How the Trinity Acts

Psalm 33:6

‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.’ (KJV)

If you’ve ever tried to understand the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity you may have found yourself confused, because of its complex nature and difference to every other thing we may comprehend. Although it is confusing, may I encourage you to persevere in thinking about the Triune God and speaking to Him in prayer. If we grasp how our Lord has revealed Himself in this way, then we will be able to grow in our understanding of God and the Bible.

God Himself is distinct from creation and an important question has to do with how the Father, the Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit act. Having recently been reading St. Augustine in parallel with St Basil the Great, I have been pointed to specific biblical passages that reveal some very helpful truths regarding the Trinity. (For the academics reading this, I won’t be going into the differences between ‘ousia’ and ‘hypostasis’; they mean essence and substance respectively, in case you were wondering). Basil refers to Psalm 33:6 in a letter to the Caesareans and it has been very helpful in my own understanding of how God acts in Trinity.

To be clear, I define the Trinity as the One God, who exists as the Three Persons of the Godhead, namely the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Three Persons are one God and yet remain distinct Persons.

Let’s have a look at that verse again:

Psalm 33:6

‘By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.’ (KJV)

If you’ve ever read the Gospel of John, you may have an idea of two words that stick out in this passage.

The first word that sticks out, funnily enough is ‘word’. What is the word? That’s a good question. But a better question is who is the Word? Jesus is referred to in chapter one of the Gospel of John as ‘the Word’, who was there in the beginning, was with God and was God. That’s a big claim. Jesus is not only a man but He is God’s Word, a Person of the Godhead, by whom the heavens were made.

The second word that sticks out to me is ‘breath’. What is the breath? The word for breath and Spirit are the same and used side by side in the New Testament in John’s Gospel, such as in chapter three, where Jesus tells Nicodemus of spiritual rebirth. So like we asked for the word, we should ask: who is the Breath? The Holy Spirit is the Breath of the living God, another member of the Godhead, by whom all the host of the heavens were made.

A final word that features very prominently and holds the verse together is ‘Lord’. The Father is the only Member of the Trinity whom we have not yet described and yet He is present in this passage, within the Name ‘Lord’. (All three Persons of the Trinity may be referred to as Lord). The Father is the one from whom the actions of the Trinity generate. So where does all of this leave us?

We are left with a much clearer understanding of how the Trinity acts. Gregory of Nyssa and St Augustine both used the terminology of the Father acting through the Son and in the Spirit. And it is easy to see why. Truly, all three Persons of the Trinity act together, with the Father; the Son: Jesus the Word; and the Holy Spirit: the breath of God; all participating. This is the way the Trinity acts. It makes sense that our God, who is relational of Himself and in Communion with Himself, acts in a way that is relational.

The example of creation and the way God works there helps us to understand how God brings salvation to His people. The Father willed the salvation of people; it is made possible through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the Cross and resurrection; and it is made effectual for people in the work of the Holy Spirit.

Our God is truly magnificent and let us praise Him for who He is and thank Him for creation, for revealing Himself as Trinity and for offering salvation.

You might like to take some time now to pray thanking God for all that He has done and asking Him to enable you to grow in love for Him and appreciation of how He has revealed Himself.

If you have not yet placed your faith in Jesus, I encourage you to consider who He is, the claims He made and what impact that has on your life. If you get the chance, it would be fantastic to read a Gospel and talk to Christians to find out more who Jesus is.

You may be thinking how does this information impact my life? Well it tells us a number of things about the world we live in and what we should be seeking. The world we live in was created by the Triune God, out of His enormous love, intentionally and we have the privilege of seeking Him. The Triune God has purposed a way for that creation to be reconciled to Himself, specifically through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So what does that mean for me practically?

If you are not a Christian, it means repent (change your mindset and turn away from sin/all the wrong in your life) and believe the amazing news that Jesus died for you and rose from the dead to new, physical, imperishable life. Ask God to forgive your sins and trust that Jesus bore them in His body on the Cross. And worship God for who He is as the awesome Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Find a community of Christians to encourage you and tell people about the awesome love Jesus has for you.

If you are a Christian, it means continue to repent from sin and believe this awesome news about Jesus. Realise again in your heart the enormous love God has for you and worship Him, trusting that He loved you so much that the Father sent His Only Son Jesus to die for you and has given you new life sending His Holy Spirit to live in you. Seek God and His Kingdom first, setting aside other wants and desires, so that you may be living your life out of love for God and for your neighbours.

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