The Trinity in Scripture: Luke 1 (Part 3)

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:41-45

Luke follows the Trinitarian account of the annunciation with a Trinitarian celebration of the annunciation. Soon after the angel gave the good news to Mary, she ran quickly to share the news with her relative Elizabeth. Like any woman who receives such news she has to share!

In the annunciation to Mary (1:35), each person of the Trinity is declared to be involved in the conception of Jesus. Now, each person of the Trinity is mentioned in the confirmation of the good news Mary has received. The Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth to worship the Father for what he is doing in the giving of his Son. Herein is one of the significant aspects of this passage.

There is a necessary gap between the “biblical theology”—what the Bible specifically states—of the Trinity and what would become the orthodox “systematic theology”—what the Bible necessarily intends—of the Trinity. Since every heretic has his text(s), the battle for orthodoxy was as much about what the Bible means as what it says. This passage in Luke points toward certain dogmatic truths the church fathers would elaborate upon and perpetuate.

First, there is a distinction in the actions of each person. The pattern seen in these few verses fits into the larger teaching concerning the customary actions or roles each member of the Trinity performs. The Father is plans and declares what will be so (1:45). The Son carries out the decrees of the Father and is the ladder between heaven and earth (1:43-44). The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of God’s people to His acts of gracious mercy in Christ and empowers them to respond appropriate worship and obedience (1:41-42).

Secondly, there is a unity in the persons. In verse 43, the Son is called “Lord.” In verse 45, the Father is called “Lord.” As Jesus himself would state, no man can serve two masters. Yet if the record of Luke is to be trusted, here we have an Old Testament saint calling the God of Israel and his as yet unborn Son, “Lord.” She does not do this in a moment of pre-partum euphoria. She is not speaking as a confused simpleton. Her declaration is a direct response to the work of the Holy Spirit. As such, it has all of the authority anything Moses, David, or Isaiah ever prophesied. The work of the Holy Spirit provokes people to acknowledge the Father and Son are both Lord while still proclaiming there is only One Lord.

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