Ephesians 2:18 Our Triune God Sun. p.m. July 10, 2011
Several weeks ago, in my report from the SBC, I mentioned how one of the speakers talked about the importance of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and yet how ignorant many Christians are of it. In my daily Bible reading a few days ago, I came across a passage that emphasized the Trinity, and was led to share it with you tonight – Ephesians 2:18, which says: “Through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
Now the “big picture” of the context in Ephesians 2 is how the Jews and the Gentiles, once two separate peoples, are now one in Christ. (In fact, this context regarding the Jews and Gentiles is often overlooked when people quote verses on “election” in both Ephesians and Romans. The truth is, if you look at the context in BOTH of those books, they are talking about God’s choice of the people of Israel as His special people, NOT at His election of some individuals and rejection of others for salvation – but all of that is for another day!) The point here is, the context is how God has taken these two very different peoples, Jews and Gentiles, and made them one. And he says here in :18 “Through Him (and he is speaking of Jesus) we both (both peoples: Jews and Gentiles) have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Besides the wonderful point about how all peoples become one in Christ, we also see the doctrine of the Trinity in this verse: Through HIM (Jesus) we both have access in one SPIRIT (the Holy Spirit) to the FATHER – God the Father. SO here in this one verse we find teaching regarding God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
For too many of us as Christians, the doctrine of the Trinity IS a neglected doctrine – but it should not be so; it is a vital one. It should be more at the forefront of our theology and practice. It is especially going to be important as we fight the battles of faith we have mentioned in our study of Habakkuk. (Thus tonight’s message is not as unrelated to this morning’s as one might think!) The world is going to be proclaiming “gods” of various kinds; and think that they are just like us, for “they believe in God.” But they are not talking about the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is a Triune God. Many of you know that the Trinity is comprised of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Three yet One, in this mysterious “Trinity”. That IS the Christian conception of God, and we need to know it and proclaim it. I love what Alan Day, the pastor of FBC Edmond, Oklahoma, wrote several years ago about this. He said, “When I say ‘God’, I mean ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’” It is going to be increasingly important in our culture that we have this realization when we talk about God.
So let’s spend a few minutes looking at some truths about “Our Triune God” from Eph. 2:18 tonight. In this verse we find some important things about the role of each of the Persons of the Trinity, and which clear up some misunderstandings about how we relate to God.
I. It is the Father to Whom we go
Paul writes in :18, “Through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
It is TO the Father that we come, Paul says. God the Father is the goal; He is our highest end. We are coming TO the Father.
This is really the ultimate goal of all mankind: to come to the Father. The old Confession says: “The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” God made us to know and enjoy Him. He is the One to whom we are to come for satisfaction and joy.
Moses knew this, and so he said to God in Exodus 33:18, “I pray You, show me Your glory”! This request of Moses is actually the goal of every human being, whether we realize it or not. We have a hunger to see the glory of God, and to be satisfied in His presence. We talked about this Wednesday night as we looked at Psalm 42, where the Psalmist wrote, “My soul thirsts for God.” We all have a built-in hunger and thirst for God, which can only be satisfied by Him.
It is God the Father Himself who is our goal, as we see in a number of places in scripture:
– Jesus said “THIS is eternal life, that they may know THEE – the only true God.” Eternal life is knowing God the Father.
– Jesus called heaven, “My FATHER’S house.” Eternal life is being with God the Father in HIS house.
– Jesus taught us to pray to God the Father. In the Model Prayer of Matthew 6, He said that we are to pray “in this way”: “Our FATHER.” Sometimes you hear people ask: “Exactly to whom should I address my prayer? Which Person of the Trinity: Father, Son or Holy Spirit? Or does it matter?” Well, I think it does. Sometimes you hear people address their prayer, “Lord Jesus”; occasionally to the Holy Spirit of God – and they are indeed each part of the Godhead. But Jesus specifically taught us that it is God the Father to whom we come in prayer – and I believe that we should follow that model. We only come to God in Jesus’ name – as we shall see in a moment. And the channel by which we come to Him is the Holy Spirit. But we are not coming TO them; the Bible says we come TO the Father.
