Saturday, December 17, 2011

Humility of the Spirit within the Trinity

We have been considering humility in the Triune God.

The Persons of the Trinity are humble. Each Person prefers the Others before himself. The Trinity shows their humility, and their humility shows the Trinity.

Previously we considered the humility of the Father and the Son. The last posting was a Prelude to the Spirit’s Humility. In this posting, we advance from prelude to the Spirit’s humility within the Trinity.

Whose Brand?

Tom Peters wrote:

Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the Age of the Individual, you have to be your own brand. Here's what it takes to be the CEO of Me Inc.[1]

Such is the world.

The Holy Spirit is not of the world. Although the Spirit is a person, that is not the same thing as an individual.[2] The Spirit is not of this Age of the Individual. He is not the CEO of Me Inc. or Spirit Inc. He promotes a brand, so to speak, but not his own.

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.[3]

We recognize the Spirit by seeing where the brand of Jesus is recognized. Here is Jesus’ brand: the man Jesus is God come in the flesh. Wherever we see Jesus recognized as God incarnate, there is the Spirit. The Spirit promotes the brand of Jesus.

The Spirit Glorifies the Son

The Spirit does not even decide for himself what to say. Although the Spirit is equally God with the Father and the Son, although He is free and not subordinate to either the Father or the Son, by character, he lets the Father decide for him the topic of his testimony. “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak.”[4] The Father speaks. The Spirit hears the Father speaking. The Spirit says what hears.

Following the Father, the Spirit’s topic is the Son. “When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”[5]

The Spirit glorifies the Son.  “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”[6]

In those verses, we hear Jesus say what the Spirit would do after Christ’s ascension. Then in Acts and the Epistles, we see the Spirit do it. “We are His witnesses to these things [concerning Christ], and so also is the Holy Spirit”[7] “No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”[8]

Jesus Marked by the Dove

When Jesus submitted to the baptism of John, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and alighted on Jesus.[9] Here is why.

John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’”[10]

The Spirit marked Jesus for John as the Christ. The Spirit became a sign pointing to Christ.

Jesus Conceived and Resurrected

Christmas and Easter are the two most noted events in the life of Christ. Both were done for Jesus by the Spirit.

Jesus was conceived in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.[11]

Jesus was resurrected by the Holy Spirit.[12]

Sent by the Father and the Son

Who among us likes to be told what to do or where to go?

My father told me which school to attend and what to study. UND and accounting. It didn’t end there. I’ll spare you the rest. Decades later, I am still in a vocation designated for me by my father.[13] Outside my own family, the reaction to this has been unanimous: which century are you from? Hardly anyone accepts such direction of one individual by another. But the Spirit gladly goes where the Father sends him.

I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth …  The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.[14]

The Spirit is sent also by the Son. “When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”[15]

About Who’s Business?

Having been sent here by the Father and the Son, what is the Spirit doing? He has been sent here, but not on his own business. When Joseph and Mary lost track of Jesus and later found him in the temple, Jesus spoke of being about his Father’s business. In a similar way, the Spirit is about the business of the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit told Simeon that he would not die until he saw Christ.[16] When Jesus’ parents brought Jesus to the temple, Simeon “came by the Spirit into the temple.”[17] Simeon said, “My eyes have seen your salvation.”[18] The Spirit brought Simeon to Jesus and salvation.

The Spirit does this not just for Simeon.  “Through Him [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”[19] The Spirit serves as access through Christ to the Father. The Spirit is about the Son’s and the Father’s business.

This is so not only in the application of the atonement to sinners, but in the working of atonement itself. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”[20] There is Christ working atonement by his blood. There is the Father to whom Christ makes the offering of himself. There is the Spirit, between the Father and the Son. Christ offered himself to the Father through the Spirit. No Trinity, no Atonement. No Spirit, no Atonement. No humility in the Spirit, no Atonement.

Having seen the indispensability of the humility of the Spirit in the atonement, we can anticipate the next posting on the humility of the Spirit toward sinners.

1.  Tom Peters, “The Brand Called You,” Fast Company, August 31, 1997.
2.  “Why, then, believe in God as Trinity? ... First, a ‘person’ is not at all the same as an ‘individual’. Isolated, self-dependent, none of us is an authentic person but merely an individual, a bare unit as recorded in the census. Egocentricity is the death of true personhood. Each becomes a real person only through entering into relation with other persons, through living for them and in them. There can be no man, so it has been rightly said, until there are at least two men in communication. The same is true, secondly, of love. Love cannot exist in isolation, but presupposes the other. Self-love is the negation of love. As Charles Williams shows to such devastating effect in his novel Descent into Hell, self-love is hell; for, carried to its ultimate conclusion, self-love signifies the end of all joy and all meaning. Hell is not other people; hell is myself, cut off from others in self-centeredness.” Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p.28, (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995).
3.  1 John 4:2-3.
4.  Jn 16:13.
5.  John 15:26.
6.  Jn 16:14-15.
7.  Acts 4:32.
8.  1 Cor 12:3.
9.  Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10; Lk 3:22.
10. Jn 1:32-33.
11. Mt 1:18-20; Lk 1:35.
12. 1 Pet 3:18.
13. That’s only half of the truth, of course. In my case, the vocation of God, that is, God’s calling me into a work, was mediated by the voice of my earthly father. That’s a topic for another time.
14. Jn 14:16-17, 26.
15. Jn 15:26.
16. Lk 2:25-26.
17. Lk 2:27.
18. Lk 2:30.
19. Eph 2:18.
20. Heb 9:14.

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