Baptized into the Life of the Trinity

On this Feast Day of Epiphany we might pause to think about Jesus’ baptism.

Before the Son of God ever became a flesh and blood human being he had been forever baptized into the life and love of his Father and their Holy Spirit. The very nature of the Son of God is a baptized nature in the sense that he lives “in” – i.e., immersed in, baptized in – the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is the very nature of God’s Trinitarian life.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, do not just live “with” each other, they have always lived and had their being immersed into each others’ existence. This immersion does not mean the obliteration of their distinctive identities as unique persons any more than our immersion into the baptismal water means that we cease to be ourselves and become water. But this immersion does mean that they are each “soaking” in the others. The Son is soaked in the Father and the Father is soaked in the Son and they are both soaked in the Spirit, as he is soaked in them. Their lives are distinct but not separate, and they live in a state of being in which they are baptized (immersed) into each others’ existence.

When the Son became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14) he immersed himself into humanity and thus into our human nature.

He became so immersed in our humanity that Paul says the Son “became sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). This is what is so amazing about Jesus’ sinless life. Even though the Son of God was completely immersed, completely baptized, into our sinful nature – and saw his Father through our sinful, fallen eyes – he did not believe the lies that his human nature told him. Instead, he has trusted his Father while immersed in our nature and has undone the fall of Adam by never committing a single sin during this whole time that he has lived within our nature.

Let us consider what the Son’s baptism into our human nature means for our human nature.

One of the truths that the Father impressed upon Israel is that whenever God enters into a place that place becomes holy. When God appeared in the burning bush the bush did not lessen God’s goodness, instead God’s goodness made that place holy ground. When God’s presence entered into the tabernacle in the wilderness it made that tent a holy place.

At the most fundamental level, holiness is about the whole, healthy relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. When we say God is holy what we are really saying is that the Father, Son, and Spirit live their lives baptized into each other in such a way that they do nothing selfish, nothing hurtful to the others, and nothing that damages or destroys that relationship. Any time this relational holiness becomes grounded in human existence – whether in burning bushes or tabernacles – this holy relationship called the Trinity is not damaged, broken, or undone by its grounding in our world. Quite the opposite, in fact: it is the brokenness of our world that is undone and transformed by the holy relationship of the Trinity becoming present here.

This means that when the Son of God is baptized into our human nature, when the Son of God immerses himself into humanity by becoming flesh as the man Jesus Christ, it does not undo his existence in which he is immersed in the life of the Father and the Spirit. Even though the Son now lives as man in human nature he does not stop living as God in the divine nature.

What changes when the Son of God is baptized into our human nature is – our human nature!

By indwelling humanity as the man Jesus, the Son of God brings us into the immersion he has always experienced in the life of the Trinity. As he is baptized into our nature he also baptizes us into his nature. As he immerses himself in humanity, he also immerses humanity into the Trinity. His immersion in us changes us, baptizing us in the Spirit of his Father.

Happy Epiphany!

~ Jonathan Stepp

10 comments so far

  1. tjbrassell on

    The most excellent Gospel presented in a way that baptized and soaked me even more in the Reality of my life in the Trinity! I am not only soaked but stoked! Thanks!

  2. Michael William Smith on

    Beautifully written brother, thank you! You guys just won’t stop glorifying the Triune King will ya! Great stuff!

  3. Pastor Jonathan on

    Thanks, guys, for the encouraging comments!

  4. Jason on

    …and has undone the fall of Adam by never committing a single sin during this whole time that he has lived within our nature.

    Hi Jonathan,

    I don’t think I can go this far: that Jesus undid the fall of Adam because he never committed a sin. Jesus “undid the fall of Adam”, as you say, because of who he was/is as the fulfillment of the Scripture, the fulfillment of the purpose of God (F-S-S), not because he lived his life without committing a single sin.

    Tell me what you think about this.

    I’m not convinced that the main focus of the life that Jesus lived as a human being was the fact that he lived a sinless life. I think the Scripture teaches that the main emphasis in his life as a human being (the life that he lived as a human being) is that he lived a life of perfect, authentic (humanity) “sonship” whereas Adam (and Israel) did not. In this way he is called the Second Adam and the True Israel. Of course by living as the only authentic human being and in perfect conformity to what it means to be a “son” of God he was, of course, “without sin”; but I don’t think we should attribute his “work” of renewal simply to his “never having committed a sin”.

    In other words, I think the Scripture clearly testifies that Jesus’ true humanity (and also his divinity, his oneness with the Father in the Godhead) was displayed and affirmed, or evinced, by the fact that he lived his life in perfect conformity to what it means to be “son of God”. And the “natural” response or character of his sonship manifested itself in the fact that he lived a sinless life. It’s a subtle distinction but I think it’s important in at least two ways:

    1. When we look at Jesus as the only one who lived a sinless life and therefore, because of this, he was able to undo the fall of Adam, we are intimating that our essential problem as human beings is that we do things that are sinful. In other words, the problem with humanity is not essentially ontological but ethical; we need to be “saved” because we’ve done (and do) things that are sinful. Jesus didn’t sin; therefore he has undone the Fall. I realize that there is an ethical component in this thing called sin, but our problem at bottom is not the fact that we sin but rather that we are not authentic human beings apart from Christ. Adam even before the Fall was still not complete or authentic (the best word I know to describe it) in his humanity or “sonship” apart from union with Christ. Jesus is the true and complete human being and, therefore, the authentic “son”. And we are made true and authentic human beings and “sons” only in the Son.

