The apostles lead us to contemplate the fact that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the Father incarnate. Some of their statements about Jesus are quite astounding. It was fidelity to this apostolic witness to Jesus that expanded the mind of the early Church and led to the recognition that God is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three distinct persons, indivisibly one divine being. This vision of Trinitarian oneness led the fathers at Nicaea to proclaim with the apostles that all things were created from the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, echoing John and Paul’s insistence that all things were created in and through and by and for the Son. A Trinitarian discussion of union with Christ begins here with the oneness of the Triune God and with the Son’s union with all creation as the Creator and Sustainer of all things—prior to the incarnation. It is striking that so much of what is said about union with Christ ignores this very proclamation and assumes separation, that is to say, assumes that creation and the human race within it have existence and being and life apart from the Son of God.
For the apostles and the Nicene theologians the Son as Creator is held together with his ongoing sustaining of creation, such that any rupture between the Son of God and creation threatens creation with nonbeing. The incarnation of the Son anointed in the Spirit is thus not to be viewed as the establishment of a previously non-existing relationship or union between the anointed Son and the human race. For the cosmos would vanish in an instant without him. To be sure, the Fall of Adam constitutes a rebellion from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and a declaration of independence from the Son as the very source and meaning of human existence. The Fall is a denial of human participation in the life of blessed Trinity and thus threatened the union between Adam and Eve and the Triune God. As Athanasius said, the human race was on the road to ruin and lapsing into nonbeing. In its deepest sense, the incarnation addresses this threat of our ultimate disappearance from existence. In becoming flesh, the Son of God establishes his existing divine relationship or union with humanity, which was seriously jeopardized by Adam’s rejection, inside the very specific context of human alienation and rebellion. In an act of astonishing redemptive genius, the Son of God entered personally into the reality that threatened his union with us, namely, our rejection of him. By giving himself into the hands of wicked men he yielded to our great darkness and rebellion, suffering them personally, thereby using our alien vision and rebellion as the means of establishing his union with us in our sin. Bearing the insidious scorn of broken humanity, Jesus met us and accepted us precisely in our resistance and unwillingness to come to him, indeed in our hatred of him and of his exposing light. Therein the incarnate, crucified and resurrected Son secured his union with us by way of our unbelief, once and for all obliterating the threat of our nonexistence. For he is a merciful Creator who loves the human race.