“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” [2 Cor 13:14]
He who denies the personality and absolute deity of either the Father, the Son, or the Spirit cannot be a true Christian!
THE divine Trinity lies at the basis of all New Testament teaching…The “only true God” is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and is known in and through Jesus Christ, the one Mediator. That the revelation of the triune God constitutes the doctrinal foundation of Christianity is easily capable of demonstration.
First, as pointed out above, the true God subsists in three co-essential and co-eternal persons, and therefore he who worships any but the triune God is merely rendering homage to a figment of his own imagination.
Second, no salvation is possible for any sinner save that of which the triune God is the Author. To regard the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior to the exclusion of the saving operations of both the Father and the Spirit is a serious mistake. The Father eternally purposed the salvation of His elect in Christ (Eph 1:3-6). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit entered into an everlasting covenant with each other for the Son to become incarnate in order to redeem sinners.
The salvation of the Church is ascribed to the Father: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling…according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2Ti 1:9). The Father, then, was our Savior long before Christ died to become such, and thanksgiving is due Him for the same. Equally necessary are the operations of the Spirit to actually apply to the hearts of God’s elect the good of what Christ did for them. It is the Spirit Who convicts men of sin and Who imparts saving faith to them. Therefore is our salvation also ascribed to Him: “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2Th 2:13). A careful reading of Titus 3:4-6 shows the three persons together in this connection, for “God our Savior” is plainly the Father; “he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Ti 3:6).
Third, the doctrine of the Trinity is a foundational doctrine because it is by the distinctive operations of the Holy Three that our varied needs are supplied. Do we not need “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ”? Is not our most urgent experimental requirement to come to Him constantly and draw from the fullness of grace that is treasured up for us in Him? (Joh 1:16). If we would obtain “grace to help in time of need,” then we must go to that throne on which the Mediator sits. And do we not also need “the love of God,” that is, fresh manifestations of it, new apprehensions thereof? Are we not bidden to keep ourselves “in the love of God”? (Jude 21). And do we not equally need “the communion of the Holy Spirit”? What would become of us if He did not renew day by day in the inner man? (See 2Co 4:16; Eph 3:16). What would be our prayer-life if He no longer helped “our infirmities” and made “intercession for the saints according to the will of God”? (Rom 8:26-27).
The Holy Trinity: Like the virgin birth of Christ and the resurrection of our bodies, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is one of the mysteries of the faith. The first truth presented to faith is the Being of the true and living God, and this we know not from any discovery of reason but because He has revealed it in His Word. The next grand truth is that the one living and true God has made Himself known to us under the threefold relation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and this we know on the same authority as the first…Whenever we attempt to discuss the revelation God has made of His three persons, we should do so with bowed heads and reverent hearts, for the ground we tread is ineffably holy. The subject is one of transcendent sacredness for it concerns the infinitely majestic and glorious One. For the whole of our knowledge on this subject, we are entirely shut up to what it has pleased God to reveal of Himself in His Oracles. Science, philosophy, experience, observation, or speculation cannot in this exalted sphere increase our knowledge one iota.
Trinity in Unity: The divine Trinity is a Trinity in unity: that is to say, there are not three Gods but three persons as coexisting by essential union in the divine essence as being the one true God. Those three persons are coequal and co-glorious so that one is not before or after the other, neither greater nor less than the other. It is in and by Their covenant offices [that] They are manifested to us, and it is our privilege and duty to believe and know how these three persons stand committed to us and are interested in us by the everlasting covenant; but we cannot understand the mystery of Their subsistence. Any teaching that does not equally honor all the persons of the Godhead, distinctively and unitedly, is of no value to the soul. As one has said, “There is not a vestige of Christianity where the truth of the Trinity is not known, and owned, and honored. Not a vestige of godliness in the heart of any child of Adam where the Father, Son, and Spirit do not officially dwell. There is not a clear view of one doctrine of God’s grace to be obtained unless the telescope, if I may so speak, the doctrine of the Trinity, is applied to the eye of faith and all viewed there”…
In this benediction, the apostle invokes the Trinity as the source of grace, love, and communion. Its unique features must not be overlooked: the order is unusual, and the names used informally. The Son is placed before the Father. The divine persons are not here spoken of as the Son, the Father, and the Spirit, but as the Lord Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. The reason for this is because what we have in our text is not primarily a confession of faith (as is Mat 28:19), nor a doxology (as is Jude 24-25), but a benediction. A doxology is an ascription of praise; a benediction is a word of blessing—the one ascends from the heart of the saint to God, the other descends from God to the saint…
The Doctrine of the Trinity of Great Importance: The Christian benediction therefore intimates that the doctrine of the Trinity is one of great importance to the existence and progress of vital godliness: that it is not a subject of mere speculation, but one on which depends all the communications of grace and peace to the saints. It is a striking and solemn fact that those who reject the truth of the Trinity are seldom known to even profess having spiritual communion with God, but instead treat the same as a species of enthusiasm and fanaticism, as a perusal of the writings of Unitarians will show. The benediction, then, sums up the blessings of Christian privilege in the three great words of the gospel: grace, love, communion. Those three divine gifts are attributed to different persons in the Godhead. Each takes precedence in His own peculiar work, though we cannot trace the limits of such, and must be careful lest we conceive of God as three Gods rather than one. Each belongs to all. Grace is of God and of the Spirit as well as of the Son. Love is of the Son and Spirit as well as the Father. And our communion is with the Father and the Son as well as with the Spirit.
