Trinity Sunday (1st Sunday after Pentecost) May 31, 2015
Acts 2:14a, 22-36
246, 245(1-3,6), 239, 244(1-2)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
May the love of God, the Father, fill you with wonder. May the sacrifice of God, the Son, fill you with thanksgiving. May the indwelling of God, the Holy Spirit, fill you with comfort, faith, and hope. Amen.
In our Old Testament reading we heard how God, about six thousand years ago, brought the universe into existence by the power of His Word. He said, and it was so. We also heard that on that first day of earth’s existence He created light, simply calling it into existence by declaring that it would be so.
So let me ask you, do you believe in light, that is, do you believe that such a thing as light actually exists? Of course you do. Why? Why do you believe that it exists? Because you can see it. You know it exists because the evidence is all around us. We see everything that we see because of the existence of light.
Here’s the next question, and this is when things begin to get interesting: Do you fully understand light? The answer is, “No, you really don’t.” Oh you can look it up online—as I did—and sort of begin to grasp some of the basic concepts, but you really don’t fully understand it. Not even those who study it for a living pretend to know all there is to know about it; and yet you believe that it exists, despite the fact that you don’t fully understand it, because you see—literally, see—evidence all around you.
This is by no means unique in our existence. In fact the same thing applies to many other phenomena in our lives. Do you really fully understand electricity? Radiation? Gravity? I don’t either, but we still believe that those things exist. How about wind? What is it exactly and how does it begin and end. More perplexing still, why does it seem to take such random paths? Though you may have no answers to these questions, you obviously still believe that wind nonetheless exists.
Today, we celebrate an aspect of our God that no one fully understands—His triune nature. Though it’s easy enough to speak of three-in-one, three Persons and yet one God, once we start to get into the specifics, we find ourselves in very deep waters indeed.
Yet we believe in the triune nature of our God. Why? Because God said so, in His Word.
Today’s text is just one of those “God said so” proofs of that which we believe, even though we don’t fully understand it. The text is found in the book of Acts, the second chapter:
Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them…“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have takenby lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. For David says concerning Him: ‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’ Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
So far the Word of our God. What a joy and a privilege to possess these words of timeless truth as our sure and constant guide. That our God would bless our study of these perfect words, so we pray, “Sanctify us by your truth, O Lord. Your word is truth.” Amen.
What a pure joy it is simply to worship our God, to fall on our knees in humble awe before Him and to unreservedly praise, honor and glorify Him. This is good. This is fitting, right, and utterly appropriate on absolutely any occasion because He is worthy. So many things in life require careful balance. Not here. Here there need be no hesitancy, no reluctance, no apprehension, no measured restraint. Human beings simply cannot worship our God too much or too well.
Understand, however, that we don’t worship our God because we fully grasp everything there is to know about Him. We worship Him, in part, because we don’t grasp everything there is to know about Him. We acknowledge that He is so far above us, so much more powerful, wise, and grand than anything we mortals could ever fully comprehend. That is part of what makes God worthy of our worship—the very fact that we don’t and can’t “get” all there is to God.
But just here we see a growing and most troubling trend. There is a rising inclination in our society to reject the very existence of God simply because He cannot be explained scientifically or grasped intellectually. Man asks “How can this be?” and if the answer is not readily available, man dismisses the very concept of God. As man’s understanding concerning how things work in God’s incredible creation increases, man’s tendency now is to worship the creation, or his limited understanding of that creation, rather than the Creator Himself.
On the one hand, this is most puzzling. Who wants to worship that which is on a par with himself? Isn’t worship supposed to be reserved for that which is greater, grander, and more sublime—in the case of our God, infinitely so? And yet, on the other hand, this tendency to dismiss and reject the very existence of God is anything but surprising, for this is the very essence of our foolish, fallen nature from the very moment of our conception. It is the delight of Satan, into whose control every single one of us is naturally born. Every human soul was born profoundly foolish and spiritually ignorant—a natural enemy of God. More than even that, we were born with an inordinate love of self. It is relatively easy for man to reject God because man is so enamored with himself. It’s only natural then that if God doesn’t seem to measure up to our own beliefs, instincts, and understanding, then man will invariably dismiss God and opt to believe and honor self, and he will naturally do so every single time.
