June 19, 2011
In the name of God the Father who created us, God the Son who redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit who keeps us in the one true Christian faith. Amen
Today is Trinity Sunday. This is the day in the church year that is set aside to preach and teach concerning the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three in one. One God, three persons, not three separate gods, which is a heresy called Tritheism that the damnable and heretical religion called Mormonism is founded on and teaches, but one God. A Triune God who is the saving God.
To truly and completely understand the Trinity will never be fully done while we are alive on this earth. Our corrupted, fallible, and imperfect minds and hearts can only understand and comprehend God who is uncorrupted, infallible, and perfect in a limited, fallen, way. We have to use human logic and reasoning to understand God who made man, and who is, last time I checked, way more intelligent than man. We can understand the Trinity in our heads, and our hearts, but only partially, but we can believe it fully.
That is why God gave us the Scriptures, and that is why we have the Three Ecumenical Creeds. The Apostle’s, Nicene and the Athanasian Creed that was read not that long ago each confess the Trinity, three in one. All three Creeds ascribe the act of creation to The Father, the Son who was born of Mary and delivered you from the punishment of your sins by taking that punishment freely upon Himself on the cross, and the Holy Spirit who came on Pentecost to bring this message of salvation to all of the world.
In these creeds we testify with all of Christendom that God is one in essence and three in persons. All three Creeds, and all that is within them, are taken by faith alone. We cannot fully understand the Trinity, which is why we call it a mystery, but we believe that what God says about Himself is true.
The Athanasian Creed is, in my opinion, the perfect place to start in trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity because it teaches the Trinity in a clear way that we can begin to understand. Also, if I could get my way, we’d read it more than one time a year in the church.
So, it only seems good, right and salutary that this morning’s sermon is about the Trinity … more importantly how the Trinity can be seen in all of Scripture, and, more specifically, in the last verses of the Gospel of Matthew, the Great Commission.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are ripe with the teachings of the Trinity. Just look in the beginning, and not just of the Bible, but rather of all creation. You know how the creation narrative in Genesis goes. After God had finished creating everything from the waters, to the earth, to all of the animals. On the sixth day, then God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26). This is not the royal “we”. The Hebrew word for God used here is elohim, which is plural, as in more than one, because the Son and the Holy Spirit were with the Father during the creation.
John’s Gospel attests to this in Ch 1:1-3, when he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” In chapter 10:29, John quotes Jesus as saying, “I and My Father are ONE.”
These verses from John fight against another Trinitarian heresy called Adoptionism. Adoptionism says that Jesus was born fully human, just like you or I were. Then at His baptism, some argue His resurrection; Jesus was ‘adopted’ by God in a special way that made Him divine.
As you can see there are many Trinitarian heresies. Then again all heresies exist because someone doesn’t understand the Trinity as a mystery and instead tries to use failed human reason to understand it. What’s the result when we try to use human reason to understand the Divine that is hidden from us? We fail, and we misunderstand the mystery of the Trinity.
A misunderstanding that puts yourself and your intellect before God, thus breaking the first commandment, which says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20:3). The same God told Moses in Ex. 3:14 to say “I Am who I Am has sent me.” And in Deut 6:4 Moses says, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” The same message that St. Paul restates in 1 Cor. 8:4 when discussing food being given to idols, says, “we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.'”
St. Paul continues in verses 5 and 6, “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘idols’ — yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
When Scripture, just like 1 Cor. 8, mentions the Trinity, it also mentions their unity… how they are side by side. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, began His ministry when His cousin John baptized him in the Jordan River. When the baptism was taking place, Jesus was in the water, the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove. (Mt. 3:13-17). Jesus also ended His ministry on earth, after His death and resurrection, by ascending to sit at the right hand side of the Father. First He prayed to the Father to send the Holy Spirit who was sent on Pentecost.
In John 3:35-36, Jesus says, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him.”
Jesus loves sinners. He loves sinners more than chocolate loves peanut butter, or Romeo loves Juliet. He loves sinners so much, that He used all of His power to save sinners from their state of sinfulness. He accomplished this with His death on the cross. He also promises to never leave. He even says in the last verse of Matthew’s Gospel, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is one promise that will never be broken. You can take that to the bank.
When Jesus ascended to sit with the Father all that was needed to deliver mankind from the devil, the world and it’s sinful flesh had been completed. Now our work is to bring the news of this salvation to the whole world, from the people of Belmont and out to Africa and everywhere in between.
The mission of the church is to share the Gospel with everyone who does not yet believe. You can say that this is the Christian’s obligation. An obligation that is made clear in these words from Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
C. F. W. Walther, the father of the LCMS, once said, “For this reason, the mission to the Gentiles remains the Christian’s obligation. It is an obligation that has been imposed on him both by Christ’s command and by the requirement to love God and man. It is a requirement that lasts for eternity.”
We can do this baptism and teaching only because the Holy Spirit stands with us and goes with us. All power that is on earth and in heaven has been given to Jesus Christ, the Savior, the God-Man. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He will reign forever. He revealed Himself to us and is going to again in His Sacrament, in His Body and His Blood.
Through Him we are able to make other disciples. We make disciples of other people with two things, and two things only…. baptizing and teaching. That is the work of the church, baptizing and teaching. The church is all about Word and Sacrament, not programs, not bait and switch techniques, not how to evangelize training. It’s all about Word and Sacrament.
There are times when we, the church, baptize before we teach. There are also times when we, the church, teach before we baptize. Both of these, baptism and teaching are used by the Holy Spirit to forgive people of their sins and give them faith in their risen and ascended Savior, Jesus Christ.
To state that baptism does nothing by itself or that one needs to be old enough to initiate baptism are total misunderstandings of this great and precious gift. In 1 Peter 3, Peter compares the salvation of baptism and the salvation that God sent to Noah during the flood with the ark. Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.”
It is in baptism and teaching that the Trinity is revealed to sinners. The Father adopts you as His own child. St. Paul says in Gal 3:25-26, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Paul continues in ch. 4 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
The Son, Jesus Christ, becomes the one who redeems you. Eph 1:7-10 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and on earth.”
The Holy Spirit becomes the one who Comforts you. In John 14 Jesus says that He will give another Comforter to His disciples, before His death. Again in verse 16, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.”
Last, the Holy Trinity lives where there is faith in Jesus Christ. As Jesus Christ says in His High Priestly Prayer found in John 17 says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
The church has only one work to do in this world, that is to save sinners from their sinfulness. The Trinity have given the church, the power and the means to do this work in teaching and baptism. In short, Word and Sacrament are all about the Trinity. Word and Sacrament are how God comes to you and the world. Amen.