Let us understand that the beginning of Christianity is not salvation: it is the existence of the Trinity. —Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century
If this were not so, we would have had a God who needed to create in order to love and communicate. In such a case, God would have needed the universe as much as the universe needed God. But God did not need to create; God does not need the universe as the universe needs him. Why? Because we have a full and true Trinity. The Persons of the Trinity communicated with each other, and loved each other, before the creation of the world. —Francis Schaeffer, He is There and He Is Not Silent
Every once in a while in my discussions someone asks how I can believe in the Trinity. My answer is always the same. I would still be an agnostic if there was no Trinity, because there would be no answers. Without the high order of personal unity and diversity as given in the Trinity, there are no answers. —Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent
Nevertheless, he [modern man] faces a very real problem as to the meaning of love. Though modern man tries to hang everything on the word love, love can easily degenerate into something very much less because he really does not understand it. He has no adequate universal for love.
On the other hand. the Christian does have the adequate universal he needs in order to be able to discuss the meaning of love. Among the things we know about the Trinity is that the Trinity was before the creation of everything else and that love existed between the persons of the Trinity before the foundation of the world. This being so, the existence of love as we know it in our makeup does not have an origin in chance, but from that which has always been. —Francis Schaeffer, The God Who is There
Our God is the blessed God. The only other instance in Scripture when God is described in precisely these terms is 1 Timothy 1:11. How many times does Scripture have to say something for it to be true? Once. But God’s blessedness isn’t the neglected attribute of God, sparingly mentioned, uncritical to the plot line. These may be the only instances in which God is described in precisely these terms, but His blessedness is all over the Bible the way blue is all over the sky. Once we know what blessedness means then we can look for other words and phrases that express the same truth.
What does blessed mean? Happy. Happy in the deepest of senses. We see a person with an attractive spouse, nice house, new car, fulfilling job, good health, well-rounded children, talent, and good looks and we call them blessed. In a limited sense this is true. But is this how Jesus defines blessedness?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 5:2–10 (ESV)
Is there a uniting core to the blessedness Jesus speaks of? Yes. The kingdom is the saving reign of God in Christ. Those comforted are comforted by God. The earth inherited is a redeemed earth illumined by and declaring the glory of God. The righteousness hungered for is a hunger to be like God. The mercy received is mercy from God. The peacemakers are called the sons of God. The pure in heart see God. What is the common denominator? God. What is blessedness? God. We didn’t get very far did we?
God is blessed.
What is blessedness?
But actually we’ve learned much. You cannot define blessedness outside of God. Jonathan Edwards captured this well, “[God’s] happiness consists in enjoying and rejoicing in Himself; so also does the creature’s happiness.”
When you know this you can see how God’s blessedness is all over the Bible the way blue is all over the sky. When you see men hungry to know God above all else, you’re seeing the blessedness of God. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11, ESV).” The clearest places in Scripture we see God’s blessedness is at the baptism and transfiguration of our Lord. The heavens are rent, the Spirit descends, the Father declares, “this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This is how the Trinity has eternally related; infinitely delighting in that which is infinitely perfect. God’s joy is fathomless. If your joy is in ice cream, your joy will be as big as your bucket is deep. God’s bucket is never empty. But the most astounding thing is that in His baptism, Jesus was acting as our representative. When God declares He is well pleased with Jesus, He is well pleased with those Jesus represents. God’s joy in us is God’s joy in God.
I once was at an ordination council where a pastor probed the one seeking ordination, “What is the overarching mood of the Bible?” Cue puzzled silence, by all. He admitted it was an awkward question and then proceeded to answer. “The overarching mood of the Bible is grief. God’s grief over man’s sin.” I didn’t consider myself to be part of this ordination council. I came to endorse and support the one seeking ordination. I kept silent thinking that this wasn’t my shindig and that I was there to encourage my friend, not fight others, but I wish I had spoken up because I couldn’t disagree more strongly. The overarching mood of the Bible is joy! God is so happy in God, that He gave His Son so that we might know that happiness. This is precisely what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:11; our gospel, the good news we declare, is the gospel of the glory of the blessed God. We trumpet the good news of just how happy our God is—boundlessly.
