“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3, ESV).
The knowledge of the Holy is the glorious goal of our existence, and the Holy One we worship is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet it seems that few Christians sense the gravity of that truth. It is a true doctrinal keystone. Without God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the entire arch of Christian teaching comes crashing down. Creation, salvation, consummation – it cannot be without the Trinity.
But as Jesus intimated, God’s triunity is also crucial for our experience of communion with God. Doctrine and devotion must always grow together. The astounding good news is that God gives himself to us in Christ by the Spirit. Filled with all of his fullness, we give ourselves to him in love. For Christians throughout the centuries who walked humbly with their God, God’s triunity has been the apple of their eyes. Athanasius was not moved to fight so valiantly for the full deity of the Son and the Spirit because he loved theological subtleties and philosophical niceties. He was possessed by the conviction that without the truth expressed by the Nicene council, man could not have communion with God. In a real sense, he was fighting for his (eternal) life.
Christians who wish to understand and experience the best of what has come before us must have a fully Trinitarian faith. To that end, a great book to study is John Owen’s Communion with the Triune God. It was originally published in 1657 as Of Communion with God the Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly in Love, Grace, and Consolation: or The Saints Fellowship with the Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost, Unfolded, but in 2007 Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor produced a well-done edition with helps for the modern reader. Those who are acquainted with Owen’s writings will know that he did not write for those who want to skim. J. I. Packer wasn’t exaggerating when he said, “There is no denying that Owen is heavy and hard to read.” But that is precisely what our age of skimming and superficial Christianity needs. To slow down, to think deeply on Scripture, to love intensely, to pray unceasingly, to get a sense of the glory of God – these are the things that a willing reading of Owen will do for you. He faithfully tracks down multiple trails of the believer’s communion with the Godhead. With Owen as a guide, the believer can confidently explore a bit more of the infinite land of glory that is God.
Now for a word of warning. If you have romantic, sentimental notions of communion with God, then Owen’s book will seem as edifying to you as eating sawdust. Owen was not interested in tickling ears and appealing to the flesh. Reading his book will help you to gain a sense of the difference between a “passion” for God and a Spirit-wrought communion with God. In fact, this re-training of your affections may well be one of the greatest benefits of studying Owen’s work. Our age has turned love into the romantic and even the pornographic, but these are inherently anti-Trinitarian forms of love. Cut off from the true source and exemplar of genuine love, the love eternally given between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, men terminate their “love” upon themselves and make it sterile. If you follow Owen’s lead in learning to love God, you may well be mortified to find out how literally ungodly your love for God is. That is the risk you take by reading this book, but life with Father, Son, and Spirit is worth it.