John 18:15-27 – Peter’s Cheap Equivocation and Jesus’ Costly Grace – Part 1

Our text today develops two scenes for us simultaneously.
·  John does this by alternating between two scenes – A-B-A-B.
o   Jesus before the high priest (A)
o   Peter in the courtyard of the high priest’s palace (B)
·  His purpose is to compare and contrast these two parallel story lines.
·  We will gradually see why this is significant and how it plays out.

Before we start, however, I want to show where we are both in time and geographically.

The Timeline:
We are slowly moving from late Thursday night of Passover week into early Friday morning – the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
·  Jesus has been arrested and transported to the High Priest’s palace.
·  His trial, which lasts all night, consists of both Jewish and Roman phases.

This is best seen in the following infographic from the FaithLife Study Bible:

The Geography:
Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane on the slopes of the Mount of Olives.
·  He was bound and then led back across the Kidron Valley.
·  From there He would have traveled south along the Temple mounts eastern wall.
·  He would have turned west, passing the mikvahs situated on the southern edge of the Temple mount.
·  Finally, He would have been led up a hill and a series of steps leading to the High Priest’s palace.

The following pics show some of Jesus’ likely route:

Temple Mount from Mount of Olives

Southern End of Temple Mount

Steps to Caiaphas’s Palace

High Priest’s Palace

It was in the courtyard of the High Priest’s Palace and within the Palace walls that our story takes place.
·  We will begin with Peter in the courtyard.


Peter – Scene 1:
John 18:15–18 (ESV) — 15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

John tells us that after Jesus’ arrest at least two disciples, Peter and one other, followed a bound Jesus to the “courtyard of the high priest” (vs. 15).
·  It is at this point that things go south for Peter.
·  He is recognized by the servant girl tending the gate.
·  She asks him, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you (vs. 17)?
·  His answer to the servant girl’s question is simply “I am not” one of this man’s disciples (vs. 17).
o   Scholars tell us the question was formulated in Greek so as to illicit a negative answer.

Then John describes an odd scene for us.
·  The servants and officers, who were just involved in the arrest of Jesus moments earlier, make a fire to keep warm.
o   It is the middle of the night and it is cold.
o   And the fact that we are told it is specifically a “charcoal fire” (vs. 18) seems to indicate that John’s account is an eyewitness account.
·  Peter, who just denied his association with Jesus to the servant girl, saddles up next to the very people who just arrested Jesus.
·  He did this, John tells us, because he is “warming himself” in the cold (vs. 18).
·  This brings us to scene two and Peter’s 2nd and 3rd denials.

Peter – Scene 2:
John 18:25–27 (ESV) — 25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

Again John tells us that Peter was “warming himself” – the reason he was standing with the servants and officers.
·  This time they, not the servant girl at the gate, ask Peter “You also are not one of his disciples, are you (vs. 25)?
·   Peter answers them, “I am not” (vs. 25) one of his disciples.
·  So for the second time Peter denies his association with Jesus.

Then John tells us that those at the fire ask the obvious question we have all been waiting for – “Did I not see you in the garden with him (vs. 26)?
·  Mark tells us Peter’s answer is unequivocal.
·  I do not know this man of whom you speak (Mark 14:71b).”
·  So for the third time, Peter denies any association with Jesus.
·  Alluding to the contrast of the cold night and the warm fire, the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery suggests that, “The cold night seems to pervade [Peter’s] spirit and strip his courage, as his fiery zeal turns to three chilling denials of his Master” – DBI.

At that moment, “…a rooster crowed” (vs. 27).
·  Luke also adds the detail that at this very moment Jesus, perhaps from a window, turned and looked at Peter.

Although John makes no mention of it, we know that Peter’s reaction to the conviction brought by the rooster’s crow and Jesus’ glance is intense.
·  Mark 14:72b (ESV) — 72b And he broke down and wept.
·  Matthew 26:75b (ESV) — 75b And he went out and wept bitterly.
·  Luke 22:62 (ESV) — 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

So Why the Denials?
What is the reason for the them?
·  Or put another way, what does God want us to learn from Peter’s denials?
·  They are, after all, included in all four Gospels.
·  One reason is easy to determine.

(1) Peter’s denials were a fulfillment of Jesus’ words and thus a demonstration of Jesus’ divinity.
·  We only need to look at what Jesus told Peter earlier that evening to see this.
·  John 13:36–38 (ESV) — 36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Ok, that was the easy one.
·  To lay the groundwork for establishing more reasons, we need to exclude some commonly held views for Peter’s denials.
·  We call this “affirming the negative”.

