Christianity 201

July 18, 2021

The Triune God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Last year at this time, we briefly connected with the writing of Michael Battle at his site Rooted and Grounded in Christ. We thought he deserved more than a few paragraphs this time! To red this at source, click the header which follows. Michael uses the King James text in this post, but references are provided.

The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit

According to the Bible there is only one God and he has a Son, Jesus Christ.

In John 17, Jesus prayed the following words:

Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. ~ v.1-5

When the New Testament is surveyed, the overarching truth which comes up again and again is that the One true God is that the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ is his Son in the fullest sense of the word, having the same divine and eternal nature as the Father. In the text above, Jesus prays to the Father to be glorified with the Father’s own self which is glory he had before the world was. Christ came from God and has always existed with God and in God. The apostle Paul refers to the deity of Christ as the mystery of godliness.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. ~1 Timothy 3:16 

Christ is one with the Father in spirit, being divine, and in his eternal existence having always been with the Father. Jesus came into the world from the Father, who is God.

In 1 Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul declares, For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. ~ 1 Corinthians 8:5-6

Notice the language Paul uses: One God, the Father of whom are all things… and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things. This is consistent with Paul’s words elsewhere, that God created all things by Jesus Christ.

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ… ~ Ephesians 3:8-9

According to Paul, the unsearchable riches of Christ were hidden in God from the beginning of the world. Christ is indeed the revelation of God’s person who dwells in unapproachable light and whom no man has seen (1 Timothy 6:16). Christ is the revelation of God’s person to fallen humanity.

The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as the Son by whom God has spoken to us, by whom also God made the worlds. He then declares that Jesus is the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person. ~ Hebrews 1:3

In creation we see God’s outward handiwork, In Christ we see his inward glory and beauty – his love, his grace, his kindness, and his mercy. Christ brings us into fellowship with God and reveals to us his glory by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the One true God who gave his only begotten Son.

But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. ~ Matthew 10:19-20

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance… But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy… ~Acts 2:1-4; 14-18

In the texts above Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of your Father (God), and Peter interprets the Holy Spirit coming on the Day of Pentecost as God pouring out his Spirit. Over and over again, the Holy Spirit is referred to as God’s Spirit.

For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:7-8

He is also referred to as the Spirit of Christ.

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. ~ Romans 8:9

Consider Paul’s words to the Ephesians:

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. ~Ephesians 3:14-19

Paul bows in prayer before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is the Father to whom we pray through Christ. Paul says the whole family in Heaven and in earth are named from the Father. He then refers to the Holy Spirit as the Father’s Spirit: that he (the Father)  would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man…

Notice Paul’s expectation of the Father granting strength in our inner man by his Spirit is to this end – that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, that we be rooted and grounded in love, that we comprehend the love of Christ in all its vastness, and thus be filled with all the fullness of God.

In Christ the fullness of God is revealed. Through the Spirit Christ dwells in our hearts drawing us close to the glorious God who sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. In Christ, God is revealed to us. Through the Holy Spirit Christ lives in us. This is the fellowship of the mystery we are called into, and thus we come to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9-16

March 26, 2021

Understanding the Roles of the Trinitarian Godhead

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I hope the title wasn’t too scary. In 2014, we published this under the simpler “Trinity Job Descriptions: Who Does What?”

Our sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from actual presumption.
~A.W. Tozer, The Idea of the Holy, chapter 4

Today we look at the work of God. Classic writer A. W. Tozer, who helped found the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, sets this up well in the first paragraph, and describes a situation that many Christians fall into. Because we’re dealing with an older writing style, I thought we’d mix things up a bit, and use The Voice Bible (except where noted) as the base text. The cross references aren’t spelled out in the original; I’ve taken the time today (partly for my own benefit) to look them all up for you. Because the page numbers may differ in various editions of The Idea of the Holy, suffice it to say that this is the section that concludes chapter four.

O marvelous! O worshipful!
No song or sound is heard,
But everywhere and every hour
In love, in wisdom, and in power,
The Father Speaks His dear Eternal Word.
Frederick W. Faber

A W TozerA popular belief among Christians divides the work of God between the three Persons, giving a specific part to each, as, for instance, creation to the Father, redemption to the Son, and regeneration to the Holy Spirit. This is partly true, but not wholly so, for God cannot so divide Himself that one Person works while another is inactive. In the Scriptures the three Persons are shown to act in harmonious unity in all the mighty works that are wrought throughout the universe.

In the Holy Scriptures the work of creation is attributed to the Father

Gen. 1:1 In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below

to the Son

Col 1:16 It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes.

and to the Holy Spirit

Job 26:13 By His breath, the heavens are made beautifully clear;
by His hand that ancient serpent—even as it attempted escape—is pierced through.

