Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Tara-Leigh Cobble’s new study, He’s Where the Joy Is. Order your copy or view a free sample at lifeway.com/wherethejoyis.
The Trinity loves each other, points to each other, and glorifies each other. Their actions are motivated by love! And because this is all built on and fueled by perfect love, that means there is deep, abiding, gospel joy at the heart of the Trinity. That joy is not just contained within God Himself—it’s joy for us too!
God is inherently relational. In this section, we’ll look at two general categories of God’s relationships: His relationship within the Trinity and His relationship with humanity.
What we’ve been talking about up to this point is primarily God’s relationship within Himself—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. This internal life of God is what theologians often refer to as the Immanent Trinity because immanent means ”existing or operating within; inherent.”1 (Note: Some theologians prefer to use the term Ontological Trinity instead of Immanent Trinity. Both titles refer to the same thing.)
This term points to all the things we’ve covered in the previous sections about how God operates within Himself, the inner life of the divine community of the Father, Son, and Spirit. ”God is love” within Himself.
Even though we all love hearing about ourselves, it’s important that we cover this relationship first because, as Fred Sanders said, ”God is Trinity primarily for himself and only secondarily for us.”2 If that comes as a shock or a surprise, hang in there—we’ll eventually see why this is not only important but comforting. It would be wrong to think of ourselves as God’s primary focal point and purpose; that is not the message of Scripture.
The closer we lean in to see Him, the more we’ll discover about Him and the more His joy will embed itself into our lives. He created us and invited us into a preexisting joy. Scripture never tells us why God created the world and mankind, but it does tell us what God was doing before He made us. For all eternity, He has been and is and will be reveling in infinite communal love, which means God is infinitely happy! If God were singular, His reasons for creating the world would’ve been rooted in need, boredom, loneliness, or power—all of which would point to His selfishness in creating. Instead, He was already fulfilled in His triune perfection.
John 17:24 says,
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (ESV).
What was God doing before He created the world? Love. And this wasn’t a one-way love; the Persons of God point outside themselves to each other as a result of love.
If humans were God’s focal point, He would be unfulfilled without us, which means He wouldn’t be infinitely happy. We very much want and need a happy God, so it’s good news for us that He is! Fred Sanders said, ”The boundless life that God lives in himself, at home, within the happy land of the Trinity above all worlds, is perfect. It is complete, inexhaustibly full, and infinitely blessed.”3 We see this emphasized in Scripture’s teachings of the early church as well.
Acts 17:24-25 says,
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
God needs nothing. That’s why He can love so well. This is the best hint we have about why God would create the world—out of an overflow of His infinite love and happiness!
Fred Sanders frequently reiterates in his writings, ”The Trinity is the gospel.”4 Without the active engagement of any one of them in our lives, our rescue would fall apart. Inasmuch as they all point to each other and seek to glorify each other in their unity, they work together to pour that love out toward us. The cross demonstrates the infinite loving heart of God to us. It shows us who God has been all along, independent of us. This is why it’s so important that God’s triune nature is first for Him and secondarily for us. Since we have a God who is already completely fulfilled within Himself, He delights to share that unity and joy! ”If this is true,” Tim Keller said, ”then your absolute highest purpose, your meaning, and the only way you’ll ever be happy is if you are glorifying God above all other things.”5 As we seek to live for God’s glory, we’ll get the joy and delight that comes as a result.
Love is inherent to who God is. That’s what He has extended to us and invited us into. He wants joy for you, and that’s why He draws you near— because He’s where the joy is!
Want to learn more about He’s Where the Joy Is? Watch the short video below or view a free sample and teaching video clips at lifeway.com/wherethejoyis.
And here are some fun wallpapers for your desktop and phone! Click the images below to download!
1. Oxford Dictionary, s.v. ”immanent,” accessed April 26, 2021, https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/ immanent.
2. Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017).
4. Sanders, The Deep Things of God.
5. Tim Keller, “The Glory of the Triune God,” June 19, 2011, accessed May 5, 2021, https://gospelinlife.com/ downloads/the-triune-god-4908/.