Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Relational Trinity, Father, Son & Spirit in Ephesians 1:1-14

"What is our relational God like?”

He is the relational Trinity! Mind blowing!

A buddy and I were chatting the other night about this key question. God is unknowable. Not beyond knowing and experiencing, of course. But beyond fully knowing since God is also mystery. For me, immeasurable oceans of His vastness still remain undiscovered after my forty+ years of walking with Him. What I do know and experience, though, oh my, what a delight and a blessing. The first part of Ephesians chapter 1 begins to answer the two most essential questions in life.


1. “What is God like?”

2. “How does this God see and know me/us?”

Similar to Genesis 1:1, Paul begins first with God in relationship to His people. Specifically, Paul launches Ephesians with what scholars call the Trinity (or Trinitarian, which means “from the description of God as Trinity”). The relational Trinity, one God in three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, all equally God, is mind-blowing theology. It's also life-impacting Reality that ravishes my heart as truth intersects life. A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about God.

For me, the first two verses tap into what is at the core of Paul’s ministry. This is typical Paul. He begins in 1:1-2 with a concise summary of what he spells out in more detail in Ephesians 1-3. The connected relationship between God and His people supplies what these 1st century followers needed for life. Into His “saints,” that is those set aside for God, He pours out grace (God’s unmerited, divine favor and enabling) and peace (the presence of God’s deep, abiding wellbeing that penetrates every aspect of life). Grace gives us resources for life and peace provides a safe, secure, life-releasing home (similar to the Hebrew word Shalom).

Now open your Bible to Ephesians 1:3-14. Take time to read and reread 3-6, 7-12 and 13-14 as small units, time and again. Briefly summarize the gist of each unit before moving on. Action-learning is essential to maximize impact.

Paul has the capacity to surprise us! These words from 1:3 to 1:14 tumble out as one unending sentence in the original manuscript. Can you sense Paul’s awe and wonder in these passages…and His excitement that we might “get it”? His heart is ready to explode. His energized outburst of heartfelt praise to the Triune God arises from Paul’s enthusiastic love towards God. He glimpses what the Triune God has done in, for and with us in Christ, and the vast possibilities. Each section concludes with “praise of His glory,” (or His magnificent splendor, or the brilliance of God’s presence, the stunning Reality of who He is).


And God has included us in His plan spanning eternity.

Notice how Paul first calls us to exuberant praise to God for who He is and what He has done in verse 3. God fashioned us as worshippers to become more like whatever we set our hearts on. Nothing is more crucial for us than to set our hearts in loving adoration and passionate desire on God. As worshippers, “we become what we behold,” so let’s delight ourselves in Him.


The Relational Trinity, God the Father (1:3-6).

We praise God the Father because: (1) our Father blessed us with every good gift imaginable (1:3). (2) Our Father chose us before the world was created, demonstrating that our unending relationship with Him is based on His sovereign choice, not anything we could ever do (1:4). (3) Our Father predestined us to be adopted.

In human adoption, parents set their hearts on a specific child to be an integral part of their family. God set His heart on us for His Family. Now, don’t get hung up on the words “predestination” or “chosen.” Focus on the main-&-plain of what it says. God initiated to adopt us into His Family because it was His great pleasure. Don’t stumble over the magnitude of this promise, but soak in it, embrace it, “to the praise of His glorious grace.” I would like to rest here awhile, but Paul rushes on.


The Relational Trinity, God the Son (1:7-12).

In Jesus Christ through faith in Him, (1) we have been ransomed from our enemy’s clutches and fully forgiven, each and every one of our sins (1:7-8). (2) Paul then gives us a glimpse into the epic, cosmic adventure to which He has joined us in Jesus Christ. We are participants in a far-reaching call, something larger than ourselves, something that will ultimately bring all things together under His Father’s headship (1:9-10). (3) Again Paul emphasizes that God chose and predestined His people in Christ according to God’s plan formulated before time (1:11-12). First and foremost, Paul underscores the God who initiates. God longs to have our lives count “for the praise of His glory.”


The Relational Trinity, God the Spirit (1:13-14).

The Spirit of God, equally divine along with the Father and Son, (1) includes us permanently in Christ the instant we believe. (2) The Holy Spirit Himself is the seal that marks us for Himself, (3) since He Himself is the deposit guaranteeing our unending life with the Father, Son and Spirit “to the praise of His glory.”