(2) Peter’s denials were probably not because he feared for his life.
·  To demonstrate this we need to tease out some facts from the narrative.
·  Specifically with respect to:
o   The Other Disciple and Peter’s Own Actions.

(a) The Other Disciple:
·  In verse 15 John tells us that there was another disciple with Peter – the “other disciple”.
·  In verse 16, John tells us that this “other disciple” was Peter’s ticket into the high priest’s courtyard.
·  We see also that in verse 17 the servant girls question included the words, “you also”.
·  These pieces of information tell us that she recognized the “other disciple” and his association with Jesus.
·  In fact, her recognition of the “other disciple” probably led to her question Peter to begin with.
·  She merely wanted to know if Peter was a disciple too.
·  And D.A. Carson adds that Peter “may have viewed this first instance [at the gate] of self-distancing from the Master as a rite of admission to the courtyard; but once performed, it was easy to repeat, with rising vehemence” – D.A. Carson.

(b) Peter’s Own Actions:
Additionally, John tells us in verse 18 that Peter actually joined Jesus’ captors at the fire to keep warm.
·  John 18:18b (ESV) — 18b Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.
·  This means he didn’t leave – he came further into the courtyard.

So these two factors together seem to indicate that Peter was not gripped by a fear for his life.
·  Why?

Summary of reasons why Peter didn’t fear for his life:
·  (i) It would be very odd for him to stand next to the men that just arrested Jesus.
o   Especially having been the one to cut off a servant’s ear.
·  (ii) Had he feared for his life or safety, he could have left or never entered the courtyard.
o   As it is, he and the “other disciple” regrouped after Jesus’ arrest and felt it was safe enough to track down Jesus and see what was happening to Him.
o   So they entered the courtyard.
o   And at least Peter saddled up next to the fire.
o   Which was close enough to the palace to be seen by Jesus.
·  (ii) And what of the “other disciple”?
o   Apparently he had no such fear.
o   He was even so well known he was easily admitted into the courtyard.
o   And had enough pull to get Peter in as well.
·  (iv) Finally, scholars tell us that it was not against the law to be a disciple of a prominent teacher.
o   Even if the teacher was controversial like Jesus.

 (3) Peter’s denials were not because he was being asked to vouch for the identity of Jesus.
·  In other words, Peter did not deny Jesus was the Christ; Peter denied that he was His disciple.
·  This is an important point.
·  In fact, Beasley-Murray argues that “the theme [in our text] is not that Peter denied that Jesus is Lord or Messiah, but that he himself was his disciple” – Beasley-Murray.
·  This is a significant observation!

So what is left that can explain Peter’s denials and why they are so prominent in all four Gospels?
·  Nobody really knows; it is all speculation.
·  “Why he should deny being a disciple of Jesus is not immediately apparent” – John MacArthur.
·  But I have a theory.
·  And it involves a contrast between “cheap equivocation” and “costly grace”.

We will get into this contrast next week when we dive into Jesus’ “trial” before Annas and Caiaphas.


John 18 – The Garden, the Response and the Cup

Last week we finally finished up John 17 with a discussion on unity.
·  Divine Unity
·  Shared Unity
·  Believer’s Unity

We focused primarily on Divine Unity and a discussion on the Trinity.
·  We briefly tried to understand why Christianity cannot stand w/o the Trinity.

Today, we are going to hit on a few themes in the narrative that unfolds in John 18:1-14.
·  We will briefly talk about:
o   (1) The Garden
o   (2) The Response
o   (3) The Cup


John 18:1–3 (ESV) — 1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2 Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.

(1) The Garden – John tells us that after Jesus’ Farwell Discourse and Priestly Prayer, He took the disciples “across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden” (vs. 1).
·  The Kidron was a valley on the east side of the Temple mount that separated the temple mount from a slope full of olive trees known as the Mount of Olives.
·  On the western slope of the Mount of Olives was the Garden of Gethsemane.
·  It was here, John tells us, that Jesus “often met there with his disciples” (vs. 2).
·  Luke 22:39 (ESV) — 39 And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.

(2) Garden Habit – Interestingly, John points out that because Jesus “often met” in the garden “with his disciples” explains why Judas was able to track Jesus down without much trouble.
·  If you remember, Judas left during the Last Supper in John 13 and was not part of John 14-17.
·  John 13:30 (ESV) — 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
·  So while Jesus is teaching the 11 remaining disciples a lifetimes worth of truth, Judas was out organizing a posse with the help of the powers that be to hunt Jesus down.

