Wow, it has been exactly two months since I published a post…life has been busy. My silence has not been for lack of reading, or even for lack of writing. I have been reading several books (and looking forward to posting about each one), and I have even been writing, but I have not made time to sit and polish any pieces for posting.
I hope you enjoy this brief writeup for Delighting in the Trinity, by Michael Reeves.
Dr. Michael Reeves is president and professor of theology at Union School of Theology in Oxford, England. He has written and/or contributed to 30 different works, including The Unquenchable Flame and Rejoicing in Christ. You can read more about him at his bio page on Union School of Theology’s website here: UST.
Having only read reviews of the book on Amazon, I was not sure how solid Reeves was theologically. I only knew many testified that his writing had opened their eyes to what Scripture teaches about God as Triune: the Trinitarian Nature of God. I was impressed by his orthodoxy (doctrinal integrity or faithfulness to sound doctrine) all the way through.
Reeves opens the Introduction by describing the point of the book:
This book, then, will simply be about growing in our enjoyment of God and seeing how God’s triune being makes all his ways beautiful. It is a chance to taste and see that the Lord is good, to have your heart won and yourself refreshed. For it is only when you grasp what it means for God to be a Trinity that you really sense the beauty, the overflowing kindness, the heart-grabbing loveliness of God.
As I prepared to start the book I was concerned it would be simply a theological exercise, ending with the expected realization: “Well, the Trinity is both a theological concept and a mystery, and if we could understand it completely, we would be able to understand God. So, let us just be content to leave it as a theological concept.”
What I discovered though, through searching the Scriptures that Reeves points to, is that the Trinitarian nature of God is not just an aspect of God. It is not just one of his characteristics. It is who He is. It is His identity. You can’t come to know the God of the Bible as He has revealed himself without understanding He is a Trinity. The out-workings of this truth are far-reaching and applicable to our daily lives.
For example, what if we asked the question, “What was God doing before creation?” We often think of God as The Creator, and we would be correct. But if God is only the Creator would He have been God before creation? No. What kind of God needs His creation for Him to even be God? That is not a God I want to follow.
No, Scripture is clear that the God of the Bible is a Father. He is not primarily Creator or Ruler, but Father, and all His ways are fatherly. How does this inform our answer to the question, “What was God doing before creation?” What do Fathers do? They give life, and they love. God the Father was loving eternally, even before creation.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.1 Jn. 4:7-8
Here we arrive at a practical intersection of God’s trinitarian nature with the fact that God is love: how could God the Father be a father, and loving from eternity past, without having someone to love? There had to be an object of the Father’s love. By now you have probably guessed it, that object of the Father’s love is the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. Indeed in John 17:24 Jesus in speaking to the Father said: “…you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Just as the Father is eternal and has been loving from eternity past, the Son is eternal and has been receiving love from the Father from eternity past. It is important to affirm here that the Son is eternal. Think about it, if there was ever a time when the Son did not exist (i.e. if He had been created at some point), at that time God would not have been the Father. The Son must be eternal.
Just as “…the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does” (John 5:20), so also “…the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my father has commanded me.” (John 14:31) The Son loves the Father so much that doing His will is so pleasurable it is as if it is food to the Son (John 4:34).
Reeves highlights another important point about the relationship between the Father and the Son:
“And yet, while the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, there is a very definite shape to their relationship. Overall, the Father is the lover, the Son is the beloved. The Bible is awash with talk of the Father’s love for the Son, but while the Son clearly does love the Father, hardly anything is said about it. The Father’s love is primary. The Father is the loving head. That then means that in His love He will send and direct the Son, whereas the Son never sends or directs the Father.Delighting in the Trinity, pg. 28
So there is a clear relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father loves the Son, sends and directs Him, and the Son receives the Father’s love, shines out the glory of the Father, and does the Father’s will.
The Holy Spirit
Of the three persons in the Trinity I have had the least grasp on understanding the Holy Spirit. Somehow He is always an afterthought, or He is an impersonal force — some sort of divine “power”. But that is not how Scripture describes the Holy Spirit.
In the scene of Jesus’ baptism we have the Father proclaiming His love for the Son, while the Holy Spirit rests on the Son in the form of a dove. The Father makes known His love by giving the Holy Spirit. We see this in Romans 5:5 – “…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
As Reeves points out:
“The Spirit stirs up the delight of the Father in the Son and the delight of the Son and the Father, in-flaming their love and so binding them together in “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
A few of my Take-aways
There are many more points Reeves makes to show how the God of the Bible must be a Trinity, or things would not make sense. For the sake of brevity I will let you read them for yourself. Here are a few of my take-aways:
- The Trinitarian nature of God is not a characteristic of God. It is not the way God is. It is His identity. It is who God is.
- God is not God only because He is Creator, because before creation He would not have been God.
- There is no other God like the God of the Bible. No other God is a Trinity, and God’s beauty is shown in the fact that He is three distinct persons in one eternal God.
- Two enormously practical implications flowing from the Trinitarian nature of God:
- God is a Father and as such, He is outgoing. He is life-giving. To reflect Him well, we should be outgoing and life-giving. This does not mean introverts must become extroverts. It means we will seek to live sacrificially, spending ourselves for the good of others.
- In a marital relationship with a spouse, we are to live out the “cascade of love” Reeves describes in the quote below:
“…the shape of the Father-Son relationship (the headship) begins a gracious cascade, like a waterfall of love: as the Father is the lover and the head of the Son, so the Son goes out to be the lover and head of the church.”
“That dynamic is also to be replicated in marriages, husbands being the heads of their wives, loving them as Christ the Head loves his bride, the church. He is the lover, she is the beloved. Like the church, then, wives are not left to earn the love of their husbands; they can enjoy it as something lavished on them freely, unconditionally and maximally.”Reeves, pg. 28-29
This book was the most eye-opening and encouraging theological book I’ve read in years. It helped me to know God better as He has revealed himself in His word. I came away from it more awestruck by God, and more grateful that He could save me: an undeserving sinner!
You can pick up Reeves’ book here: Delighting in the Trinity.