Experiencing the Trinity

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36 ESV) 

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV) 

Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck writes of the spiritual sense of God's three-in-oneness that believers experience. The triune nature of the Being of God is not an abstract speculation but is imprinted upon our very own experience of salvation. We confess God's three-fold Name at every baptism (Matt 28:19). Bavinck wrote that this truth is intuitively sensed by every Christian... 

"To that order of existence in the Divine Being the order of the three persons in all Divine work corresponds. The Father is He from whom, the Son is He through whom, and the Spirit is He in whom all things are. All things in the creation, and in the redemption, or re-creation, come from the Father, through the Son and the Spirit. And in the Spirit and through the Son they are come back to Him. It is to the Father that we are particularly indebted, therefore, for his electing love, to the Son for His redeeming grace, and to the Spirit for his regenerative and renewing power." (p 159)

"...this confession of the church is also of the greatest importance for the spiritual life. Quite unjustifiably it is sometimes maintained that the doctrine of the trinity is merely a philosophically abstracted dogma and that it possesses no value for religion and life. ... This we know from the witness of Holy Scripture, and from the activities of the three persons, especially those which we sense within us. True, we do not base our faith in the trinity on feeling and experience; but when we believe it, we notice that the doctrine stands in intimate relationship with the spiritual experience of the children of God.

"For the believers come to know the workings of the Father, the Creator of all things, He who gave them life, and breath, and all things. They learn to know Him as the Lawgiver who gave out His holy commandments in order that they should walk in them. They learn to know Him as the Judge who is provoked to terrible wrath by all the unrighteousness of men and who in no sense holds the guilty guiltless. And they learn to know Him, finally, as the Father who for Christ’s sake is their God and Father, on whom they trust so far that they do not doubt but that He will supply for every need of body and soul, and that He will convert all evil which accrues to them in this vale of tears into good. They know that He can do this as Almighty God and that He wants to do it as a faithful Father. Hence, they confess, 'I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.'

"Thus, too, they learn to know in themselves the workings of the Son, He who is the only-begotten of the Father, conceived in Mary of the Holy Spirit. They learn to know Him as their highest Prophet and Teacher, He who has perfectly revealed to them the secret counsel and will of God in the matter of their redemption. They learn to know Him as their only High priest, who has redeemed them by the one sacrifice of His body, and who still constantly intercedes for them with the Father. They learn to know Him as their eternal King, who rules them with His Word and Spirit and who shelters and preserves them in their achieved redemption. Hence, they confess, 'I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only-begotten Son, our Lord.'

"And they also learn to recognize in themselves the workings of the Holy Spirit, He who regenerates them and leads them into all truth. They learn to know Him as the Operator of their faith, He who through that faith causes them to share in Christ and all His benefits. They learn to know Him as the Comforter, He who prays in them with unutterable longings and who testifies with their spirit that they are children of God. They learn to know Him as the pledge of their eternal inheritance, He who preserves them until the day of their redemption. And they therefore confess, 'I believe also in the Holy Spirit.'

"Thus, the confession of the trinity is the sum of the Christian religion. Without it neither the creation nor the redemption nor the sanctification can be purely maintained.

"Every departure from this confession leads to error in the other heads of doctrine, just as a mistaken representation of the articles of faith can be traced back to a misconception of the doctrine of the trinity. We can truly proclaim the mighty works of God only when we recognize and confess them as the one great work of Father, Son, and Spirit.

"In the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is contained the whole salvation of men." (p 160-61)


~ Herman Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (Dutch, 1909; Eerdmans, 1956). Republished as The Wonderful Works of God (Westminster Seminary Press, 2020). 


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