Salvation is a river of joy that we get swept up in. The fountain of this river is God’s joy in God. The ocean this river empties into is God’s joy in God. The fountain is the ocean. God is the Alpha and Omega, and the beginning and end is God’s joy in God. Is God angry at sin? Yes. Is He grieved at His children’s sin? Yes. But in Jesus, God has dealt with sin. God is eternally, indestructibly, infinitely happy in His Son.
Just like wet is all over the ocean, joy is all over the Bible. It’s the very gospel itself.
[T]he doctrine of the Trinity is of incalculable importance for the Christian religion. The entire Christian belief system, all of special revelation, stands or falls with the confession of God’s Trinity. It is the core of the Christian faith, the root of all its dogmas, the basic content of the new covenant. …The profoundest question implicit in every Christian creed and system of theology is how God can be both one and yet three. Christian truth in all its parts comes into its own to a lesser or greater extent depending on how that question is answered. In the doctrine of the Trinity we feel the heartbeat of God’s entire revelation for the redemption of humanity. Though foreshadowed in the Old Testament, it only comes to light fully in Christ. Religion can be satisfied with nothing less than God himself. Now in Christ God himself comes out to us, and in the Holy Spirit he communicates himself to us. The work of re-creation is trinitarian through and through. From God, through God, and in God are all things. Re-creation is one divine work from beginning to end, yet it can be described in terms of three agents: it is fully accomplished by the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. A Christian’s faith life, accordingly, points back to three generative principles. “We know all these things,” says article 9 of the Belgic Confession, from the testimonies of holy Scripture, as well as from the operations of the persons, especially from those we feel within ourselves.” We know ourselves to be children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and in communion with both through the Holy Spirit. Every blessing, both spiritual and material, comes to us from the triune God. In that name we are baptized; that name sums up our confession; that name is the source of all the blessings that come down to us; to that name we will forever bring thanksgiving and honor; in that name we find rest for our souls and peace for our conscience. Christians have a God above them, before them, and within them. Our salvation, both in this life and in the life to come, is bound up with the doctrine of the Trinity; yet we grant that we cannot determine the measure of knowledge—also of this mystery—needed for a true and sincere faith. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics
Only by the Trinity do we begin to understand that God as he is in himself—hence also, apart from the world—is the independent, eternal, omniscient, and all-benevolent One, love, holiness, and glory. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics
The choice is clear: either the Holy Spirit is a creature—whether a power, gift, or person—or he is truly God. If he is a creature he cannot in fact and in truth communicate to us the Father and the Son with all their benefits; he cannot be the principle of the new life either in the individual Christian or in the church as a whole. In that case, there is no genuine communion between God and humans; God remains above and outside of us and does not dwell in humanity as in his temple. But the Holy Spirit is not, nor can he be, a creature. For he is related to the Son as the latter is to the Father and imparts to us both the Son and the Father. He is as closely bound up with the Son as the Son is with the Father. He is coinherent in the Son as the Son is coinherent in him. In substance he is the same as the Son. He is the Spirit of wisdom and truth, of power and of glory; the Spirit by whom Christ sanctifies the church and in whom he communicates himself and all his benefits: the divine nature, the adoption as children, the mystical union. He who gives us God himself must himself be truly God. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics
This name of ‘Father,’ accordingly, is not a metaphor derived from the earth and attributed to God. Exactly the opposite is true: fatherhood on earth is but a distant and vague reflection of the fatherhood of God (Eph. 3:14-15). God is Father in the true and complete sense of the term. Among humans a father is also someone else’s son, and a son in turn becomes a father. Here, too, a father cannot bring forth a son by himself; fatherhood is temporary and accidental, not essentially bound up with being human. It starts relatively late in life; it also ends rather soon, in any case at death. But in God all this is different. He is solely, purely, and totally Father. He is Father alone; he is Father by nature and Father eternally, without beginning or end. For that reason also generation has to be eternal, for if the Son were not eternal, the Father could not be eternal either. The eternity of the Father carries with it the eternity of the Son. Addressing God as Father, one by implication also addresses the Son. —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics
“The glory of the confession of the Trinity consists above all in the fact that that unity, however absolute, does not exclude but includes diversity. God’s being is not an abstract unity or concept, but a fullness of being, an infinite abundance of life, whose diversity, so far from diminishing the unity, unfolds it to its fullest extent.” —Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics