John opens his gospel by speaking about The Word who was with God. The Greek word translated “with” literally means “towards” and may carry the idea of two persons face to face. The Message paraphrases,
The Word present to God,
God present to the Word
So before anything existed there were two persons in relationship: the Word and God. Towards the end of his prologue John will call The Word “Son” and he will call God “Father”. “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (NRSV 1:18). So God’s very being must now be understood as essentially personal, dynamic and relational.
In another place, John tells us that God is love (1 John 4.16). John does not say God has love or God is loving. He says, “God IS love”. When we hear the words “God is Love,” we usually think first of God’s love towards us. No wonder! His love towards us is so wonderful! However, before we talk about God’s love towards us we must talk about God as love within himself. Our God is love because he is three persons in love relationship. (John will speak later about a third person). The Father has always loved the Son. The Son has always loved the Father. In the love of the Spirit, these two have always been turned towards one another in self-giving love. And God’s love for us is an expression of God’s faithfulness to his own eternal life, which is essentially communal love.
Father and Son always knew each other with love’s own way of knowing in the Spirit. So when the Father’s Son became one of us he always made the Father known to us as his Father. Jesus didn’t proclaim a general idea of the Fatherhood of God and then say that is my Father. No! Jesus made God known particularly as his own Father. He continually tells us that he was sent by his Father. He joyfully served his Father. In love, he always obeyed his Father even unto death on a cross. Indeed, he said he was in his Father and his Father in him.
The Father also made known that Jesus is His Son, his unique Son. We hear him saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” So, we don’t make God Father by becoming his children. He has always been Father of the dearly loved and unique Son. And the Father was always finding his greatest joy in this Son who was always close to his heart before anything was made.
Flowing out of this Father-Son love relationship, the Father wants a large family that shares the likeness of his Son (Romans 8:29 NRSV). So, one day Jesus will stand before his Father saying, “Here I am and the children God has given me”. We are that family of sons and daughters in union with the Son. And even now, by the Spirit, we enjoy our belonging within this circle of family love.
“Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth… (Luke 10: 21)
Through Jesus’ praise, we are given a glimpse into the inner relations of God. Within the Triune life, the Son is always delighting in the Father with great joy through the Spirit. He is doing so, as the dearly loved Son with whom the Father is always well pleased. Does this joy of God loom large in your thinking about God? When you hear the word “God” do you instantly think of a communion of joyful love? Or does your concept of God not allow you to see fully the mutual joy of Father and Son in the joy of the Spirit? I ask because I think too many live with a view of God that that lacks a joyful heart. And so they are not likely to rejoice freely in God.
Through Jesus, God has revealed himself to us as a communion of joyful love. And the Spirit of joyful love now joins us to Jesus so that we share in his joyful praise before the Father. We don’t try to work up glad praise we simply allow ourselves to share in Jesus’ delight before his Father. For by the Spirit of God’s Son we cry abba Father and that is the joyful cry of the Son that we now share in. We are in the joyful Son and he is in us as joyful children in the joy of the Spirit.
In the Jesus story, we see the Father loving his Son and the Son loving his Father. We see them no other way. And the way we see them in this love relationship is the way they always are within the eternal circle of love. They are never other than this. Not in time or eternity.
In the Jesus story we also see the Father loving us by giving his Son to us and for us. Through Jesus, the Father freely reaches out in love to bring us home to himself as our Father. And the Father was always in himself what he is towards us in the Jesus story.
Through the Spirit of God’s Son we now gain access to the Father with the Son so that we are brought right inside the Son’s love relationship with the Father. Sharing in the Son’s communion with his Father, we may not be able to solve the doctrinal puzzle of three in one and one in three. Nevertheless, the Father has shown himself to us through the Son and by the Spirit. And now he gathers us into his own Triune communion of love with Jesus by the Spirit. And within this ongoing love relationship the Father continually opens himself to us “telling us things about himself which we could never tell ourselves…and calls for new ways of thinking and speaking about God on our part”
(T. F. Torrance). So we continually know our Father ever more deeply in love as love.
Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father”. That was so because Jesus, the Father’s Son, is One in Being with the Father. When Jesus acted his Father acted in and through him. When Jesus spoke his Father spoke in and through him The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. They are One.
This oneness in being is dynamic and relational. When we look at Jesus we see him always relating to his Father. And we see his Father relating to him. Jesus was always talking about his Father as he served his Father. He was always giving himself to accomplish the work his Father gave him to do. And the Father was always giving himself to Jesus, his dearly loved Son.
Jesus baptism is a snapshot of this relating. In that moment, Jesus presented himself to his Father in love as the willing Servant-Son. And the Father responded saying, “you are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. This personal relating took place in the joy of the Spirit who came on Jesus and remained on him. From that moment, Jesus went on to serve his Father in the Spirit always looking to his Father. His very food was to do the Father’s will.
John says when we looked at Jesus,
“We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.”
No one has ever seen God or can see him. So, left to ourselves we are always staring at a Nameless and Faceless Divine Being. This is the unknown God who will always be beyond our tiny minds. It is the remote, unknowable Deity who always remains locked up in his own aloofness.
