The Deep Things Of God: Understanding the Trinity
- Monday, September 20, 2010
In what sense is the ministry of the third person necessary? The Spirit's work is necessary because he is the one who actually brings us into contact with the Son and the Father. It does not take away from the Father and the Son to say that their work depends on the work of the Spirit. As Cruz argues, though Jesus died for us and the Father forgives us, we need to ask ourselves, "But why did you come to Jesus in the first place?" and answer, "Because you were drawn by God the Holy Spirit."
Jesus saved me; the Father forgave me. But the Holy Spirit convicted me, brought me to my knees, showed me God.... He showed me Jesus Christ, and I was gripped by His strong, sweet love. And then He shoved Me toward God, and I gladly fell into the arms of my loving Father.
In the work of the Spirit, the purposes of God are fulfilled, and all the salvation, forgiveness, and fellowship are realized. Nicky Cruz is famous for preaching a simple gospel message in a way that is relevant to street-hardened young people. He is not famous for his Trinitarian theology, and it might even seem incongruous to highlight him early in a book about the doctrine of the Trinity. He goes out of his way to make sure nobody confuses him for a theology professor: "I don't know everything there is to know about theology. I am not a Greek scholar. I am just a
There is nothing in Nicky Cruz's book on the Trinity that was not already implicit in his previous books. His understanding of salvation and the Christian life did not change between Run Baby Run and The Magnificent Three. From the moment of his dramatic conversion, he had known that Jesus saves and the Father forgives. In his earliest days of Bible study he came to understand how it had been the sovereign "shove" of the Holy Spirit that had been at work behind the scenes. None of this was new information when he began to describe the Trinity as "the most important element" of his discipleship. In fact, Cruz had even affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity from the beginning. It seems as if nothing had changed, yet he began writing about his relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit with the excitement of having made a life-changing discovery. He called it "the thing that sustains me, that feeds me, that keeps me steady when I am shaky." Though Cruz had gained no new information, he wrote as if his new grasp of the Trinity had changed everything about his Christian life.
The difference is that he had gotten on the inside of the doctrine. He had moved from accepting it on the authority of Scripture and his trusted elders to understanding it from within. "I didn't understand it. I believed it was true, though at first only because I had such great confidence in those who taught it to me. Then later I believed it was true because I saw it to be true in the Bible." This was an important transition in itself, maturing from a necessarily immature trust in human authority, to direct reliance on divine authority. But it was still only authority, and only worked on Cruz from outside. "So I believed it, but I still didn't understand it." What Cruz experienced in his Trinitarian awakening was a kind of shift in how he perceived the same idea: first, he saw the Trinity as a difficult doctrine that had to be accepted but could hardly be explained, then he went on to see it as an illuminating doctrine that explained what he read in the Bible and what he experienced in his actual Christian life. Whereas he first encountered the doctrine as a problem, he came to understand it as a solution.
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