Salvation: Sharing in the Life of the Triune God

One of the most mind-boggling verses in all the Scriptures may be: “I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one, Father, You in Me and I in them. May they be brought to complete unity that the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” The Scriptures abound with similar promises. “To him who overcomes, I will give to sit with Me on My throne, even as I have overcome and sat down with My Father on His throne.” “I know My sheep and My sheep know Me, even as I know the Father and the Father knows Me.”

The goal of the Christian life, salvation itself, is, apparently, a participation in the life of the Trinity. This may well be the greatest mystery in Christianity; perhaps it is, for in it is bound up the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation. But, what can it possibly mean that human beings, mere creatures, are called and given to share in the very life of the Triune Godhead? How can this even be?

“Or do you not know that those of us who were baptized, were baptized into His death? For we died with Christ through baptism into death in order that by the power of God the Father, who raised Christ from the dead, we too might walk in newness of life… For, if we have become partakers of His death, we will also be partakers of His resurrection.” “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me. The life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” “For we are the members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.”

Jesus Christ is, Himself, perfect God, the exact representation of the Father, and He is perfect Man. He is the ultimate Man. “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” “The first Adam became a living soul; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” “He is… the firstborn over all creation… and the firstfruits from among the dead.” So we, and all creation, are made to live in Christ. “In Him, for Him, and through Him are all things.” “For in Him all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily.”

Salvation consists of our being joined to Christ. In salvation, our old self was actually crucified with or in Christ, and buried in Him, too. Salvation is not a legal fiction. Salvation is reality. Salvation means that we really actually are the members of Christ, one with Him in a way like to the way in which He is one with the Father. Jesus suffered on the cross, alone, bearing our guilt and shame, bearing our fall away from God, forsaken, and He conquered alone, by His mighty merits and virtue. He did everything and we contributed nothing, yet it is no less true that our flesh was crucified there with Him, that we died with Him and were buried with Him. We actually live in Christ and exist in Christ. We are actually one with Christ. Jesus Christ alone is the God-Man. Jesus Christ alone is the Savior. Jesus Christ alone is God’s All-in-All.

So, salvation is a sharing in Jesus Christ Himself. As we died with Him, we also live with Him. As we were buried with Him, so we share in His resurrection. This is what it means to have peace with God. Our sins really are cast as far from Him as the east is from the west. Our sinful nature really is destroyed; we died in Christ. And, so, now we live in Him. Our life is, indeed, that we are in Him, for He is the Resurrection and the Life. So, union with Jesus Christ is itself eternal life, salvation. (Essentially, salvation is an eternal work or reality. Being in eternity, I really don’t think the issue of how it is that, in time, we see salvation both as complete and as not yet completed, for we still struggle with the sinful nature, is a real big deal. It’s just that we don’t fully enter in the eternal reality, in one sense completed from before time – “the Lamb that was slain from the foundations of the earth” – in another sense, completed in the Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ almost two thousand years ago, and in another sense to be completed at the Second Coming – “He will come again, not this time to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” I don’t want to talk about other senses right now, but they exist.)

That is one reason why the Father loves us even as He loves the Son: because we are joined to the Son with a bond that can never be dissolved or broken. We are the Bride of Christ (it should be noted that in God’s eyes divorce is an abomination, not to be tolerated in the New Covenant except, perhaps, in the situation in which one partner refuses to live with the other). We are the Body of Christ. We are one flesh with Christ. It is because of this that all that is His is ours also. The marriage bond between the husband and wife, spoken of as their becoming one flesh, is but a very poor shadow of the relationship between Jesus and His people. The closeness between the head and the body is equally a poor picture of that between Jesus and His people. What God does is always more and better than what He can tell us, what we can understand. It is never less. We are in Christ, and so we are heirs of all things. We are in Christ, and so we will reign upon the earth. We share His kingdom and priesthood, entirely by grace. Absolutely everything is ours, because we are His and He is ours.

So, we are invited into the life of the Trinity. “The one who keeps My commands, We will come to him and make our home with him.” It is the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who lives within believers. We share in that glory, that inconceivable wonder. It is only because we are truly joined with the Incarnate Son of God, true Man and true God, that we can live in the Triune Holy One. Our God is a consuming fire, and without the Incarnation deadly to us, for He is holy and we are creatures. He alone is life and only in the vision of Him can we live, and He is too terrible for us to endure; His love is a burning flame, “the very flame of YHWH” – “the consuming fire.” However, because of the Incarnation, we can enter the presence of God, and because of our intimate union with Christ, in His death and in His resurrection, God is indeed our Father. The seraphim veil their faces and their feet in the presence of Jesus, but we shall behold Him with unveiled faces; we shall see Him as He is; we shall know as we are known.

This is mystery and awe beyond all comprehension. That God would do this for mere creatures like us in unimaginable. It is even intolerable. It is, indeed, a terrible and lovely destiny. It means the Holy One, the Consuming Fire Himself, dwelling within us and shedding His supremely brilliant light within our hearts. It is written of Him, “from the brightness before Him passed thick clouds, hailstones and coals of fire,” and “the sun and moon went away at the light of Your arrows.” In Isaiah, we are told of the sun being ashamed before Him, of a day as bright as seven full days, “on the day when the towers fall,” and in Revelations John beholds Him as having eyes of fire and a countenance brighter than the sun. He dwells in unapproachable light and He dwells within our hearts. Is there any destiny likes ours, to live in such close communion with the Triune Terror and Love? For this is Love Himself. In 1st John we are twice told that “God is love.”

God is Trinity. He is absolutely One, and He is three distinct Persons, bound together in a fellowship of love closer than we can imagine. God is Love. And so, all the way down, we see the pattern of the Trinity and the Incarnation; the light cast by that glory and love permeates all creation and in that light alone creation lives.

I believe that this has great importance for the meaning or implications of that statement in 1st Corinthians, “If one part is honored, all the parts are honored, and if one part suffers, all the parts suffer,” and the amazing truth that God loves all of us and God loves each one of us, that God does absolutely everything for each one who is in His Son; in other words, that God can do absolutely everything for me without diminishing the fact that He does absolutely everything for you; He can save and love me for you and you for me, and He can do this without diminishing the truth that He does everything to glorify His own Name.

In a mystery, Jesus meant it. “I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one, Father, You in Me and I in them; may they be brought to complete unity so the world may know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” It would be blasphemy were it not true, but by the Incarnation Jesus has taken us into Himself, while we remain separate created beings, and yet we are taken not into a man but into God (of course, for a man could not do this) for the Person of Jesus is God; He must be God; Who He is, is God.

And, so, we are one with one another as well. It is the flesh and blood of God Himself that we eat and drink, and so we are all one, “for since there is one loaf we, who are many, are one body.” It is one Spirit that indwells us all and makes us the members of His body. We are far nearer to one another than we often know.

O terrible, terrible wonder! We rejoice with terror. That we are destined to share in the life of God Himself. It not only too terrible for created beings. It would be blasphemy, were it not the will and gift of the Supreme and Sovereign God, whose will and decree is good, righteous, and true.

It is for this reason that we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works.” It is God! How could not we not strive to be holy with fear and trembling, for God is holy?

This is life. This is joy. This is peace. This is love.

This is heaven.

 

Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale

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