Psalm 104:30 When You send out Your breath, life is created,
and the face of the earth is made beautiful and is renewed.

The incarnation is shown to have been accomplished by the three Persons in full accord

Luke 1:35 The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known, as not just your son, but also as the Son of God.

though only the Son became flesh to dwell among us. At Christ’s baptism the Son came up out of the water, the Spirit descended upon Him and the Father’s voice spoke from heaven,

NLT Matt. 3:16 After his baptism, as soon as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God coming down in the form of a dove. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with him.”

Probably the most beautiful description of the work of atonement is found in Hebrews 9:14, where it is stated that Christ, through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God; and there we behold the three Persons operating together.

Hebrews 9:14 then how much more powerful is the blood of the Anointed One, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself as a spotless sacrifice to God, purifying your conscience from the dead things of the world to the service of the living God?

The resurrection of Christ is likewise attributed variously to the Father

NIV Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.

to the Son

John 10:17 The Father loves Me because I am willing to lay down My life—but I will take it up again. 18 My life cannot be taken away by anybody else; I am giving it of My own free will. My authority allows Me to give My life and to take it again. All this has been commanded by My Father.

and to the Holy Spirit

ESV Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The salvation of the individual man is shown by the apostle Peter to be the work of all three Persons of the Godhead,

I Peter 1:2 I am sending this letter to those who have been selected and destined by God the Father and made holy by God the Spirit that you may be obedient to Jesus the Anointed and purified by the sprinkling of His blood. May grace and peace beyond all reckoning be yours.

and the indwelling of the Christian man’s soul is said to be by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

Jesus: John 14:15 If you love Me, obey the commandments I have given you. 16 I will ask the Father to send you another Helper, the Spirit of truth, who will remain constantly with you. 17 The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth, because it does not know the Spirit and is unable to receive Him. But you do know the Spirit because He lives with you, and He will dwell in you. 18 I will never abandon you like orphans; I will return to be with you. 19 In a little while, the world will not see Me; but I will not vanish completely from your sight. Because I live, you will also live. 20 At that time, you will know that I am in the Father, you are in Me, and I am in you. 21 The one who loves Me will do the things I have commanded. My Father loves everyone who loves Me; and I will love you and reveal My heart, will, and nature to you.

The Other Judas: 22 Lord, why will You reveal Yourself to us, but not to the world?

Jesus: 23 Anyone who loves Me will listen to My voice and obey. The Father will love him, and We will draw close to him and make a dwelling place within him.

The doctrine of the Trinity, as I have said before, is truth for the heart. The fact that it cannot be satisfactorily explained, instead of being against it, is in its favour. Such a truth had to be revealed; no one could have imagined it.

O Blessed Trinity!
O simplest Majesty! O Three in One!
Thou art for ever God alone.
Holy Trinity!
Blessed equal Three
One God, we praise Thee.
~Frederick W. Faber


Other Tozer readings here at Christianity 201:

 

 

October 30, 2017

How Was Jesus Involved in His Own Resurrection?

It’s just been six months, but we’re back with pastor, author and Bible translator Christopher R. Smith at the blog Good Question. This one is certainly interesting; click the title below to read it at their site.  (Note: Underlined sections in scripture quotes are passage links.)

Did the Holy Spirit raise Jesus from the dead?

Q. Paul writes in Romans, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies.” Can this statement be used in support the idea that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead?

For this particular statement to be used that way, it would have to refer to “the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead” rather than “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead.” However, there’s another interesting statement in Romans that suggests that the Holy Spirit might indeed have had a role in raising Jesus from the dead. Paul says something a little earlier in the letter that’s parallel to this later statement: “Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Here Jesus’ resurrection is not attributed directly to the Father, but to something (or someone?) associated with the Father.

We may observe more generally that all of the activities of the Trinity involve all of its persons, so it would have been uncharacteristic for the Father alone to have raised the Son, without the involvement of the Spirit. As Christian thinkers in the first few centuries after Jesus tried to wrap their minds around the Trinity, one thing they agreed on was that it would be inaccurate to distinguish between the persons of the Trinity by appealing to their roles or responsibilities. That is, we shouldn’t say, “The Father does this while the Son does that and the Spirit does this other thing,” or, “The Father is responsible for this, and the Son for something else, and the Spirit for yet another area.”

We have some vivid pictures in the Bible of the persons of the Trinity all working together to accomplish important things. For example, in the Genesis creation account, God the Father creates through the Word while the Spirit hovers over the waters. At Jesus’ baptism, the heavens open and the Father speaks while the Spirit descends like a dove. While he was on earth, Jesus himself said, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son does also.” I think we can legitimately expand this to say, “Whatever the Father and the Son do, the Spirit does also.”

