. I couldn’t recall kung mag-asawa na kami ni Yeng that time or mag-boyfriend-girlfriend pa lang. Throughout the conversation, it turns out that their church doesn’t believe that Jesus Christ is God, that the Son and the Holy Spirit is not God.
They only believe that there’s only one God, and that is the Father. In short, they don’t believe in the Trinity. I honestly couldn’t remember how the conversation ended: Whether I shared about the Trinity or I said nothing against his beliefs (as if there’s nothing wrong whether “Oneness” ka or “Trinity” ka).
But now that I remember that incident, I asked myself: “Should a Christian believe in the Trinity? What difference does it make whether you believe in the Trinity or not?”
Now, in our sermon series in the Heidelberg Catechism, the previous Lord’s Day talks about faith that leads to salvation. There is no salvation except those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. What then should a sinner believe? The gospel of God’s salvation as revealed in Scriptures and summarized by the Apostles’ Creed.
As Q. 24 answers, the Apostles’ Creed is divided into three parts and declares the truth of the Triune God. At pag-sinabi po nating “Triune God” or “Trinity,” it means there is one God, three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One divine Being, whom we call God, yet three distinct Persons united (subsisting) in one Godhead.
But why do we believe in the Trinity? How could we believe such a mind-blowing, incomprehensible thought? One God, Three Persons… Very straightforward ‘yong answer ng Catechism. Simply, that’s how God revealed himself in his Word.
You see friends, this is the proper way of approaching difficult truths about God. (e.g., Trinity, the two natures of Christ, the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ, etc.). The first thing we should do is not to scrutinize the Bible, but to submit to the Bible. Since the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, our beliefs must conform to what is revealed in it.
Some Biblical References
Eh paano ba natin malalaman sa Scripture ‘yong Trinity? Well, there’s no single passage that intensively teaches about the Trinity. But if we look through the entire Scriptures, maraming texts na nagbibigay ng proof that God is a Triune God.
- Genesis 1:1-2 — For instance, in Genesis 1:1-2 na binasa natin kanina. Sinabi do’n, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” Then afterwards it says, “and the Spirit of God was hovering…” (… “let us make man”)
That’s just one of the Old Testament texts. Pero hindi pa malinaw. Yet what was given a hint in the Old Testament became clearer in the New Testament.
- John 1:1-3 — In John 1, the writer introduces the “Word” who became flesh in verse 14, and is later identified as Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But in verse 1-3, John says that this Word is also from eternity and also the Creator of everything.
- Matthew 3:16-17 — Furthermore, the Triune God is perfectly pictured in the Baptism of Jesus Christ. You can see that in Matthew 3:16-17. It reads:
“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were open to him, and he saw the Spirit of God [i.e., the Holy Spirit] descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son [i.e., hence the one speaking is the Father], with whom I am well pleased.”
So one setting; there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God in the flesh. He didn’t transform into the Spirit of God descending in the form of the dove; he didn’t speak from heaven. No. There’s no change of modes.
Rather, the Son of God was being baptized, while the Holy Spirit descended upon him, and the Father spoke from heaven.
There are many other texts that point to the Trinity. And we will cite some more Scriptures later on in our sermon.
Now, I do not intend this afternoon to give us a technical, scholarly, discussion on the doctrine of the Trinity. There’s definitely many things and many questions that we can talk about the Trinity. And we will never exhaust the perfections of our Triune God even in 1 hour or 1 day.
But what I want us to focus on and meditate upon in our limited time this afternoon is the question, “What difference does it make when we believe in the Trinity?”
And friends, it makes all the difference when we consider the works of the Triune God (which theologians would call the economic trinity).
- In Creation, God the Father created the world by the activity of the Son (Logos) through the power of the Holy Spirit.
But since creation has fallen due to man’s sin, the glorious work of the Triune God is more clearly demonstrated in the New Creation.
- In the New Creation (salvation), God the Father redeemed us by the saving work of the Son and through the indwelling of the Spirit.
In sum, the Father decreed our salvation, the Son fulfilled our salvation, and the Spirit applied and sealed our salvation.
[TRANSITION:] So first, the Father decreed our salvation…
Main Point 1: The Father Decreed our Salvation
Although the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal, the work of decreeing everything especially our salvation before the foundation of the world is attributed to the Father.
In 1 Peter 1:1-2, the apostle declares that the Christians were elect (chosen for salvation) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. According to the “predetermination” or “predetermined plan” of the Father.
This is what Paul also referred to in Ephesians 1:4, “he [the Father] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.”
