Eighth Sunday after Trinity August 2, 1998
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
In the name of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dear Christian friends, dear fellow redeemed.
We live under the limits of time and the confines of space. So naturally we measure things. We measure out days, weeks, and months on the calendar. We measure out streets, towns, and counties on the map. We measure and calculate dimensions for a new building. We calibrate different sizes of hardware, auto parts, clothing, and all kinds of other things. It’s part of who we are: we have to know how far, how long, what size, what sequence. If it’s something we can measure, chances are, it is something we can understand.
So what are we going to do with God? We don’t have a tape measure long enough to see how big He is. We don’t have a calendar old enough to see how long He’s been around. That’s because we cannot measure eternity. God is eternal; God is endless in every way, shape, and form. There is no limit to His existence, no limit to His power, no limit to His knowledge, and no limit to His love. What Paul says in Romans is so true. You cannot measure the greatness of God! It’s a fact that will help you accept and trust in the way God works.
You know what an exclamation point is. We use exclamation points to emphasize, show that our statement is very urgent or very exciting. Warning! … exclamation point. Congratulations! … exclamation point, which comes at the end of the statement. Well, the writer of our text puts the exclamation point at the beginning. You find it in the word “Oh.” “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” God is so deep, the Bible says. God is so great and so smart! God deserves the biggest exclamation point of all, because no one can measure His greatness. In particular, we cannot measure His three-in-one nature.
It really doesn’t take too many words to describe the Trinity. Simply put, the triune God is three Persons. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three Persons were there at the baptism of Jesus. The Father was the voice which spoke from heaven. The Son was Jesus Christ, the one being baptized. The Holy Spirit was the dove who came down on Christ. Three separate Persons, for you see, the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. The Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father; nor is He the Son, and vice versa. Three separate Persons, yet they are all God 100%. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are complete equals in every way: equally powerful, equally eternal, equal in every quality and facet of who God is. But here’s the tricky part. We cannot say they are three Gods. We can’t say it because the Bible does not say it. The Bible says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4) Thus we have the Bible teaching of the Trinity: three separate and equal Persons, but only one God.
Now human reason will do a double-take. Human reason will say, “Wait a minute. This can’t be. If God is three Persons, then He must be three Gods.” Human reason will change the Trinity to fit some logical idea. But that kind of thinking creates a problem. You can not measure God with logic. He’s higher and wider and longer than logic. We have to throw human reason and scientific methods out the window when God explains to us who He is. You can use science and logic to understand earthly things. But you can’t use science and logic to understand heavenly things. Like the Lord says in Isaiah, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:8-9)
Naturally there’s a conflict. If we’re going to accept the Triune God as the real thing, we have to set aside our logical way of thinking. But that runs contrary to our human nature. There will be the temptation to question and challenge the Bible’s description of God. It’s a deadly temptation, because any denial of the Trinity results in unbelief. The Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Muslims, the Jews, and many others deny the Trinity. They say they believe in God. They might even quote the Bible. But they deny that God is three-in-one. They deny that Jesus is the Son of God, equal to the Father. They let their human reason lead them astray. And they create for themselves a false “god” which does not exist. Jesus made it clear when He said, “All should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (John 5:23)
May God help us tune out the voice of our human reason. May God help us tune in to the clear statements of His Word. We cannot measure His three-in-one nature. But the Bible clearly teaches this wondrous quality of who God is. The Bible has to stand, in spite of our questions and our lack of comprehension. It won’t be the only time that the Bible leaves you scratching your head in wonder. Who can explain the miracles of Bible history, the miracle of creation or the virgin birth of Christ or His resurrection from the dead? These are great mysteries of God that we cannot measure. As Paul points out in our text, we cannot measure who He is and we cannot measure His all-knowing wisdom.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” You can answer that question, can’t you? The answer is no one. God doesn’t need advisors like kings and presidents do. Every plan that He makes, every decision of God is based on the perfect knowledge of all things. Think about that if you can. Who can fathom that kind of precision, that kind of mental competence, that kind of focus and concentration on all the little details? God never had a bad idea. God never forgot an important piece of information. The triune God knows more about us and our activities and our past, present, and future than we do. It’s really an awesome concept. God knows everything. And on the basis of that perfect knowledge, He makes all the right decisions and all the right moves.
This fact of Scripture should really have a calming effect on you and me. Think of what Jesus said in Matthew: “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matt. 10:29-30) We should not fear or worry about anything, because God has it covered. We can trust Him to act in the best possible way. What else would you expect? Surely the God who made all things will continue to have complete knowledge and total control of all things.
