This short declaration gives hope and joy to millions. We sing it, shout it, preach it, and put it on our bumper stickers and T-shirts. And so we should. “Jesus saves!” is a faithful way to summarize the gospel message. As Paul writes in Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But we don’t see many “The Father saves” bumper stickers, or sing many hymns that declare, “The Holy Spirit saves.” I understand why we don’t emphasize the Father and the Spirit as much when we talk about salvation. The work of Christ is truly the way that we are saved. Apart from his death for our sins, we have no good news.
“Apart from the work of the Father and the Holy Spirit, we have no good news.”
But to be faithful to the whole story of salvation, Christians are eager to say, as well, that apart from the work of the Father and the Holy Spirit, we have no good news. If we separate what Christ accomplishes in salvation from what the Father and the Holy Spirit have done (and are doing), then we will quickly find ourselves on shaky ground.
Plot with Three Persons
The moment we lose sight of the work of the Trinity in our salvation, we are drifting away from the whole Bible’s witness to the glory of our salvation.
For example, the plotline of all four Gospel accounts emphasizes the work of all three divine persons. According to his plan throughout history, the Father sent the Son (Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16; John 4:34). The Son proclaimed the good news of the kingdom and purchased our great salvation through his death and resurrection (Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10; John 19:30). He then ascended to his Father and sent the Holy Spirit to dwell with his people as they take the good news of this salvation to the world (Matthew 28:18–20; John 14:16, 26). Without the work of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, we have no good news.
Throughout church history, faithful Christians have consistently emphasized that each person of the Trinity makes an essential contribution to our salvation. But at times we can lose sight of this reality. And when we de-emphasize divine persons, we lose sight of much of the glory of our redemption.
Planned, Purchased, Preserved
If we are looking for a single passage that explains this great work of salvation by the Father, Son, and Spirit, then we’d be hard pressed to find more Trinitarian depth than Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:3–14. Here we see a vivid and glorious description of our triune God’s great work of salvation.
First, the Father planned our salvation. He chose us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He predestined us (Ephesians 1:5, 11). In the mysterious working of the Trinity before creation, God the Father chose to save a people through his Son and to make known this great redemption to the universe (Ephesians 1:9–10). He “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11), so we can be confident that this great gospel is rooted in the unspeakable wisdom and plan of God.
“The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have conspired since eternity past to save you from your sins.”
Next, the Son purchased our salvation. Paul says, “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Ephesians 1:7). “In Christ” we are saved and blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3–4, 7). Jesus saves. Jesus saves gloriously, fully, and freely. And it is not as if the Son is an unwilling participant in this plan, dragged by the Father against his will to the cross, where he reluctantly shed his blood. Later in this letter, Paul reminds us that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for his church to save and sanctify her, because he nourishes and cherishes her (Ephesians 5:25–29). When the Father planned to save a people, the Son set his affection on those people. So we might say that the Son joyfully purchased our salvation.
Finally, the Spirit preserves our salvation. When we put our trust in Jesus, we are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13). If you’ve ever had a wooden deck on your house, you know that without some kind of sealer, the weather will do a number to the wood, and it will eventually begin to rot and deteriorate. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit is our “salvation sealer.” But unlike the deck sealer, we don’t need to reapply the Spirit every three years. Once he has been poured out on us, he is our living guarantee of this great salvation (Ephesians 1:14).
When we recognize and enjoy the part each person of the Trinity plays in this great work of salvation, our confidence and joy in God deepens. Paul explains that in the fullness of time, or at the time of God’s choosing, the Father sent his Son to redeem us so that we are adopted as his sons (Galatians 4:4–5). Because we are his sons, he sends the Spirit into our hearts, so that we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6).
As we learn to love and hope in this great work of the Trinity for our salvation, the result will be a childlike trust in God. We can count on him. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit have conspired since eternity past to save you from your sins and adopt you into the glorious family of the Trinity. If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, the triune God, who created and sustains all things by his mighty power, is entirely committed to your salvation and eternal good. What else could produce more confidence, hope, and awestruck joy?
Soli Deo Gloria
“The Father plans it, the Son purchases it, the Spirit preserves it, all to the praise of his glory.”
Much more could be said about the work of each person of the Trinity in the plan of redemption, but when we begin to understand what the Bible is saying about our salvation, we will realize that in this great plan God gives us nothing less than his own self. The Father purposes to adopt us into his family. The Son gives himself for our redemption. The Spirit is poured out to us as a seal and guarantee of our final salvation. In other words, as Fred Sanders puts it, God “does not give us something that makes us blessed, but he blesses us by giving us himself” (The Deep Things of God, 125). This is the great blessing that Paul meditates on in Ephesians 1: God has given us himself.
Not only does the Trinity’s work in salvation give us great hope, but this stunning plan gives God himself great glory. Ephesians 1:3–14 culminates with Paul saying that this plan of redemption is “to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14). The Father plans it, the Son purchases it, the Spirit preserves it, all to the praise of his glory. What greater wisdom and glory could we see in our great redemption? Soli deo gloria!