In the last Q & A, it was argued that hymns to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not Scriptural.
Is this not denying God the full Christian response in worship that He is due?
When it is a matter of what is Christian, then we must always begin with Christ for “He that says he abides in him ought, even as he walked, himself also [so] to walk” (1 John 2: 6). In the man Christ Jesus, we see perfect response to God. In Luke 6 it says He was “in prayer to God” (v12, my emphasis). In His recorded prayers, He says ‘Father’—His God and Father. When there was no response from Israel, (see Matt. 11: 16-19) then “at that time, Jesus answering said, I praise thee, Father” (v25, my emphasis). Almost without exception, He addressed God as His Father. Indeed, it was as in His relationship as Son with His Father, that he “declared” God (John 1: 18), culminating in what was said to Mary, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, and [to] my God and your God” (John 20: 17). Similarly, “because ye are sons, God has sent out the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4: 6). Notice that it is God who sends out the Spirit of His Son—God’s Son—into our hearts. Furthermore, it is the Spirit of His Son that from our hearts cries “Abba, Father”. It must be so, because He is the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 1: 3)—Christ’s God and our God, His Father and our Father. This is ‘full Christian response’ because it is Christ’s response by His Spirit in our hearts.
Of course, what Christendom teaches as ‘full Christian response’ is a response to “the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28: 19) but if that is the case, then we do not see that response from Christ as recorded for us in the Scriptures. He never addressed God in that way, even though as the Son, He is surely the pattern for the many sons, and the praise He brings to God as man (see Heb. 2: 12) is the praise that we too ought to bring. Furthermore, such an address is never found in the inspired doxologies of Christ’s apostles, and, so far as Scripture tells us, they neither taught nor used the ‘full Christian response’ on the lips of so many today. When a 4th century bishop was teaching that there should be doxologies to the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, he was asked for Scripture and he replied that if Scripture was to be insisted on, then not only such doxologies but many other ‘church customs’ would have to go. How very telling!
Now certainly some of God’s people are, through habit, used to singing and praying to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and may have a genuine and pious attachment to the phraseology. This does not make it right—and it is imperative that when we come to the subject of worship that we do get it right (see John 4: 24). We are to offer “by faith” (Heb. 11: 4)—and there can be no faith without divine revelation for faith to lay hold of. Unquestionably, the richest hymns of praise and worship are the doxologies of Holy Scripture, and yet they fall short (as many would see it) of a ‘full Christian response’! Yes, we are to worship God in the character in which He has been revealed to us (see Ex. 6: 3; John 4: 22), but the Bible never says that God is revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What it does say is that God is declared (see John 1: 18) and revealed as Father (see Matt. 11: 27). The Son and the Holy Spirit are integral to that revelation, and, in themselves, are God, but “to us” (that is, Christians), there is “one God, the Father” (1 Cor. 8: 6). Furthermore, this Scripture (and others like it, such as Eph. 4: 6) are effectively nullified if it is insisted that Matt. 28: 19 encapsulates the Christian ‘revelation’.
We must accept things as the Holy Spirit Himself presents them in Scripture. If the truth that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not formally stated in any inspired doxology then there is good reason for this. Those who teach otherwise are essentially questioning the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in ordering things as He has. In Deut. 6: 4, God is revealed to be one and He does not change, even though the Bible later plainly teaches that He is also a plurality. Nor should the knowledge of this plurality be used to water down God’s essential oneness as if it consists only of a unity rather than a singularity. Interestingly, while we can clearly infer from Scripture that God is also three, the Bible never actually says so. This is surely to preserve us from the false notion that the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit are in themselves somehow less than God. References to God in His ‘fulness’ are without foundation, and it is false reasoning to assert that God is being denied the worship He is due if we decline to address Him as ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. If we must talk about ‘fulness’, then when God is worshipped as Father, He is worshipped in His ‘fulness’!
If God is truly addressed in the Spirit, then we shall use the terminology that the very same Spirit has given to us in the Word of God—the God before whom we present ourselves, and the God that we know as Father.