God Sends the Son and the Spirit

As Malachi prophesied and John the Baptizer proclaimed, the Lord is coming. The God who created the world and chose Israel from among the nations is about to come to the temple in order to cleanse it and renew covenant with Israel.

But what does it mean to say that God is coming to the temple? When Jesus the Messiah arrived, cleansed the temple, and gave his body and blood to renew covenant with Israel, how is this the arrival of God at the temple?

Christians confess that the one God is three. Christians did not begin describing God as three because they were fond of the number. Rather, when they experienced God in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit, they named the one God as three: Father, Son, and Spirit.

The God of Israel is one God, and there is only one God. Israel confessed this monotheistic faith through their Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 4:6). When the apostle Paul unpacked this confession, he named the Father as the one God and the Son as the one Lord (1 Corinthians 8:6).  As Christians gave a new interpretation to Israel’s Shema, they affirmed God’s community as well as unity. And we see this play out in the theodrama.

This drama is nicely summarized in Galatians 4:4-6. In the fullness of time, when God was ready to come to the temple to cleanse it and renew life with Israel, God sent the Son. He was born of a woman as truly human and born under the law as a descendant of Abraham in order to redeem the world. God became human to suffer for all, and he was born a Jew to extend the inheritance of Israel to all nations. As a descendant of Abraham, the Son became the means by which Gentiles would inherit the promise of Abraham and become children of God.

Just as Israel enjoyed the presence of God at the temple, so the children of God are gifted with God’s presence also. God sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. Living in our hearts, the Spirit cries, “Abba, Father.” As children of God, we—both Jew and Gentile—are no longer enslaved to sin but free from its guilt and power. The presence of the Spirit assures us that we are fellow-heirs with Christ, heirs of the promise to Abraham.

The Creator God, the God of Israel, in the fullness of time, sent the Son, through whom God had created the world, into the world for the sake of the world, and then sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. The Father sent the Son, and then, through the Son, sent the Spirit.

This is what Christians call the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and we worship the Father through the Son in the Spirit. This one God, who is Father, Son, and Spirit, is the same one who began the theodrama, participates in the theodrama, and will bring it to its completion. The Father, Son, and Spirit are the main actors in the rest of the story.

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