A BOOK REVIEW ON BRUCE WARE’S BOOK:
FATHER SON AND HOLY SPIRIT
The Doctrine of the Trinity is not easily explained. It is difficult for our human minds to grasp the concept that God is actually one God in three distinct persons. Ware does an outstanding job in this theological work to write in such a way that makes it easier for the average person to understand.
Ware starts off his work explaining the importance of studying the Trinity. He says that God revealed Himself to us as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because God greatly wants us to “get it.” Our relationship with the Creator of the Universe is so important that learning more about God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will only make us that more intimate with Him. The concept of the Trinity greatly affects every area of the Christian life. How a Christian views and understands God is how the Christian relates to God. A Christian’s view of God will determine their view on theology, their outlook on how they live life, and how they pray. A Christian needs to know that God is relevant to them everyday and not just on Sunday. Understanding the three distinct persons of the Trinity helps one to more understand God. In doing so, hearts are turned toward God in awe and worship. Ware ends chapter 1 with ten reasons to focus on the wonder of the Trinity. The fifth reason sticks with this writer the most, “The Christian’s growth in Christlikeness or Sanctification is rightly understood and enriched when seen as the work of the triune God.”1 This reason flies in the face of the beliefs of Arminianism and Legalism because of its Calvinistic slant. The Father has chosen us in Christ for salvation before the foundation of the world. Realizing that the Father chose us makes the gift of our salvation much more valuable. The Father sent His Son into the world to die the sacrificial, substitutionary death necessary for us to have salvation. The Son lived the life that Christians are to imitate as followers of Christ. However, the process of regeneration cannot happen until we put our faith in Christ. After salvation, the Holy Spirit then guides us in the sanctification process. The sanctification process is a journey of being conformed more to the image of Christ. The Holy Spirit leads us in the direction we are to go, and convicts us of sin to keep us on the path of our sanctification process. Without the Holy Spirit’s guidance, it would be easier for a Christian to detour off the path of sanctification into sin.
To really understand the Trinity, Ware introduces us to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yes, we know who they are but there is much that we do not know. The way Ware communicates about each Person of the Trinity, it is almost like meeting them all over again. There is only one God. There are not many gods. Likewise, the Trinity is one God in three Persons not three separate Gods.
The Father is the first Person of the Trinity. The Father is not one-third God or more God than the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each Person of the Trinity is equally God and yet they are distinct. The Father is the head of the Godhead or as Ware says, “supreme among the Persons of the Godhead.” “The Father stands above the Son, and the Son gladly acknowledges this fact. In the end, not only will all created things be subjected to Christ, but Christ will then place himself in subjection to his own Father, so that God the Father may be manifested to all of creation as supreme and over all.”2 The relationship that the Father has to the Son and the Spirit is worth imitating for human fathers. The more this writer feels the weight of becoming a new dad, he realizes more how much he wants to be a father like his Heavenly Father. This could only be the best way to parent a child and bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. What better model to have then the Father above all fathers! It is true that there are a lot of people that do not have good fathers. It would do more damage to these people to tell them not to see God the Father as their Father. They need to see the truth that the Heavenly Father is a real and perfect Father and that their earthly father makes mistakes and is heavily flawed. The Father is the perfect example of what an earthly father should long to be like. The Father is loving, but demands respect and obedience. The Father does not take it upon Himself to do everything but shares the work by delegating some responsibilities to the Son and the Spirit.
The Son is the second Person of the Trinity. The Son is Christ Himself who has been with the Father since eternity past and gave that place up to come to Earth and live a perfect life, die a horrific death on a cross and rise from the dead, ascend to Heaven and now abides at the right hand of the Father. Jesus came to Earth as a man. Even though Jesus is fully God and fully man, He still submitted to the will of the Father. Jesus planned obedience. It was almost as if Jesus was compelled to submit to the Father. Jesus taught us how to pray and how to live a life of obedience to the Father. Jesus also shows us that He lived a life that was led by the Spirit but He was also in authority over the Spirit. Jesus lived His life filled with the Spirit as an example for us to follow and learn what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Before His ascension, Jesus tells His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Jesus made good on His promise. The Spirit showed up at Pentecost in Acts 2. Jesus’ work is not yet fully completed. He is currently building His church and He makes intercession for Christians to the Father. Soon, Christ will return and He will not come as the Lamb but as the Lion. He will come and dissolve governments to show that He is the true King of kings and Lord of lords and He will cast Satan and the demons into the everlasting lake of fire.
The Person of the Holy Spirit used to confuse this writer for he did not know about the Spirit what he knows now. The Spirit does not have a personable role that can be identified with such as Father or Son. The Spirit speaks but it is not audible to where His voice can be heard with human ears. The Spirit is more of a behind-the-scenes player. His work is noticeable but He has no desire to be in the spotlight. The Spirit does not desire attention. That is not His purpose. “In creation, redemption, and consummation, he willingly accepts the role of supporter, helper, sustainer, and equipper, and in all these respects he forsakes the spotlight.”3 The Spirit does far more than most Christians realize. The Spirit is responsible for breathing into authors what is now known as the Bible. The Spirit anointed Jesus to do His ministry. The Spirit gives Christians insight and discernment when it comes to discovering their calling and obeying the will of God. The Spirit’s ultimate work is to glorify the Son. Everything the Spirit does is to glorify Christ! The Spirit works in the process of regeneration by awakening the dead heart. The Spirit is the one that convicts of sin and prompts or calls one to salvation. The Spirit is then the Christian’s guide in the process of sanctification to conform them more to the image of Christ.
What does all of this have to do with life and ministry? Everything. This writer believes that the Doctrine of the Trinity is essential to his life and ministry. The way he believes whether or not this Doctrine is true, shapes his prayer life, his relationship to God, his wife and others. It shapes his personal theology and ultimately how he will be a father to his newborn son. If he did not see how God the Father interacts with the Son, Spirit, and other Christians, his opportunity to be a good dad would be only shaped by earthly standards. The writer is thankful that he was chosen (predestined) for salvation. This makes his gift of salvation truly valuable. He is also thankful that he has the Holy Spirit guiding him in the path of sanctification. It is better to be led by the Spirit then to try and live the Christian life alone.
This Doctrine shapes this writer’s preaching and ministry. It affects how he preaches because preaching is based on the belief that the Bible is infallible and inerrant and is truly the Word of God and is God-breathed. If this Doctrine was not true, his preaching would fall apart. The writer is thankful that the Holy Spirit leads him in sermon prep and guides him when he is preaching. If this Doctrine was proven to be false, this writer would be guilty of leading people astray. That is a dangerous position to be in. Preachers should be compelled to preach the Word and preach the whole counsel of God no matter how harsh or unpopular. Preachers are going to be held accountable for what they tell their congregations. This writer does not want to be guilty of preaching anything that is not in the Bible. This Doctrine is also essential to the response of preaching. The Spirit is responsible for compelling people to respond to the gospel. The preacher must be humble and led by the Spirit in his preaching and the Spirit leads people in how they are to respond to the sermon. This writer may not be completely accurate in explaining the Trinity but that does not mean that he does not believe it nor does it make the Doctrine any less true.
Ware, Bruce A. Father, Son, & Holy Spirit Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005.
1Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005), 19.