Matthew 3:13-17 — The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit — All Present Here in This Passage, But What Does It Mean?

Posted: September 7, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 3:13-17 — After the baptism of Jesus, Matthew tells us,

“…as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and He saw the Spirit of God descending live a dove and setting on Him. And voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Here, we see the three persons of the Holy Trinity in one place, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Although the Bible does not specifically spell out the doctrine of the trinity it can be understood to be a doctrine of our faith when you place the various scriptural references of the persons of God together. Roger Olson sums it up when he says,

“While it is true that no passage of Scripture spells out the doctrine of the Trinity, it is also true that the whole of Scripture’s witness to who God is and who Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are makes no sense at all without the model of the Trinity and that all alternative concepts end up doing violence to some essential aspect of revelation, Christian experience and possibly even reason itself.”

Several passages can be cited to show the different references to either the Father, or The Son, or The Holy Spirit, or two or more of the three. However, in the interest of time, we will limit ourselves to three references here.

Genesis 1:26 states “Then, God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” In this verse, some have claimed this verse is a plural of majesty or a deliberative plural in which God directs the statement to himself or that God and his heavenly angelic court in view. However, when the writer uses “us” it to me implies an equality of being. God has no equals other than in the trinity. In the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal. Thus, from the beginning of the Old Testament, it begins hinting at the concept of the trinity which becomes fully developed in the New Testament.

Then, here in Matthew 3:13-17 and also in Mark 3:16-17, we find that the gospels say,

“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”

In this passage, one sees a manifestation of the Trinity: the Father spoke from heaven, and a dove descended, as a sign of the Spirit’s anointing. All three persons of the trinity are involved. The initiative of Father, the work of the Son, and the glorifying, enabling power of the Spirit are all present. It signifies to all that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In this verse, we see that those who become disciples are baptized in the triune name. There one name and one baptism not three separate baptisms. Each has played a role in creating the disciple who is baptized. The Holy Spirit has convicted the heart, Jesus has taught and lived as an example and it is by his authority as our High Priest, and God is glorified through the repentant and obedient heart of the new believer.

The trinity is one of the mysteries of the Christian faith. The ultimate understanding of trinity comes with faith and spiritual maturity. Even then, it is often difficult to explain the concept to a non-believer. However, regardless of one’s spiritual maturity, the foundational concept of the trinity is important to Christianity. The doctrine of the Trinity is both central and necessary for the Christian faith. Remove the Trinity and the whole Christian faith disintegrates. The Christian trinity reveals the true God.

It is not necessary to confess the Trinitarian nature of God in order to believe the gospel in faith. We can be saved without a clear concept of the trinity. You don’t have to know or even understand the Trinity to benefit from it. If the trinity is not true, however, then our redemption would not be possible, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be a lie.

When it comes right down to it, one of the most essential doctrines of the Christian faith is that of the Trinity. When we think of the trinity and how that can blow your mind, let’s first think of an egg. The egg consists of three equally important parts – the yolk, the egg white, and the shell. Take away one of those parts and the egg ceases to be an egg. So, it is with the trinity. There are three equally necessary parts of the trinity that give us the fullness of God.

The Father is God. In this role, God guides us and disciplines us and teaches us. The Father is the one that we pray to. Jesus when on earth in the flesh, though co-equal with the Father, willingly subjected Himself to the Father while He was here on earth. God the Father’s role is to generate things. Things originate with him and flow from him. God the Father is equal with the Son and the Holy Spirit, but things start with him. The Father sent both the Son (John 3:16-17) and Holy Spirit (John 14:26) into the world. God is addressed as the Father, in part because of his active interest in human affairs, in the way that a father would take an interest in his children who are dependent on him and as a father, he will respond to humanity, his children, acting in their best interests. In general, the title Father signifies God’s role as the life-giver, the authority, and powerful protector, often viewed as immense, all powerful, all knowing, and present everywhere with infinite power and charity that goes beyond human understanding

Jesus is God. This has been clearly expressed throughout the New Testament. As we review the writings of Paul, we see these doctrines clearly expressed in several of his letters, particularly Galatians, Philippians and Colossians. It is also clearly presented that Jesus was in every way a man, born of a human woman. Both of these facts are necessary for our redemption. Simply stated, if Jesus were not a man, then He could not have represented us on the cross. If He were a created being, His death would have had no more power to salvation that the death of any other created being. He must be God in order to provide the release from the curse of the law, and to provide us the hope of our salvation. This gives us a new life both in eternity, and in the present time.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit must be God as well as it is God poured out upon us on the day of our salvation. The Holy Spirit lives inside the Christian and guides the actions of those who desire His presence. The Spirit empowers the believer to step outside his comfort zone to do extraordinary acts of faith for God. Being filled with the Spirit involves transforming our minds to the mind of Christ as we engage in spiritual activities. Walking in the Spirit leads to a sense of peace and joy, and leads us to joyous obedience to God in carrying out His glorious plans. Acts of disobedience lead to us to a grieving of the Holy Spirit power in our lives, which takes away our joy and peace. Only through repentant prayer and turning away from sin is this peace, the peace of God through the Holy Spirit, restored.

As you can see, the very things we talk about as the effects of being a Christian are all hung on the linchpin of the Trinity. We must have God as our ruling Creator who benevolently guides his creation toward communion with Him. We must have his Son without whom we have no hope of reconciliation to God because of our sin nature. We must have the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to be the voice of God in us, to share the love of God expressed through the Son to a world desperate for the benefits of the Trinity.


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