There are many passages in the New Testament referring to how each part of the Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all have a role in the salvation of believers. But passages in which all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned and described can be hard to find sometimes.
As I was doing my devotions this morning, I read through Ephesians 1 where we are given a beautiful picture of how each part of the Trinity works to bring believers to salvation in Christ. The following is based in Ephesians 1:3-14.
God the Father: The Father’s primary role in salvation is to predestine, or predetermine, those who will come to Christ.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…According to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will…In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (v.3-5, 7, 11)
This predestining is not based on foreseen works or actions that God sees an individual will do when he predestines them. Rather, we see that it is “in love,” and “according to the counsel of his will,” and “according to the purpose of his will,” and lastly, “according to the riches of his grace.” This is also seen in Romans 9 where Paul is talking about Jacob and Esau and he says,
“though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls — she [Sarah] was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’…So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:11-12, 16)
Our predestination and salvation are not works or merit-based (thank God!). If it were, one of two outcomes would occur. It would either mean that no one would ever be saved because our good works alone would never be good enough for God, or it would mean that man would become God and his salvation would be determined by his own good works. At that point, there is no good in serving and God-figure if you alone hold the power to decide your destination.
God the Son: The Son’s role in salvation is bringing the plan to fruition that the Father set in motion.
“…he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ…In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ…In him we have obtained an inheritance.” (v.5, 7-9, 11)
The Father’s plan was “set forth in Christ.” God made the plan, Jesus enacted it. God predestined some (the elect) “according to the counsel of his will,” and Christ was sent forth to ransom them. Christ died, particularly for the elect.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” (Eph. 5:25-26)
In Christ’s death, believers have “redemption” with God; we are brought back to a place where we can have fellowship with and know him like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. But there is no redemption unless something else happens. Without the removal of our own sin, we cannot stand before the sight of God. Sin in and of itself is contradictory to the nature of God and is infinitely damaging to his being. But Christ took care of that too. He made it so that those whom God predestined could stand before God righteously. We took on Christ’s righteousness, while Christ took on our sin.
God the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit’s role in salvation is to sanctify, or keep those who are saved growing in their faith.
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (v.13-14)
God predestines, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit keeps. It is through the empowering of the Holy Spirit that believers reach their final destination: heaven.
“Therefore my beloved, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
God works through the Holy Spirit to ensure that those he predestined will never fall away. Jesus promises “eternal life” to those who believe in him. Not life that lasts a few years, 10 years, or 50 years, but life eternal. It is the Holy Spirit whom our hearts are sealed by when we truly, genuinely profess Christ as our savior.
This passage in Ephesians brings together the three parts of God and how each works in their own distinct role. But while they each have individual roles, they all seek toward one goal: to glorify God through the work of Jesus Christ by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. That is the Trinity at work.