Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christians make a big deal about the Trinity. It’s a critically important part of our theology that, like just about everything in the church, could always use a closer look. My goal for our time together this morning is to answer the question, “Why does the Trinity matter?” Why does it matter that there is one God in three persons? Why does it matter that we claim each person to be fully God yet there are not three gods, but one God? Does it really make a difference at all? In case there was any doubt, I’ll let you know right from the start, it does make a difference. The Trinity does matter. So let’s talk about it.
The doctrine of the Trinity matters because Scripture matters. Though it’s true the word “Trinity” never appears in the Bible, that doesn’t mean the truth that word describes isn’t found in its pages. From one page to another, the Bible speaks about our God consistently. In both the Old and New Testaments, we hear God revealing himself to his people in a very clear and distinct way. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some books speak this more clearly than others, but even as far back as the book of Genesis, we see that our God is not quite like the other so-called-gods that the rest of the world’s religions worship. The Trinity matters because the Bible talks about our God as a Trinity.
In our reading from Genesis 1 and 2 this morning, we were able to sit by like a fly on the wall, and witness God’s act of creation. From day to day, God filled the earth with everything good- light and dark, air and water, land and sea, sun and moon, birds and fish, plants and animals, and last but not least, mankind. In this act, yes, we hear about all of the universe and this planet in particular, but we also get a picture of who our God is. And already in the first two verses, God is not alone- we have both “God” and the “Spirit of God.” And then in verse three, God speaks. His Word creates all that exists. By his very act of speaking, everything that we see came into existence. This Word has power and authority in a way that is nearly incomprehensible. And the apostle John says that this Word eventually came to take on human form and become like we are. This is Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, who, with the Father and the Spirit, was active in creation.
In our second reading today, the apostle Peter is preaching on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has come down on him and the other disciples all gathered together, and they all begin to speak in other languages so that all the nations hear the Good News of Jesus crucified and risen. Peter’s argument in this sermon is that Jesus too is God. It’s not just God and his Spirit, but God’s Son Jesus as well. Jesus is God- you killed him, but His Father raised him from the dead. Now, he’s seated at the right hand of God, a place of ultimate power and authority, a place of worship and honor that would be unfitting for any mere human to occupy. God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ. Jesus is God.
And in case you needed to hear it from the horse’s mouth, Jesus himself talks in a Trinitarian way in our Gospel reading for this morning. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” When you go out and baptize or are baptized, you do so not in your own name, by your own power or by your own authority, but in the name of your Triune God, by his power and authority so that he may be exalted. Not only are we to baptize in the name of our Trinitarian God, we are to teach in his name and about him as well. All of Scripture points to our God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity matters because that’s how our Bible talks about God.
The Trinity matters because we also experience God as the Trinity. God is still working today. Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying: we’re not Methodists or Presbyterians or United Church of Christ, which all confess that God is working and changing what he’s said and done before. We don’t believe that by any means. However, God is still actively and intimately involved in his creation.
God still interacts with what he has made, and he does so as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Take a moment with me and find your pulse. You can either feel it on your neck or on the upper part of your wrist. Take a moment to find it. Do you feel that? It’s the blood rushing through your veins- the heart pumping away, beat after beat, providing your body with what it needs to survive from one moment to the next. That’s God the Father. Not only has he created all that exists, but he is still working to make sure that it continues. He sustains all of life, from each breath and heartbeat to numbering the hairs on your head and caring about the birds in the sky. God the Father preserves your life. The Trinity matters because you interact with God the Father.
Each and every time you pray, you interact with God the Son. He came down to this earth to preach and to teach, and also to die for you, rise for you, and ascend for you, all so that you might know the love and forgiveness of God. And now, he has taken his place at the right hand of God, the place of influence and authority. There, he intercedes for you, hearing your prayers and bringing them to God on your behalf. He loves you, listens to you, and answers every single one of your prayers. They may not be answered the way you want them to, but they are still answered. The Trinity matters because you interact with God the Son.
The Holy Spirit continues to do his work in the midst of his creation. He works in many ways, but we only see him firmly where He has promised to be- in the Means of Grace- that is, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and in God’s Word. When you were baptized, you were given the Holy Spirit, a special outpouring of God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness so that you might be brought into a relationship with God. That relationship is sustained as the Spirit continue to uplift and support you through the means of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit speaks to you from every page of the Bible, from the Word preached to you from this pulpit, and from the forgiveness proclaimed to you every time you confess your sins. That’s the Holy Spirit at work. And in case you needed anything else, he works through Jesus’ body and blood in communion to again and again and again offer you the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The Trinity matters because you interact with the Holy Spirit.
As we’ve been confessing in the Athanasian Creed this morning, and as we’ll confess when we finish it in just a moment, the Trinity matters because He separates us from every other religion in the world. Christians are unique in their understanding of God. You can’t rightly be called a Christian if you don’t believe in the Trinity. This is the catholic, universal faith. It is the orthodox, pure faith. It is the Christian faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved. Here, the line is laid. This is the marker of Christian faith.
Take Islam for example. The Quran speaks of God, of Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit. However, for Muslims, God is alone. Jesus was a prophet, and nothing more. A great prophet, even the greatest, but he’s not God. And the Holy Spirit isn’t God either- he might be the angel Gabriel, but he’s not God. Islam explicitly rejects the Trinity. Or take Judaism. They have the same Old Testament that we do, but because they have rejected Jesus, they also reject the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is talked about in the Old Testament, it’s just God inspiring the prophets. He’s not another person, let alone God. Judaism explicitly rejects the Trinity. We could continue all day, seeing that every other world religion rejects God as Trinity. Either he is one or too many to count, but definitely not one God in three persons, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance. The Trinity matters, because He marks Christianity apart from the rest of religion.
The Trinity also separates Christians from those who claim to be Christian but are nothing more than cults. The big offenders here are Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. For Mormons, Jesus is not God. He was just another human being like any one of us, but he lived a perfect life, was made God’s Son, served as a prophet, and now has his own planet just like every other Mormon will one day have. But He’s not God. The Mormons reject the Trinity. Cut from the same cloth are the Jehovah’s Witnesses who also deny the Trinity. Jesus is not God and he never claimed to be God. In their altered bibles, you will find no references to the Trinity. They reject the Trinity as well. Again, we could continue all day showing how these cults, and even some denominations try to hold to Christianity without the Trinity, but it just doesn’t work. They miss the big picture. They avoid the obvious. They reject the truth and are thus outside the faith. The Trinity matters because He sets us apart from false theology.
The Trinity matters. That’s why we’re here today- to celebrate and honor our Triune God who matters in scripture, matters in our lives, and set us apart. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Lobe den Herrn
B. A. Woell