The Trinity in Scripture: Luke 24

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:45-49)

Making every composition teacher happy, at the conclusion of his first book Luke provides an excellent introduction to his second book. The Trinitarian conclusion of Luke is right were the book of Acts picks up.

Acts 1:4 and 2:33 make it clear that “the promise” Jesus speaks of is the sending of the Holy Spirit. Luke 24:49 has the same Trinitarian interconnectedness of Acts 2:33. Jesus sends the Spirit from the Father to his people.

It is the Holy Spirit, sent by the Son from the Father who clothes Christ’s disciples with power. The Spirit transforms cloistered cowards into a confessional community. Empowered by this promised gift of the Spirit (Is. 32:14-15; 44:3-4; 59:20-21; Joel 2:28-32; John 14:16-17); the disciples will powerfully preach the crucified and risen Christ receiving into their fellowship all who were appointed by the Father (Acts 13:46-52).

This concludes my survey of passages in Luke and Acts that refer to the Trinity. For those who have not been keeping score, in Luke-Acts there are references to the Trinity in:

Luke 1:12-17
1:35
1:41-45
1:67-75
2:25-32
3:21-22
4:1-14
4:17-18
10:21
10:22
11:13
12:8-12
24:49

Acts 1:1-3
1:4-5
1:6-8
2:32-33
2:38-39
4:8-10
4:24-31
5:29-32
7:51-53
7:55-56
8:12-24
8:26-40
9:17-20
10:38
10:44-48
11:15-18
11:22-24
13:6-12
15:8-11
16:6-10
20:22-24
20:26-32
28:23-31

The Trinity in Scripture: Luke 11; The Trinity and Prayer

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:11-13)

Here is a passage that is must have weighed heavily in the thinking of Luke. As detailed in posts in previous months, in the book of Acts Luke repeatedly speaks of the Trinity in terms this passage presents.

Jesus’ instruction in Luke 11:1-13 is in response to the request of his disciples for instruction on prayer. After giving the model prayer in 11:2-4, the bulk of the instruction is devoted to a parable and its interpretation. Jesus wishes to encourage his disciples to persevere confidently in prayer.

The rational basis for confident perseverance is prayer is demonstrated by an analogy using the logic of arguing from the lesser to the greater. If even sinful fathers on earth know how to answer the requests of their children with good gifts; don’t you think the perfect Father in heaven will do so as well?

But as comforting as such a truth is; it is not just a theological abstraction. The truth is firmly grounded in the action of the Triune God. In the theology of Luke, Jesus is that Son who has asked his Father for the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33; cf. Acts 5:32; 10:38; 15:8). As sound as the logic is, we are not finally dependent upon logic for our confident assurance in the efficacy of prayer. We pray because of the faithfulness the Father has already demonstrated to the Son in answering his request to pour out the Holy Spirit.

Our perseverance in prayer is further encouraged by one other Trinitarian truth: the intercession made for us within the Trinity.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:25-27)

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Rom 8:34 cf. Hebrews 7:27; 9:24)

How shall we not continue in prayer? The foundation is sure- the Father has answered the prayer of his Son to send the Spirit. The building continues- the Son and Spirit continue to make intercession to the Father for us. The prayer life of the believer is both motivated and sustained by the prayer life of the Trinity. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Acts 28: Our Fathers, Your Fathers, and Jewish Unbelief

Acts 28 contains something of a provocative phenomenon that I see borne out elsewhere in the New Testament.

In 28:17, Paul, a believer, speaking to a generally neutral audience, begins his address with:

After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

Note the phrase, “our fathers.” From Luke’s preface—“the Jews”—and Paul’s use of “our people” and “customs of our fathers,” it is obvious that the ethnic connection between Paul and his audience is in view here. Contrast this with Paul’s phrasing at the conclusion of his address:

And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: Go to this people, and say, ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive’” (Act 28:25-26).

When it becomes clear that the majority are rejecting the message of Jesus Christ, Paul suddenly separates himself from the audience by the use of “your fathers.” Paul did have a socio-ethnic connection with his audience, but he had discovered a far greater connection to be sought: the bond of the Spirit in uniting all believers to God through Christ. When it became apparent that his hearers were rejecting Christ, Paul disassociated himself with them by the provocative use of “your fathers.” “Your fathers” serves to identify Jews as unbelievers and also indicates it had been a common phenomenon throughout the nation’s existence. In the New Testament, when believers address unbelieving Jews, the phrase “your fathers” is a way of indicating separation from God’s grace.

In Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:47-48 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for following the example of “your fathers” in condemning the prophets. Just as the fathers of the Pharisees—Old Testament Jews—had persecuted the prophets, their sons—the Pharisees—persecuted Jesus. In addition to these passages and Acts 28:25, Hebrews 3:9 also uses “your fathers” to warn against following the example of Old Testament Jewish unbelief.

But Acts contains an even clearer example than Paul’s address in chapter 28. Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 demonstrates the same pattern, but magnified. While he is seeking to persuade them, Stephen uses the term “our fathers” eight times (7:11, 12, 15, 19, 38, 39, 44, 45). But by the end of Stephen’s speech, when it is clear the Sanhedrin is opposed to the gospel, Stephen suddenly switches terms:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered… (Act 7:51-52)

Once again, “your fathers” is used to indicate Jewish unbelief. Not just Jewish unbelief in the gospel, but Jewish unbelief throughout the nation’s existence. There was always a portion of the Jewish population that resisted God.

The primary application of this bit of linguistic minutia is that God is no respecter of persons. King David has eternal life because he trusted in the Lord. King Ahab has eternal death because he forsook the Lord. The ethnicity of each man did nothing to determine their eternal state.

Why are these things important? Such teaching is important because of what I would call lazy dispensationalism. One of the rotten fruits of dispensational teaching has always been its fuzziness on Old Testament salvation. Its better representatives—Ryrie, Walvoord, MacArthur etc.—have done their best to correct this; but at the pew-level I would hazard the guess that most dispensation-taught Christians operate under the general impression that the vast majority of Old Testament characters were saved. In its worst forms, this has also led some to believe that Jews might also be saved today without trusting in Jesus Christ. In more moderate forms, it has led to the belief that Jews are “almost” saved, and might need just a little nudge to add Christ to their traditions.

Jesus and the apostles constantly battled similar forms of this aberrant theology. Many Jews thought they had God’s favor simply because of their race. To them the message was that every man enters the world with the devil as his father, not God (John 8:44) and that Abraham was justified before God as a Gentile, not a Jew (Rom. 4:10). Others thought that Gentiles had to become Jews to be saved, or act as a Jew to remain saved. The foolishness of such thinking was condemned by the church (Acts 15:10) and Paul (Gal. 3:3).

The use of “our fathers” and “your fathers” is not a strict Shibboleth; nevertheless it is a repeated pattern that serves to emphasize that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jew and Gentile alike must enter the kingdom through him. There is no other way.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 28

Given the densely Trinitarian opening verses of Acts, it is only fitting that Luke close the book with a Trinitarian reference.

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “‘Go to this people, and say, You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” [And when he had said these words, the Jews departed, having much dispute among themselves.] He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance. (Act 28:23-31)

Since Acts 20, Paul has gone to Jerusalem where he was arrested on baseless charges. He has been traveling up the judicial feeding chain appearing before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa. Finally in Rome, he awaits his appearance before Caesar. In the interim, as was his custom, he sought to persuade the Jews first of the good news of the kingdom. Since he was under a house arrest of sorts, he arranged for the Jews to come to him. (Perhaps the first evangelistic home Bible study!)

As it has been throughout the book, the gospel is the message of the kingdom of God finding its center in Jesus, God’s anointed. This was divisive enough, but Paul’s mention of the Holy Spirit’s prediction of the hardness of the Jews and openness of the Gentiles proved to be the final straw for most of his hearers.

As seen previously in Acts, the Holy Spirit is presented as the voice of the Scripture, speaking through the prophets. The Scripture given by the Holy Spirit speaks of the kingdom of God (the Father) ruled over by his Son Jesus Christ. One is certainly justified in considering this kingdom to be the kingdom of the Trinity, for throughout Acts the Father, Son, and Spirit are constantly presented as laboring together for this kingdom. This kingdom of God proclaimed by the Spirit, ruled by the Son, inhabited by all who will believe: Jew and Gentile alike.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 20

Acts 20 contains two references to the Trinity.

