Trinity Sunday June 15, 2003
246, 251, 239, 237(2-4)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
In the name of our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dear fellow redeemed:
There are certain careers for which one needs a good background in math. If someone is going into engineering he will need to be well versed in mathematics. A student pursuing medicine will need math to make proper doses of medication. A farmer needs math for many different applications. In the public ministry of the Gospel one doesn’t really need any sort of higher math, which is a plus as far as I’m concerned.
Today, however, I’d like to introduce you to a math that only Christians can understand, and even they can only understand it by the aid of the Holy Spirit. In this math 1+1+1=1. It is TRIUNE MATH and the doctrine of the Trinity. I. Though the doctrine of the Trinity does not add up in our minds (1+1+1=1), our Triune God continues to add to the Church. We’ll also find that II. If one Person is subtracted from the Trinity, then there is a loss of salvation. May the Holy Spirit, who was poured out on the disciples also enlighten us this morning.
On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the unique nature of our Lord. We confess that we believe in a Triune God. You won’t find the word “Triune” or “Trinity” in the Bible, but we use these words to describe what the Bible clearly lays out for us. Our God is three-in-one. There are three distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yet, there are not three Gods, but one. This is a teaching that is from above. It is far above our understanding and comprehension.
Some man-made religions attempt to imitate the Trinity. For instance in Hinduism there are three main gods, but that means multiple gods are being worshipped. Our God tells us that He is One. He says in Deuteronomy 6, “The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4). We confess that the Father is true God, the Son is true God, and the Holy Spirit is true God. It is not that each is one-third of God. Each is 100% God. This math doesn’t add up, but it does make our God unique, and we want to keep that distinction.
The reason that you won’t find the doctrine of the Trinity in other man-made religions like Hinduism is that it is beyond nature and beyond reason. St. Patrick used a three-leaf clover in Ireland to try to explain the Trinity, but even that comparison falls short. In studying nature a person may come to the logical conclusion that there is one God. Ancient and modern scholars come to that conclusion by seeing how nature works together, but only in the Scripture will we find out about the Trinity.
In the story of creation the Lord says, “Let us make man in our image according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). There was no one else to whom God was talking other than Himself! This was a conference within the Trinity—each person of the Trinity equally and fully God!
There has never been a dispute that the Father is true God. Jesus in the Gospel accounts frequently reveals Himself as co-equal with the Father. The opening verses of the Gospel of John drives this point home. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Holy Spirit also is revealed as true God. For instance, in Acts 5, Peter told Ananias in reference to the Holy Spirit, “You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4). Scripture is clear that the one true God is Triune, but if God would not have revealed His nature to us in the Scripture, we could not know it. The truth about God is a matter of faith, and not science or logic.
It is this Triune God that has procured your salvation. After the perfect creation was ruined by sin and rebellion, God took it upon Himself to fix the situation. The Father sent His only begotten Son into the world as a sacrifice. Jesus completed the work of redemption by His perfect sacrifice which removed sin and by His resurrection which guarantees our life. The Holy Spirit has made the blessings of that sacrifice and resurrection your very own by creating faith in your heart.
Recently, on Memorial Day we remembered those who have died—especially those who have served in the military. Everyday we want to remember the One who died and rose again. This is where we find hope for those who have passed away before us in the faith. In that resurrection we gain hope for today and tomorrow. Jesus as true God died and rose again for the forgiveness of sins. This is the work of our Triune God.
This is also what Peter and John were emphasizing in our text. There was a great bit of excitement after they had healed a lame man. There was rejoicing on the one hand and anger on the other. To both groups Peter proclaimed that they had done this in the name of Jesus, who was crucified, but now was risen from the dead.
5000 men, and no doubt many women and children, were brought to faith that day. Even though the message defied all reason and logic, the Holy Spirit worked trust in them to believe these things as true. He continued to do so even after this Gospel explosion in Acts and He is still bringing people to salvation and faith all over the world. This is the faith that He has created in you so that even if the math doesn’t work you believe it to be true.
A problem has been and continues to be that people put a natural knowledge of God above what God has revealed. People know that there is a God, but instead of finding the true God, many find a god of their imagination—an idol. When this happens, there is opposition to the true God. We’re told in 2 Corinthians 6 that people are in fact worshiping Satan himself.
When we look out into the world we see many different religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, and the list would go on for pages and pages. Yet when you boil it all down, there are really only two religions: Christian and non-Christian. Or we could also say that the two religions are: God-revealed and man-made. Satan leads people toward man-made religions because this pulls people away from salvation.
In the first three verses of our text, we read about the opposition to Jesus and to truth. They wanted to keep a god of their own imagination. They wanted to worship the Father without worshipping the Son, but this can’t be done without rejecting the true God. The true God includes the Son. Satan pushes people away from the Triune God because he knows that the LORD is the only source of salvation and his desire is to thwart salvation.
Let us read again verses 11-12 of our text which draws this sharp distinction. Speaking of Jesus, Peter said, “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” If people reject Jesus, then they are throwing out salvation. Where can there be forgiveness of sins other than with Jesus? It is also true that without the work of the Holy Spirit there is no salvation. If the Holy Spirit did not connect you to that forgiveness through faith, how would you be saved? It is necessary to believe in Jesus, to believe in the Triune God if you are to be saved. There are not many paths to heaven. There is only one. Jesus is that path. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. John 14:6).
I remember that after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 there were many articles on Islam as people grew curious about that religion. Many tried to show similarities between Islam and Christianity. There were services in New York and elsewhere to show the unity between the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths. But this is a disservice to the true God. The Christian faith relies on Jesus for salvation, every non-Christian faith denies the deity of Christ. That is drastic difference.
We need to zealously defend the doctrine of the Trinity. We dare not give the impression that all gods have equal footing, or that there is a generic god to which different religions give different names. There is a push to do this not only in our country, but also world-wide. It is not politically correct to claim that only one God is real, or that there is only one way to heaven. In fact, this was, I believe, once labeled as “hate speech” in California. Truthfully, it is just the opposite. To put all gods on an equal level says that Christ is not the chief cornerstone. That is a rejection of the truth and a rejection of life no less blatant then what happened in our text.
Your God is unique. He has revealed this to you in the Scriptures and by the power of the Holy Spirit. What a wonderful God He is who has created, redeemed, and sanctified you! He has called you out of the darkness into His marvelous light. He has given you the one name under heaven by which you are saved: JESUS. Continue to proclaim that saving name and souls will continue to be added to the Church and built upon that Cornerstone. Let that truth be known as long as you have the breath and the strength to proclaim it.
Your God is beyond understanding, but He is a God of love and forgiveness. Though you cannot add up the Trinity, your Triune God has added you to His family. To this one, true, Triune God be praise and glory! Amen.
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