Trinity Sunday, 2019

For The Epistle – Revelation 4:1-11

The Gospel – St. John 3:1-15

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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The celebration of the Holy Trinity…one day chosen out of the calendar year to do so, tells us something about how important it is.

 

It tells us that our understanding of God, His nature, His attributes, His existence…are important to understand.

 

Obviously, the Holy Trinity, being three persons in one God is never going to be fully understood by us, ever.

Nevertheless, it is important that we know the God that we worship, and we know Him correctly.

 

In fact, knowing God correctly and rightly is the way to then worshiping Him correctly.

 

It is probably not a stretch to say that there is an almost countless number of ways in which God is incorrectly viewed and understood.

 

Knowing Him incorrectly leads us to…or opens the door to worshiping Him incorrectly.

 

For example. Some still envision God as a man with a long white beard who sits on a throne in heaven. Despite the Bible telling us outright…

 

 

“Numbers 23:19

 

            [19] God is not man, that he should lie,

                        or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” (ESV)

 

Or 1 Samuel 15:29

 

[29]“…[God] the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” (ESV)

 

Or when God Himself says, Hosea 11:9

 

            [9] I will not execute my burning anger;

                        I will not again destroy Ephraim;

            for I am God and not a man,

                        the Holy One in your midst…” (ESV)

 

 

And though these passages tell us more about how God is not capricious or susceptible to whims or change of mind or of deceit, (like human beings are), they still get us to at least see that He doesn’t have human attributes.

 

But Jesus tells us more about God. He says, “John 4:24

 

[24] God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (ESV)

 

...calling us here to notice that God does not have a body…and we are to conform to Him rather than like those verses a minute ago… which tell us that God does not conform to man, nor is He like man.

 

 

And with this old man with the long white beard image, you get the belief that he is a nice old man, like a grandpa. Who wants us to sit on his lap so he can give us gifts or tell us a story.

 

And though God is loving and kind and Jesus even showed great love and kindness to children, He is not to be trifled with either.

 

His is not like an old grandpa who is harmless and easy going.

 

There are others who believe that God is the world. …or the world is God. Not that He is present, but that the world is God.

 

This is where some in the environmental movement gets some of their momentum.

If the earth is alive and it is a deity then we must take care of it.  It’s “mother earth.”

 

This is misguided. The earth is created by God. We are told that plainly in the beginning chapters of Genesis. ..and in other placed in the Bible.

 

Then you have those who have no idea about the nature or the essence of God.

They don’t understand God to be Triune…one in essence but three in person.

 

Monotheists, those who believe God is a single unit, a single entity like most non-Christian religions, are wrong as well.

 

Understanding God in this way may seem less harmful.

 

But why it is important to understand and believe and confess God in a correct way is because the Bible and then subsequently Christian Church has determined and taught that this is so, and is necessary to believe.   

 

So, getting God wrong in this way may seem like less of an offence, it is not.

 

Jesus said, John 14:1

[1] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (ESV) That equating Himself in this way is because He is calling our attention to the fact that He is divine and we are to treat Him as we treat God…believe in Him as we believe in God.

 

John 10:30

 

[30] I and the Father are one.” (ESV)

 

John 10:38

 

[38] but if I do (these good works of miracles) even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (ESV)

 

Or maybe most clear… “1 John 2:23

 

[23] No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. (ESV)

 

And of course, time would not allow us to search all of the Scriptures which also bring the Holy Spirit into this equation.

 

 

 

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Divine Trinity. …who breathes life, regenerates, consecrates, baptizes and raises us up on the last day as He raised Jesus up on the third.

 

Our Collect today is the driving force behind all of what has been said here so far, and what we have to keep in mind on this Sunday as we celebrate and highlight the Holy Trinity. 

 

That opening prayer which sets the theme for today and the rest of the week.

 

Hear the words again.

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us steadfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.

 

So, here we have our commission as Christians. We are to confess the true faith…acknowledging that there is also a false faith.

Confess the true faith about the true and living God.

 

By doing what?

Acknowledging God, the eternal Trinity.

Acknowledging the God, the Divine Majesty.

Then leading us to rightly worship God in Unity.

 

The Collect, as you can see, then, takes on a doctrinal dimension as well as the worship dimension.

 

Getting the doctrine right, helps us get the worship right.

 

It was not long before the early Church began to have serious issues from within, where certain priests were teaching incorrect things about God.

 

A man named Theodotus of Byzantium taught that Jesus was born a simple and yet good man and that when the Holy Spirit descended on Him at His baptism He was adopted by God.

He was excommunicated. The Bible is clear that Jesus was come down from Heaven, was eternal with the Father and the Spirit.

 

But what damage can this sort of belief cause? It degrades Christ. It makes Him much less that He really is and what He needs to be to save us.

 

Only God can save us and even a defied man does not have the eternal power to do so.

 

That was already in the third century.

In the fourth century you had Apollinaris.

