1689 Baptist Confession Chapter 2: Paragraph 3: The Trinity: Part Five
Today we want to conclude our look at the doctrine of the Trinity. There are many aspects of the doctrine we have not explored. This is indeed one of the deepest doctrines we could ever hope to encounter as we are dealing with the triune nature of God. There are complexities here which can occupy the Christian for eternity. But we want to look at the practical value of this doctrine before we leave it. The doctrine of the Trinity is not just a mystery to occupy the intellectually curious, not it is the very heart of our faith and worship. Many people who don’t like history or technical discussions may feel put off thinking about the Trinity, but we must think on the Trinity and how God being one God in Three modes of subsistence impacts on our lives. The Savoy Declaration and the 1689 have a phrase that the WCF does not have at the end of paragraph 3, ‘which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.’ One of the key framers of the Savoy was John Owen, a Congregationalist and probably the best theologian among the Puritans. He is likely the author of this addition. He wrote a book called ‘Of Communion With God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly in Love, Grace and Consolation, or The Saints Fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Unfolded.’ This book is considered one of the great classics of Christian devotion. If anyone is interested in reading it I have a free pdf of an up to date English translation I can email to you. In this book Owen explores how the Christian is saved by and worships God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We will not be summarizing the book here but we will be using two keys distinctions he introduces that we can consider a practical use of the Trinity. He makes the distinction between union and communion. Union is God’s act of uniting us to Himself in salvation. Communion is our ongoing fellowship with God now that we are saved. Union is unilateral; but communion with God is responsive on our part. Union is static, unchanging, never-ending; but communion can ebb and flow with our sinfulness, ignorance, knowledge and obedience. The statement in the 1689 seems to run along the lines of this distinction. The doctrine of the Trinity grounds our basic unity with God in salvation; but it also grounds our comfort in Him as children of God. So these will be our two points. We will not spend most of our time on Union but on Communion because Union will be explored more fully through the other chapters of the 1689.