Last week I began a series of blog posts to go along with a series that I am preaching entitled “Experiencing the Trinity.” Last week, we looked at the basic doctrine and some historic departures from the orthodox position. Click on the links below if you want to review these posts or listen to the sermons. This week, we are going to move forward to see how we experience the Trinity in our Salvation.
Click on the links below to see last week’s posts:
- There is only one God
- One God – Three Persons
- Each Person in the Godhead is Distinct
- Three common mistakes
If you would like to listen to the sermons click here.
Experiencing the Trinity in Salvation
Rod Adams was one of the best Christians I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. He and his wife Jean were members of Open Door Baptist Church in Colliers, West Virginia and I had the privilege of serving as their Pastor and calling them my friends. At least once a month, sometimes more, Jean would call and invite me to have lunch with her and Rod at their apartment. On one of those occasions Rod shared with his personal testimony.
When I knew Rod, he was one of the sweetest, kindest men you’d ever meet. But that wasn’t always so. Like many men in that area, Rod went to the Army right out of high school and to work in the steel mill right after his discharge. Over time he developed a reputation for being rough and mean. By his own admission, he was a womanizer, a drinker, and basically a scoundrel. But then through a series of events, God began to get ahold of Rod’s life.
Rod told me, “My first marriage had ended because I was unfaithful to her and basically I was running around doing all kinds of things that I shouldn’t have been doing.” But one of Rod’s friends began to share the gospel with him. Rod said, “At first I made fun of him and thought he was crazy. But eventually I began to see a difference in his life, a real peace and contentment that I didn’t have.” So, Rod began to ask some questions and even started reading his Bible. Before long he was going to church and talking to the Pastor. He told me, “It was strange, every time I read the Bible it seemed to be speaking directly to me. The more I understood about how much God loved me the more I wanted to know about Him. Eventually, I become convinced that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and that I needed Him in my life.”
At that point, Rod got so emotional that he began to weep. He then said, “One night, I couldn’t bear it anymore. I didn’t want to go on living the way I was, so I got on my knees and confessed my sin to Jesus and asked Him to save me.” Then he added, “That night my entire life changed, and I’ve never been the same again. God came into my life that night and saved me.” Rod had been born again.
As evangelicals, we all know people with stories just like Rod’s. In fact, if you are a believer, you have a story similar to Rod’s. Conversion stories are a hallmark of evangelical Christianity. In one sense this is positive. Our personal stories are powerful ways to open up opportunities for sharing the gospel with other people. Unfortunately, we sometimes get stunted by failing to see the big picture of our salvation.
This is partially due to the way we think about the salvation experience. For most evangelicals, our understanding of salvation has been reduced to the bare essentials. Our focus tends to be limited to the moment of conversion — how we get saved — while ignoring the process leading up to this moment. This way of looking at conversion is tragically shortsighted. Rightly understood, salvation is a work of all three members of the Trinity — God the Father elects us, God the Son redeems us, and God the Holy Spirit seals us. The best place to see this big-picture view of salvation is in Ephesians 1:3—14.
As in all his writings, Paul had a missional purpose for this letter. Much of his third missionary journey had been spent laboring in Ephesus (Acts 19) and his ministry there represents the high-water mark of his missionary career. From this city, the gospel would spread up and down the Lycus river valley to the furthest reaches of the Roman empire. It’s easy to understand, then, why Paul wanted to do everything in his power to ensure the continued strength and stability of this strategic church.
By the time this letter was written, the church in Ephesus was several years old. Its members no longer needed to be reminded of the rudimentary elements of the Gospel but were ready to capture a bigger vision of what God had done for them. So, beginning with the Father in eternity past, Paul zooms out and shows the Ephesians how each member of the Trinity was involved in their salvation.
- Chosen by the Father (v.3-6)
If you were asked you to share your salvation testimony, you’d probably start out the same way as my friend Rod. First, you’d tell me what your life was like before Christ. Then you’d move on to tell me how you came to know Christ before concluding with what your life is like now. This is a time tested and Biblical way of sharing our testimony. In fact, it is the very pattern Paul generally used when sharing his testimony (see Acts 22:1-21; 26:1-23). While our testimonies are a good place to begin our understanding of salvation and a powerful tool for witnessing, they are not to be the final word on the doctrine of salvation.
Notice that here in Ephesians, Paul wants to take us beyond the basics of his testimony. Instead of retelling his Damascus road experience, which they’d probably already heard before, Paul takes them into eternity past. He goes all the way back into eternity to ground our salvation firmly in the sovereign will of God the Father. This a good lesson for us.
While our testimonies are an amazing tool for sharing the gospel, they should never be our sole means of understanding salvation. We must go beyond the initial salvation experience by pulling back the tapestry of time and capturing a glimpse of the Trinity at work. That’s what exactly what Paul does in Ephesians 1:3-14. He transports us back into eternity, giving us a view of our salvation from the standpoint of eternity:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (1:3-6)
Paul grounds our salvation, not in the moment we chose to follow Christ, but in the moment God chose to save us. Our salvation, in other words, does not begin at the moment of conversion but in the eternal counsel of the Father’s sovereign will.
Tomorrow we will look at three aspects of God’s choice. Please follow this blog to receive regular updates and share with your friends if you find it helpful.