Download booklet from my website the PDF of my short meditation on Ephesians called Created Community.Also, visit my website at:

The Relational Trinity, God the Spirit Seals His People, Ephesians 1:13-14

In case we missed it, God the Spirit joins God the Son and God the Father. 

They relate with their people in this staggering, all-encompassing action to restore His fallen creation to intimacy. This is not something we dreamed up or usurped. God the Spirit personally leads us home by the hand the instant we believe.


First, God the Spirit included God’s people in Christ forever.

This marvelous Reality happened the instant we said “yes” by faith in Christ to the Gospel of our salvation. God then completely immersed us into this Trinitarian fullness of relatedness. We are participants in His existence, not passive observers (although never becoming “lit’l gods,” the horror of the thought!)


Second, God the Spirit sealed our relationship with God.

This forever marked God’s people as His own. This seal identifies us as God’s own and is unbreakable since the Spirit of God Himself is the “signet ring.”


Third, the God the Spirit is also the pledge of our ultimate blessing and security.

This down payment guarantees that each of His people are redeemed, completely secure in the keeping-love and keeping-power of the Triune God. The Holy Spirit is the mark, seal and deposit “guaranteeing our inheritance.” From a God who has never lied, this gives us a powerful sense of security coupled with this clear call to mission, now and for all eternity “to the praise of His glory.”


“The living God is a relationship, a community, a Trinity. And this God draws near to us to draw us near to himself within the circle of his knowing and loving of himself" (Darrell W. Johnson, Experiencing the Trinity).

We do not yet know the fullness available to us in the Triune God. The Good News is that God will not rest until we do! May I ask a few questions to massage this a bit?
  • How much of the fabulous spiritual wealth that is ours together in Christ are we aware of?
  • How can we tap into this lavish grace with one another?
  • How can we become deep people and escape from the dual curses of our age, busyness and superficiality?
  • Do we even want this? Does this stir inner longings within us?

Download from my website the PDF of my short meditation on Ephesians called Created Community. Also, visit my website at:

The Relational Trinity, God the Son Draws us in, Ephesians 1:7-12

God the Father, Son and Spirit have taken the initiative to draw you into intimacy, His original and unchanged Eden-intent. 

Nine times Paul repeats the phrase “in Christ” or “in Him” to underscore that this section centers on God the Son as part of the relational Trinity.


First, God the Father joins with God the Son to lavish the riches of His grace on us within the Community of this Triune God (1:7-8).

“Lavish” communicates the geyser of His outpoured grace. In Christ, we have been bought back from the slave market, no longer bound by the chains of Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15). We now have new Owners, Ones who have forgiven us in Christ for all our sins, fully removing the rubble of sin. God drenches us with His activated grace. The death of Jesus Christ on our behalf evidences the unshakeable and unbreakable love of the one true God (1 John 4:9-10). We stare with mouths gaping at the extravagant opulence of God’s outpoured love towards us in Christ.


Second, God the Father joins with God the Son to reveal and disclose to His friends what He has planned (John 15:15).

We are not in the dark. We are in on what God is doing and will do. As we recognize that virtually everything that has to do with God takes place previous to our knowing anything about it. This has at least two profound effects.

1. Initially, it demands humility; not a low view of ourselves, but an accurate one. We don’t know enough to protest or approve, but can only adore and appreciate since God chose to include us in His epic adventure. What we do know is that God is continuously in action in comprehensively glorious ways. And He invites His people to fully participate with Him in this epic adventure with cosmic proportions.

2. Finally, we recognize how bankrupt human reasoning and logic are in this process. We then approach Him with a theology of awe and wonder. We need spiritual Reality revealed to us since we can never grasp it on our own. “In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will." What does Paul disclose under the inspiration of the Spirit? Paul wants us to be captured with what has captured his heart and mind. God delights to catch us up into something so stupendous that it involves gathering everything together in Christ. This is something to get out of bed in the morning to partner in!


Third we are chosen and predestined according to God’s plan before time.

Just when our minds are ready to explode, Paul continues by reiterating lets us listen in on the conversation between the Father, Son and Spirit that launched creation. The Message paraphrase puts it this way: “Letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making.” This is why God created you and me! We have been invited into Jesus’ epic adventure for the ages. God intends to restore this fallen creation to intimacy with the Father. He will then bring to completion the fullness of all His original Eden-intent that was cut short when Adam went rogue. And this has eternal, cosmic consequences. We are on the winning side so that we “might be for the praise of His glory.”

