Q&R with Brad Jersak – “How does ‘All Jesus, All the Time’ relate to the Trinity?”
Full disclosure: PTM’s Question & Response feature addresses actual questions from real readers. But (Brad Jersak) created this question for myself because I think the answers might be interesting and relevant to others who overhear my self-talk.
The question relates to a tagline we frequently use at Plain Truth Ministries: “All Jesus, All the Time.” Does that seem an odd claim for a ministry that believes in the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit? I believe it’s worth pondering together from a few angles.
1. First, let’s clarify what we don’t mean. We don’t align or identify with “Oneness” movements that deny the Trinity. They reason that in Acts 2:38, Peter called the people to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ,” so Jesus IS the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). I won’t bother with a refutation of their mistake at this point. I only want to say that we don’t agree.
2. But to say that we aren’t a “Oneness” movement in that sense is not to say that we don’t believe God is ONE. We do follow the ancient faith that believes that “Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in essence and undivided.”
3. So if we believe that God is One (Father, Son and Spirit), why not say, “All Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all the time”? I suppose we could, but we focus on Jesus because Jesus alone is the full revelation of God in this world. Yes, God is disclosed in many other ways throughout the ages, but only in Jesus Christ do we see exactly who God is. Hebrews 1 tells us:
- In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (Hebrews 1:1-3a)
While Jesus is not the Father, he is more certainly one with the Father, but more to my point, we only know the fullness of who God the Father as revealed in Jesus. Recall Jesus words on the night on which he was arrested:
- Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
- Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:8-10)
The stubborn fact is that apart from Jesus Christ, God is invisible. No one has ‘seen’ God or made God visible to us except the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ. In the prologue to John’s Gospel, we read, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18) and likewise, in Colossians, “He is the image of the invisible God.”
So when we say, “All Jesus, All the Time,” we’re following the bold apostolic claim that in Jesus Christ, God the Son has not only revealed himself but has fully revealed the One triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And I’m using that word ‘fully’ advisedly because the apostle Paul uses it unabashedly:
- “For in Christ, all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” (Colossians 2:9)
So to say, “All Jesus, All the Time” is to say that the triune God is only known fully through and with reference to Jesus Christ, who alone is the image of the fullness of God.
4. Next, I would like to point out a serious problem in most modern systematic theology texts that you would never see among the first Christian theologians (i.e., Paul, John, and their proteges). I just fact-checked myself before continuing and it’s much worse than I thought. One popular systematic theology text on my shelf is over 1400 pages (plus appendixes).
- * The first 170 pages are titled “The Word of God” and do not describe Jesus Christ… they are the author’s doctrine of the Bible.
- * The next 350 pages are titled “The Doctrine of God,” in which he lists and explains attributes of God for 100 hundred pages before giving 75 pages to “the Trinity,” followed quickly by discussions on creation, miracles, prayer, and even Satan. Note: we have not yet arrived, made it to his doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ.
- * And even before we do, part 3 talks about the nature of man (in the image of God) and sin, etc.
- * Finally, on page 663, the author offers us part four of seven (shared between Christ and the Spirit) and writes just 110 pages in which he squeezes the Person of Jesus Christ, atonement, resurrection and “the offices of Jesus Christ.”
- * The rest of the book consists of three parts on the application of redemption, the church, and the doctrine of ‘the future.’
So in this example, a systematic theologian wrote over 350 pages about the Bible and “God” and his attributes before finally getting to the person, nature, and ministry of God Incarnate, who the Bible tells us is the Word of God, who alone has revealed the fullness of God to us.
By dramatic contrast, just take a moment to consider the first phrase of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed… “We believe in God the Father, Almighty…” Here’s what I notice:
- * “God” is known to Christians, before ANY attribute, as “the Father,” first and foremost of the only Begotten Son and Word of God, Jesus Christ. God reveals himself inside and through that relationship. Our foundational doctrine of God is nothing without reference to the Son of God.
- * Only after God is revealed as Father do we hear that God is also “Almighty.” Almighty over what? Over all of Creation. How so? Through the Son, “by whom all things were made”! Thus, we know that God is Almighty because the cosmos came to be in him (Christ) and through him and for him (Colossians 1:16-17). And for this reason, Jesus Christ is also called Almighty in Revelation 1:8.
5. Finally, I remind people that the Light of Christ fills the world and reveals God’s love well beyond the boundaries of the Christian Bible, the Christian church or the Christian religion. But we believe the fullness of divine love has come into clearest focus in the Passion of the Christ (both death and resurrection), showing the world that God is self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love. At the Cross, we see God’s definitive self-revelation and decisive victory. And for all these reasons, we joyfully proclaim, “All Jesus, All the time”!