Jesus is God opening himself to us through a human just like us. And so through Jesus, we see God himself with a human face. Now, God is not limited by our inability to know him. He overcomes our weaknesses by communicating himself to us in a lowly human. He has freely moved outside of himself to share in our human life enabling us to share in his own eternal Life and Love. This is the true God who will not be without us and who will not allow us to be without him. For he created us with the purpose of sharing in the Triune communion of love. And with this purpose in view, he came to us in Jesus showing us who he is and what he is like while bringing us home to himself.
The more we come to know God in this lowly way the more wonderful we know him to be. We see that he is a God who infinitely exceeds all our thoughts and words about him, but who reveals himself tenderly and intimately to us with a human face. That loving and lowly God fills us with wonder, love and praise in the Spirit.
Left to ourselves we may think about God in ways that are abstract, remote, static and impersonal. However, we are not left to our own thinking about God because he has revealed himself to us through Jesus by the Spirit. Through this unveiling of God, we now know him as essentially relational.
The main focus of the Jesus story is the Father-Son relation. The Father is always moving towards his Son with delight as his beloved. The Son is always moving towards his Father returning his love with joyful thanksgiving expressed in trustful obedience. Jesus was always talking about his Father as he served his Father. He was always giving himself to accomplish the work his Father has given him to do. And the Father was always giving himself to Jesus, the beloved Son, with whom he is well pleased.
In this relationship of joyful love Jesus knows, is known by, and makes known his Father. As Jesus says, “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” So now, in union with Jesus by the Spirit we share in this knowing. The Spirit of God’s Son brings us into living union with the Son so that we actually share in his relationship with the one he calls Father. We are not standing at a distance observing the Father-Son relationship we are actually sharing in the relationship on the inside. In this way, God draws us near to himself within the circle of his own knowing of himself.
To know the Triune God more deeply we always stay within the Jesus story. We stay within the story because we know that who God is in Jesus he is eternally within himself. He is not different in himself from who he is towards us in Jesus. So we continually move through the story centred on Jesus to discern ever more clearly and deeply who the Triune God is within himself. For reflection on Trinity is not a movement away from Jesus, but always a movement further into Jesus. We move into ever more deeply into the one who is alive here and now revealing himself to us by his Spirit.
As we immerse ourselves in the Jesus story, God opens himself to us through Jesus and the Spirit showing us more and more that he is the communal being who eagerly seeks communion with us. He also opens us to himself in the Spirit through Jesus enabling us to draw near to him as our own Father sharing in his circle of love. In this loving action, God continually creates an intimate two-way relation between himself and us and us and himself. This is an ongoing and dynamic relating in love that fulfils God’s purpose for us. For he always wants to be God with us and he always wants us to be with him in deep union and communion. Within this dynamic and relational knowing we know ever more fully the love that surpasses knowledge.
When considering knowing God the very first thing we say is Jesus. For Jesus is the unveiling of God to us. And as so we say Jesus we also say that God IS Father, Son and Spirit as one communion of love. We say God IS Triune simply because that is the way God has made himself known to us in Jesus within the gospel story. As T. F. Torrance says, “Through his self-revelation in the incarnation God has opened himself to us in such a way that we may know him in the inner relations of his divine Being and have communion with him in his divine life as Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. Trinity isn’t added on to everything else we say about God, Trinity is who he is. So we begin with Jesus and the Triune Communion and continue with this view of God all the way through. Everything else we say about God must be Jesus shaped and thus trinity shaped.
However, when we start speaking about God as Trinity we must be careful to always stick with Jesus. As Geordie Zeigler says reflection on Trinity is not a movement away from Jesus, but a movement further into Jesus. So we don’t attempt to know more of Trinity by leaping into abstract and speculative thinking about the three in one. We stay focussed on Jesus as his Spirit takes us ever deeper into who he is. Then we discover God opening himself to us in such a way that we know him in the inner relations of his divine Being as we share in the Son’s communion with Abba Father by the Holy Spirit”.
“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4)
When the Father’s Son appeared on earth as the man Jesus people saw him. Now he is at the right hand of God and there he is hidden in God. No one can see him. But one day he will appear in full glory and every eye shall see him.
When Jesus appears, we shall appear with him because we are in him and he is our life. Every eye will see Jesus and every eye will see us. The veil will be drawn to show the fullness Christ’s glory. And the veil will be drawn on our glory with him. Everyone will see our share in the glory of Christ. God’s ultimate purpose is to bring many sons and daughters to glory with his Son (Hebrews 2:10). And this reaches its climax when we appear with Jesus in glory.
God’s Spirit unveils all this before the eyes of our hearts so that we already see something of our future glory in Jesus. For the Spirit is actually the presence of the future within us. He brings us into a foretaste of all that it is to come. So now, in the Spirit, we rejoice in sure expectation of the future glory that we will share with Jesus even as we enjoy it in part right now. And we say with Paul, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8: 18).