This fact raises an important question for us to consider.
·  Jesus, faced with the anguish and pain of the coming crucifixion, dealt with it by falling back on a habit that was such an integral part of His ministry that Judas knew right where to find Him.
o   He sought communion and comfort with God in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.
o   Mark 14:32b (ESV) — 32b And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”
·  What habits do we fall back on when we are in the midst of, or are about to face temptation, suffering, inconvenience, etc.?
·  Do we seek communion and comfort with God through study of God’s word and prayer?
·  Or do we fall back into a nagging sin so that we might distract ourselves from our circumstances?

(3) Garden Arrest – Judas shows up with a “band of soldiers” and “officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees” to arrest Jesus and complete his betrayal (vs. 3).
·  And like the townsfolk of Frankenstein, Judas and the townies are carrying “lanterns and torches and weapons” as they track down the town “freak”.
·  There is disagreement as to whether the band of soldiers is the temple guard or actual Roman soldiers.
·  But if Roman soldiers (some say about 200), we have the following irony.
o   Representatives of the religious elite arrest our Prophet and Priest
o   Soldiers of the state arrest our King


John 18:4–8a (ESV) — 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7 So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8a Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he.

(1) Jesus’ Response – Jesus brings the encounter between His enemies and Him to a head with the question, “Whom do you seek?
·  They tell Him they are looking for “Jesus of Nazareth”.
·  Jesus responds with, “ego eimi” which is literally translated “I am” (vs. 5).
·  So He not only claims the identity of “Jesus of Nazareth”, but also takes it up a notch and claims to be God.

BTW – Most believe that Judas’ kiss of betrayal took place between verses 3 and 4.
·  But in our text, John omits this and highlights Jesus’ control and willing surrender to His enemies.

(2) Posse’s Response – Then John tells us that Judas and the posse “drew back and fell to the ground” (vs. 6).
·  Why did they draw back and fall to the ground?
·  Context is significant here.
·  Jesus was on the path to exaltation and glorification on the cross at the will of the Father.
·  This moment is the culmination of 1500 years of Jewish history.
·  In this context, Jesus speaks two words that both identify Him as the one they are seeking, and as God.
·  And when God speaks power is unleashed.

Examples of Power in God’s word:
·  Psalm 33:6 (ESV) — 6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
·  John 11:43–44 (ESV) — 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
·  Mark 2:5 (ESV) — 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
·  Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) — 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

So the posse’s response was because they were exposed to the power of God’s word as spoken by an obedient, soon to be “lifted up” Jesus – “ego eimi”.
·  Alexander Maclaren describes this fact beautifully.
·  “I am inclined to think that…there was for a moment a little rending of the veil of his flesh, and an emission of some flash of the brightness that always tabernacled within him; and that, therefore, just as Isaiah, when he saw the King in his glory, said, ‘Woe is me, for I am undone!’ and just as Moses could not look upon the Face, but could only see the back parts, so here the one stray beam of manifest divinity that shot through the crevice, as it were, for an instant, was enough to prostrate with a strange awe even those rude and insensitive men. When he said, ‘I am He,’ there was something that made them feel, ‘This is One before whom violence cowers abashed, and in whose presence impurity has to hide its face.’” – Alexander Maclaren.

This also means that, in the grand scheme of things, Judas and his posse weren’t controlling this situation at all – they were experiencing it.
·  “This amazing demonstration of His power clearly reveals that they did not seize Jesus. He went with them willingly, to carry out the divine plan of redemption that called for His sacrificial death” – John MacArthur.
·  Who killed Jesus?
o   Jesus’ death was a voluntary submission to the will of God.


 John 18:8b–14 (ESV) — 8b So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” 12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

(1) The Cup – Jesus speaks words in our text that are a mile deep – “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given men?
·  Peter, as he often does, acts rashly and attempts to save the day – against 200+ soldiers mind you!
·  And Jesus reminds Peter of what must happen.
·  He must “drink the cup”.
·  “Peter’s effort at defending Jesus was rebuked by Jesus Himself, for despite Peter’s good intentions, the “cup” that was before Jesus had to be embraced” – HBH.

