28th October 2011

How The Cross Informs Us About God

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
Hebrews 9:14 (NIV UK)

When Jesus told his disciples to baptise “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:20), was he referring to three separate divine entities?

The answer is no, he was not. God tells us clearly in both the old and the new testaments that he is one (Deuteronomy 6:4; I Corinthians 8:6). And, before you jump ahead of me, I know that it’s impossible to expound the mysteries of the Godhead in one short study!

Jesus emphasized God the Father in a way that we find rarely in the Old Testament. All his ministry pointed to the Father. The New Testament explains that the Father pointed to the Son. The Spirit also points to the Son, who is the image of the Father. In God there is differentiation, and also oneness.

We struggle to find analogies to explain three distinctions in one God. How can physical comparisons explain spiritual realities? What, however, helps me most of all is the Cross. Without the three distinctions in the Godhead it is difficult to understand the Cross. How could God die and be resurrected? It is all to do with Father, Son and Spirit, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us. It is because God is Father, Son and Spirit that the cross was made possible. Jesus offered himself through the Spirit to the God and Father of us all.  Also, God the Father promised Jesus, “who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:1-4).

Jesus did everything on our behalf. His birth, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension were all for us. He was also baptised for us, and our baptism is a participation in his baptism. When he was baptised again we see the Father, the Son and the Spirit. When we are baptised we witness to how the Father has accepted us, and to how our sins were forgiven in Christ, and to how the Spirit has declared us the children of God. Thus baptism is in the name of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.

Biblically speaking, without Father, Son and Spirit the stories of the crucifixion and the resurrection have no spiritual effect.

With the one God who is Father, Son and Spirit, the realities of the crucifixion and the resurrection become our salvation.

Holy Father, thank you that through the Spirit I can call you Father, that you have accepted me, and that my sins have been forgiven in Christ. Thank you that you are the Father, the Son and the Spirit – the one God who has effected my salvation.

Study by James Henderson

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