[Read John 3:16-17]
The Holy Trinity, No Other God
There are many religions in the world. Are these various religions all different ways of getting to the same God? Do the many religions each teach a different perspective of the same God, the true God?
Who and what is God? You may have heard this story: Five blind men each feel around and give their perspective on what an elephant is. One describes an elephant as a small skinny tale. Another describes an elephant as a long thick trunk. Another describes the elephant as a large round belly. And so on.
Clearly these blind men were all describing different aspects of one-and-the-same elephant. So it is with religions, the story goes. But is that how it is with our Christian faith compared to other religions?
What if, instead of describing different aspects - a tail, a trunk, a leg, a belly - these blind men come describing contradictions. One describes a long leg and rough skin. The other describes a short leg and feathers. One describes four legs. The other describes two wings. One a trunk, the other a beak. And so on. Clearly these blind men are dealing with two different animals.
So, one believes in many gods - another in thousands of gods - another in one God. And another describes one God who is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are gods, and there’s “God”, and there’s God – these are not all the same. The more you know what other religions believe, the more you see that we’re talking about different animals altogether, not just different aspects of the same.
Who is God? What is God? Who and what is the God who truly is God?
We should remember and remind ourselves that the God we believe to be True God is very specifically defined. We don’t trust in a Vague Idea, but in a very Specific Someone.
The Creeds we confess – as the teachings contained in them are drawn from the Scriptures – identify God specifically. The three Creeds (creed = statement of belief, “I believe”) we confess are the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
The Athanasian Creed gives the most in-depth description of who this true God is. This very specific teaching in the Athanasian Creed of who God is, is said to be necessary for salvation. Who the true God is, is fundamental and necessary for our catholic faith – our universal, Christian faith. You are not saved by mere faith – you are saved by faith in Someone very specific who has done something very specific for you.
What is God? God is Three in One. God is Three Persons who are One God. God is One with three Who’s. God is God the Father. God is God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who is begotten by the Father. God is the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father.
God is Three who are not Three Gods but One. The Father is God. The Son of God is God. The Holy Spirit is God. Yet they are not three Gods, but one God. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord, yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
The Father and Son and Holy Spirit are One God, yet they are not each other. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Father. The Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son. And neither the Father nor the Son are the Holy Spirit. They are three distinct persons, unmixed – the one is not the other. Yet the three are one God.
The three are one God, yet they are not each a mere part or portion of God. One of them doesn’t equal a third of God. Putting the three together doesn’t add up to one God. The Father is fully God; the Son is fully God; the Holy Spirit is fully God. The three are each fully God, yet they do not add up to more than God. God is three Persons, but not three parts or pieces.
God is one “substance”/“essence”/“nature”. God is one divine substance. God is three Persons. One substance, one divine nature; three persons. One who is never less than three. Three who are never more than one.
And one of these Persons became Man. There is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God. The Son, and only the Son, became Man. The Son did not become less than God to become Man. Instead, the Son remained fully God and took human nature upon Himself. That one Person of the three now has two natures, two substances. The Son of God is fully of the divine nature and is fully of the human nature. He is not half of each, but is fully each – God and Man. And He is not now two Persons – a human person and a divine person. No, He is only that One Person, the Son of God, but now with two full natures.
So here is our God – One divine Substance; Three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God. God the Son of God is our Savior who is God and yet has become Man for our salvation. Is there any other religion who teaches that this is God? No.
It’s probably easy to recognize that old pagan religions which worshiped stone statues and logs as their gods do not believe in the same God as we do. But what about Muslims? And what about the Jewish people in Israel? What about your neighbor who believes in “God” with no church, no cross, and no Jesus? Is that the same God?
Many will say – and maybe some of you have believed this – that Muslims and Christians and Jews all believe in the same God. Holy Trinity Sunday, especially, is a day when we remember that we do not.
I want to equip you, brothers and sisters, with an easy and right response to the question, “Do Christians and _X_ Religion worship the same God?” “Do Christians and Jews worship the same God?” “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” Here is the answer – just ask another question, this question: “Does that religion believe that Jesus Christ is God?” (They might believe He is a good person, but do they worship Him and say that He is God?) And ask this, “Does that religion believe that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?”
Muslims and Jews, like all other religions, do not believe that Jesus is God and do not worship Him as God. We believe that God is Jesus, and we worship Him. If I believe that the man Jesus is God and worship Him as such, and you do not believe that the man Jesus is God and don’t worship Him as such, then you and I are not just looking at different parts of the elephant. No, instead, we’re dealing with two different Gods.
Islam and the Jewish faith believe it is blasphemy to say that a Man is God or to call Jesus the Son of God or the Messiah. But you and I believe that’s exactly who He is. So we and they do not believe in or worship the same God.
The true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the God who is found only through Jesus and who is Jesus. Let’s hear the following passages of Scripture: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12]. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” [John 14:6]. [Jesus said:] “The one who rejects me rejects Him who sent me” [Luke 10:16]. “It is those of faith (in Christ) who are the sons of Abraham” [Galatians 3:7 (3:29)]
The one God who Truly is God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the only God who has done something very specific for you. Only the true God has loved the world and given His only Son to die on the cross for sinners.
As we read, we read again: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” [John 3:16-17]. That’s the true God. Only the one true God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has done this great thing for you. Amen.