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Act 20:22-24)

This is a somewhat important reference for the book of Acts because it lays the foundation for what is to occur in the following chapters. The references to the Trinity have been dense in Acts to this point, occurring in almost every chapter. Yet a reference to the Trinity does not occur again in the book until the final verses of chapter 28. But far from being absent, this passage demonstrates that everything happening in chapters 21-28 is the work of the Trinity.

In Acts 20 Paul is departing Ephesus for Jerusalem. From personal witness of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of Spirit-filled prophets, he knows that trouble awaits him in the holy city. But Paul perseveres and continues with his journey. The Holy Spirit does not give Paul the revelation of trouble to warn him, but to strengthen him. Paul knows that this is the work that the Lord Jesus has determined for him. To carry the message of the grace of God in the power of the Spirit is the task assigned to him by his Lord, and he must not fail in the face of difficulty. Paul is emboldened to complete his work by his confidence in the work the Trinity.

But before he leaves, he wishes to share this confidence with those remaining in Ephesus.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to car for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Act 20:28-32)

On the Trinitarian side, this passage seems particularly fruitful for proving the deity of Jesus Christ. Everyone agrees that the mention of “his own blood” is referring to Jesus. The English translations make it seem like Paul is saying, “God purchased the church with his own blood.” In which case, this would be a clear statement that Jesus is God–since Jesus is the only member of the Trinity with blood. Yet commentators are in general agreement that the phrase is more accurately translated, “Which God purchased with the blood his own (Son).” While the word “Son” is not in the text, it is supplied as being the understood meaning (cf. Rom. 8:3, 32). So even if this is not a clear statement of the deity of Christ, the passage is certainly Trinitarian.

On the practical side we see that this strength in the face of opposition is not for a select few, it is for all the church. Satan is not content to merely have God’s children sent in among the lions, he also send wolves into the flock. But the same power of the Trinity that keeps Paul as he travels into enemy territory strengthens all Christians to withstand the foes that seek to sneak among them. The grace of God the emboldened Paul in verse 24, strengthens and protects the church of Jesus Christ in which the Holy Spirit raises up overseers.

On the theological side we also see instruction about the work of the Trinity toward the church. The blood of the Son purchased the church; the Holy Spirit raises up leaders for its protection; the Father strengthens and builds it by his word. Great is our boldness on account of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 18(?)

There is a possible reference to the Trinity in Acts 18. The passage under consideration is Acts 18:24-26:

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

The disputed phrase is the description of Apollos in verse 25, “And being fervent in spirit. . .” Is Apollos zealous in his own spirit, or was he zealous in the Spirit (i.e. the Holy Spirit)?

In his Catena on the Acts of the Apostles, Chrysostom takes it as a reference to the Holy Spirit. But this may be due to the established Patristic habit of talking all non-specific occurrences of “the spirit” as referring to the Holy Spirit. Origen details this in On First Principles 1.3.4-8. Even so, this view is also held by Calvin, Henry, and Marshall (though he only says it is “probable” that Luke is referring to the Holy Spirit).

All modern translations (that I could consult) take it as it is given in the ESV cited above—as a reference to Apollos’ own spirit. This seems to be the most common interpretation today. It is adopted by Bruce (NICNT), Munck (Anchor), and Stott (BST). (Although The Jerome Biblical Commentary and The Interpreter’s Bible (1954) both consider it a reference to the Holy Spirit.)

This aspect of uncertainty is not unique to Acts 18. There are several other passages in the New Testament that might be Trinitarian in nature, or might speak of only the Father and the Son. Passages that I know of like this include John 4:21-26; Colossians 1:9-10; 1 Tim. 3:14-16; 1 Peter 3:18; and Rev. 5:6. In the course of this blog-study these texts will be considered on an individual basis.

So for the sake of completeness, I mention Acts 18:24-26. Though I am not yet sure it should be mentioned for the sake of accuracy. Given what we have seen so far in the book of Acts, I am inclined to side with the translations and modern commentators. The text seems to emphasize two things for certain about Apollos: he was very able but not complete. If Apollos was “fervent in spirit” this makes sense of both facts. Given what Luke has shown so far about the work of the Trinity bringing full salvation, it is difficult to see how a man instructed in the way of Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit could be missing essential truths about salvation.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 16

Acts 16 presents another text illustrative of the fluidity in which the New Testament speaks of the Trinity.