– It is knowing God the Father that is eternal life
– It is God the Father’s house to which we are going in heaven
– It is God the Father to whom we are taught to pray.
It is God the Father who is our ultimate goal and end. Paul shows us here that it is the Father to whom we go: he says our access is “TO the Father.”
II. It is through Jesus that we come to Him
But how do we GET to God the Father?! He is infinite; He is transcendent; He is so far beyond us. When Moses made the request of God to see His glory, God said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live.”
This is the very reason WHY God sent His son. We as human beings have cut ourselves off from God by our sin. Isaiah says, “Your iniquities have caused a separation between you and your God.”
So God came to earth in the Person of Jesus – that is, God the SON came to earth. God the Father could not; He is transcendent; He is beyond us; God the Father could not come – but God the Son COULD! This is the whole beauty of the doctrine of the Trinity, that it makes possible the Incarnation, that God could come to earth in the Person of Jesus, and God of very God could touch this earth – and more importantly, touch US as He came.
I was reading Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad the other night – a book which details Twain’s tour of Europe and the Holy Land just after the Civil War. He makes a number of interesting (and obviously many humorous) observations along the way. One of his more serious reflections was on how he felt when he first rode from Syria into the Holy Land, and realized that he was standing where Jesus had stood almost 2000 years before:
“It seems curious enough to us to be standing on ground that was once actually pressed by the feet of the Savior. The situation is suggestive of a reality and a tangibility that seem at variance with the vagueness and mystery and ghostliness that one naturally attaches to the character of a god. I cannot comprehend yet that I am sitting where a god has stood, and looking upon the brook and the mountains which that god looked upon, and am surrounded by dusky men and women whose ancestors saw Him, and even talked with Him, face to face, and carelessly, just as they would have done with any other stranger. I cannot comprehend this; the gods of my understanding have been always hidden in clouds and very far away.” (Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad, Chapter XLV, p. 437)
That difficulty in comprehension hits right at the heart of the doctrine of the Incarnation, and the doctrine of the Trinity. Twain felt like God was “hidden in clouds and far away” – which God the Father is, because of His transcendent glory, and our human sinfulness. But God of very God COULD come to earth, and stand where we stand, and “press the very ground our feet press”, like Twain wrote – because of the Incarnation of Jesus. Jesus brought God to earth, so that those of us on earth could come to God.
And He is the ONLY One who has done this. Jesus said in John 3, “NO ONE has ascended to heaven and descended except the Son of Man.” He is the ONLY One who has done this, and He is the ONLY one makes our connection with God possible. As we talked about this morning, just before Jesus faced the agony of the cross, where He would face the wrath of God for our sins, He cried out, that if it were possible, this cup might pass from Him. But God did NOT allow that cup to pass, because there was NO other way. God made a way for us to come to Him, in the one and only way that it was possible to be made: through the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son. There is no other way!
That is why Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” That is why the apostles preached: “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” The Apostle John put it in his simple and eloquent way: “He who has the Son has the life; he who does NOT have the Son, does NOT have the life.” The message is very simple: if you want to come TO God the Father, you must come THROUGH God the Son. There is no other way for that to happen: we come TO God, THROUGH Jesus; TO God the Father, THROUGH God the Son.
III. It is the Spirit who is the Channel through which we come
The Bible says here that it is “In One Spirit” that we have access through Jesus to the Father. This is important; it is the Holy Spirit – God the Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Trinity, who is the “channel” through whom we come to God. Jesus made this possible, but the Spirit is the “channel”, or “frequency” through whom we have communication with God.
We see this in Romans 8:26-27, where Paul writes: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” So the Holy Spirit takes the heart of our prayers and requests and translates them to the Father, and the Father Himself knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because they are One” – but the Holy Spirit is thus the “channel” in a sense, or like a “radio frequency” or whatever illustration you want to use, through Whom we communicate with God.
