'Tis the Season... Part 2

Tis the Season - Part 2

This is a continued post. Read Tis the Season Part 1

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The Mystery of 3-in-1

Now we are starting to get into the mystery of the Trinity. How can many hope to understand such a mysterious subject as the very nature and essence of God as 3-in-1?  God’s nature would have to be mysterious for him to be God. If he is not mystery and unknowable in his infinitude, how can he possible be a being higher than his creation?

Anytime the bible speaks of one member of the Trinity as having or doing, a thorough search of scripture shows that all three members participate. For instance, we know the Father raised the Son from the dead…

“Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)… (Galatians 1:1)” and, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. (Acts 2:32)”

But hold on a second. We also know that it is the Spirit that raised Christ.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)” as well as, “and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:4)”

So was it the Father or the Spirit that raised Christ? Want another wrinkle? Jesus says that he will do it himself

“’Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.’ (John 10:17-18)”

To bring understanding we need look no further than the Athanasian creed.

“Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated.”

As there is no division within the Godhead, when the operation of God is spoken of it must be understood that all aspects of the Trinity are at work. If the Father is working, the Son is working and the Holy Spirit is working. If the Son is working, the Father and the Spirit are also co-workers. In contemporary Christianity we tend towards a divided-head theology, understanding the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit as three distinct entities that are each a third of God. This is a travesty of human rationality. The Godhead is mysterious and we must recognize and recapture that. It takes incredible humility to admit that we don’t understand, nor can we understand.

Basil the Great said it thus:

He who perceives the Father, and perceives Him by Himself, has at the same time mental perception of the Son; and he who receives the Son does not divide Him from the Spirit, but, in consecution so far as order is concerned, in conjunction so far as nature is concerned, expresses the faith commingled in himself in the three together. He who makes mention of the Spirit alone, embraces also in this confession Him of whom He is the Spirit.

Basil recognizes the mystery inherent in attempting to understand an unlimited being and goes on to say,

“But the communion and the distinction apprehended in Them are, in a certain sense, ineffable and inconceivable.”

The Redemption and Elevation of Humanity

There are many statements in Scripture that speak of Jesus having received something. One of the earliest arguments against the divinity of Jesus was, “How could Jesus be fully God if he was given something? If he was given something that means he did not have it and that means he could not be fully God.” The Bible speaks plainly of Jesus having been given the name above every other name (Philippians 2:9), the oil of gladness (Hebrews 1:9), the Spirit to preach, heal, and deliver (Isaiah 61), and many other instances. How could he have received something if he is fully God?

2 Peter 1:4 states that any Christian has been made a partaker of the divine nature, or rather, you have been divinized. You have been made like God. How is this accomplished? Simply through faith in Christ. 

In the form of God He is the Word, “by whom all things are made;” but in the form of a servant He was “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.” In like manner, in the form of God He made man; in the form of a servant He was made man.
— Saint Augustine

The purpose of his incarnation was to be made under the law in order to redeem those who were under the law, namely, humanity.

So again, how could he be fully God and still receive something? God is self-sufficient and self-sustaining, never-changing, eternal and omniscient. If God could receive something, it would mean that prior to that thing there is something that he does not have, and receiving that thing would then necessitate a change.

But because He will not do so by human power, therefore, reverting to the Godhead, He raises the hearts of men upwards; which to lift up, He Himself came down
— Saint Augustine

The early church fathers had a consistent refrain that is repeated in each century by many authors (here summed up by Irenaeus, a 2nd century church father),

“In His immeasurable love, He became what we are in order to make us what He is.”

Jesus said in John 13:20b,

“…he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Additionally, Paul stated that Christ dwells in the heart through faith (Ephesians 3:17).  By faith, he dwells in your heart, by faith you receive him, and by faith you receive “Him who sent Me.”  By faith you receive all that Jesus is.  So once again, how could Jesus receive something that wasn’t already his?

Jesus came in the form of a servant, emptying himself, and took on flesh, so that in the form of man he would receive what only God could give. As a man, Jesus received all that the Father would give, so that humanity would receive all that God had to give. As you receive Jesus, you receive all that He received, because what He received, He received on behalf of humanity, in order that humanity would walk in divinity and thus fulfill the original call of man’s created purpose, to be the image of God in creation.

He was given the name above every other name so that humanity would receive the name above every other name, he was anointed to preach good news and heal the brokenhearted so that humanity would be anointed to preach good news and heal the brokenhearted, he was given the oil of gladness beyond that of his companions so that humanity would receive the oil of gladness that only God could give. Everything scripture speaks of Jesus having received He received on behalf of you and I that we would fulfill our destiny.

So why is this my Christmas thought this year? 

Jesus was born of a virgin. This means the seed he received is the seed of his father in heaven. As a man, he never received human seed. Furthermore, Jesus already had this seed because he is begotten of the father. This means that he received the seed of his father in heaven as a man through Mary in order that you would receive his father’s seed.

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
— I John 3:9

As my faith in Christ grows through intimate communion day by day, I receive ever more what he received, and thus become more like him. The seed of God remains within me and continues to work in me. So I can proudly say that today, I screwed the toothpaste cap back on.

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