So in some way the Spirit must have been involved in the resurrection of Jesus. I picture it as being something like the way the “two witnesses” in the book of Revelation are raised from the dead: “The Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet.” (Many English translations say “breath of life” or “spirit of life” instead, but I think the text could well be referring to the Holy Spirit.)

This raises another very interesting question: If all three persons of the Trinity work together in every one of their activities, was Jesus involved in his own resurrection? The book of Hebrews makes this interesting statement: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Jesus actually did die an earthly death, on the cross, and so this statement that his prayers to be saved from death were heard seems to be describing his resurrection. In that case, Jesus was involved in his own resurrection through his prayers and submission, that is, his trust in God.

Hebrews goes on to say, “Although he was the Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. After he was perfected, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” This, too, would suggest that the Second Person of the Trinity was involved in his own resurrection through his trusting obedience, and in that way he contributed to the achievement of salvation for humanity that the whole Trinity was working for together.

 

August 10, 2015

The True Lord’s Prayers — Part Three

This is the third of a three-part original series for C201.

In the healing of Lazarus in John 11, we see a brief admission on the part of Jesus that some of his prayers — while directed to the Father — were said in the presence of witnesses for their (and our) benefit.

Jesus prays,

“Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.”  (NLT)

It’s a teaching moment inasmuch as we are meant to eavesdrop on this prayer. So does Jesus pray, ‘Father, please raise Lazarus from the dead?’ No, there is no such request at this point. The IVP Bible Commentary notes:

We do not hear an actual petition but rather Jesus’ thanksgiving that the Father heard him (v. 41). The communication between the Father and the Son regarding Lazarus had taken place much earlier, since he already announced what would take place when the messengers arrived with the news (v. 4). We here see the Son as subordinate to the Father, bringing a request to the Father. But far more is involved, for he goes on to say, I knew that you always hear me (v. 42). The clear teaching of the Old Testament is that God listens to the righteous, not the unrighteous, except for prayers of repentance (see note on 9:31). Thus, Jesus is claiming to be righteous before God and in unbroken fellowship with him. He knows he is heard; he has utter confidence in this relationship. “Jesus lives in constant prayer and communication with his Father. When he engages in vocal prayer, he is not entering, as we do, from a state of non-praying into prayer. He is only giving overt expression to what is the ground and base of his life all along. He emerges from non-vocal to vocal prayer here in order to show that the power he needs . . . for the raising of Lazarus . . . depends on the gift of God. It is through that prayer and communion and constant obedience to his Father’s will that he is the channel of the Father’s saving action. That is why the prayer is a thanksgiving rather than a petition” (Fuller 1963:107).

He vocalizes his prayer for the sake of the crowd: I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me (v. 42). In other words, it is not enough for people to be impressed with Jesus. They must believe in him as the one sent from God. It is precisely because Jesus is sent from God and does as God directs him that he is heard by God. The Father as the sender is primary. Jesus is not a wonder-worker who is able to get God to do what he wants him to do. He is the obedient Son sent by the Father to do the Father’s will. The Father’s will and the Son’s petition coincide exactly. Later Jesus will say that his followers are to share in this same relationship through their union with him, and thereby they will also be heard by the Father…

…In saying the purpose of this prayer is that they might believe, Jesus is again acting with divine graciousness and mercy. Such belief brings eternal life. Thus, this miracle is not just for the sake of Lazarus and his sisters, who already do have such faith and the life it brings, but for others that they may have life. The miracle reveals Jesus as the life-giver sent from the Father, and one receives life from him as one has faith in him. We see the grace of God evident in several ways in this story. This last miraculous sign continues to reveal the glory of God as have all the others.

After the prayer comes the deed: Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

Please don’t make the mistake of reading through this commentary too quickly. There are a number of dynamics going on in this prayer. Read the full text of the Lazarus story, then focus on the prayer again, and note the key elements.

The cry from the cross

There is one more example I want to leave with you of a prayer clearly meant to be overheard, though not everyone will agree with this interpretation.

This is the fourth of the “seven last words of Christ” or what is sometimes called the “cries of Christ from the cross.”