 

He taught a low view of Jesus as well. He did not believe that the two natures we find in Jesus could be in Him at the same time.

 

Arius denied that Jesus was divine as well. A lesser and created god.

 

Sabellianism taught more in the level of God by saying that God operated or functioned or existed in three modes. Later known as modalism.

 

Tritheism, believing that God is made up of three independent, distinct and divine persons.

 

Notice most of the issues revolved around the Son of God and a misunderstanding of who He is.

 

But most if not all….. in some way or another…. compromised the true faith and the true way in which God reveals Himself as He exists.

 

In a similar way, this is what is happening in the gospel lesson today. Jesus is visited by Nicodemus.

Nicodemus had a similar problem as do many people today. For him to say to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” …tells us that He was not understanding who Jesus was.

 

He was not understanding who God is.

He saw the miracles. He said, “we all can see that you are doing miracles… so God must be with you.”

 

This is true, but only partially. God was with Jesus, but Nicodemus was in no saying that that Jesus was God.

 

And Jesus’ reply matched Nicodemus’ comment in degree. Jesus didn’t say outright, well, Nicodemus you are wrong. Not only is God with me, but God is in me, and I in Him. I am the living God.

 

He says, rather, “unless you are born again, Nicodemus, you can’t enter into the Kingdom of God.” …you can’t see it nor understand it, unless God Himself opens and reveals that to you.

 

You cannot enter it.

You cannot understand it.

 

Then as the conversation escalates, Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”…speaking of Himself.

 

This is the less subtle thing about this passage as the conversation progresses.

 

Nicodemus saw Jesus as a teacher from God, but not God Himself. Jesus, by His reply, informs him that He is greater than any earthly teacher.

Christ was a teacher, but not as other teachers, for none had yet ascended into Heaven to learn what He knew.  He was the One who had descended from Heaven.

 

Other teachers taught truth, but He was Himself the Truth…divine truth.

He came not simply to teach men what to believe, but to actually give them the God in Whom they are to believe.

 

And again, He teaches that He imparted truth through the Holy Spirit of God. 

 

He tells Nicodemus that unless the Spirit of God grants new birth one cannot see the Kingdom of God nor understand the things of the Kingdom of God.

 

Not only can you not enter, but you cannot even conceive of it correctly.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit on the heels of all that we heard last week on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit causes correct thinking about God and the things of God.

 

And all the while, this Kingdom of God Jesus is speaking of is the Kingdom of His Father…whom Jesus shares with the Holy Spirit in ruling and reigning.

 

Melville Scott, who is often quoted says, “The doctrine of the Trinity is necessary to salvation because it reveals the Son and Spirit through Whom alone we obtain remission of sins and are made partakers of the Kingdom of Heaven.”[1]

 

 

 

And as the Spirit of God reveals all truth to us, we are given a special gift today in that we are given a glimpse into heaven itself… in our Lesson for the Epistle.

 

Here we heard a passage from Revelation chapter 4.

 

Scott on this passage says, “We, as S. John was, are invited to ‘come up for there is a door left open for us by Christ into Heavenly mysteries.’ He Himself invites, for the voice, clear and distinct as of a trumpet, was the first voice heard by S. John as described in the first chapter, even the voice of Jesus. We are enabled for the vision by the Spirit. Thus the Godhead is revealed by the Son and Spirit.”[2]

 

 

This entire vision here today points us to the Triune God.

 

What do we have?  What did we hear?

 

Well, there is One sitting on a throne. He sits in the midst of pure and brilliant light. The description of colorful stones are interspersed.

 

Around Him are the 24 elders, signifying the complete Church of God. The Church of both the Old and the New Covenant.

 

They are wearing white robes of purity and crowns of victory.[3]

 

We read of flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. Torches of fire. Heavenly creatures all encircling the throne.

The heavenly host crying out in Triune, threefold manner….Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.

 

Continuing in three-fold manner… They cry out to God, “who was and is and is to come.” Never ceasing.

 

Casting their crowns before the throne. Falling down in worship, saying “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

                        to receive glory and honor and power, (another three-fold reference)

            for you created all things,

                        and by your will they existed and were created.”

Symbols of and images of eternal activity and yet eternal peace.

 

All those who come to the true faith in the true and triune God are rewarded with eternal life.

 

To get the Trinity wrong, jeopardizes the enjoying of God forever. The Church in the past has excommunicated those who have strayed from this truth because they believed that if you are in error on this point you must be threatened with excommunication in order to bring you back…and so that those who see this are more afraid to commit the same error.

 

This is why our prayer today ends with these words to God, “We beseech thee, that you would keep us steadfast in this faith. And evermore defend us from all adversities. …and we might add… defend us from all error.

 

By your Holy Spirit, incline our hearts and minds to remain steadfast in holding to this faith…faith in the Holy Trinity. …Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God world without end. Amen.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.

[2] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.

[3] Excerpt From: Melville Scott. “The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels.” Apple Books.