Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Fred Sanders has written one of the better books on the Trinity in recent years (The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything). I am grateful he will join us for the preconference to our Theology Conference teaching on the Trinity, “God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity.”
Last month Sanders preached a sermon on the Trinity at Grace Evangelical Free Church, LaMirada, CA, where he is a member. He titled his sermon, “The Trinity as Old Testament Book Club.” The sermon series is through Hebrews. Sanders preached on chapter 7, and his point was that in that text we learn how to hear God’s Word with Melchizedek as an example.
Here is the key to this sermon:
We can learn to read the Bible so well that we overhear in it what the Father and Son say to each other.
Does that sound too mystical? Learning to overhear the Trinity’s conversation? Don’t worry: It’s very high, but it’s not mystical. Mystical means, among other things, secret. And there’s nothing secret about this trinitarian conversation, because the whole thing is published, and has been for a long time.
When you listen to the Father and the Son in the way Hebrews teaches you to do, you know what you’re hearing? Not a single new word, but a host of old words, from the Old Testament. What Hebrews has been training us for since the first sentence is to hear God speak in the living oracles of the Old Testament.
When God says the biggest thing he ever said, he speaks entirely in quotations from the Old Testament. And Jesus speaks to the Father in OT QUOTES; We are pointed to some of the Psalms as transcripts of what the Son says to the Father: Psalm 40, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you prepared for me. Behold, I come to do thy will, O God.” Once you’ve learned to hear Psalm 40 as a statement of the incarnate Son to the Father who sent him, good luck ever hearing it again as anything less than messianic and trinitarian. Jesus owns that Psalm!
Why do the Father and Son communicate in OT QUOTES? One way to think of this phenomenon is this: It’s like a book club where everybody totally agrees about what the most important thing to read is, and the members constantly communicate with each other by alluding to events and characters from that key text. If you’re into Harry Potter, then you’re on the inside when they start in with their “boy, what a Dumbledore” kind of talk; but if you haven’t read it, you just don’t get it. And “not getting it” is a serious problem, because even when these people talk about other topics, the constant flow of Harry Potter references is the very language that community speaks. Now imagine that kind of like-minded book club, a community of literary engagement that intense and interpersonal, but not annoying at all. In fact, imagine it at a much higher level, with a much greater text, and with salvation as its goal.
Apparently the Trinity is like a really tight book club and the book is the Old Testament.
Here we have a strong reaffirmation of the Word of God and the Trinity. We also have a new illustration of how to understand the relationship. I appreciate both his reaffirmation and his illustration, recognizing its limitations.
What do you think of this? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the illustration? What illustration would you use to address the relationship between Father and Son, and between Father and Son and the Scriptures?