Unfortunately, the promise of God’s Word does not always prevail in the struggle of our minds. We know that God controls all things. We know that God has a will for every event and circumstance on the face of the earth. But if something bad happens, if we experience tragedy in our own life, what do we do? We pull out the human measuring stick. We ask the question why. “Why did You let this happen, Lord?”
The question can lead to dangerous ground. Some are led to believe that if God lets trouble or disaster happen, then His love must have died or disappeared. They falsely blame the cause of evil on the God “who doesn’t care anymore,” when in fact the cause of evil can be traced to the presence of sin. We experience trouble of all kinds, because we live in a sinful world. Yet God is in control. Though He does not cause the evil to happen, He decides to let it happen. Which brings us back to the question why. Why did God allow this trouble in my life? Did I do something wrong? Did I offend the Lord in some way? Is He punishing me for a terrible sin? If we try to find the answers from our own reference point and our human way of thinking, we flop around in despair and hopelessness.
We forget that God does not operate the way people do. We cannot pull Him down to our level and make Him like one of us. Nor can we elevate ourselves up to His level and think like Him. There’s a huge gap between us and the Lord, a gap which we cannot bridge. We cannot find an absolute answer to the whys and the wherefores of God’s will. It is something we cannot measure. But I can you tell this. The Lord is not mean or vindictive. He does not keep score and get even. He has made a promise to us in Jeremiah: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” So the trouble that we experience is not a punishment from God. God doesn’t work that way. Whatever happens is for our good. We know it’s true, because God has the wonderful quality of grace. Even as we can’t measure His all-knowing wisdom in our lives, we can not measure the fullness of His grace, given to us in Christ.
Though we can’t measure it, we are going to talk it. Grace is a concept that is seldom discussed in the world. It’s a quality that you do not find in people. Yes, they will show love for people who are dear to them. But will they love their enemies? Will they love the person who turns against them and makes them a victim? That’s the kind of love that God has for us. We can define grace like this: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) God has love for us, even though we sin against Him. God shows love toward us, even though we deserve the exact opposite, His anger and His punishment. Because of amazing grace, God has planned a way to deal with our sin without bringing judgment on the sinner.
This plan was a joint effort. God the Father, the First Person of the Trinity, has sent God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, to be our Substitute. Christ has come to take your place. Christ has come to take your guilt on His own record. Christ has come to serve your sentence, because God has put the world on trial. Every sin of every person is brought before the Judge and laid on Jesus. God has made His Son accountable for what we did and measured out the full penalty that He would suffer for us. Jesus paid the price. The Judge set us free. The case is now closed. In God’s book we are not guilty!
Would a human court make this kind of ruling? Would a human judge decide beforehand that the sentence of the guilty criminal will be served by the innocent victim? No way! It simply does not happen, except in the court of God. God’s plan to save us through grace, God’s plan to save us at His own expense runs contrary to our human feelings of justice. Is it fair that Jesus had to die for what we did? God says it’s fair, and that should be the end of it.
Sadly though, it’s not. Human pride will dare to contradict. Human nature will continue to think that we can be our own savior and atone for ourselves, that we can somehow make up for our sins and earn God’s favor by ourselves. But God strikes that opinion down. The fact of the matter is—God does not give us what we deserve. If that were true, we’d all be in hell right now. God gives us what we don’t deserve: forgiveness for all our sins and the promise that we will live forever. We claim this promise by trusting in the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
And even that trust is a gift of grace. God’s undeserved love is the reason why the Holy Spirit has come. The Holy Spirit takes over in the heart and overcomes our human reason, our human pride, and our natural unbelief. Through the declaration of God’s Word, He gives us the faith to recognize God as the three-in-one God. He gives us the faith to accept God’s will as completely wise and completely good for us. And best of all, the Holy Spirit gives us the faith to trust in the grace of God, rather than ourselves. Though we cannot measure the fullness of this grace, by faith we will cling to this love of God as our sure and certain hope.
Paul ends our text by saying: “Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever.” Whatever God does will make Him look good. When He created all things, that demonstrated His power and His wisdom. When He gave us our life, that demonstrated His goodness. When He sent the world a Savior, that proved His unconditional love for all people. When He sent the Holy Spirit to put faith in our hearts, it demonstrated His personal commitment to our eternal welfare. Someday, the triune God will make His glory plainly visible for all to see. Though we cannot measure His greatness now, we will see His greatness and not be afraid. We will see His greatness and gladly give Him the honor and the glory that He deserves now and forever. Amen.
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