Grace — a Great Word of the Gospel: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Why distinctively ascribe grace to Him if it is of God and the Spirit as well? Because in the economy of redemption, all grace comes to us through Him. The word grace is the special token of Paul in every epistle: eight close with “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” sometimes varying the formula to “with your spirit.” Grace is one of the outstanding words of the gospel…
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That is His designation as the God-man Mediator. It includes and indicates His divine nature: He is “the Lord,” yes, “the Lord of lords.” His human nature: He is “Jesus.” His office: He is “Christ,” the anointed One, the long-promised Messiah, the Mediator. It is the favor of His divine person clothed with our nature and made the Head of His people that the apostle invokes for all his believing brethren. “His grace be with you all.” That comes first in the benediction because it is our initial need. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2Co 8:9). There, it is His infinite condescension in submitting to such a mean condition for our sakes.
When He became incarnate, the only begotten of the Father was beheld by His own as “full of grace and truth,” and as the apostle added, “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace” (Joh 1:14, 16). Here, the meaning of grace passes from an attribute of the divine character to an active energy in the souls of the redeemed. At the throne of grace, we “find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). The heart is “established with grace” (Heb 13:9), and by that grace we are enabled to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb 12:28). It is in “the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2Ti 2:1) that we find our strength, and He assures us of its competency to support us under all afflictions and persecutions by the promise “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2Co 12:9). Therefore, we are exhorted to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Pe 3:18). Those passages all speak of the divine power in the soul as the operation of grace in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ as its Fountain.
The Love of God: “And the love of God.” There are two reasons why this comes second: because this is the order both in the economy of redemption and in Christian experience. First, it was the mediatorial grace or work of Christ that procured the love of God for His people, which turned away His wrath from them and reconciled Him to them. Hence, it is referred to not as “the love of the Father,” which never changed or diminished to His people, but as the love or goodwill of God considered as their Governor and Judge. Second, it is by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in saving us that we are brought to the knowledge and enjoyment of the love of God. The love of the Father is indeed the source and originating cause of redemption, but that is not the particular love of God that is here in view. The death of Christ as a satisfaction for our sins was necessary in order to bring us to God and into participation of His love. The manifestation of the love of God toward us in the pardon of our sins and the justification of our persons was conditioned on the atoning blood.
The Communion of the Holy Spirit: “And the communion of the Holy Spirit.” As the grand design of Christ’s work Godward was to appease His judicial wrath and procure for us His love and favor, so the grand effect saint-ward was the procuring of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word may be rendered either “communion” or “communication.” By the communication of the Holy Spirit, we are regenerated, faith is given, holiness is wrought in us. Life, light, love, and liberty are the special benefits He bestows on us. Without the Spirit being communicated to us we could never enter, personally and experimentally, into the benefits of Christ’s mediation. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal 3:13-14). Thus, the communicating of the Spirit to His people was one of the chief objects of Christ’s death.
But the Greek also signifies the communion of the Holy Spirit, a word that means “partnership, companionship.” He shares with us the things of God. Grace tends to love, and love to communion. Hence, we see again that the order here is that of Christian experience. Only as grace is consciously received and the love of God is realized in the soul can there be any intelligent and real communion, through Christ to God the Father and through both to the abiding presence of the Comforter. This expression “the communion of the Holy Spirit” shows He is a person, for it is meaningless to talk of communion with an impersonal principle or influence. United as He is in this verse with “the Lord Jesus Christ and God,” it evidences Him to be a divine person. Further, it denotes He is an object of intercourse and converse, and hence we must be on our guard against grieving Him (Eph 4:30). The separate mention of each of the eternal Three teaches us that They are to be accorded equal honor, glory, and praise from us.
What is signified by “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all?” It cannot mean less than a consciousness of God’s presence. The apostle was not praying for the gifts of grace, love, and communion apart from the persons in whom alone they are to be found. He requested that the presence of the triune God might be realized in the souls of His people. The New Testament teaches that the divine Three are equally present in the heart of the believer. Speaking of the Spirit Christ said, “He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you,” and of Himself and the Father, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (Joh 14:17, 23). The Christian is indwelt by the triune God: the Lord Jesus dwells in him as the source of all grace, God the Father abides in him as the spring of all love, and the Holy Spirit communes with him and energizes him for all spiritual service.