One more text that highlights the decree of the Father is Romans 8:28-30. We’ll focus more on verse 29. Paul says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Since it says, “his Son,” it means the main subject here is the Father.
Many would use this verse to support the false teaching on conditional election, meaning pinili daw tayo ng Diyos na maligtas ni Cristo kasi nakita na Niya bago pa ang simula na maniniwala tayo. “See verse 29, nauna ‘yong ‘foreknew’ saka Niya tayo na-‘predestined.’”
But even if we consider the order of Paul’s words here, let’s not disregard the previous verse. The end of verse 28 says that there are “those who called according to his purpose.” According to his plan. So God does everything—predestines, calls, justifies, and so on—because there is already a purpose, a plan, in the very first place.
ILLUSTRATE: Tayo po, for example. Maraming times na sinasabi natin sa iba, “See you tomorrow.” How can you know for sure na mag-kikita kayo no’ng kausap mo bago pa dumating ‘yong bukas? Kasi plinano mo na. You already decided and fixed it in your plan.
In a greater sense, friends, God the Father will not know beforehand that we will believe and be saved unless he is sure that we will indeed believe and be saved. And he will not be sure that it will happen unless he already decreed that it shall happen.
God said in Isaiah 46:9-11:
“… I am God, and there is no other… declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done… I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
So the Father decreed our salvation from the beginning. How significant is it?
Imagine 2 individuals promising to give your family support of any kind. One is a nobody. He sends you a message on Messenger, saying, “Promise, papadalhan kita ng support.” The second one is a Governor or the President of the Philippines, and he publishes a document stating his decree that you shall receive his support… Which is more secure? The one from the authority.
Brothers and sisters, our salvation is secure because it has been decreed by no other than God the Father himself. He purposed it before the foundation of the world. And what he determined and promised from eternity past will surely happen, and therefore nothing can thwart or threaten his plan of redemption.
[TRANSITION]: And indeed, God fulfills what he has decreed when he sent his Son in the person of Jesus Christ. So second, the Son fulfilled our salvation…
Main Point 2: The Son Fulfilled our Salvation
Two Lord’s Days ago, in Lord’s Day 6, we already established the divinity of Christ. He is the God-man. Fully God and fully man. When it comes to his work as the second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God fulfilled the plan of redemption decreed by the Father.
In John 4:34, Jesus said to the disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me [i.e., the Father] and to accomplish his work?” And what is essentially the will of the Father?
To show his glory by redeeming sinners and bringing them into his kingdom. And for that to happen, there must be a mediator—who will fulfill all righteousness, pay for our sins, and satisfy God’s justice. By ourselves, we can never meet God’s standards. As Hebrews 9:22 implies, there must be a perfect sacrifice.
Kaya nga sa 1 Peter 1:1-2, it is the “blood” of Christ—the incarnate Son of God—that was sprinkled for our salvation. So it is not the Father who fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf. Yes, he is perfectly holy and righteous. But what we needed to make us right with God is the perfect righteousness of a man. And it is the Son who did it in the flesh.
It is not the Spirit who died to pay for our sins. It is Christ, the Son of God.
So in the work of the Triune God for our salvation, the Father who decreed our salvation and he has promised it since the Old Testament. And then the Son, Jesus Christ, fulfilled everything necessary to accomplish that salvation as promised and planned from eternity.
Imagine a bakeshop owner promised to give you a “cake.” It’s already planned. Naka-set na ‘yon. You will receive a cake. But until someone prepares it and does everything to create an actual cake, the promise remains just a promise. Ika nga—hanggang “drawing” lang ‘yon.
Friends, our salvation did not remain a mere decree or plan of salvation. Hindi lang ‘yon nanatiling pangako since the Old Testament so that until now, wala pa ring progress. God has been preserving and directing every single thing throughout generations since Adam, and in the fullness of time, the Son of God came—born in the flesh, fulfilled all righteousness, and satisfied God’s justice.
Kaya ano po sabi ni Christ sa cross bago siya mamatay? “It is finished!” It has been finished! It stands finished!
What God promised, the Son fulfilled.
[TRANSITION]: Now, the One who fulfilled God’s purpose and satisfied God’s justice is Christ, in his own person, in his own body. In fact, more than 2000 years ago na ‘yon. The question is: How can that salvation be actually yours? That’s the Spirit’s work.
Main Point 3: The Holy Spirit Applied and Sealed Our Salvation
In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God promised to his people, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”
In the whole plan of salvation, God put his Spirit (the Holy Spirit) to dwell within his people. And by his indwelling Spirit, we become cleansed and renewed in our hearts, our minds, and our lives. Ito rin ‘yong sinasabi ni Paul sa Titus 3:5, “the washing of regeneration by the Holy Spirit.”