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Act 16:6-10)

In verse 6 we have mention of the “Holy Spirit;” in verse 7 “the Spirit of Jesus;” in verse 10 “God.” In one sense, each of the members of the Trinity is mentioned—in “reverse” order—the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God (the Father). Yet one has strong reason to assert that all three references in the passage refer to the Holy Spirit.

Grammatically possible meanings of “the Spirit of Jesus” include:

• Jesus’ spirit—as in, Jesus somehow divided his spirit from himself and communicated to the apostle through that spirit. This is problematic because of the violence it does to the person of Jesus. It also seems to introduce a fourth member into the Monarchy. Now we have, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of Jesus.
• Jesus the Spirit—grammatically it could taken as, “the Spirit which is Jesus.” This is problematic because of its obviously modalistic direction. Now Jesus is the Father, now Jesus is the Son, now Jesus is the Spirit. I imagine the modern heretical group of Oneness Pentecostals might embrace this interpretation, but anyone orthodox would shun it.
• The Spirit from Jesus—this is the best interpretation for at least two reasons. First, it maintains the distinction of the persons within the Trinity without introducing even more divisions. Second, it fits with what we already know from the book of Acts about the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit. While the Spirit is often described as sent from the Father, Acts 2:32-33 teaches that this sending to man was mediated by Jesus. Yes, God has poured out the Spirit on believers. But the Spirit was first given to Jesus who in turn “poured out” the blessing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).

Once we comprehend that the Holy Spirit is the one who forbade the preaching of the gospel in Asia Minor (16:6-7); it is difficult to not attribute the call to Macedonia as the work of the Holy Spirit as well (16:10). If taken this way, the Holy Spirit is referred to in this passage as “the Holy Spirit,” “the Spirit of Jesus,” and “God.” In defense of this understanding, the same phenomenon was seen in Acts 5. Peter asked Ananias why he had lied to the Holy Spirit and then asserted Ananias had lied to God. So in Acts 16 we have mention of all three persons, though we only see the work of the Holy Spirit.

In this passage, as in so many others, the words of Gregory of Nazianzus,

This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the One Godhead and Power, found in the Three in Unity, and comprising the Three separately, not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities or inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of Three Infinite Ones, Each God when considered in Himself; as the Father so the Son, as the Son so the Holy Ghost; the Three One God when contemplated together; Each God because Consubstantial; One God because of the Monarchia. No sooner do I conceive of the One than I am illumined by the Splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the One. When I think of any One of the Three I think of Him as the Whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking of escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of That One so as to attribute a greater greatness to the Rest. When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the Undivided Light.

Tremble at the Mystery. Amen.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 15. The Trinity in Salvation by Grace Through Faith. With an aside about Westboro Baptist Church

In Acts 15 we read of the first church council. As with those that would follow centuries later at Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, it was initiated by controversy. While Philip and Peter had begun the work of spreading the gospel to the nations, the labors of Paul and Barnabas had made the church substantially international. Not everyone was ready, or knew how, to accept this massive influx of unclean Gentiles into the church of Jesus Christ. How are Gentiles to be accepted into the church? To certain men, men with some influence according to Galatians 2, the answer was through Moses, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). Because of what Luke says in 15:5, it seems likely these men were Pharisees who had believed in Jesus. The controversy was such that we are told succinctly, “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider the matter” (15:6).

After much debate, Peter is given the floor and lays the foundation for the eventual decision:

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Acts 15:7-11

Surely, once again, we hear from the lips of Peter things that flesh and blood had not revealed to him. Look and behold the wonderful work of the Trinity in saving any and all men by grace, through faith, without the works of the Law. Trace Peter’s argument and see that just as in the ecumenical councils that would eventually come, the Trinity is at the core of settling the dispute. While men disputed, God the Father had already rendered his judgment by giving the same Holy Spirit to the Gentiles as he had to the infant Jewish church. This gift of the Spirit and cleansing from sin were not offered because of any works but solely “by faith.” Peter then makes the cutting observation that the Jews themselves had not been able to keep the customs of Moses, and they expect the Gentiles to? May it never be! The grace of the Lord Jesus that made salvation possible and a reality for the Jews is the same grace alone that makes salvation possible and a reality for the Gentiles.

