Friday, July 20, 2007

Trinity & Church IX - For the Love of God

Continued from Part VIII

The kind of sacrificial, self-effacing love that Adam ought to have exercised toward his wife is precisely the divine love manifest in the incarnation and death of the Son of God. And this divine love cannot simply be the love God has for us ad extra, but must be an expression of the quality of love shared between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. John’s Gospel explains that the confession “God is love” means that the love shared between Father and Son (John 3:35; 5:20) has now been extended to include those (like a bride) that the Father has given to the Son (John 3:29; 14:21-23; 15:9; 17:24).

Indeed, the perichoretic personal relations of love and service between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are only known to us “in Christ.” Which is not to say that it is only the love of Christ that we know, but that the love of the Father for Christ, the love of Christ for the Father, and the loving service of the Spirit for Father and Son in all its eternal glory is only revealed in the redemptive economic actions of God for us. This love of the Father for the Son and Son for the Father does not arise “accidentally” within the history of the man Christ Jesus, but is the eternal ground and motive for the Son’s incarnation. In the work of Christ both the Father’s love for the Son (Jn. 15:9a) and the Son’s eternal love for the Father (John 14:31) is revealed and declared to the world. In truth, the Son loves his own as the One who is loved by the Father and who loves him in return (John 15:9). And the Father loves us with the same eternal love with which he loves his Son (John 14:23; 17:23). This is explained nicely by Barth
The New Testament as a whole forces us even more than the Old to the question whether it is only casually and externally that the One whom it calls God fulfills the fellowship with man foreshadowed in the Old Testament covenant by humbling Himself so deeply, and exalting man so highly, that He was ready to take the being and nature of man to Himself and to be concealed and revealed as the Lord in the man Jesus of Nazareth. If this act was not casual, if in it He did not estrange himself from His divine essence, if on the contrary He was supremely true and just towards it, in this act and in His essence He was again the God who cannot in any sense be equated with the unmoved deity of Plato and Aristotle and therefore with a God who is to be loved erotically. In His very essence He was the Father who loves the Son and the Son who loves the Father, and as such, in the communion and reciprocity of this love, as God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the God who is self-moved, the living God, the One who loves eternally and as such moves to love (CD 4/2, p. 759).
What this means for the inquiry at hand is that this inter-trinitarian divine love now serves as the model for all brother-brother relationships in the church. At least two Johannine themes deal with the paradigmatic nature of God’s social being for the Church. The first is John’s record of Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17, and the second is the way John so forcefully brings out the link between God’s love and ours in his epistles.

Much more could be said about how John emphasizes the character of the social relations between Father, Son, and Spirit in his Gospel. “In the Fourth Gospel it is the personal and social God who is revealing himself to creatures who are also personal and social because they have been made in the image of the divine Community. What is arresting as one listens to Jesus speaking in the dialogues of John is how much he reveals about the inner social relationships of God as Father, Son, and Spirit and of their oneness-in-threeness and threeness-in-oneness” (Royce Gordon Gruenler, The Trinity in the Gospel of John: A thematic Comentary on the Fourth Gospel [Baker Book House, 1986], p. 5).

Go to Part X

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