This cup language is also present in the synoptic Gospels.
·  Mark 14:36 (ESV) — 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
·  Matthew 26:39 (ESV) — 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
·  Luke 22:42 (ESV) — 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

What is the cup meant to symbolize?
·  As we have been taught for years, it certainly refers to His being “lifted up” to the cross.
·  But to leave it there is to miss widely the profound symbolism behind “the cup”.

The Cup – God’s Wrath:
The profound symbolism behind the cup is to be found in the OT.
·  Isaiah 51:17 (ESV) — 17 Wake yourself, wake yourself, stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, who have drunk to the dregs the bowl, the cup of staggering.
·  Jeremiah 25:15 (ESV) — 15 Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.
·  Obadiah 16 (ESV) — 16 For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, so all the nations shall drink continually; they shall drink and swallow, and shall be as though they had never been.
·  Habakkuk 2:16 (ESV) — 16 You will have your fill of shame instead of glory. Drink, yourself, and show your uncircumcision! The cup in the Lord’s right hand will come around to you, and utter shame will come upon your glory!

This means that the cup is not just the cross, but it is the wrath of God poured out in judgment on Jesus Christ for our sake!
·  And “The image of the cup of wrath carries special horror because drinking is something a person does deliberately” – DBI.
·  Jesus did this willingly!
·  To appreciate this, let’s look at an OT description of this wrath.

Example of the Wrath of God:
Ezekiel 22:17–22 (ESV) — 17 And the word of the Lord came to me: 18 “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are dross of silver. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. 20 As one gathers silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into a furnace, to blow the fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in my anger and in my wrath, and I will put you in and melt you. 21 I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it. 22 As silver is melted in a furnace, so you shall be melted in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have poured out my wrath upon you.”
·  This is an example of the wrath that Jesus willingly embraced on our behalf.
·  He drank the cup of wrath that we might be restored!

But thankfully, by the grace and loving kindness of God, there is another cup.

The Cup – Salvation and Covenant:
His drinking the cup of God’s wrath made it possible for Him to apply the cup of salvation, a.k.a. the cup of the new covenant, to all believers.
·  Psalm 116:13 (ESV) — 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
·  Matthew 26:27–29 (ESV) — 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.


John 17 - The Trinity

John 17:20–23 (ESV) — 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

Jesus’ words on unity:
(1) Jesus tells us that the Father and He are one – “be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you” (vs. 21).
·  Jesus’ unity with the Father is something He expressed before.
·  John 10:30 (ESV) — 30 I and the Father are one.
·  John 10:38b (ESV) — 38b …that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.
·  I want to characterize this unity as “divine unity”.
·  This obviously deals with the trinity – a tri-unity.
·  They are distinguishable yet they are one – D.A. Carson.

(2) He goes on to pray that the “oneness” that He and the Father share can be participated in by the given – “may be in us” (vs. 21).
·  Jesus implies here that the given can actually partake in or be part of “divine unity”.
·  I want to characterize this unity as “shared unity”.
·  He seems to be referring to this unity as the unity that is “perfectly one” in verse 23.

(3) He also prays that in addition to participating in the “oneness” (“shared unity”) with He and the Father, that the given would “be one even as we are one” (vs. 22).
·  Jesus implies here that believers can, amongst each other, have a unity as profound as that experienced by Jesus and the Father’s “divine unity”.
·  This is something He also alludes to in verse 21 – “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you”.
·  I want to characterize this unity as “believer’s unity”.

So Jesus is praying for three types of unity in our text.
·  (1) Divine Unity
·  (2) Shared Unity
·  (3) Believer’s Unity
·  “The line of development is thus from the unity of Father and Son, to that of Son/Revealer and believer, to that of believers with each other” – AYBD.

In our lesson today, I want to deal mainly with the first of these – Divine Unity.
·  But first, however, I need to briefly say a few things about the others.


Shared Unity:
Shared Unity comes by way of participation with Christ, the Spirit, and the Father through the work and mission of Christ and the Spirit.
·  The Son and the Spirit’s Gospel work makes possible a Shared Unity with both them and the Father.
·  Their Gospel work is the basis for the new covenant we enter into with God as told of in Jeremiah 31:31.

