Do You Really Believe in the . . . ?

Okay, give me a few moments, and I’ll finish the question that entitles this blog post.  But, first, I have some other questions for you.  Here goes.

Do you believe that the laws in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy were given by Jesus?

Do you believe that the words of the Old Testament prophets, those of both salvation and judgment, were inspired by Christ?

Do you believe that Jesus created the universe?

Do you believe that the saving actions recorded in the pages of the Old Testament, such as the rescue of the Israelites from Egypt, the conquest of the promised land, and the return from exile, were performed by Jesus?

Do you believe that the acts of judgment in the Old Testament, such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the drowning of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, and the slaughter of the Assyrian army camped outside the walls of Jerusalem, were carried out by Jesus?

If your answer to these questions is “no,” then I have some potentially bad news for you.  You might not be a Trinitarian.  Or you might be a seriously deficient Trinitarian.

Now, when it comes right down to it, we are all seriously deficient Trinitarians.  None of us truly understand or exhaustively comprehend the Trinity.  Nevertheless, there are some things that all Trinitarians believe about the Trinity.  And one of those things is that the three members of the Trinity interpenetrate each other, they inhere in each other.  This means that when one member of the Trinity performs some action, the entire Trinity is involved in that action.  God the Father does nothing in which the Son and Spirit are not involved.  God the Son does nothing in which the Father and Spirit are not involved.  God the Holy Spirit does nothing in which the Father and Son are not involved.  Explaining this inter-involvement is by no means the easiest thing to do.  To be sure, there are three persons in the Trinity, and there are some actions which may be said to be more proper or more fitting for one member rather than the other two.  For example, the Father sends the Son; the Son never sends the Father.  The Son became incarnate; the Father and the Spirit did not.  The Son died on the cross; the Father and the Spirit did not.  It was the Spirit who came upon the disciples at Pentecost, not the Father or the Son.

And, yet, for all those actions I just listed, the entire Trinity was involved.  The Father did not simply send the Son; but the Son obediently  and willingly came into the world.  The Son became incarnate, but the Spirit, who came upon Mary, was involved in the incarnation.   The Son died on the cross, but it was the Father who delivered him up, and it was through the Spirit that Christ offered himself to death to the Father.  The Spirit came upon the disciples, but it was the Son who poured out the Spirit, after he received the Spirit from the Father.  Whatever one member of the Trinity does, the entire Trinity does.

So, focusing for one moment particularly on God the Son, the second person of the Trinity, we can say that whatever the God the Father did in the Old Testament, the Son did too.

God created the world.  And it was through Jesus that he created the world.

God gave the law at Mount Sinai.  And Jesus was there.  Indeed, the one who referred to himself as the “Lord of the Sabbath” is, in fact, not just Lord of the Sabbath, he is the Lord of the entire law; he is the Lord of Torah.

God inspired the writing of the Old Testament, and he did so through the Holy Spirit.  Yet, that Holy Spirit who inspired the Old Testament, is specifically referred to by Peter as the “Spirit of Christ”; i.e., the Spirit’s inspiration of the Old Testament writers was performed under the authority of Christ (see 1 Peter 1:11).

The saving actions performed in the Old Testament were also performed by the Son.

And the judgmental actions performed in the Old Testament were also performed by the Son.

The ancient church fathers understood this.  For example, Irenaeus (one of the dedicatees for this blog) was by no means alone among the church fathers when he expressly referred to Jesus as the one who imparted the law to Moses to give to the Israelites (Against Heresies 4.12.1-5).  And the church fathers regularly attributed to Jesus both salvation and judgment actions in the Old Testament.  Again, to use Irenaeus as an example, he understood, along with many other church fathers, that Jesus and the Holy Spirit, God the Father’s “two hands,” were the ones who poured out fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah (Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 44).

From certain voices today, there is this continual chirping call: We need to have a God who looks more like Jesus.  We need to have “a more Christlike God.”  We need to recognize that God looks like Christ, he has always looked like Christ, and that there never has been a time when God did not look like Christ.

And, actually, I am in complete agreement.  However, I also believe that the ones who are calling for a more Christlike God are seriously deficient in their understanding of what Christ looks like; and they have, to a large extent, departed from the church’s Trinitarian teaching.  My commitment to Trinitarianism will not allow me to paint a portrait of Christ which is constructed only from the gospels.  Because, you see, Christ looks like Yahweh, creating the universe.  And Christ looks like Yahweh, giving the law at Mount Sinai.  And Christ looks like Yahweh, moving the Old Testament writers to pen their narratives, and genealogies, and proverbs, and psalms, and prophecies.  And Christ looks like Yahweh, rescuing his people from their captors.  And Christ looks like Yahweh, pouring out judgment on the wicked.  Christ looks just like Yahweh.  Christ was with Yahweh when he performed all those actions.  Whatever Yahweh said and did in the Old Testament, Christ also did.  Christ is just like Yahweh.  Christ is Yahweh.  And, yet, he is not Yahweh, by himself alone.  He is indeed, Yahweh, but he is so, along with the Father and the Spirit.  Father, Son, and Spirit—whatever one does, they all do.

Perhaps I could also point out, on this Father’s Day, that Jesus is just like his Father.  Whatever he has heard the Father say, and whatever the Father does, he also says and does (John 5:19; 8:38; 10:30; 11:49-50; 14:24).

So, on that day when you finally take courage (!) and try make your way through the book of Leviticus, remember, the words you are reading are the words of Christ.  Read them reverently.  Read them lovingly.  Read them with great devotion.

And I suppose I should go and ahead finish articulating that question that stands as the title of this blog post.

Do you really believe in the Trinity?

Holy, Holy, Holy!  Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name, in earth and sky and sea.
Holy, Holy, Holy!  Merciful and mighty,
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.

Jerry Shepherd
Father’s Day
June 19, 2016

6 thoughts on “Do You Really Believe in the . . . ?

  1. God, One in Three-Three in One, is Community in Sharing and Solidarity.
    It is this God who has made the Preferential Option for the Outcasts, the Marginalized, the Oppressed.
    We have all seen His Glory because this God saw – and sees, heard – and hears,
    the Cry of His People.
    It is in this Faith that we go on The Way, bouyed up with the Great Hope that when the Big Question comes: “How did you love your Neighbour?” we shall be able to answer in the way that this God also drew – and draws, nigh to us.

  2. This is one of the most neglected doctrines in the church today, sadly. I would argue however, that one ought to refer perhaps to the the Logos or Word being present with the father at Sinai, etc..as opposed to Yeshua… The incarnate son, Jesus/Yeshua, of course as the Godman absolutely. Anyway, thank you for this post….

    • Hi Don. Thank you very much for your comments, and also your suggestion. Yes, I do realize that it is anachronistic to refer to the second person of the Trinity as Jesus or Christ. However, in my defense, I would argue that I was simply being proleptic, much like Peter was in 1 Pet 1:11 when he referred to the “Spirit of Christ” who inspired the OT prophets. Note also what Paul does in 1 Cor 10:4 (“that rock was Christ”). Also, many scholars believe that in Jude 5, the correct reading rather than “Lord,” is actually Jesus. So I do at least have some NT precedent for referring to Jesus or Christ in the OT. But your point is still well taken. Thanks.

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