We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded solely by your direct support. Please consider supporting this project.
The Cross and The Trinity
Out of love for humankind, Scripture tells us, Jesus emptied himself of his divine prerogatives, set aside the glory he had with the Father from before the foundation of the world, became a human being and bore our sin as he died a God-forsaken death on Calvary (Phil 2:5-7). Though Jesus remained fully God, he entered into total solidarity with humanity by becoming a full human being. And though Jesus remained sinless, he entered into total solidarity with our sin and condemnation, to the point that Paul boldly proclaimed that Christ in some sense became our sin and became our curse (2 Cor 5:21). The cross is the culminating expression of the meaning of the Incarnation and everything else Jesus was about.
The cross reveals a God of unfathomable humility and mercy who is not above stooping to appear far less beautiful than he actually is—to appear as a guilty, crucified criminal!—in order to save us and to continue to achieve his sovereign purposes. The essence or character of God is the incomprehensibly humble, self-sacrificial love displayed on the cross.
While this revelation of course never ceases to be wonderfully mysterious, I believe it can be rendered intelligible, but only when we accept that God’s eternal nature is a union of three divine Persons who eternally give themselves wholly to one another in perfect, humble, self-giving love.
As Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God is from all eternity a self-giving God who pours himself out for “another.” Indeed, this is not only something the three Persons of the Trinity do; this is who the triune God eternally is. As TF Torrance writes,
The atoning act perfected in the cross of Jesus Christ is grounded in the very being of the eternal God, that is, in the eternal being of the Holy Trinity (The Mediation of Christ, 113).
This, I contend, is the meaning of the revelation that God is love—the kind of love that is revealed when God stoops to the infinite extreme of becoming a human and dying on a cross for a race of people who could not deserve it less (I Jn 4:8; 3:16).
The revelation of the Trinity renders the revelation of God on the cross intelligible because it means that when God humbly poured himself out on behalf of humanity by stooping to the furthest extreme possible, he was not doing something foreign to himself. To the contrary, by stooping in this way, the eternal triune God was simply enveloping humans into the self-giving, triune love that he eternally is.
As paradoxical as it sounds, when God the Son stooped to the infinite extremity of taking on our God-forsakenness on the cross, he was manifesting outwardly, in time, the perfect unity he eternally enjoys with the Father and the Spirit. Because God’s true eternal nature is a perfect, other-oriented, self-giving fellowship of three divine persons, we can begin to understand the paradoxical claim that God is revealed by becoming something that is not only different from himself (a human being), but that is even utterly antithetical to himself (our sin and God-forsakenness). The infinite intensity of the perfect love that is the eternal character of the triune God is most clearly revealed in the fact that God condescended to the furthest extreme possible out of love for a race of rebels who wanted only to crucify him.
Photo credit: molossus, who says Life Imitates Doodles via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND
Greg considers the Old Testament revelations that are consistent with Christ crucified. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0199.mp3
Many people read the Bible as if everything written within it is equally authoritative. As a result, people read it along the lines of a cookbook. Like a recipe, the meaning and authority of a passage aren’t much affected by where the passage is located within the overall book. The truth, however, is that the…
In the previous post, we looked at how the Synoptics illustrate the centrality of the cross. While the Gospel of John varies in its structure and language from the Synoptics, the cross remains at the center. This centrality is expressed in a number of different ways. 1. The role that Jesus’ death plays in glorifying…
There are two basic questions that help us to interpret what is going on in the violent portraits of God in the Old Testament, as I propose in Crucifixion of the Warrior God. The First Question: What does the “God-breathed” revelation of the cross teach us about the nature of God’s “breathing”? God “breathed” his…
Greg considers the relationship between the testaments. Episode 548 http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0548.mp3
In yesterday’s post we discussed how Jesus is the starting point for interpreting Scripture. If this is the case and Jesus is the subject matter of all Scripture, then the ultimate challenge is to disclose how each aspect of Scripture bears witness to his subject. To state it otherwise, if the intended function of all Scripture is to mediate…