For instance, have you ever wondered why Jesus, in John’s gospel, makes such a big deal of the fact that He is sent as the Son by the Father (e.g., John 5:24, 30, 36)? Why is it not the other way around, the Father being sent by the Son instead? While some say it is arbitrary, we beg to differ. The reason the Son is sent by the Father is because the Son is from the Father eternally, because He is eternally generated or begotten by the Father.
The point is that the missions of the Trinity in salvation history (the sending of the Son in the incarnation and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost) intentionally reflect the relations of the three persons in eternity. And what reflects the Father as principle and source more than when He sends His Son in history, the very Son whom He has begotten from all eternity such that there never was a time when the Son was not? In that light, Scripture often orders or names the Father first (Matt. 28:19; 1 John 5:7), not because the Son and Spirit are less than the Father in nature or come after the Father in time—all three are coeternal and coequal, as the Athanasian Creed says. Rather, it is because the Father, as unbegotten, is the source and principle from whom the Son is begotten and from whom the Spirit is spirated. That order is reflected in history when the Son and then the Spirit are sent by the Father, their source and origin.
If the Father is the principle of the Trinity due to His paternity, it is also appropriate to title Him the architect of creation and salvation. On the one hand, every external act of the Trinity toward the created order is the single, undivided act of the whole Trinity. The external works of the Trinity are undivided, meaning that the three persons act as one in salvation because they are one in nature and will.
At the same time, particular works may terminate on distinct persons of the Godhead—this is called “divine appropriations.” Consider the incarnation, for example. It is not accomplished by the Son alone but is the trophy of the entire Godhead. And yet, it is the person of the Son who takes on flesh. Something similar can be said of the Spirit at Pentecost.
But what about the Father? While creation and salvation are works of all three persons, we are right to speak of the Father as architect. The Father creates the world through His Word (the Son) by His Spirit. Similarly, the Father redeems His elect through His Son by His Spirit.
More broadly, while redemption is planned, accomplished, and applied by the entire Trinity, specific aspects of this saving work can be appropriated to distinct persons according to their unique personal properties. As principle, origin, and source, the Father sends His Son to become incarnate to accomplish redemption, only to then (with the Son) send His Holy Spirit to apply redemption to God’s elect. The Father is architect of our salvation, the Son the executor of that salvific plan, and the Spirit its perfecter. As the Reformed theologian Johannes Van der Kemp said so poetically, “The Father ordained grace for the elect, the Son purchased it, and the Holy Ghost applies and dispenses it to the favorites of God.”
children of the father
If God the Father is the architect of our salvation, then we have great assurance that we are His adopted sons. Our sonship is different from the Sonship of the second person of the Trinity (ours by grace, His by nature). Yet, it is because the Father is the principle and architect of our salvation, the One who sent His only begotten Son, that we can be adopted into His family in and through Christ and invited to call Him our Father.