KJV Matt 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

This is a direct quotation from Psalm 22, which is a Messianic Psalm. Author Warren Weirsbe writes:

David is the author, but we have a difficult time finding an occasion in his life that would call forth this kind of psalm. According to the record, the Lord never deserted him in his hour of need but always provided friends to help him and deliverance from his enemies. The intense suffering described here isn’t that of a sick man in bed or a soldier in battle. It’s the description of a criminal being executed! Numerous quotations from the psalm in the four gospels, as well as Hebrews 2:10-12, indicate that this is a messianic psalm. We may not know how this psalm related to the author’s personal experience, but we do know that David was a prophet (Acts 2:30), and in this psalm he wrote about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first part (vv. 1-21) focuses on prayer and suffering and takes us to the cross, while the second part (vv. 22-31) announces the resurrection and expresses praise to the glory of God. An understanding of Messiah’s suffering and glory is basic to grasping the message of the Bible (Luke 24:25-27; 1 Peter 1:11).

For that reason, in addition to everything else happening here — and I don’t want to minimize the whole theme of Jesus “abandonment” by the Father — some feel that an acceptable interpretation of this is like a giant, flashing neon billboard which says, “READ PSALM 22!” In other words, ‘If you’re wondering what is truly happening here, take a moment to read where everything you are seeing this day was written prophetically by David.’

The prayer is truly meant to be overheard.

Should we adopt this prayer methodology? There may be times or occasions when it’s helpful for a son or daughter to hear the loving prayer of a father or mother on their behalf. Or a prayer by a pastor which draws those who overhear into a particular text. Perhaps you can think of other examples. As with so many things, it is also easy for us to mis-apply this. Wisdom and discernment are needed.


The IVP Bible Commentary and Warren Weirsbe Bible Study are a number of resources at BibleGateway.com   Select a single verse and click on “study tools.”

November 1, 2014

Wait a Minute! What Did Jesus Just Say?

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Yesterday we looked at the subject of unity in the body of Christ and it’s hard to discuss this subject without remembering John 17:21. This is Jesus praying before the crucifixion:

…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (NIV)
…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (ESV)
…That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (KJV)

This verse is often used as a rallying cry for Christian unity and promotes the ideal that there would be no division in the capital ‘C’ Church.

But Jesus isn’t just saying that, he’s saying that we would be one just as the Father (to whom he is praying) and himself are one.  What does that mean?

trinity 1

We’ve used this diagram before here to promote the idea that each part of what we call the Godhead maintains complete unity with the other but is also distinct. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. But the Father is not the Son or the Spirit; The Son is not the Father or the Spirit; The Spirit is not the Son or the Father.

This is summed up in The Athanasian Creed. When you click through, you see something much longer than the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. Part of the length is this qualification that each holds distinction but is part of the unified whole.  (I once suggested it was written by lawyer!) The purpose is to spell out the complexity of what we call Trinity in unmistakable terms.

There is also some additional language that stems from this:

And yet there are not three eternal beings;
there is but one eternal being.

For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty co-eternal.

So…back to John 17:21. Is Jesus suggesting that in becoming one with the Father just as he and the Father are one, we need to re-draw the diagram? Does that make us part of the Godhead, too? (Father, Son, Spirit, Church?) Some tools at BibleGateway.com are useful here.

From the Asbury Bible Commentary:

In nature this was identical to the oneness that united Son and Father, and it was characterized by the same glory. Its purpose was that by observing it the world might come to know that God had indeed been behind the mission of Jesus and that his blessing was on the church.

From the Reformation Bible Commentary:

This prayer for unity is not merely for a “spiritual” or invisible unity, but for a unity that is visible to the world, “that the world may believe.”

IVP Bible Commentary:

What follows is usually seen as the content of Jesus’ prayer for all disciples—that all of them may be one (v. 21)—as it is in the NIV. The word that (hina) is used this way quite often, but it also frequently signals purpose. Jesus uses this same language in two other places in this prayer (vv. 11, 22), both times clearly indicating purpose, which suggests he intends this meaning here as well…

Matthew Henry:

Some think that the oneness prayed for in John 17:11 has special reference to the disciples as ministers and apostles, that they might be one in their testimony to Christ; and that the harmony of the evangelists, and concurrence of the first preachers of the gospel, are owing to this prayer. Let them be not only of one heart, but of one mouth, speaking the same thing. The unity of the gospel ministers is both the beauty and strength of the gospel interest. But it is certain that the oneness prayed for in John 17:21 respects all believers. It is the prayer of Christ for all that are his, and we may be sure it is an answered prayer—that they all may be one, one in us (John 17:21), one as we are one (John 17:22), made perfect in one, John 17:23

So first of all with respect to the idea that Jesus would incorporate the Body into the triune relationship, this is not intended. Jesus is not suggesting that. The request is not literal, nor is it hyperbole, but it is a simile.

Rather, Jesus is praying that we would have the same type of unity, the same type of intimacy enjoyed by the Father, Son and Spirit.

What would it look like to see that happening in The Church today?