6/13/2022 10:54:35 AM
God in Three Persons: Blessed Trinity!
Pastor Joel Leyrer - Trinity Sunday - Sunday, June 12, 2022
Dear Friends in Christ, When someone says, “I believe in God,” they are, on the surface, making a statement of personal faith. At the same time, they are also making a statement open to a lot of interpretation.
The fact is every religion in the world regardless of whether it calls itself Christian, non-Christian, or something in between says it believes in God – but then goes on to define their idea of God on what they want or expect him to be.
To complicate matters, some world religions believe in more than one god. For example, in the Hindu religion there are at least 33 gods, with some expanding that number to 330 million. Other religions don’t assign a number but say there are a “plurality” of gods.
So, really, when we hear someone say, “I believe in God,” that’s really just the starting point for a conversation that calls for more information.
Well, where exactly do we find reliable information about God? Or more specifically, about the one, true God? We find it in the teachings of Jesus, who, roughly 2000 years ago made the lofty claim that he was God and then gave proof of that claim by his resurrection from the dead, and who, throughout his ministry, always points to the Bible as the source of truth.
So that’s where we turn for our information about the one, true God. And here’s what we learn:
GOD IN THREE PERSONS: BLESSED TRINITY
Considering the meaning, mystery and comfort of that truth is how we’ll spend our time today.
To set the stage for our discussion, listen again to the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel lesson:
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Last week we mentioned that John chapters 13-17 are a farewell address spoken by Jesus to his disciples on Maundy Thursday evening, the night before his crucifixion the next day. Like last week, today’s text is just a snippet of that longer conversation in which Jesus prepares his disciples for what is about to happen to him on Good Friday and beyond. He assures them that even in his absence he will help them carry out the work he has given them.
In particular he talks about the work of the Holy Spirit who would “guide [them] into all the truth” and who would “speak only what he hears” and “tell [them] what is yet to come.” When did this happen? We think of Pentecost and how the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit who allowed them to preach with boldness and zeal. We also think of the work of the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles and evangelists to write what they wrote in the New Testament.
However, what is particularly noteworthy for us on this Trinity Sunday is how freely Jesus speaks of and intertwines his work as the Son of God with the work of the Father and the Holy Spirit. This leads us to the larger discussion on the nature of “the one, true God” who is the object of our faith. So on the Sunday devoted to this wonderful truth, let’s talk about it.
Interestingly enough, neither the word “trinity” nor “triune”, both of which mean “three in one”, can be found in the Bible. But the teaching, or idea, certainly is. Those words were coined by the church to describe it.
Besides our Gospel lesson, another example of the Trinity found in the Gospels is the Great Commission where Jesus commands his disciples to baptize in the name of (not names of) God, who is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Still another example from the Gospels is the baptism of Jesus (God the Father spoke from heaven while God the Son was being baptized; God the Holy Spirit came down from heaven in the form of a dove).
Further illustration would be the two blessings, or benedictions, with which we close our worship services. The one we use most Sundays is called the Aaronic benediction (it’s also our first/Old Testament reading for today). In that one the name of the “Lord” is purposely used three times – a reference to the Trinity.
The other is from the New Testament and called the Pauline benediction. In this blessing we ask that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God (the Father) and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Again, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Yet, the Bible always asserts that there is but one God. That there are three distinct persons and yet one God is the MYSTERY OF THE TRINITY. If you can’t wrap your brain around that, that’s okay. Nobody can. It’s not intended to be understood logically, because it can’t. It is one of those truths in Scripture we simply take on faith.
And, like every doctrinal truth in Scripture, it is a relevant truth meant to bring us great comfort.
Recognizing that we will always have difficulty in neatly dividing up the work of Trinity, Scripture does reveal to us that each person of the Godhead has a certain primary work or "area of responsibility” attributed to him. Let’s talk about the comfort each one brings us.
In the Apostles Creed we confess: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” To God the Father we attribute the work of creation. The world may say otherwise, but we, as Bible-believing Christians, consider Genesis chapter 1 and 2 to be a true and accurate (although not exhaustive) account of how this world came to be.
Think about what this means to each of us personally. We are not products of random chance. We are not a cosmic accident. The family tree does not begin with one-celled ancestors who somehow rose from the primordial ooze to eventually evolve into what we are today over the course of billions of years.
To be honest, that kind of understanding doesn’t lend itself to a particularly good self-image, does it? Not a whole lot of comfort in seeing ourselves as nothing more than an indiscriminate collection of molecules that just happened to converge.
But there is great comfort in knowing that we are all original creations from the hand of God. In our catechism’s explanation of the First Article, we say: “I believe that God made me and every creature and that he gave me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my mind and all my abilities.” The bottom line is that our all-wise and all-knowing Creator doesn’t make any junk.
This is especially good to know since we live in a culture that pretty well tells us we shouldn’t be happy unless we are striving to be something different from what we are: more beautiful, more youthful, more prominent, more successful, etc.
God says something far different. He says he has given us the gifts and abilities he wants us to have and develop, so we can stop worrying about what we aren’t and, with his help, work on what we are. He tells us we don’t need to find our personal worth in what we are compared to others, but in what we mean to him.
Martin Luther put it this way: God does not love us because we are valuable. We are valuable because God loves us.
There is more. Besides creating us, our Heavenly Father also preserves us. He takes care of our physical needs by way of material blessings. He takes care of our emotional needs by way of his many promises of protection and care and loving oversight. Finally, and most importantly, he takes care of our spiritual needs, the greatest of which is the forgiveness of sins, without which we would be lost and condemned forever. And meeting that need is the work of…
God the Son. Jesus Christ. We call his work redemption. To redeem means to buy back; and Christ has bought us back from the damning consequences of sin, death and the devil in that most amazing way we call “the Gospel.”
By God’s grace, we know it well: 2000 years ago God broke into our time and space and became one of us. God the Son took on our flesh and blood and provided what God asks of us, but what we couldn’t give him: perfect obedience. After that perfect life, Christ offered himself as the perfect sacrifice, taking upon himself the punishment our sins deserve, dying on the cross. Three days later he rose again, thus proclaiming to the world that his mission of redeeming us was complete.
And the Risen Christ says because he lives, we who trust in him will also live. Eternally in heaven. And this is relevant to every single one of us, because we’re all getting older, and eventually we’re all going to die.
This great love for sinners like you and me is just as hard to understand as the Trinity. Why should Jesus love us so? Why should God do this for us? Like the doctrine of the Trinity, the Gospel message is ours not to understand, but to find great comfort in.
And the very fact that we can and do embrace the Gospel message is the work of God the Holy Spirit. We call his work sanctification. In the widest sense this means that God the Holy Spirit brings us to faith. Working through the Word of God and the Sacraments he opens our eyes to see and our hearts to receive everything God has done for us.
He also preserves us in the faith as we stay close to the Word. The Apostle Paul tells us faith comes through hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ. This is why God in his word continues to encourage us to stay close to him by making time with him an important part of our lives. It is through contact with him that we grow in faith and peace and godly living.
So there we have it. An abbreviated contemplation on the doctrine of the Trinity. And what a practical and comforting doctrine it is.
We have God the Father, our Creator and Preserver, never turning his back on his creatures, but lovingly providing for us in all our needs…
We have God the Son, our Savior and Redeemer, demonstrating the ultimate act of love by dying for us and our sins so we might live with him eternally in heaven…
We have God the Holy Spirit, opening our eyes to the truth of the Gospel message and strengthening us through Word and Sacrament.
And thanks to him we can say: I believe in God. But not any God. The God of the Bible: “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.