John 17:1–6 (NKJV)
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.
Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday the Church has set aside to remind the people of God that the God we worship is Triune – three Persons in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Later in worship we will recite the Athanasian Creed, one creedal attempt to give expression to God’s Triune nature.
In our Scripture today Jesus prays to the Father and in so doing illustrates the interpersonal dynamic that has existed for all eternity among the Persons of the Trinity. First, we note that the Father and the Son – together with the Spirit, we might add – share glory. Jesus prays, And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. Jesus asks the Father – the Father who declared through Isaiah, “My glory I will not give to another…” – Jesus says to this Father, glorify Me together with Yourself… And note that it is a particular type of glory, the glory which I had with You before the world was. Prior to His incarnation, Jesus existed in the form of God and, though His deity was veiled during His time on earth, now that He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, that glory has been restored to Him. Jesus was and is God Himself in human flesh.
Second, our text reveals that in eternity past, before the world was, when the Father and Son shared glory, they communed with one another, lived in a relationship of love with one another. Jesus alludes to this eternal communion and communication a couple times. Recall Jesus’ words: I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. The Father gave Jesus a task to accomplish, a work to perform. So when did the Father give Him that work? The Scriptures answer: in eternity past, before the world was, when the Father and Son communed together. But there’s more. Not only did the Father give the Son a task to do, He also gave Him a people to call His own. Jesus prays, I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me… So when did the Father give these people to the Son? Before the world was. As Paul writes in Ephesians, the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.
This interaction between the Father and the Son prior to the foundation of the world is sometimes called the Covenant of Redemption or the pactum salutis. Louis Berkhof explains: Now we find that in the [plan] of redemption there is, in a sense, a division of labor: the Father is the originator, the Son the executor, and the Holy Spirit the applier. This can only be the result of a voluntary agreement among the persons of the Trinity, so that their internal relations assume the form of…covenant life. In fact, it is exactly in the trinitarian life that we find the archetype of [pattern for] the historical covenants…(266) God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have dwelt in covenantal life for all eternity and so the way that God interacts with us is by covenant as well, as we will see later today.
As we consider this Covenant of Redemption, that before the foundation of the world God thought of us, loved us, and gave us to be Christ’s own people – apart from any merit of our own; indeed despite the demerit which He knew we would deserve – ought we not to be humbled and awed that the Creator of all took notice of us? As Paul writes to the Thessalonians, But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And so reminded of the great love which the Father has bestowed upon us, and that He loved us before the foundation of the world and loves us despite our unloveliness, let us confess that we are unworthy His love. Let us kneel as we confess our sins together.