In the previous post we began a series on the humility of God the Father. We spent time establishing that Father, Son, and Spirit are perfectly equal in essence and character. Humility therefore marks the Father as much as it does the Son and Spirit. We turn our attention in this post to the Triune relationship before the world was created.
The Father’s Humility before Creation
The interaction of the Trinity pre-exists creation and has always been characterized by humility. John gives us a glimpse of this…”And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). This is a unique window into Trinitarian interaction.
The sharing of glory and honor predates the world. The Father has always been passionate about exalting his Son. The way the Father interacts with the Son in his incarnate state is reflective of how he has always treated him. In theological terms the economic Trinity cannot be separated from the immanent Trinity.
When Scripture says that God is jealous for his glory we must remember that we are talking about a Triune God (Is 48:9-11). Giving glory happens in community. The Father, Son, and Spirit are equally passionate about extolling one another. God is indeed passionate for his glory. The Father is adamant that the Son be lifted high. The Son is deeply concerned that the Father be honored. The Spirit refuses to shine the light on himself, he wants Christ to be seen.
When viewed through this lens God’s glory becomes a brilliant display of humility. Glory happens precisely when one selflessly lifts another. In the divine economy I would go as far as saying that God’s glory is his humility. Tim Keller helps further capture this outward looking posture of the Trinity.
“Each of the divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight, and adoration into them. Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love.”
Why forgive? Why does God forgive? Why should we forgive? The “why” question drives us down to the ground level of forgiveness. What are the biblical grounds for forgiveness? Here are two New Testament texts that provide a helpful entry point into this discussion.
For His Sake
“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake” (1 Jn 2:12). God forgives us for his own sake. This is not a new thought. It is as old as the book of Ezekiel. At the peak of Israel’s rebellion God unveiled his gracious plan and promise. But look closely at his motivation.
“But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. ‘Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you'” (Ez 36:21-26).
The entire new covenant was motivated by God’s concern for his holy name and his desire to vindicate it. He even goes as far to say, “It is not for your sake.” Forgiveness, cleansing, a new heart, and the Holy Spirit are all gifts of this new promise (Ez 36:25-27). These are all given us for his name sake. God’s concern for his name is foundational to our forgiveness. This is rock solid ground. Our forgiveness is secure and certain because his commitment to his holy person is immutable. If God’s name undergirds our good then we are well situated.
For Your Sake
“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor 2:5-11).
This passage is in the context of church discipline. One of the members of the Corinthian congregation has been removed from the fold for immorality. Paul is calling on the church to observe his repentant posture and welcome him back into the community. He tells them to follow his example and forgive the man. He then states that he forgave him for their sake so that they would not be deceived by the evil one. Forgiveness here is for the benefit of all human parties. It is for the sake of the forgiven one and the forgiving one. This perspective nicely balances the one above. It is my view that divine forgiveness is concerned about all three parties. Forgiveness is for the sake of God, the sake of the offender, and the sake of the offended.