OK, so sometimes a good, shocking title will draw the reader in, only to have the writer say, “Well, not really.” Busted. But hear me out.
A few years ago I emailed Bob Kauflin (Director of Worship Development, Sovereign Grace Ministries) with this question: “I’ve noticed lately that several worship songs change the order of the Trinity: “Father, Spirit, Jesus,” and several other (otherwise very good and doctrinally sound) songs. Is there any danger in reversing the typical order of the Trinity as it’s presented in Scripture?”
His response was wise. Essentially he said that these songs seems to have changed the order of the Trinity simply because of artistic purposes—that is, to fit the music, or to provide a rhyme which fits the song’s message. However, he added that, while Scripture does present one or two occasions in which the Trinitarian order is altered, Scripture almost always preserves the order of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since that is the case, and since there is somewhat of a hierarchy of the Trinity (in purpose, but not in value), we ought to equally emphasize the Scriptural order of the Trinity.
However, I have noticed lately another subtle change in the Trinitarian order—not in song, but in sermons, books, blogs, and other media. The tendency can become dangerous if we are not careful. And it stems from within our camp: the so-called, “young, restless, and reformed” crowd. The order goes like this: Jesus, Father, Spirit. (Or even, in some cases, “Jesus, Spirit, Father.”)
This worry has also created a huge tension in my brain: I am thankful for the recent emphasis on being “cross-centered” or “gospel-driven”. The church for many years emphasized what we as Christians do,while assuming or minimizing what Jesus has already done. It tended to produce tired Christians who had lost the joy of their salvation. So why would I criticize that?
Here’s where my tension comes in: Which member of the Trinity gets shifted out of order in the above description of some “cross-centered” views? The Father! Have you noticed a tendency lately to hear Jesus’ name a lot, while the Father is mentioned very little? Is this wrong? Part of me wants to scream at anybody who suggests we mention Jesus any less than we do. Didn’t Paul say, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2)? So where is the danger in this singular focus on Jesus?
The answer for me came in a couple of places. Look at 1 Peter 3:18—“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” Did you get that? The cross of Jesus is important, not simply for the forgiveness of sins, but because such forgiveness brings us to God. Because of the cross, we are now able to approach our Heavenly Father, have fellowship with Him, and begin our eternal journey of discovering the excellencies of His Person. As John Piper reminds us, the gospel is ultimately important because it gets us to God:
When I say that God Is the Gospel I mean that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gifts would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment. The saving love of God is God’s commitment to do everything necessary to enthrall us with what is most deeply and durably satisfying, namely himself. Since we are sinners and have no right and no desire to be enthralled with God, therefore God’s love enacted a plan of redemption to provide that right and that desire. The supreme demonstration of God’s love was the sending of his Son to die for our sins and to rise again so that sinners might have the right to approach God and might have the pleasure of his presence forever. In order for the Christian gospel to be good news it must provide an all-satisfying and eternal gift that undeserving sinners can receive and enjoy. (John Piper, God is the Gospel, pp. 13-14)
This thought is confirmed in Hebrews 10:19-22—“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” The blood of Jesus opened the way; now no barriers remain between the believer and God. Therefore, we can now draw near to God.
That’s why I am so thankful that Josh is beginning his series, “Know God”. It will be a great opportunity for us to grow in our knowledge of this great God—the God who went to such extreme lengths to allow us the pleasure of knowing Him! One by one, we will explore and savor the attributes of God.
Knowing God is a worthwhile pursuit—“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord’”(Jer 9:23-24). It is also a lifelong pursuit. Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17).
So, yes, let’s rejoice in the cross; I think that no matter how hard we emphasize the cross, we’ll never overdo it. Our tendency is never to slip too fully into grace, but to slip toward law. However, let’s not stop there. Let’s become a generation who know their God! “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” (Daniel 11:32).
“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3).
“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1,2)
“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33)