Holy Trinity Sunday
[Romans 11:33-36] Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Depths and Riches Revealed in Jesus
God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three distinct persons, yet one God. Throughout the Scriptures there are glimmers of this truth. It has always been this three-person unity who is the one God – it’s always been Him in Scripture, yet hidden behind a curtain. Hidden behind a thin sheet at times. Same three-person God, revealed finally and most fully when Jesus arrives.
At creation, God creates heaven and earth, the Spirit of God is said to be hovering over the waters, and God creates by speaking his Word – “Let there be light”; “Let there be an expanse”; “Let the earth sprout forth vegetation”; and so on [Genesis 1]. God, and His Spirit, and speaking His Word – and when Christ comes it is declared that that “Word was God”, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” [John 1:1,14]
The Word is God. The Word is Jesus. The Word is God’s Son, we learn in Jesus, and has become flesh – begotten of the Father from eternity, born of the human nature of the Virgin Mary in time, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary asked how she would give birth to a son; the angel Gabriel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” [Luke 1:35]. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And the Son of God is not two people, one divine and one human, crammed into one skin. Instead, Jesus is one person – God the Son, the second person of the Trinity – with two full natures. I’m one person with one nature, human. God the Son is one person with two natures, divine and human.
And today’s creed explains the Trinity is the most helpful words: The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Spirit is infinite. The Father almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty. Yet, there are not three almighties, or three infinites, or three God or Lords, but one God, one Lord, on infinite, one almighty.
One God, yet any one person is not any of the others. The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father or the Son. The Son is not the Spirit or the Father. One God, yet the Father did not become man, only the Son did. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, the Son doesn’t. And so on. Three distinct persons, yet not three one-third-parts of God, but each fully God, yet only one God.
When Jesus was baptized, God the Father spoke from heaven, “You are my beloved Son”, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove [Matthew 3:13-17]. Father, Son, Holy Spirit. And here you are – you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit [Matthew 28:19-20].
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.” “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” The depth and the riches and the mind of God the Lord are revealed perfectly in Jesus the Son. Still so much beyond our grasp, but we know who God is through the life and words of Jesus – that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we know the mind of God toward us – we know God’s desire-of-heart and His will toward us – through Jesus.
In our Gospel reading today, you find the Holy Trinity. And you find the will God, His mind toward you. God the Son was given by the Father as Savior.
In our Gospel today [John 3:1-17], Jesus first says this regarding the work of the Holy Spirit for you: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And then, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Born of water and the Spirit – Holy Baptism – “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh” – your human nature, the flesh, is fallen in sin and cannot know God or His mind or His will. “And that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” That in you which is born from the Holy Spirit, in Baptism, is a new creation, a new man, which can and does know the will of God through God’s Word – and does the works of God, His work in you.
Just as we had no part in our birth from the flesh, we have not part in this birth from the Holy Spirit: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” And two chapters earlier, this Gospel tells us that those who believe are “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:13].
And, now, here especially, in today’s Gospel, we see revealed in Jesus the richness of God’s will and mind toward us: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son” – the Father gave the Son on the cross to die in your place for your sin – “that whoever believes in Him” – faith born of the Holy Spirit – “should not perish but have eternal life.” The work of the Holy Trinity, all revolving around the cross and death of God the Son, Jesus, given for you.
“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” – God’s mind and will toward you and toward the world, not to condemn the sinner, but to save the sinner by giving His Son.
This depth and richness of the mystery of God is made know in Jesus further still: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [Romans 5:6-8]. God shows His love in Christ His Son. And “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” [Romans 5:5]. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit matter.
Some 1,600 years ago the Athanasian Creed, which we confessed today, was written because this core doctrine of who God is – and who Jesus is – was under attack.
Some 1,600 years later, this doctrine of the Trinity is still under attack, even by those who call themselves churches. The doctrine of the Trinity is attacked today by the power of political correctness. Many mainline church denominations – even some that go by the name “Lutheran” – encourage the use of gender-non-specific names for God. No longer Father and Son because those are male and therefore offensive to some.
In a baptism, God might instead be called ‘Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter’ – or God may be called ‘Mother’ or ‘She’. This denial of the Holy Trinity – and this rejection of Christ’s command to Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit [Matt. 28:18-20] – is happening under the banner of ‘Christian’ and ‘Church’. But none which do this are truly Christian Churches anymore.
The Athanasian Creed, from beginning to end, is about what God it is that we are to have faith in for our salvation. The only God who is God, and the only God who has saved you, is the God who is Father who gave His Son and who sends His Holy Spirit – one God, now and forever.
This Creed says, “Those who have done good will enter into everlasting life.” And Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” [John 6:29] At its core, to do evil is to trust in oneself or in any other god. At its core, to do good is to believe in this one true God alone for your salvation – this true God who has saved you from wrath – and who even now has begun His good work of a holy life in you – His good work which He says He will bring to completion on the Last Day [Philippians 1:6]. It has always been, and still is, this true, Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – at work for you, for your salvation. Amen.