Thus God the Holy Spirit is in a very real sense, our day-by-day “lifeline” to God. It is the Holy Spirit who lives in us. We often speak of “asking Jesus” into our hearts, but it actually “the Spirit of Jesus” — God the Holy Spirit — who comes in. I Corinthians 6:19 says “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God.” He is IN us; we pray through Him. The Holy Spirit is the channel through whom we have our relationship with God. And He is vital; if you don’t have the Holy Spirit, you are not a Christian at all! Romans 8:9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him”!
So God the Holy Spirit is absolutely vital to the Christian life; He lives in you if you are a Christian; He is the channel through whom you relate to God, as this passage makes clear. He also gives you power in your inner man – and so much more that we don’t have time to go into this evening. But He is vital. We should not neglect and be ignorant of the 3rd Person of the Trinity: God the Holy Spirit.
But as in so many other things, we need to keep a careful balance in our attitudes toward Him. On the one hand, we don’t want to neglect Him; He is too important. Not long ago I heard someone say that Baptists don’t ever speak of the Holy Spirit – I thought, “Well I do!” But I know perhaps that is not entirely a false statement, as some Baptist have “shied away” from the Holy Spirit as a reaction to the abuses of the Charismatic movement. But we shouldn’t let someone else’s excesses keep us from the truth; God the Holy Spirit is vital to our Christian lives, and we must not neglect Him.
But on the other hand, we do need to realize that the Holy Spirit is NOT to be our emphasis – in fact, HE would not have us emphasize Him! Jesus said in John 16:14 that “when He, the Spirit of truth comes … He will glorify ME”! The Spirit of God does not seek to glorify Himself; He seeks to glorify Jesus (God the Son) and through Jesus, to glorify God the Father. But He does not seek to magnify Himself.
Some time ago, a Christian businessman gave a special gift towards a ministry purpose. But he said the condition of his giving was that he didn’t want his name mentioned. He just wanted the work to be done, but he wanted his name kept out of it. There are a number of godly people who have done the same thing; they give, they do – but they don’t want the attention; they want their names kept out of it.
What we need to realize is that the Holy Spirit is much the same way. He is the channel through Whom we have our relationship with God, but He doesn’t want our focus to be all about Him. If we make our religion all about the Holy Spirit, we have missed the mark. As one non-SBC preacher, in fact, said at the Southern Baptist Convention, if you have a picture of a Dove at the center of your church, you are probably missing it! It is NOT all about the Holy Spirit! HE would tell you Himself, it is not all about Him. It is about magnifying Jesus and the Father.
By the way, as a word of application, we would all do well to imitate the Holy Spirit in this! Let’s not make everything about us; let’s not have to have our name on everything, or have the spotlight on ourselves. Let’s imitate the Holy Spirit, and point people to Jesus, and to the Father!
But that is His role: through God the Son (Jesus), we come IN God the Holy Spirit, TO God the Father.
Let’s review that: we come “THROUGH Jesus,IN the Spirit, TO the Father”.
I hope you understand that what we have been talking about tonight is not just an “irrelevant doctrinal sermon.” This is a “front line” issue today, and is going to be increasingly so in the next few years. We are going to face enormous pressure to compromise on this doctrine: that God is a Triune God, and that Jesus is the only way to Him. We are going to hear over and over and over in the media that “we all worship the same God”, and that there are many ways to that God. But if the Bible is true, then those pluralistic ideas are false. We do NOT “all worship the same God.” When WE say “God”, we mean “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” All of those other religions do NOT mean that. We believe in a God the Father who loves us, and who is gloriously transcendent, and inaccessible to us because of our sins. But we also believe in a God the Son, who came to the very earth we tread in the Incarnation, who died on the cross for us and rose again, so that we could access to God through God the Holy Spirit, whom He sends into our hearts when we believe. That is NOT what all these other religions believe; and we are going to face more and more pressure to compromise on it. But we must not. “The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of God endures forever.” The “grass” of human philosophy and the “flower” of media attention will fade; but we must be careful to cling to the word of God, which is eternal truth, and will last forever. And that word clearly teaches us the doctrine we have studied tonight:
“Through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
THROUGH Jesus; IN the Spirit; TO the Father.