Here are a few allusions to Shared Unity from the NT:
·  Philippians 1:5 (ESV) — 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
·  1 Corinthians 1:9 (ESV) — 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
·  1 Corinthians 10:16 (ESV) — 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?
·  2 Corinthians 13:14 (ESV) — 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

And with respect to John 17 and Jesus’ words, we experience a Shared Unity with God through our:
·  (1) Inclusion as the Given of God
·  (2) Participation in the Glory of God
o   See lesson “John 17 – The Glory of God
·  (3) Participation in the Name of God
o   See lesson “John 17 – The Name of God
·  (4) Participation in the Word of God.
o   See lesson “John 17 – The Word of God

D.A. Carson speaks of John 17’s Shared Unity this way:
·  “Jesus prays to his Father that these disciples may also be in us, probably alluding to the ‘union’ language of the vine metaphor (ch. 15). They are ‘in’ the Father and his Son, so identified with God and dependent upon him for life and fruitfulness, that they themselves become the locus of the Father’s life and work in them (cf. 14:12; 15:7)” – D.A. Carson.

Shared Unity obviously has other dimensions.
·  (1) Participation Eschatologically
o   Our future  glorification in the presence of God.
·  (2) Participation in Unity of Purpose with Jesus.
o   There is a shared unity of purpose with the work of Christ.
o   “The purpose, as in v. 21, is to ‘let the world know that you sent me’, to which is now added the further goal, ‘that you…have loved them even as you have loved me – Kostenberger.
o   In other words – Speaking the Gospel.
·  (3) Participation in the Love of God
o   John 14:23 (ESV) — 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Shared Unity as salvation:
·  Shared Unity in love and all its other forms is clearly conditional – “If anyone loves me”.
·  In fact, Shared Unity can be seen as salvation – “being one with the heavenly reality” of the Trinity – AYBD.

Believer’s Unity:
Philippians 2 specifically speaks of this kind of unity.
·  And Paul tells us it is grounded in having the:
o   Same mind”, “same love”, “full accord”, “one mind”, look “to the interests of others”, etc.
·  Acts 2:42 (ESV) — 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

This unity is often referred to as “koinonia”
·   “Koinonia” is the “living bond that unites Christians” – TDNT.
·  The context of the “koinonia” is the body of Christ – The Church.
·  And D.A. Carson warns that “Unless they [believers] are unified, how can they expect to give authentic, credible testimony to the Father, who is united with the Son and the Spirit in revealing himself and his salvation in Christ?” – D.A. Carson.
·  In other words, the Church of Christ is impotent without Shared and Believer’s Unity.

Another warning:
·  “Jesus was not praying for the unity of a single, worldwide, ecumenical church in which doctrinal heresy would be maintained along with orthodoxy. Instead, He was praying for a unity of love, a unity of obedience to God and His Word, and a united commitment to His will. There are great differences between uniformity, union, and unity” – BKC.
·  Was the reformation a violation of God’s call for unity?
·  How do you foster unity in your home in love and ‘obedience to God and His Word’ as opposed to an “institutional” unity?

Moreover, Believer’s Unity is impossible without Shared Unity.
·  1 John 1:3 (ESV) — 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
·  Believer’s “are to be one in purpose, in love, in action undertaken with and for one another, in joint submission to the revelation received” – Kostenberger.

And this brings us to Divine Unity – the source of this revelation.
·  The Divine Unity of the Trinity is foundational for all other forms of Christian unity and relationship.
·  If there is no Unity of Diversity in God – The Trinity – then the Diversity of Believer’s cannot be unified!
·  “The relationship of the Father to the Son and of the Son to the Father is the prototype of true solidarity” – AYBD.
·  Galatians 3:28 (ESV) — 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus [who is one with the Father – see John’s Gospel].

BTW – There is a unity that exists outside of Shared Unity and Believer’s Unity – Unity in Adam.
·  All of humanity is unified in having Adam as their “federal head”.
·  And in this context all desirable unities that Scripture speaks of are impossible – that includes love!


As we have said, the fundamental reason why unity is even possible is to be found in Divine Unity – the Trinity.
·  The Trinity “forms the pattern for unity” for believers – John MacArthur.
·  “Christian faith implies that apart from the tri-personal God of the Bible, human society lacks an adequate ontological foundation” – J. Scott Horrell.

Why is the Trinity foundational for all the unity just described?
·  To get at this truth we need to get a basic understanding of what the Trinity is.

Purpose of Trinity language:
·  “The historic formulation of the Trinity (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning “threeness”) seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is true” – J.I. Packer.
·  “We can say meaningful things about the Trinity (on the basis of God's revelation of them), [but] the Trinity is still unfathomable” – James Boice.
·  So what we are about to define is not the mystery, but our description of the mystery.

