Trinity Sunday May 22, 2005
2 Corinthians 13:14
246, 245, 237, 244
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dear fellow redeemed:
Most of church holidays are based upon events. Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost all recognize the actions of our Lord in the plan of salvation. Today, we come to a festival in the church year in which our celebration is based upon a teaching rather than an event. It is a teaching so deep that not even the most learned theologian or the most gifted scholar can understand it. I am speaking of the teaching of the Trinity. You will not find the word Trinity in the Bible, but the teaching is most definitely there. We have coined the word (Triune = tri + unity) to describe the three-in-one nature of God.
Our Lord describes Himself in Scriptures as three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—but still one God. Each person is true God, and yet there are not three gods, but one God. The Athanasian Creed is one of the best and most comprehensive explanations of the Trinity, but even in that creed it is easier to explain what the Trinity is not rather than what it is. There is no way that our frail and feeble minds can comprehend that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all true God, and yet somehow, there is only one God. It is a good thing that we cannot fully understand the nature of God, because how much of a God would He be if we could figure Him out? The doctrine of the Trinity simply must be accepted by faith. We believe it to be true for the sole reason that God says so.
The Triune nature of God is all the more confusing to us because there is not one thing in nature that resembles the Trinity. There is not one parable that I can think of in which the three-in-one concept has an earthly comparison. A man named Patrick (we know him more commonly as St. Patrick) was a missionary to Ireland. He used the three leaf clover to teach others of the Trinity. Yet, even that example lacks because we would not say that one leaf is a clover, but we do confess that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
At the end of this sermon today you will not have a complete understanding of the Trinity because that is impossible to give. However, what we seek to learn today is the importance of each Person in the Trinity, and how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are united not only in essence, but also with same goal and mission in mind: to save lost sinners.
Our text should be familiar to us. It is a benediction (blessing) that is often used. It is brief, but there is a wealth of information to be gathered from it. We’ll consider each phrase, beginning with “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Grace is what separates true Christianity from heathen religions, and also from a false presentation of the Christian faith. In addition to Scripture alone and Faith alone, Grace alone was a battle cry of the Lutheran Reformation.
No other religion preaches that salvation is a gift from God that does not have to be earned. This is a foreign concept to human beings. In our way of thinking we must do something in order to be saved. Most religions follow this natural inclination. You will find demands that sacrifices of some sort must be made, or that good must be done by an individual to make up for the evil that he has done. If this were the case we would no longer have grace, but rather, salvation by works. Actually, salvation by works is a contradiction. It is actually damnation by works because there is not enough goodness in any of us to make up for the wrong that we have done.
The idea that we can be saved by what we do brings about hopelessness. You will never have the confidence that you have done enough. Such a hope is based upon wretchedness and will eventually bring about despair. Our hope instead is based upon Jesus Christ and His goodness. That is reliable, and this Savior is the one upon whom we will build our foundation. It is grace that we can rely on His goodness as a gift and do not have to earn it.
Earlier in 2 Corinthians, Paul defines beautifully what the grace of Christ is: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). In order to accomplish our salvation, Jesus set aside His majesty, left His throne in heaven, and came to the earth. This was not for further glory. Rather, it was to die a most miserable death on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. This death was in our place for the very purpose that we might become rich.
This is grace because there is no way that we can afford the riches of salvation. What price do you put on the innocent blood of the Son of God? There are all kinds of lawsuits in this country when a person is harmed in some way, or even killed. Juries have a difficult time trying to put a dollar figure on the use of an arm, or a person’s earning potential in this life. That’s difficult and most of the times not done very well, but we would have to say that it is impossible to put a price on the salvation that was freely given to us. We could say without a doubt that we could not afford it. We confess with the hymn writer: “Not alms nor deeds that I have done can for a single sin atone. To Calvary alone I flee—O God, be merciful to me!” [TLH 323]
Indeed God has been merciful to us. All we had to offer was our sin and unrighteousness and guilt and terror concerning God’s commands. Jesus took that away and gave us a relationship with the Heavenly Father instead. “For the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). The grace of Christ is wrapped up in His redeeming work. His role in the Trinity was to reconcile, that is to bring sinners back together with the Father.
This brings us to the work of the Father which is to be reconciled and that He is pleased and appeased with Christ’s work. Our text speaks of the Father’s love playing its role in our salvation: “…and the love of God…”
We have a hard time defining exactly what love is because it’s such an abstract notion, but the Scriptures tell us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The more closely you examine God and study what He has to say about Himself, the more you will know about love. God’s love involves action. He created us. He preserves us. He corrects us, and He has revealed Himself to us in His Word. Did the Father have to do any of these things? Absolutely not! He did so out of love for us.
The love of God is ultimately seen in the fact that He sent His Son to die for sinful man. The Father could have let mankind go along its merry way directly into Hell, because we were all headed in that direction unless God intervened. It was love that caused the Father to intervene and to plan our salvation by sending His Son Jesus into the world. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8). We honor our earthly fathers and value their love, but none can come close to matching the love of our heavenly Father.
Here we take note that the attribute of love does not belong exclusively to the Father, nor does the attribute of grace belong exclusively to the Son. The Bible also speaks of Christ’s love and the Father’s grace. Even such a thing as the creation of the world which we attribute primarily to the Father also involved the Son and the Holy Spirit. The fact that these attributes overlap as they do is further proof of the unity in the Trinity. There is one will and one desire in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: the salvation of lost souls. Each Person of the Trinity has a unique role in this salvation. The Father sent His Son and was reconciled with lost sinners. The Son was sent to be our Savior and by His death brought sinners together with the Father. Now we come to the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s work is to join us to Christ and to the forgiveness He has won for us.
“…and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” We dare not leave out the Holy Spirit when we talk about salvation. This benediction speaks of the Holy Spirit’s role as “the communion of the Holy Spirit.” He has brought us into fellowship with God.
We have used Christ as a reference point in this sermon for it is easy to see how our salvation revolves around Him, but that does not make one member of the Trinity superior over another. They are co-equal in power, and equally important. The Holy Spirit is necessary to make the forgiveness of sins won for the world our very own through faith. We know that Jesus died for all, but not all are going to heaven. The difference is faith. There needs to be a connection to God.
The Holy Spirit has enabled us to become Christians by leading us to believe the truths of Christ’s death and resurrection. He has made us part of God’s family, and as such we have an inheritance of life in heaven awaiting us. Through the work of the Spirit we share in the love and grace which our Lord has so graciously provided.
This communion of the Holy Spirit also brings us into fellowship with one another. Despite any differences that we might have in ethnic background, wealth, political beliefs, or any other earthly thing, we have a common union in Christ. Any other bond that would unite us is pretty flimsy and subject to decay, but the bond in Christ is deep and goes beyond this life.
This benediction from our Triune God is more than just wishful thinking. It is fact. Paul wanted to impart to the Corinthians the grace of Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit. We also need these things for life on earth and for life in heaven. Thanks be to God that we have them! The next time you receive this benediction realize what blessings are being spoken about and what we can pray for as well.
On this Trinity Sunday, let us remember how the three Persons of our Triune God work in unity to bring about our salvation. Don’t worry about understanding the Trinity—we can’t understand it on this side of eternity—but instead focus on how the one, true, holy, Triune God has saved you. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
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