Tuesday, June 20, 2017
This Great Commission is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. It also contains what is certainly the most quoted phrase in all of Christendom.
For nearly 2000 years almost every Christian worship service, ceremony, prayer, or devotion has begun with the invocation, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This is true of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Coptic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist and dozens of other denominations and traditions.
Even those denominations that do not use the phrase on a daily basis, still use it at every baptism. The name of the triune God is the most wide-spread and enduring of any Christian phrase or formula, bar none.
This is even more remarkable when you notice that Matthew 28:19 is the only place in the entire Bible where it is found. While there are plenty of other phrases which our repeated throughout the Bible, this phrase is only found once! So why has it become so universally used?
Answer: It is the perfect summary of the Christian faith. God Himself commands us to speak it upon every person who wishes to be a Christian. It is the final revelation of the name of God. It is more than just a metaphor about God. It is more than a handy nick-name for God. It is God’s name: the full and perfect statement of who God is.
God is Father. God is not merely “like a father.” He is the only Father. As Jesus says, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven” Matthew 23:9. For this reason Jesus refers to Him everywhere are “the Father.”
Unlike human fathers, He didn’t just become a father at some point in time. It’s not like a solitary, nameless god sat around for an eternity before He decided to have a son. Otherwise He wouldn’t “be” Father. He would only “have become” a father.
When an early heretic (Arius) started teaching that “there was a time when the Son was not,” all Christians knew instinctively that he was denying the very nature of God. The eternal fatherhood of God lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. Which also means that the eternal Son of God lies at the very heart of the Christian faith.
If there ever was a time when the Son did not exist, that would mean that there was a time when God was not Father. And if there ever was a time when God was not Father, there was a time when God was not loving the Son and that the Son was not loving the Father.
But “God is love,” 1 John 4:8! It is impossible to think of God not loving. A “god” who is not pouring all that He is and all that He has into someone other than Himself is no god at all. So, His only-begotten Son, is eternally receiving all that He is and all that He has from the Father. And if He is receiving all that the Father is, then the Son, too, is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” (Nicene Creed).
This is love. It is total self-giving. It is total receptivity. Love is not partial, nor self-centered, nor self-sufficient. This is both what God wants to do for you, and how God wants you to be toward all others. He wants to pour into you all that He is and all that He has; By this infinite gift, you are freed to pour out all that you are and all that you have not only for friends, but also for those who hate and persecute you.
So, the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is not only the full and complete revelation of who God is, it also the full and complete revelation of what love is. Who could ask for more?