This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” published by the MBC’s High Street Press (visit highstreet.press).
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is our Savior. He is the promised “seed” of woman who crushes the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). He is the Suffering Servant who bears our griefs and carries our sorrows (Isa. 52:13 – 53:12). He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Further, Jesus comes to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6); the bread of life (John 6:51); the door (John 10:9); the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11); the resurrection and the life (John 11:25); and much more.
Jesus came into this world to die – to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). Jesus is, indeed, our great God and Savior (Titus 2:13).
A cursory reading of Scripture reveals God’s plan to redeem sinful and fallen people through the sacrificial and substitutionary death of Jesus of Nazareth. He truly is our Savior, and salvation is found in no one else (Acts 4:11-12).
And yet, as in the Trinity’s work of creation, no single member of the Godhead acts alone. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all play important, complementary roles in saving us from sin and restoring us to a right relationship with God.
Various Christian sects and cults embrace Jesus as Savior while denying the doctrine of the Trinity. But can Jesus really be our Savior if He is a created being? Or if He is one god in an unbroken line of many others like Him? Or if He is only the present manifestation of God, indistinguishable from the Father and the Holy Spirit?
We cannot grasp a proper understanding of salvation apart from the Trinity. More to the point, we cannot be saved apart from the Trinity.
Historically, Christians have believed that salvation – God’s remedy for sin and its consequences – is secured only because the second person of the Trinity added sinless humanity to His deity through the miracle of the virgin birth. The God-Man bore our sins on the cross and rose from the dead to conquer Satan, sin and death on our behalf.
As divine, Jesus possessed the eternal nature necessary to pay the eternal debt humanity owes its offended Creator. As a man, He experienced the full range of what it means to be human, including every form of temptation. Yet, He remained sinless (Heb. 4:15).
After finishing the work for which He was sent, Jesus presented Himself to the Father as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, becoming the “source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9). On that basis, the Father forgave our sins, and the Holy Spirit conferred new life to believing sinners. As Millard Erickson states, “If the doctrine of the Trinity is not true, then the understanding of salvation must be modified.”
Since the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute one divine being – one God – the work of salvation is shared among the members of the Trinity. No single member delivers all the elements of salvation, but together they accomplish all the work that produces redemption.
Ephesians 1:3-14 is a good illustration of a Trinitarian expression of praise. In verses 3-6, Paul praises the Father for choosing us. In verses 7-12, he exalts Jesus for dying for us. And in verses 13-14, he honors the Spirit for sealing us.
We examine this passage more fully in the next column.