The Gospel that we looked at last week implies a certain view of God and therefore of man made in His image. The good news that Jesus died for our sins and was raised again for our salvation is only the tip of the iceberg.
The most famous Bible verse: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16)
Notice two things: God has an “only begotten son.” This implies that there is already community/family in God Himself. Second, notice that God loves. In 1 John, it says that God is love. Furthermore, here, John says that God’s love extends to the world. Last week we established the fact that ever since the first sin of Adam, man has been ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God. This has brought death and destruction and confusion and pain into the world. Again, John says that because of God’s great love for the world, He gave His only Son (cf. Rom. 5:8). And we know that this love is an overflow of the love God the Father has for His Son (Jn. 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 17:24).
Finally, we have the final marching orders of Jesus after His resurrection: “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (Mt. 28:19-20)
Putting all of this together, we should make several points: First, here we have what Christians call the doctrine of the Trinity. This is a word that the Church coined early on to describe the One, True God as a “Tri-Unity” – God is three persons that exist eternally as only one God. We do not worship three gods. Nor are we Unitarian. Much could be said on this, but we’ll keep our comments short: 1. There is only one God because this is how God revealed Himself to Israel (Dt. 6:4). 2. This one God exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. Three persons in One God. 3. The Trinity is how love and community are inherent in the nature of God. God is Himself a community of persons that share eternal love with one another. 4. Man was created to share in this Triune community of love. But we rebelled and rejected God’s love and built our own cities and kingdoms in anger and bitterness and bloodshed. But God in His mercy came and sought us by His own Son who suffered in our place, rose up victorious over the curse of death, ascended to heaven and poured out His Spirit upon all who believe.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you hae not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ…” (Rom. 8:14-17)
Here, Paul explains salvation as adoption into the Trinity. The Holy Spirit of God fills those who trust in Jesus, and teaches us to call God the Father, “Our Father.” It’s no accident that Jesus taught us to pray that way. When we pray to God as “Our Father…” we are praying in Christ and by the power of His Spirit. Which is to say that when we pray in true faith, we are praying in the community of the Trinity. Or to back up and say it all over again: God in His love sent His beloved Son to die in the place of His rebel race of children, and by suffering death in their place, He destroyed the power of sin, death, and Satan and brought them back home. When this gospel is preached, those who are dead in sin come back to life, and they come back to life by the power of the Holy Spirit filling them which is simultaneously their adoption back into the family of God. To have the Spirit is to be a son, a joint heir of God’s eternal, beloved Son. To be a son in the Son, is to be loved by His Father in the same way that He is loved. And all that His Father has promised Him, is now also promised to us.
One of the key words for describing God’s community love is the word covenant. A covenant is a formal relationship established between parties with particular assigned duties and attended blessings and curses for obedience or disobedience. The first covenant was made with Adam and Eve in the garden. Their disobedience broke covenant with God and brought down curses upon them and their children. God made a new covenant with Noah, and He promised never to destroy the world with a flood again (Gen. 9:9-17). God made a covenant with Abraham, and He promised to bless all the nations of the earth through his family (Gen. 12, 15:18, 17:2-21). God renewed covenant with Abraham’s family (Israel) at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 2:24, 19:5, 24:7-8, 34:27-28). God’s covenant continued with David and his descendants (2 Sam. 7, 2 Kgs. 23:3, 2 Chron. 7:18, 13:5, 34:32), and later Nehemiah renewed it (Neh. 9:38).
On the night Jesus was betrayed, He identified the cup of wine as the “blood of the new covenant” shed for many for the remission of sins (Mt. 26:28, Mk. 14:24, Lk. 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25). Paul says that by virtue of our salvation, we have been made “ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). He also talks about this difference in Gal. 4:24-28, using Hagar and Sarah as allegories. Hagar represents the Old Covenant of Sinai, but Sarah represents the New Covenant of Faith. The book of Hebrews spends a lot of time explaining that Jesus is the minister of the Great New Covenant (Heb. 7:22, 8:6-13, 12:24, 13:20).
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, whether we are slaves or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member but many. If the foot shall say, because I am not a hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore no of the body? Or if the ear say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?… And the eye cannot say unto the hand: I have no need of you: nor again the head to the feet: I have no need of you… Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has set some in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, gifts of healing, helps, governors…” (1 Cor. 12:13-16, 21, 27-28)
You could read the entirety of 1 Cor. 12 because there’s a lot there, but the point is that when God saves a man, He saves Him into His family which is the Body of Christ, the Church. The sign of your formal entry into that covenant is baptism, and the Spirit is actively involved in grafting you into the body. The Lord’s Supper is the covenant meal for all covenant members. And this means that the love of Christ in you is for a purpose, for others. You have a role and so does every other member of God’s family. This is one of the reasons why we take membership vows: we promise to use our gifts for one another for the glory of God.
What are your gifts in the Church? How do you use them? How are you tempted to be lazy or resentful or judgmental?
Undergirding the call to serve and love and give is a robust work ethic. We’ll cover this in a later study, but for now remember that the glory of young men is their strength. God made men to work hard, to spend themselves, to give themselves away. But men often hold back because they are afraid of doing the wrong thing, the wrong way, or worse, doing something not getting recognized, awarded, respected for it. But men should learn to give themselves away gladly and let God sort it out and bless it.