As we already mentioned in the previous Lord’s Days, we are fallen and corrupt in nature. Wala tayong kakayahan na magbago at ikiling ‘yong ating mga sarili patungo sa Diyos. Kinakailangan ng pagkilos ng Banal na Espiritu. And what the Spirit does is open our hearts and minds that we repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
And once true faith is there, God the Father declares us righteous on the merit of Jesus Christ. We become justified, we become forgiven.
But there’s more. The Holy Spirit doesn’t just illuminate our minds and make us new, leading us to faith and repentance. He also unites us with Christ. In Romans 8:11, Paul says that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. And whenever the Spirit dwells within us, then Christ is in us.
That is why, ang isang Kristiyano ay hindi “legally declared righteous” by God as through faith in Christ (i.e., justification). Because of the indwelling Spirit, we are also being conformed more and more to the image of Christ so that we become actually righteous (i.e., sanctification). The Spirit already enables us to live like Christ.
So while Christ accomplished everything necessary to secure our salvation, it is the Holy Spirit who applies what Christ accomplished to us. Christ fulfilled perfect righteousness; the Spirit gives us faith that makes us righteous before God. Christ came to restore the broken image of God in sinful man; the Spirit renews us and sanctifies us to become like Christ.
Back to my illustration earlier. Imagine the bakeshop owner who promised to give you a cake is finished creating it. Si-nend-an ka pa ng pictures. Na-post na ‘yong picture sa Facebook, naka-tag ka pa. But until that cake is delivered to you, placed in your hands—then that cake is still not yours.
Beloved, the great thing when it comes to our salvation is that the Father promised redemption, the Son fulfilled it, and the Holy Spirit applies to us all the saving benefits of Christ. He makes salvation truly and definitely ours.
Sometimes, we are guilty of neglecting or thinking lightly of the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, Christ is the object of our faith. It is his perfect righteousness as the God-man that is the ground of our righteousness before God.
In fact, you don’t even need to deeply understand the Trinity in order to be saved. If you want to receive forgiveness and be saved, repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
But as you grow in faith as believers, you cannot forget the work of the Spirit. The reason you repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is that the Spirit powerfully takes away the hardness of your hearts and gives you a love for Christ.
The reason you can commune with Christ… the reason you can pray to the Father… the reason you can now do good works, mortify sin, and obey… is that the Holy Spirit dwells within you.
Just to CLARIFY po, while we distinguish between the works of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—we do not separate them. We’re not saying that when salvation was decreed from eternity past, the Son and the Spirit were not involved. Even in our sanctification, since the Spirit indwelling us is the Spirit of Christ, it will not be wrong to say that Christ is also sanctifying us (through his Spirit in us).
So the whole plan and work of salvation—decreed by the Father, fulfilled by the Son, and applied by the Spirit—is one redemptive act of God throughout all history.
[TRANSITION]: In the end, we admit that all we can discuss and understand about the Trinity is but small fragments of the infinitely, immense perfection of our eternal God.
But at least, when we consider the works of the Triune God, what does it mean to us?
Conclusion & Final Application
Our salvation is complete and secured! Parang ‘yong lyrics ng isang song, “Signed, sealed, delivered!”
Prior to our knowledge and even existence, God already decreed our salvation (he didn’t wait for us to decide whether we will be saved or not)… And he didn’t just decree it, he accomplished it (he didn’t ask us to do it ourselves)… And he didn’t just accomplish it in Christ, he applies it and seals it to us by the Spirit (he didn’t leave us figuring out how Christ’s finished work will become ours). It is definitely NOT OUR WORK!
God secured everything for our salvation from start to finish. And that is the ultimate reason we can rest assured in our salvation in Christ.
Sometimes we are too consumed with all the technicalities of doctrine (Not that we shouldn’t care about being precise and deep in doctrine). But have we considered to stop and just be in awe of the marvelous works of our Triune God?
Beloved, as God continues to reveal himself to us by his Spirit, let us praise that we will know him more and love him more for his salvation. Indeed, all praises and glory be to our God, the blessed Three in One! Amen.
BENEDICTION: “Beloved, let us go in peace and live in the assurance of God’s salvation for us… And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (cf. 2 Cor. 13:14)
Reuel Dawal is the Minister of the Word and Sacraments at ZCRC. He was an intern prior to being ordained and installed as the church's new pastor. He is currently finishing his Biblical and Theological Studies at the Miami International Seminary (MINTS) online. He and his wife Yeng are married since 2017 and lives in Imus, Cavite.