So it is that when the Bible proclaims that God is one, and yet three separate and distinct persons, man naturally says, “That’s impossible. It makes no rational sense,” and dismisses it out-of-hand. Man can’t grasp how such a thing can possibly be true, so man naturally concludes that it is not true.
This sort of skepticism extends throughout the doctrines of Scripture. The virgin birth can’t be true—rejected. The resurrection from the dead can’t be true—rejected. The miracles, the two natures of Christ, the creation of all things from absolutely nothing by the power or God’s Word alone—rejected, rejected, rejected.
God knew this about man. That’s why in our text Peter articulated what God Himself did to address this natural skepticism we all share: “Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them…‘Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know…’” [vv. 2, 22f] Do you see the impossible situation that God faced in connection with mankind and the sending of Jesus Christ? Jesus had to be set apart from all of the false messiahs that came before and would come after. God did this by the miraculous signs that were performed. Even Jesus’ sworn enemies were perplexed by these miracles, “For how,” they reasoned, “could someone does not have divine approval do such incredible things?” And yet, man now takes the very proof that God offered to verify Jesus’ person, work, and office, and turns it into the very reason for rejecting Him. Because they cannot rationally explain what happened, they deny that it ever did. Or, they reason, if it did happen once, why isn’t it still happening today ?
Did you notice the profound difference in Peter’s words in our text? That’s the post-Pentecost Peter you’re hearing, the Peter who was in possession of the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Far from trying to prevent Jesus from paying his sin-debt on the cross, Peter here thrills to the fact that Jesus did just that. Gone forever is the old Peter. This is the Peter upon whose testimony God established His New Covenant Church. What you see here then is the glory of that gift we celebrated last week, the special gift of the Holy Spirit given to God’s New Testament Church at Pentecost.
So then, we don’t worship our God because we know or grasp him fully. In fact, we freely admit that God is so far above us that there is undoubtedly infinitely more that we don’t know about Him than there is that we do. But you and I are obviously fine with that. That’s why we worship Him, our Triune God, and Him alone.
Yet there is another reason. We don’t worship our God because we fully understand Him, we worship him because He fully understands us.
Peter continues in our text: “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have takenby lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” [vv.22-23] Note this well. God knew all along that mankind would opt to kill its own Savior. That’s just how perverse and unworthy the entire human race is, and God knew that about us. Yet, God decided to go forward with his plan anyway. With definite planning and foreknowledge God sent His Son to be killed by us—the very souls He came to save. He knew we would do it, but He also knew that there was no other way for us to avoid spending all eternity in unspeakable agony.
Why would He do such a thing? “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16). “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
We worship our God because He fully understands us; and yet, understanding just how unworthy and undeserving every single human soul is, He loved us with an impossible love—loved us to the point that He sacrificed His dearest treasure to spare us the punishment we so obviously deserved.
Consider just how amazing this truth really is. God knows everything about you. He knows your terrible, revolting thoughts. He hears the godless things that come out of your mouth and He sees the sin that you manage to hide, at least for the most part, from other human beings. He knows your doubts, your faithless fears and anxieties, and your perverse pleasure in the temporal shine and fluff of this world. All this He knows about you—knows you better than you know yourself—and still He loves you, still He cares about you and for you, still He longs to have you with Him for all eternity in Heaven. Still He sent His Son for you.
That’s why we worship Him. The world is filled with doubt because of the demonstrations of His power. You and I are filled with faith and hope because of the demonstrations of His love. The world refuses to worship a God that it cannot fully comprehend. You and I need to introduce them to the God whose greatest attribute is His grace—His undeserved love for sinful, rebellious mankind.
As amazing and incomprehensible as the creation of the universe in six days by the power of His Word alone truly is, Jesus’ love for me, the sinner, is greater. As astounding as the miracles, the Triune nature of our God, and the resurrection of the dead most certainly are, even more amazing is the fact that God now credits the perfection of His Son to me. As astounding as such things as color and light are, infinitely more so is the fact that God, in bringing me to saving faith through the power and indwelling of his own Holy Spirit, has removed my spiritual blindness and unbelief and has declared me to be His own child and heir of Heaven.
All of this has been given to you and me, freely, for Christ’s sake. You want something to marvel at, something to be amazed by? Start there. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.