A trinitarian understanding of creation
Published: 7 March 2020 (GMT+10)
We have recently listened to a sermon at our congregation about the Creator from someone who stands in for this from time to time. This person said amongst others:
- God the Father and God the Spirit did not perform or do any of the ‘tasks’ of the creation.
- God appointed Jesus to perform the creation on His behalf.
- Jesus the Son has performed all the ‘tasks’ of the creation alone, by Himself.
- Jesus spoke the creation words in Genesis 1.
A few of us will be discussing these statements. It would really help us if we could have an independent opinion.
Do you perhaps have any documentation regarding this that you could share with us? Or do you perhaps have an opinion on this? I will appreciate any feedback from you about this.
Lita Sanders, CMI-US, responds:
Thank you for writing in. Not hearing the preacher for myself, I can only evaluate your statements summarizing the sermon. While they go slightly beyond what I would be willing to say because I think Scripture isn’t quite that specific, we can affirm a lot of the content of those statements.
- God existed as a Trinity in eternity past. There was never a time when God was not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We know this because this is how He reveals Himself in Scripture, and God does not change (Malachi 3:6).
- The three Persons have always been differentiated by their relationship to one another and their unique roles. While He does not reveal much to us about how this works in the intra-Trinitarian relationship before creation, the Persons act in distinct and consistent ways in creation and salvation.
- The Father has the role of ordaining creation and salvation. He is the one who spoke creation into being (2 Corinthians 4:6), and Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37) and “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” (John 6:40) (note that it is not the purpose of this response to interpret what Jesus says according to one particular view).
- Jesus is always presented as the agent of Creation who accomplishes the Father’s expressed will. He does this perfectly and completely. John says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing that was made” (John 1:3). Regarding salvation, Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. … All this is from God, who through Christ has reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17–18, emphasis added). The “from God … through Christ” is a common way for biblical authors to speak.
- The Holy Spirit was present at creation “hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The words for “spirit” and “breath” or “wind” are the same in both Greek and Hebrew, so when it says God breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7), that is probably referring to something the Holy Spirit did. And we know that it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us when we believe, and who indwells us.
It would be inappropriate to speak of any Person of the Godhead acting ‘alone’, because God is One in will and purpose, and the Persons never act independently of one another, although their actions are distinct in accomplishing His plan. Jesus in particular claimed never to act alone; He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19).
Of course one could (and many have) written whole volumes on the Trinity’s work in relation to creation, but hopefully this is helpful.