The Trinity in Scripture: Luke 10. Containing a brief exposition of monergistic salvation and Trinitarian revelation

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Luke 10:21-22

These two verses contain two references to the Trinity: one direct, and one via cross reference.

In verse 21 we witness the work of the Holy Spirit in the Son causing him to offer thanksgiving to the Father. In the context of the chapter we are at the place in Jesus’ ministry where he sent out the 72 disciples and they returned rejoicing over all the works they were empowered to do: particularly their ability to cast out demons.

Jesus tenderly corrects them in telling them that they do have cause to rejoice, but that their rejoicing should focus on their place in heaven not their power over hell. In this admonition I believe there is a word to those today who seek after miraculous demonstrations of power; who claim special status or position because of the wonders they do; who state the normal Christian life is the miraculous Christian life. It is the same word that Paul would later state to the similarly deluded Corinthians: “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:29-31).

This is not to say that we are to simply “rest in the Lord” when it comes to salvation. Indeed, this seems to be the opposite error that infects broader evangelicalism. There are many who feel that once they have “prayed the prayer” there is not much else to do in the Christian life except make an occasional guest appearance at church, give a little something every now and then, but otherwise do nothing to evidence the grace of God. This is due in large part to the shallow gospel that is preached to them and the shallow gospel they believe. The gospel that preaches a salvation that comes with no strings attached. The gospel that proclaims come as you are and leave as you were. The gospel that pleads for a prayer but not repentance and belief. Yes, we are saved by faith alone; but the faith that saves is never alone. True faith produces works.

In this prayer, Jesus teaches us that salvation is due to the work of God the Father. It is God the Father who has written the names of believers in heaven (10:20); he hides salvation from the wise and graciously reveals it to those whom he wills (10:21). The Father is “Lord of heaven and earth.” He is sovereign over all things, and this includes the salvation of sinners.

A common charge against the reformed understanding of salvation is that it leads to pride and arrogance about God’s choice. But any self-professed Calvinist who is proud of his salvation has certainly not understood what Calvin and the other like-minded reformers (to say nothing of Jesus and the apostles) taught regarding salvation. A biblical understanding of God’s election brings nothing but humble rejoicing. When one realizes that there is nothing good in himself; that he can do nothing to merit his salvation; that his salvation is based entirely upon God’s good pleasure; he can do nothing but respond in humble praise. In eternity, not a single man will be praised for making “the right choice” when it comes to salvation. God and the Lamb receive all the praise, honor, and glory. For salvation is of the Lord.

In verse 22, Jesus continues emphasizing God’s sovereignty in salvation. In a marvelous statement that begins to stretch our capability of comprehension Jesus teaches vital truths about relationship and revelation in the Trinity.

After making the well-supported statement that the Father is Lord of heaven and earth, Jesus boldly proclaims that he has the same title of authority. The Son proclaims that “all things” have been handed over to his control. Statements like this flatly contradict those scholars that assert Jesus had no God-consciousness, or that he never claimed equality with God, or deity itself. The enemies of Jesus understood statements like this and their implications well: it is the very reason they delivered him to Pilate to be crucified (John 5:18; 19:7).

Just as Jesus asserted that God’s sovereignty over heaven and earth extended to man’s salvation; he proclaims that he is sovereign over who knows God. The Father and the Son have complete knowledge of one another. Such knowledge is perfect and eternal. Because the Son has dwelt eternally with the Father he is the only one that can give accurate revelation of the Father (John 1:1, 18). Because the Father has dwelt eternally with the Son he is the only one that can give accurate revelation of the Son (John 6:44, 65; 2 Cor. 4:6).

But where does that leave us? Jesus is no longer on earth revealing the Father. The Father no longer raises up prophets and apostles to add to his word. Are we abandoned? In no way.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”– these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1Co 2:9-11)

1 Corinthians 2:11 completes the teaching on Trinitarian knowledge and revelation. Jesus taught that he alone had knowledge of the Father and He alone could give that knowledge to others. Paul proclaims that the Spirit alone has knowledge of the Father and the Spirit alone communicates that knowledge to others.

We are left with two options: either Jesus or Paul—and therefore Scripture as a whole—are wrong; or, we are led onward to accept the orthodox teaching of the Trinity. What the Father has in his essence, the Son knows and has in his essence. What the Father has in his essence, the Spirit knows and has in his essence. God is one in essence, three in persons. Such knowledge of God—yea, any and all knowledge of God—is only given to and received by those children God himself wills to reveal himself.

If you know anything of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it is only because God has chosen to bless you with such knowledge. Who will not humble tremble before such an awesome gift?

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Proverbs 11: Are the Righteous Delivered by their own Righteousness?

The first nine chapters and last 2 chapters of the book of Proverbs are more or less “outlineable.” The author of those chapters, whether Solomon, Agur, or Lemuel, spends time developing a thought over several verses. Chapters 10-29 are—brace yourself for this stunning theological insight—proverbial in nature. Often there is seemingly no connection at all between consecutive verses. Yet even in the Proverbial chapters there are blocks of material that do dwell on a common theme. In Proverbs 11:4-9, we find one of those blocks.

4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
but righteousness delivers from death.
5 The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
7 When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
8 The righteous is delivered from trouble,
and the wicked walks into it instead.
9 With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.

Verses 4, 6, 8, and 9 all speak of the deliverance of the righteous. (Those literate in Hebrew may want to pursue the fact that in verses 4&6 the noun צדקה is paired with נצל while in verses 8&9 צדּיק is paired with חלץ.) I am interested in these verses because of their adaptability to teaching a salvation based on good works.

This is most apparent in verse 6: “The righteousness of the upright delivers them.” A fair paraphrase of the verse would be, “The good deeds of good people save them.” Verse 4 says basically the same thing: righteousness, good deeds, delivers from death. Verse 9 is similar, but perhaps more appealing to an intellectual. In verse 9 we seem to be told that if a person knows enough, he will be saved: “by knowledge the righteous are delivered.”

So were righteousness (good deeds) and knowledge enough to save a person in the Old Testament economy? Are righteousness and knowledge enough to save a person in the New Testament economy? The perhaps surprising answer is, “Yes.”

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 1 Corinthians 1:30

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

Righteousness and knowledge are exactly how a person is delivered from sin and death—the righteousness and wisdom from God that come from God choosing to reckon Christ’s righteousness to a hopeless sinner. The righteousness of the upright man is not his own, but the alien righteousness of Christ imputed to him by God’s sovereign, righteous declaration. Seen in the light of the New Testament teaching on the imputed righteousness of Christ, Proverbs 11 poses no problem at all to those who believe in salvation by grace alone.

But what about the Old Testament reader of Proverbs 11? Would he have reason to depend on his own good deeds to commend himself to God? No, because even in the Old Testament there is clear teaching about the righteousness that truly saves. The apostle Paul was not the first biblical writer to speak of the blessing that came from union with Christ. In Jeremiah 23:5-6 the prophet looked forward to the coming Redeemer and gives him the name “The LORD is our Righteousness.”

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 23:5-6

Several chapters later, the same name is given to those people the coming Redeemer saves:

In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 33:15-16

The company of the redeemed is identified wholly with their redeemer. In this shadowy way, the prophet Jeremiah pointed to what has been identified as the heartbeat of Paul’s theology—union with Christ. It is the believer’s union with Christ that provides him all his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

So Proverbs 11 is a gospel text. All those who would be saved are called upon to seek the only salvation available: the righteousness of Christ.