    2. The Scripture (the Old Testament) presents Adam and the nation of Israel as types of Christ so that when he appears he could (should) be recognized. The Old Testament is prophetic in that it paints the portrait of Christ—His person and his work. And the majority of the Old Testament prophecies are typological. Adam is a type of Christ as is the nation of Israel in the important and profound idea of “sonship”. Adam (and by extension all humanity) was created as image-bearers (literally “image-sons”), bearing the image and likeness of God as his “son”. Israel was also designated as God’s “son”. But both Adam and Israel failed to live into the reality of authentic “sonship” and thus, a Second Adam and a True Israel was necessary to bring humanity into this true, authentic relationship as “sons”. Adam and Israel were not true, authentic “sons” because he/they were not ultimate—they “prophesied” of Christ who is ultimate. Christ is the destiny of humanity and therefore we are only “sons” in the True Son, Jesus the Christ. The life that he lived did not undo the Fall of Adam because he lived a sinless life but because he is the true “son”, the fulfillment of Adam (and Israel). Both Adam and Israel as “sons” prophesied of the true Son to come who, because he was/is the true “son” naturally, therefore, lived a sinless life.

    Do you see the distinction? And because we are “sons” in the Son (and only in the Son), sin has no bearing on our relationship with the Father. In this way we can see our relation to God as not dependent on the fact that Jesus never sinned but on the fact that Jesus was the True Man, the True and Authentic Son. Now we can view our lives in relation to God as not a matter of whether or not we commit acts of sin but whether or not we are found in Christ.

    If it were just the fact that Jesus didn’t sin, then really he didn’t undo anything. We can theoretically surmise that a person can live without sinning. Stillborn or aborted babies certainly “lived” a life without sin.

    I don’t mean to minimize the importance of the fact that Jesus never sinned. I’m just not convinced that this is the main point of Jesus’ life…it’s just a “natural” (albeit important) manifestation of the reality of his authentic (true) humanity.

    What do you think?

    Jason

  5. Pastor Jonathan on

    Excellent points, Jason, and very well said! Thank you for commenting. What you are saying is definitely what I was trying to convey when I said the Son trusted the Father while immersed in our nature, and you are right – it is that trusting relationship that he lives as The Son and The Man, not his moral life, that undoes Adam’s fall. I will definitely try to express that more clearly in the future.

  6. boyd merriman on

    That is why it says, “Be you therefore holy as Jesus is holy”. Doesn’t mean that we live holy lives trying to “be like Jesus”, but because Jesus is holy, therefore, we are, so be what you are because Jesus as humanity made us holy in his humanity.

    Or something like that.

    Boyd

  7. Pastor Jonathan on

    Right on Boyd!

  8. John Geerlings on

    Hi Jonathan
    A few further thoughts where I find myself in my incremental freedom!
    Very thought provoking post and comments! Is it possible that Jesus is the only human perfect in spirit, soul and body? I believe He is! That all humanity has been spiritually birthed, included, saved, reconciled, accepted, sanctified, made right, adopted as new creations by the Father in Jesus. This is humanities true identity in Jesus and a once for all act of grace for all! A new spirit life!

    In the here and now as distinct human beings we may come to change our mind and be reconciled, be saved etc as living beings (souls) learning to live by the faith planted in each of us, the great mystery, Jesus, so that we may trust to live from His life rather then the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and pride of life, a personal relationship with a person, rather than knowledge of right and wrong.

    It is the Spirit that convinces us to trust subjectively what is objectively a true reality for all of us. Spiritually we do not sin, we are saints however in this soul life in the here and now we do sin and find that Jesus in fact is right there with us and that the Spirit is convincing us about sin, righteousness and judgment. In the here and now there is a battle between the spirit and the flesh and we are constantly being, being saved, (from ourselves) for the end of faith is the salvation the soul.
    We come to see that Jesus is the first fruit for all and that as representative and substitute He has finished His work.

  9. Jason on

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I wasn’t sure if I was expressing what I was thinking with the clarity that I wanted. Based on your response, I suppose I did.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that you were “unclear” in your message–I found myself very uplifted by your post. And I didn’t necessarily think you meant what I was speaking against (based on your previous posts, I was confident of this); but that sentence had the potentiality to suggest otherwise and I just wanted to make sure that we were on the same page.

    I’m rather new to the universal aspect of atonement (as Boyd could tell you!), but I feel that the Spirit is leading me to consider these things. And I appreciate the work you and others (and you too, Boyd) are doing in this area. I’m very blessed to have been led down this road and to have made your acquaintance.

    Jason

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