A THEOLOGY TRILOGY
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
November 3, 2019
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
— Ephesians 1:11-15, ESV
Good things seem to come in threes. In the annals of great literature we have The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. In critically acclaimed film we have The Godfather trilogy inspired by the characters of Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. And, classic television has given us not one, not two, but The Three Stooges.
Christian theology offers the best of trilogies. The one true and living God in whom we believe has revealed Himself to us in a trilogy of persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The salvation God gives unfolds in a trilogy of events known as justification, sanctification, and glorification. Obtaining such salvation is the third part of a divine trilogy that begins with the sovereignty of God, then passes through the responsibility of man, and culminates with the salvation of a soul.
These verses form the end of a long, highly theological, and glorious sentence penned by the Apostle Paul. They lay out for us a theology trilogy. It begins with God, brings in the elect, and results in eternal glory.
The God Trilogy
The word “Trinity” is not found anywhere in Scripture, but its truth runs all throughout the Bible. One of the first fundamental doctrines God revealed about Himself is: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (ref. Deuteronomy 6:4). While this one God is called “Father” over and over, the promised messianic “Son” carries the same name, “Everlasting Father” (ref. Isaiah 9:6), and can be considered the same God. God’s “Spirit” wields God’s power in creation (ref. Genesis 1:2) and God’s presence in salvation (ref. Psalm 51:11) and therefore was, is, and always will be God. The Old Testament is decidedly trinitarian.
In this New Testament passage, God the Father gives “an inheritance” to His chosen ones, those He has “predestined according to the purpose of Him who works out all things according to the counsel of His will,” and He does this ultimately for “His glory.” God the Father has adopted children for Himself to give them the inheritance of salvation. God the Father gives salvation.
God the Son wins salvation. He is the “Christ” who purchased our salvation with “the gospel ... the word of truth.” The truth is that God in the person of the incarnate Son, gave His life on the cross, and took it up again in resurrection on the third day. The good news is His life, death, and resurrection provide the basis by which a person can be forgiven of sin and have everlasting life. Only God could win salvation for His people, for His people could never earn it for themselves. God did it, God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Father gives salvation and the Son wins salvation, but it is God the Holy Spirit that sends salvation, and seals it. The Father predestines you to hear the gospel, the Son is who you hear about, then it is God the Spirit that regenerates the heart, enables faith and repentance, causes you to be born again, and then you are “sealed” with the “guarantee” of eternal security for eternal life.
Why the trilogy of the Trinity? Because God the Father cannot have a relationship with sinners, unless faith in God the Son has washed away that sin, through the power of God the Spirit who converts a sinner into a saint and seals them forever. One God, one salvation, ordered and purchased and delivered by the God trilogy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Salvation Trilogy
Let’s move now from a God trilogy to a human trilogy, or the trinity of occurrences that transition a sinner into a saint forever. Salvation is a past, present, and future experience that all saved souls pass through on their journey from earth to heaven.
Justification is that moment in the past that a Christian “believed in Him.” There are many with no hope of salvation, for they do not believe or are otherwise unconcerned about God and any life after this. There are those with false hope, which is attached to any religion other than Christianity (ref. John 14:6). Then there are those of us who “hope in Christ.” We confidently expect that His death atones for our sin and His righteousness makes us acceptable to God. We were saved, we were justified.
Sanctification begins at justification, both of which are works of “the promised Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit readily identifies any unholiness in our lives, so that conviction can lead to confession. The Holy Spirit enables us to understand and apply the word of God to our lives. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts by which we can serve the Lord and help grow His church. Every moment since the moment you were justified by faith, your are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. We are being saved, we are being sanctified.
Glorification is the moment you receive your “inheritance.” You have a “guarantee” now, but it will take your death or the second coming of Christ to “acquire possession of it.” What is it? It is the glory of the Lord, His face, His presence, His fellowship, along with His children, unbroken and unending for eternal life, “to the praise of His glory.” We will be saved, we will be glorified.
We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved, that is a salvation trilogy.
The Theology Trilogy
The theology behind God’s saving a human being for all of eternity is richly explained and illustrated in this text. God is sovereign. Man is responsible. And, salvation is eternal. Let’s take a look at this third of three trilogies.
The fact that God has “predestined” people to be saved is off-putting to some. But it belittles God to put it away. The theology of the sovereignty of God was explained to me in my early Christian life in one sentence: “God can do anything He wants, anytime He wants, to anyone He wants.” And this text tells us that He does, “according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His own will.” God’s will will be done, “on earth as it is in Heaven.” God will save everyone He is willing to save. We should rejoice that God is willing to save anyone at all, especially me.
But God’s sovereignty does not deny man’s responsibility. God endowed us with the ability to make free and willing choices. Of course, we all freely and willingly choose to sin, which separates us from God and assigns us to condemnation. Yet God lovingly reveals Himself to us in nature and Scripture, and He specifically reveals the way of salvation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is grace, which is received “when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in Him.” By grace through faith you have “hope in Christ,” or the confident expectation that Jesus has atoned for your sins and given you salvation. God wills to save those who freely and willingly repents and believes in Him, As Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (ref. John 6:37). Just remember that such freedom and willingness are products of the grace of God.
When God’s sovereignty to save meets man’s responsibility to repent and believe the gospel, the end result is a salvation that is eternally secure. This text closes with the promise that those whom God saves are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” We are “sealed.” We have a “guarantee.” God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, eternal salvation — this is your theology trilogy.
Being a Christian is not supposed to be easy and grasping Christian theology at times can be complex. It helps sometimes to think in threes. One God, three Persons, Father and Son and Holy Spirit. One salvation, three time zones, justification in the past, sanctification in the present, glorification in the future. One theology in three solas, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That is a theology trilogy.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org