Definition of Trinity:
James White –
·  (1) There is one and only one God, eternal, immutable.
·  (2) There are three eternal Persons described in Scripture - the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another - that is, they are carefully differentiated as Persons.
·  (3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as being fully deity---that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit

ESV Study Bible –
  • (1) There is one and only one true and living God.
  • (2) This one God eternally exists in three persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
  • (3) These three persons are completely equal in attributes, each with the same divine nature.
  • (4) While each person is fully and completely God, the persons are not identical.

Wayne Grudem –
·  God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.

Why is the Trinity not a contradiction?
·  “When we confess our faith in the Trinity, we affirm that God is one in essence and three in person. Thus, God is one in A and three in B. If we said that He is one in essence and three in essence, that would be a contradiction. If we said He is one in person and three in person, that also would be a contradiction. But as mysterious as the Trinity is, perhaps even above and beyond our capacity to understand it in its fullness, the historic formula is not a contradiction” – R.C. Sproul.

So What – Why the Trinity Matters:
Now we can answer the question, “why is the Trinity foundational for unity?

If God is not Trinity, then:
(1) There is no Gospel – James White.
·  If Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not God, our sins are not forgiven because Jesus was not a perfect and acceptable sacrifice.
·  So if there is no Gospel then we can’t be unified in God or with each other in any meaningfully objective sense.

BTW – When I speak of something as objective, I am saying that it is real and not relative or subjective.
·  In other words, it exists whether we do or not.
·  We are not needed; its existence is not dependent on us.

(2) There is no Unity in Diversity.
·  The unity of diverse things would be a subjective experience and not an objective reality grounded in God’s eternity which exists outside of us - objective.
·  “Christianity, with its understanding of God as three in one, allows for diversity and unity. If God exists in three distinct Persons who all share the same essence, then it is possible to hope that God’s creation may exhibit stunning variety and individuality while still holding together in a genuine oneness” – Kevin DeYoung.

(3) Relationship – Then the existence of love, fellowship, glory, etc., is contingent upon us.
·  In the Trinity, these things have always existed; they are eternal.
·  They are not created.
·  Yet, if God is just one person then we would be necessary in order for God to love and have unity.
·  But, “…with a biblical understanding of the Trinity we can say that God did not create in order to be loved, but rather, created out of the overflow of the perfect love that had always existed among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who ever live in perfect and mutual relationship and delight – Kevin DeYoung.
·  We, therefore, are privileged to participate in the eternal unity and love of the Trinity not a created unity and love.
·  It is objective – it is real – it is ours to have!
·  It is not dependent on us.

BTW – This is one more reason why Jesus’ speaks of us being not of this world!
·  The world is created.
·  Yet, we are unified to something eternal.

(4) Adoption – Then we are not adopted into a family – the Trinity – but we are needed to make the family with God.
·  “Adoption, as the term clearly implies, is an act of transfer from an alien family into the family of God Himself. This is surely the apex of grace and privilege” – John Murray.
·  We are adopted into the godhead “family” and participate in their eternal communion as sons and daughters.
·  We do not make the “family”, we become part of it.
·  Again, God doesn’t need us for anything.

(5) Selflessness – There is no objective, eternal model of submission and selflessness.
·  Our participation in both Shared Unity and Believer’s Unity requires that we live a life of self-denial and “self-forgetfulness”.
·  Both of these things are modeled for us by the example set by Jesus’ and the Spirit’s submission to the work and authority of the Father within the Trinity.
·  …yet not my will, but yours be done” – Luke 22:42.

Final Thoughts:
It should be clear that in the Trinity there exists eternally all the things that matter – love, fellowship, family, selflessness, goodness, truth, glory, unity, diversity, etc.
·  These things are not created.
·  They are objective – they exist whether we do or not.
·  We are not needed.
·  Yet we, as creatures, are by grace given the privilege to participate in all of them.

And if God were not Trinity, He would not be God in any Biblical sense at all!
·  Eternity before creation (which was done through the Trinity) would be a lonely place.

“Though not to the same infinite divine extent, the spiritual life and power that belongs to the Trinity belongs also in some way to believers and is the basis for the church’s unity. This is what the Lord meant when He said, The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity. That stunning truth describes believers as those to whom the Son has given glory—that is, aspects of the very divine life that belongs to God. The church’s task is to so live as to not obstruct that glory (Matt. 5:16)” – John MacArthur.

Helpful Links:
InfoGraphic on Trinity
321 Gospel Presentation using Trinity
Monergism's Trinity Page