The orthodox Trinitarian doctrine states that God exists as three persons (Father, Son, Spirit) in one being. There is only one God in terms of ontology, but there are three distinct persons that share this Divine essence. So the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father or the Son – but the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God.
“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19)
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor 13:14)
“To those…who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work o the Spirit, to obey jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood” (1 Pt 1:1-2)
Though it can be confusing, it is fundamentally important to recognize that Christianity is monotheistic.
A Trinitarian Salvation
It can be helpful to examine how each member of the Trinity operates. For example, the Father ordained the universe but created it through the Son. The Spirit convinces the dead-heart of Scripture but in a way that exalts the Son. Specifically for this article, I would like to consider the soteriological work of God. What actions has each member of the Trinity taken to redeem a people?
First, the Father chose whom He would redeem (Eph 1:4-6). In eternity past, He set His love on certain sinners. This love did not look for a difference among people (as if He chose the best and brightest) but made a difference. Though none of these rebels deserved to be chosen for such a glorious end, the Father mercifully decided to love them.
Second, the Son suffered in the place of these specific rebels (Eph 1:7-12). The Son took the form of a man and lived a perfect life on earth. In living a perfect life, He earned righteousness before God. On the cross, the Father smote the Son with the righteous indignation meant for His people whom He chose, and His people receive the credit for the Son’s righteousness.
Third, the Spirit awakens these certain sinners from a life of hating God to a life of loving God (Eph 1:13-14). This is when the benefits won on the cross are applied to God’s people. These sinners are sealed in the Holy Spirit, never to be taken out of God’s salvific love.
A Trinitarian Ethic
In salvation, these are the distinctive works of each member of the Trinity. I want to briefly explain how my belief and experience of the Trinity affects the way I love others.
First, as the Father’s love for His people, my love for people is not dependent upon their actions but upon my decision to love. I do not aim for the ones who seem to benefit me the most, or the individuals whom I best get along with. My desire instead is to mirror the Father’s love by unconditionally serving those around me. This type of love is truly the strongest because the dispositions of other people are not variables to be considered. The only consideration is whether or not I choose to love them.
Second, as the Son’s love for His people, my love for people is self-sacrificing. Paul addresses this in marriage: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). Based on my decision to love those around me, I should be willing to give of myself freely for their benefit. The consideration is not, “Do they deserve this?” but rather, “Am I able to help?” My action is motivated by my prior choice to love them, and determined on the greatness of their need rather than the merit of their lifestyle.
Third, as the Spirit’s love for His people, my love is active and pursuing. Rather than wait for our response, the Spirit seeks and powerfully awakens God’s people to His truth. Similarly, my love for others should not hinge on them reaching out to me. I do not mean a pestering love, but an active love. My service is always at-the-ready, to be deployed whenever I see the need arise.
My belief in the Triune God compels me to unconditionally, sacrificially, actively love others. In this, I mirror God’s own love for His people.