When we push through to recognize the Trinity, we find that all the work of Salvation is done by the Three. Because the Trinity has done all the work of salvation, it is ours to receive that salvation through faith knowing the grace of the glorious Trinity will make it so. To place any requirements, any prerequisites, upon salvation is to drive the sinner away from the God who saves. On this, the church has spoken. In this, the church must believe.
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In Sunday school this past week talk somehow turned to the lunacy that is known as Westboro Baptist church. A question along the lines of, “Why doesn’t the church do something about them?” was asked. The simple answer is, it can’t. “The Church” as a single physical organization does not exist anymore. Meetings like the Council of Jerusalem (50) and the Councils of Nicaea (325, 787), Constantinople (381, 553, 680), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451) are an impossibility today because the church, as such, ceased to exist in 1054 when Rome departed from the ancient communion of the five patriarchates. Five hundred years later Rome began to dis-integrate, and Christianity in the New World has only continued to atomize.

One could say, the Church, if it still existed, wouldn’t say anything about Westboro Baptist, because it is not a problem that infects any outside of this nation. Westboro Baptist is an infection that should be cured on the “regional” level. But because there is no such thing as “the church” in America, there is no such church to condemn it. We are left with the muffled oppositions of denominations and congregations.

Ideas have consequences. Once you say you have the right to believe anything you want to believe, it becomes somewhat difficult to deny that right to the person next to you. In our Protestant-minded individualism we have gained much. But we have also lost much. The trade-off was not entirely beneficial.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 13. The Jealousy of the Trinity

There are several similarities between Acts 8 and Acts 13. Both passages speak of magicians, or sorcerers: Simon and Bar-Jesus/Elymas. Both of the magicians are influential: Simon with the population and Elymas with the leadership. Both of the magicians are confronted with the gospel and both men are confronted with Trinitarian rebukes. But whereas Peter seems to leave Simon with some hope of restoration, Paul offers no such hope to Elymas.

When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. Acts 13:6-12

We see in this passage a vivid demonstration of the jealousy of the Trinity. Sergius Paulus summoned Barnabas and Saul to hear the word of God (the Father) that they were preaching. That word from the Father was the gospel of Jesus Christ, his Son. Elymas sought to turn Sergius “away from the faith” in the Messiah Saul and Barnabas preached. This aroused the righteous anger of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit moved Paul to proclaim that the Lord (Jesus) would judge Elymas for his sin by blinding him. Sergius, like Paul himself, responded to Jesus’ judgment of blindness by opening his eyes to the truth of the gospel.

God is a jealous God. He is jealous for his own glory. When Elymas tried to pervert God’s word; tried to keep another person from seeing the truth about Jesus; the Holy Spirit gave Paul the boldness to proclaim the Trinity’s declaration of war against such rebellion. Those who attempt to hinder the spread of the gospel face the same wrath today—and eternally.

It is important for Christians to realize, especially Christians today, that hell exists because of the love of God. God sent forth his Son into the world to bear the sins of all who would believe. At the request of his Son, God sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict it of sin and righteousness and judgment. What else is the Father to do with a soul that rejects the eternal blood of Christ and counts it a common thing to be trampled upon? What else is the Son to do to that sinner who constantly resists and rejects the work of the Holy Spirit? Hell exists because God loves his son. Hell exists because it is the only place worthy of those who refuse such love. Our God is a jealous God.

The Trinity in Scripture: Acts 11

Acts 11 repeats and continues Trinitarian themes already seen in the book. In Acts 11:15-18, Peter recounts the events of Acts chapter 10 and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles:

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God‘s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

In giving his apologia in Jerusalem, Peter maintains the Trinitarian emphasis seen in Acts 10:38. The spread of the gospel to the Gentiles is the work of the Trinity and must be embraced as such by God’s people. We also see repeated the truth that the Holy Spirit is given as the gift of God.

Beginning in Acts 11:19 Luke backtracks in the narrative a somewhat and returns to the scattering that resulted from Saul and the Sanhedrin’s persecution of Stephen. Most of the believers sought to spread the gospel among Jews and the Jews alone (11:19); but some of the believers crossed the religious-ethnic boundary and proclaimed the Lord to Hellenists, or Greeks, as well. The Trinity blessed this effort:

But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Acts 11:20-24

Once again the Trinity is seen as actively involved in the spread of the gospel. The Trinity is inherently missionary.