“Of God and the Holy Trinity”
The confessional treatment of the doctrine of the Trinity ends with these words: “which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.”
For our Baptist forefathers, the doctrine of the Trinity was anything but mysterious and difficult with little practical application to daily life. No, rather, it was crucial to our communion with God and comfort in God. No passage in all the Bible shows this so richly as 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
Here the devout blessing of the Apostle is that the Corinthian believers would know as a matter of ongoing practical experience communion with each of the three persons in their actings for our salvation. He wants the distinct acts of the three persons of the Trinity to be “with you all,” he says. This blessing also implies that this is his wish, his prayer, and his prediction for them. Please consider the distinct works of the three persons of the Trinity and the riches of this Trinitarian blessing for believers.
“The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”
When Paul speaks of “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,” we do not have far to look to discover specifically what He is talking about. In this very letter, he has given the best and perhaps the fullest exposition of what he means. 2 Corinthians 8:9 reads: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ focuses our attention on that wonderful condescension and compassion—that glorious humility and kindness—that made the Lord of glory willing to stoop down and die an accursed death in our place so that we might come to share in the glory that He possessed with His Father before the beginning of the world. This reminds us of the wonderful passage in John 17:3-5:
“And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. 4 “I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do. 5 “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.
So the grace of the Lord Jesus is his wonderful, personal virtue and quality of kind condescension, compassionate humility, or merciful submission. It is this glorious personal characteristic that made Him willing to come down from glory to die in our place and for our sins. This quality—this grace—is nothing less than divine and majestic. It is glorious, personal virtue. Paul wants us to know and find this person with this virtue a blessing to be with us. He wants us to live in intimate contact with this grace. He wants to have present with us Christ as the accomplisher of salvation.
“The Love of God”
In this context when Paul speaks of God, he means, of course, God the Father. The original makes this clear because literally, Paul speaks of “the love of the God.” The presence of the article before God tells us that Paul is thinking in personal terms of the Father.
In John 1:1 the words, the God, are a reference to the person of God the Father. John 1:1 literally reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and the Word was God.” So the reference is to God the Father in our text and is clearly a reference to Him in light of parallel passages.
When Paul speaks of the love of the God, that is to say, God the Father, very much is comprehended. The key text which tells us a great deal about what we are to think of when we think of the love of God the Father is Ephesians 1:3-5:
3 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, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Paul traces the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ up to the love of God the Father. He begins with the work of Christ and traces it back to the work of God the Father. Here we learn that it is the peculiar work of the Father in salvation to plan or author it. He is the one who chooses or elects us that we should be holy. He is the one who “in love predestined us to adoption as sons.” It is out of the heart and love of God the Father ultimately that salvation springs. He sends the Son and the Spirit to save us. They come willingly. They love us too and love us in and with the Father, but Paul’s doctrine of the Trinity allows him to specify the loving Father as the elector and predestiner of the saved. Paul wants us to live with a sense of the presence of that love of God which chose us to be saved and adopted us into His family. He wants us to experience more and more the unconditional, sovereign, love of the Father. He wants us to have present with us the Father as the author of salvation.
“The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit”
In the third stage of this Trinitarian blessing, Paul having traced salvation up to the Father brings it all the way down to us and speaks of how God the Holy Spirit works in us. When Paul focuses on the third person of the Trinity, he speaks of the “fellowship” of the Holy Spirit. The word, fellowship, is the common New Testament Greek word, koinonia. The word means partnership, partaking, participation. The fellowship of the Spirit is partnership with us and participation in us. Romans 8:2 speaks of the Spirit of God as the life-giver—the one who gives us spiritual life: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
The fellowship of the Spirit speaks of the Spirit as the one who actually renews us, indwells us, makes us holy, and assures us of our good standing with God. The Bible calls Him the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Holiness, the Spirit of Wisdom, and the Spirit of Adoption. Working salvation in us subjectively, inwardly, and personally is the work of the Spirit. This is the rich grace and peculiar work of the Holy Spirit in salvation. Paul describes it here as the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Paul wishes for the Corinthian believers the increasing presence of the Holy Spirit in these His special works. He wants us to have present with us the Spirit as the applier of salvation.
My hope and prayer for you is the same as the Apostle’s. May you live in the practical presence of the peculiar saving works of each of the three persons of the Trinity. May you experience the richness of your Trinitarian salvation. May “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.