Download from my website the PDF of my short meditation on Ephesians called Created Community. Also, visit my website at:

The Relational Trinity: God the Father Blesses, Ephesians 1:3-6

Please focus on what is clear about God the Father. 

The relational Trinity has chosen and now resources His people to connect and partner with Him as image-bearers. These verses do not describe the Trinity as a celestial object of study. Instead they depict this relational Community-God working out His eternal plan in conjunction with His people. Let’s dig a bit deeper to mine more treasures.


God the Father always takes the initiative.

Note that verse 3 names the Father and the word “he,” referring to the Father, takes the initiative throughout. Note also the three sweeping assertions of what God has already done for those who are His. Paul launches this indispensable letter, not with God in His abstract characteristics. Instead, Paul describes this touchable God as He blesses and relates to His people.


“What is God like?”


First, God the Father is relational at His core and blesses us!

He blesses us! God began by blessing us when He created humanity in Genesis 1:28, and He continued blessing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, God’s people in the Psalms…all the way down to His people today. What God does flows out of who God is. He is a generous God who blesses. God designed us to be blessed with every blessing imaginable in Christ and continues blessing His people as co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). In fact, Jesus is the pledge of our Father’s ongoing generosity. The Father already gave us His very best, Jesus, as a certain pledge of all else that He will bless us with (Romans 8:32). The Father’s heart is fixed to bless us. None of God’s people are excluded. In fact, view every command and prohibition in Scripture as God’s guide directing us to God’s “blessing portal” where He pours out His love most profusely. Don’t ever get over the wonder.


Second, God the Father chose us in Christ.

Do you remember a story from your childhood when you were chosen last for a team (“You have to take Fredericks”)? What message does this convey? By sharp contrast, the Father chose us before creation so that we would know that this choice rested on what is in God’s heart, not on something we accomplished. God did not choose us “despite” who we are. Such a “stray dog” view of God’s loving choice is shattered by this language. What did the Father choose us for? To live in His presence (“before Him”) in complete spiritual health and beauty (“holy”) and without blame. Stop please. Mull this verse over in your mind like you savor a morsel of delicious food.
This God who spoke the universe into existence speaks personally to you because He chose you! Don’t allow any so-called theological arguments to detour you from what is essential. Before time began, this God chose you to be His own treasured child. His choice to include you in His Trinitarian quality of life was formulated in His eternal counsel before the foundation of the world (and, yes, Paul will get to our part later…for now rest in God’s initiating first-love). Its execution then does not primarily hinge on us, but on God’s determined goodness, greatness, and generosity.


Third, God the Father predestined our adoption as sons into His forever Family.

Now, with predestined, focus on the benefits God provides. It was God's pleasure to preplan before time to adopt you and me. We were outside, and now we are included forever within His Forever Family circle as His Blessed and Beloved sons and daughters. This is our true identity. This word “predestined” furthers the intentionality of “chose” and adds the flavor of a desired destination. Again, this adoption into His Forever Family was fulfilled through Jesus Christ, planned before time and executed the instant you placed your faith in Christ. The Father is tickled pink to have us as His children, Blessed Ones.

What the Community-God planned for you and for me before creation (compare God’s intent in Genesis 1:26, Let us make man…”) has now been conclusively fulfilled in Jesus Christ for all who embrace Him by faith. Behind everything in creation and in history lies this eternal purpose of God. We are no accident, but the determined choice of a Father who delights to bless. Again, there is mystery (what else would you expect when an uncreated, eternal Being communicates with His creation?!) Focus on what is clear and crucial, not any wrangling over a single side to Both/And concepts. What is clear? Our Father initiated with His first-love to include us with Him before time began.


Synthesis: What does Paul mean?

God ushers His people into a fellowship with God through faith in Christ. It's so close, so intimate, so deep, so real, so alive that everything God the Father is, everything He has are shared with us personally. Staggering as it may be, inconceivable as it may appear to us, this is what Paul is saying. The Father destined nothing short of Himself as our inheritance. The Father, Son and Spirit give us existence to bring us into profound intimacy with Him. This relational intimacy release God’s very being and life and joy into us so it becomes ours.

Paul concludes this small, yet life-impacting, section with this passionate outburst of praise: “to the praise of his glorious grace.” Soak in this until it blows your mind! No human mind can grasp such great and monumental promises from a God who always comes through (which is why Paul will pray for us to experience this in 1:15-23).

Download from my website the PDF of my short meditation on Ephesians called Created Community. Also, visit my website at: