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Friday, July 30, 2010

God the Crucified - The Trinity in Action

(part 4 of 9)

What about the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Mightn’t our singular focus on the crucifixion of Jesus cause us to forget or diminish the Father and the Holy Spirit and thus undermine our confession of the Holy Trinity?

It would, indeed, be a grave error to deny or diminish the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. The United Pentecostal Church has done this, and in the process become altogether non-christian. Their rejection of the Holy Trinity, for instance, leads them to insist that anyone who has received a Trinitarian baptism should, instead, be baptized in the name of “Jesus only.” But, perhaps surprisingly, this heretical Christo-monism did not come about because of an over emphasis on the crucified Lord. In fact, it is unlikely that you could find the crucified Jesus depicted anywhere in their church building. Instead, this anti-trinitarian heresy is the end result of an isolated focus on the Holy Spirit—as the name “Pentecostal” implies.

Similarly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, for all it's emphasis on Jesus, cannot bring itself to look at the crucifixion — or even upon the cross — substituting a bare spire in its place. This is only the most visible manifestation of their own particular brand of anti-trinitarianism which has much to say about “heavenly father” but nothing about the cross.

It would certainly be an evil thing if we were to do the same. If our emphasis on the cross of Christ were at fault, we should immediately dispose of it. But the cross is not at fault. Rather, the anti-trinitarian evil is avoided only by viewing each distinct Person of the Holy Trinity in proper relationship with the other Persons. Jesus’ words from the cross teach us this in the very moment of the crucifixion.

Jesus’ first word from the cross is, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Here we see the forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross as the Father’s own gift to the world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.” (John 3:16). Also, by drinking the cup of suffering which the Father gives Him, Jesus becomes the only One who truly submits to the Father’s will.

Jesus’ last word from the cross is also addressed to the Father, “Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit.” With these words, Jesus commits the Holy Spirit back into the hands of the Father in order that the Spirit might convey the fruits of Jesus’ crucifixion to the entire world.

The evils of denying the Trinity are not avoided by making sure we give equal time to looking at and talking about each of the three Persons separately. (For this, activity—in itself—denies the unity of the Trinity and sets one Person over against another Person causing us to see not One God but Three Gods.) Quite the opposite, we extol Father, Son and Holy Spirit most especially as we see the Father giving His only-begotten Son into death for the whole world and the Son giving His Holy Spirit from the cross that we might believe and be saved.

That is why Christians believe in the Holy Trinity—because the crucifixion is the Holy Trinity at work for our salvation.

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