God’s design and will is to dwell within his redeemed. Thus we can properly speak of the indwelling Trinity. Our Lord stated that his departure (through his death and after his resurrection from the dead) would make this possible (see John 14:23-24). This is a truth which has not been well understood nor been adequately taught in the Christian churches.
This is great mystery and a central truth that marks the faith of the Church as distinct and dynamic. Our affirmation of faith in the Triune God requires us to be open to the divine operation of the Holy Spirit—which is beyond our understanding. We cannot control God and God does not take lightly any efforts to manage his actions by religious pretense or manipulation parading as piety. The mystery of the indwelling Trinity, when one begins to understand it, either compels us to bow down in worship or abandon faith in the living God for idols we can tell ourselves we control. In the current issue of the Resonance journal, the article Practical Trinitarianism, (https://theologicalresonance.com/journal/practical-trinitarianism/) states this divine reality well.
“[For] Paul’s exposition of the Trinity in these verses [Ephesians 1:3-14] is an expression of overflowing worship rather than a dry theological treatise. When we attempt to worship without an understanding of the character and nature of the Triune God, our worship rings empty and hollow. When we turn the character and nature of our God into a dry academic study, we miss out on the power and the passion that we have been redeemed for. However, when we let the truth of the nature and character of God inform and energize our worship, we will never run out of raw material for our worship.”[i]
We who name the Name of Christ believe in the Father he revealed and the Holy Spirit whom he promised would be sent to us—indeed to all who would believe. This act of God for us and to us is the ground of our hope because without this we cannot have any measure of assurance of our knowledge of God or of his good will for us. The source of our hope is based on the truth the indwelling Trinity.
Think of the kind of cakes you see at weddings or other special occasions. I am imagining one that is three layered but with different flavoring, colors and ingredients in each distinct layer. Yet the same kind of cake (chocolate or vanilla) is used throughout all three layers. And one the outside is frosting of one color which leaves the impression that it is all composed of the same thing. Only when I have cut into the cake do I realize that there are layers and different parts to it.
This may be a silly metaphor but frankly all metaphors are trite and silly compared to the reality of God’s being and character. Think through this with me: The cake is designed to be delightful to the eyes and the taste and this kind of cake is especially reserved for a celebration of the people coming together. Those who know God through Jesus Christ can together delight in God and celebrate together the fullness of God’s grace by faith because of the gift of the indwelling Trinity. To those outside who have not tasted of God’s life within their souls this makes no sense.
The teaching of Paul in the letter to the Ephesians amplifies and clarifies the Trinitarian nature of God’s work of redemption. And in that redemption he gives us glimpses of the Godhead. I will not here attempt to explore in detail the whole of that section of that extraordinary letter—Jason Koon did that well in Practical Trinitarianism. Rather I want to expand on another comment he made in that article and then make a few comments on the biblical text.
“During the opening decades of the 21st century, many in the church seem to have developed a distaste for doctrine. Essential teaching such as the dual nature of Christ and the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead are now considered boring, even irrelevant to daily life. The reality is, however, that nothing could be further from the truth. If we build our worship, prayer, and discipleship on something other than a biblical understanding of the nature of God, there remains nothing distinctively Christian about them. I fear many of my brothers and sisters in the faith are moving dangerously close to this kind of reality.”[ii]
I could not agree more heartedly with this assessment. In the name of loving and being sensitive and even mission-minded many Christian leaders have soft-peddled doctrine in favor of “life application” which utilizes psychological principles more than the wisdom of Scripture or dependence on the Holy Spirit. The evangelical protestant churches are particularly noted for this. And thankfully some are beginning to notice that adopting therapeutic-psychological methods as the primary tools of shepherding people spiritually is not bearing fruit.
What we need is what every generation has needed: A commitment to learn biblical teachings, to pray in accord with the truth revealed through Scripture and press into knowing experientially the living God who is here and is always speaking. An essential part of that spiritual journey is to know oneself and honestly name and renounce anything that has kept one from living free in Christ. What has been missed is the reality that we must know what is real first before we can accurately discern what has or is happening to us emotionally or in our bodies. The truth sets us free because it is in the light of truth that we are able to see clearly.
Paul helps to clarify part of the nature of spiritual reality in Christ in Ephesians. He summarizes the whole long paragraph (vv.11-12) and adds a few more nuanced points. Paul adds and restates that we were chosen “as an inheritance”—not merely that we have an inheritance but that we have become God’s inheritance; this clarifies the purpose for God choosing the redeemed –that we would be “holy and blameless in his presence in love” (v.4). He reaffirms that this act of making of us his holy people (identity), who are blameless (our character) and who love God together (our core relationships) is done in keeping with the decision beforehand and the plan, entirely within the mind of God’s own counsel (Trinity), that we might live forever “to the praise of his glory” (1:12)—we who have now (in our time) put our hope in Christ
Further, Paul wants us to know that for those who heard and believed the Gospel, God has marked them with a “seal” through the “Holy Spirit of the promise” (Greek word order, v.14). Holy Spirit is the guaranteeing down payment of our inheritance (heavenly wealth) from God. Yet the Spirit was also given to assure us who believe that we will become God’s full possession to God’s glory (and to our eternal blessedness!). Thus it is by the indwelling Spirit that the indwelling Trinity operates to complete the divine will of making his redeemed people his own inheritance.
Our willingness to participate in the life of God through the indwelling Spirit of God is the key for making God’s will operational. He waits for us to yield and enter into the life of God planted within us. The power of grace is demonstrated by a person’s reception of the full provision for life and growth into spiritual maturity (see 2 Peter 1:3-4). God’s act of redeeming through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit being given are the reasons that we can offer ourselves as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1-3). Thus there is an undissolvable connection between one’s sanctification process and our worshipping God with one’s whole life.
[i] Rev. Jason Koon, Practical Trinitarianism; Resonance, Volume 4.3, Autumn 2018, p.28.
[ii] Koon, Practical Trinitarianism; Resonance, Autumn 2018, p.25.