Trinitarian Worship

I remember a college professor saying that worship should only be directed toward the Father and Son because the Spirit’s role was to remind us of Jesus. While it is true that the Spirit’s role is to glorify Jesus (John 16:14), it is equally true that the Father glorifies the Son (John 17:5) and the Son has glorified the Father (John 17:4).

The truth is that from the beginning of time there has been an amazing activity of glorification amongst the members of the Godhead. Dan Cruver writes;

The good news of the gospel is that God’s gracious provision of adoption, irrespective of our grievous demerit, is the activity by which he enlarges the circle of communion that has eternally existed between the three Persons of the Trinity! The joyful news of the gospel is that God the Father brings us to share in the loving communion that he forever enjoys with his eternal and natural Son through the work of his eternal and natural Son in our place and in our stead. Through adoption God graciously brings us to participate in the reciprocal love that ever flows between the Father and his Son. Not only is this the very heart of adoption; it is also the very heart of the gospel.[1]

This is truly worth celebrating on a Sunday morning! We are partakers of the Divine nature in Christ (2 Pet. 1:4). We no longer sit on the sidelines but are able to enjoy true union with the Godhead.

But, how does this happen? This question is central to a discerning understanding of the act of worship. Let’s consider each of the members of the Trinity and their action in our worship.

God the Father

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:3-6)

Paul tells us that God the Father has blessed us in the heavenly realms. How? By His work in predestination (see v. 4, 5) the Father has sovereignly chosen those who would be saved (Rom. 8:29-30), those who would be worshippers.  John 4 solidifies this sentiment when it attributes the pursuit of worshippers to the Father (John 4:23—“for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers”).

He did this for a specific end; “to the praise of the glory of His grace” (1:6). God’s sovereign choice of sinners emphasizes His grace (see Rom. 9:6-11) to the undeserving and unqualified.

Secondly, this Divine selection wasn’t just theoretical. It became very practical when the Father is attributed with adopting us as sons (v. 5) and freely bestowing grace upon us (v. 6). While He used means to accomplish this end (to be discussed next), He was the efficient cause (to use Aristotle’s terms)—He was the architect.

Generally, at risk of being simplistic, the Father’s role in our worship was to choose us as worshippers.

God the Son

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”

If the Father were the architect, Jesus is the builder. He is the part of the Godhead that made salvation real and actual. Notice the language of Ephesians 1; the Father predestined us through Jesus Christ (v. 5). He was the means—the material cause—of salvation.

How does this happen? Hebrews 10 gives us a beautiful picture;

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22).

How does one draw near with confidence? By the blood of Jesus (v. 19), through the veil of His flesh (v. 20), because we have a great high priest (v. 21).[2] Once again, Jesus is our great mediator who took the wrath of the Father upon Himself to give us redemption, the forgiving of our trespasses (Eph. 1:7).

Secondly, notice again the purpose of the work of Christ; that “we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory” (v. 12). Jesus’ work, like that of the Father, is accomplished so that we would praise God. Jesus is also creating worshippers. The Father created them by His sovereign initiative, Jesus by His life-giving blood.

Overwhelmingly, the worshipper needs to be reminded of the gospel’s power to get them before God’s throne to declare His praise. Outside of Jesus’ propitiatory role, the sinner can only expect death in God’s presence. Take note of accounts like that of Isaiah; when sinful men come into God’s presence they become acutely aware of their shortcoming before God and the impending judgment which they deserve (Is. 6:5; Ez. 1:28-2:1). But now, by Jesus blood, we come into God’s presence with the confidence of His crucifixion on our behalf!

God The Holy Spirit

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph. 1:13-14)

Here, Paul describes the third person of the Trinity as a seal guaranteeing our inheritance. This is to say that the Spirit is God’s down payment promising that someday we will be fully redeemed.[3] In short, one of the Holy Spirit’s many roles in our lives is the guarantee of many years of worshipping to come. What God the Father designed and what the Son accomplished, the Spirit now ensures.

Verse 14 seems to indicate that the Spirit is the mark by which God views us as His (v. 14 “possession”). Elsewhere in the Scripture, God describes righteous character as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). This is to say, it is by the Spirit’s work in God’s possessions that He makes those men and women into Godly people. He is changing the character of those who have placed faith in Jesus and our filled with the Holy Spirit. This act of putting off former behavior (Eph. 4:21-24) is itself a spiritual act of worship (Rom. 12:1-2).

Once again, the Spirit’s work is also to the praise of God’s glory, just like the Father and Son. The Holy Spirit in you is meant to bring about worship. And by His continued work we will increasingly put on Godly character, so that we are prepared to worship for all of eternity.

[1] Cruver, Dan. Reclaiming Adoption. Cruciform Press; Adelphi, MD; ©2011. Pg. 27

[2] Notice the temple language which the author of Hebrews employs; blood (sacrifice), veil (temple) and high priest (priesthood) are all present to remind us that the OT forms are still fulfilled to give us confident access.

[3] O’Brien, Peter T. The Letter to the Ephesians. Eerdman’s Publishing; Grand Rapids; ©1999; pg. 121

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