The Holy Trinity
“Amen! So Let It Be”
Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
Isaiah 6.1-7; Romans 11.33-36; St. John 3.1-17
12 June 2022
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
The Holy Trinity is a mystery. A mystery is something which is hidden, something which cannot be explained. God is incomprehensible, that is, utterly incapable of being explained to fallen human reason. People want to understand God and know how he operates. It was the sin of Adam and Eve to “be like God, knowing good and evil” [Gen. 3.5]. One simple cannot comprehend the “what” or essence of the Holy Trinity. If one could comprehend God he would be God. Such a thought is the essence of the Original Sin. That is what Adam and Eve coveted.
We want things to be explained. We want reasons for what happens in our world. Man looks for natural causes and when he cannot find any he begins investigating God himself. We put God on trial. We demand answers he has not revealed to us as to why he acts as he does. We want to make ourselves judges over God. The Epitome of the Formula of Concord [Art. VIII] says this:
Christ is, and remains to all eternity, God and man in one indivisible person. Next to the holy Trinity this is the highest mystery, as the apostle testifies, and the sole foundation of our comfort, life, and salvation.
Today we speak about God as he is in himself, this highest mystery. The Holy Trinity is the great Mystery that man can never master or know fully. We must confess only what God has revealed about himself in Holy Scripture. It is not what we think about God but what God testifies about himself. The Athanasian Creed, which we confess on this day, is the most abstract because it focuses completely upon who and what God is. He is a reality who has revealed himself to us but not always in ways that satisfy our curiosity. If we could understand God we would be gods. We would be equal with him.
Nicodemus’ question about Baptism fits here, too. “How can this be?” Jesus never explained the “how” to Nicodemus, but instead called him to believe it.
If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? . . .[John 3.12]
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. [John 3.16]
Jesus did not call for us to understand who God is nor how he operates; he simply asks us to believe his Word. Human understanding is limited when it comes to the things of God. It is just as the Apostle Paul wrote in our Epistle reading:
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! [Rom. 11.33]
Luther said best:
In all this God has revealed more to us than we can ever accomplish. But as for the rest—for instance, how the Trinity can be but one God, or how God rules the world—that you must not try to understand; you must believe it. Leave it to God, and trust His Word. If it had been necessary for us to know more, God would have revealed it to us.
We confess only what God himself has revealed to us in his Word. Throughout the Scriptures we see the Holy Trinity at work. Sometimes we can clearly identify the Person. We can see God the Father creating and sustaining. We see the Son at work in redeeming the world. We see the Holy Spirit calling and sanctifying. In all these works, however, it is the entire Holy Trinity which is at work.
To see the glory of God, and not just his majesty in the created order, one must look to Christ Jesus because he is the very image of the Father. He is “the only-begotten Son of the Father.” To know the Son is to know the Father and the Holy Spirit. We see all of that in today’s Gospel reading. Here he shows us himself and everything we need to know to be saved. There is mercy and forgiveness for all but there must be a cleansing from sin before one can be rescued from this evil world. One must be born from above, that is, the Holy Spirit who is the “Lord and Giver of life—Nicene Creed—must create new life in us. He must bring us the life of Christ. There must be repentance.
Nicodemus seemed to have trouble with the repenting part because he could not understand God. Jesus did not say, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you understand the mystery of God you cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus called for repentance and faith. He then called upon Nicodemus to confess the mystery of God. Believe it, don’t debate it.
Countless people have tried to find God but they have all failed. Some end up in absolutely bizarre places, like believing in space aliens and rocket ships which will take us out of this world. Many are scandalized to hear that one receives God through words, water, bread and wine. Man’s sinful pride gets in the way of accepting what God has revealed. We cannot come to God. He comes to us. He discloses, or reveals himself, to us.
When God revealed himself to Isaiah in the temple he concealed his majesty behind the seraphim. And the whole temple was filled with the smoke of incense underscoring the unapproachability of God in his majesty. As the seraphim called to each other they chanted those familiar words of the Sanctus,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”[Isaiah 6.1-7]
One cannot see God in his glory because he will not live. One must see God in the Person of God’s Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Only through him do we see the Father and that work is the work of God the Holy Spirit.
Here in Holy Scripture we know God as he wants to be known: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is not some indulgent grandfather who really doesn’t mean what he says, but he is a consuming fire who will not tolerate sin in any form. To assert only the holiness of God apart from Christ Jesus brings no comfort, only terror. While God created you he is not your Father just because of that fact. The phrase, “We’re all God’s children” simply isn’t true. Many reject him as Father, but he remains their Creator and Judge from which there is no escape.
Each of us is a sinner. There is no escape from that indictment and there is no earthly lawyer who can keep you out of hell. Only when sin is forgiven can one escape the wrath which is unimaginable. Only through Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son of the Father, lifted up on the cross, is there a way to the Father.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (Jn 3:17).
Christ’s work is summarized well in the three ecumenical creeds of Christendom: the Athanasian, Nicene, and Apostles’. The Athanasian and Nicene Creeds became necessary because there were teachers saying things about God that were not true. They questioned God’s very essence and especially who Christ is and what he has done for us. The Creeds are not additional material thought up by man, but concise summaries of what Scripture teaches about the Holy Trinity and what he has done for us.
Today we confess only what God has revealed about himself. We say no more than that. We do not pry into the mysteries which are not ours to see on this side of eternity. Yet, on the last day we shall know as we have been known. We shall see God face to face and he will reveal all to us. [1 Cor. 13.12]
God has revealed what he has done for our salvation and what is necessary for us to know. He has revealed that one is saved through his only-begotten Son whom he sent to pay the penalty of human sin. This must be received by faith which the Holy Spirit creates when and where he wills through his Word and Sacraments. Those who do not believed are condemned but those who trust in Christ belong to God forever.
Well does that stirring hymn, Christ Is the World’s Redeemer, sum up:
Glory to God the Father,
The unbegotten One,
All honor be to Jesus,
His sole-begotten Son,
And to the Holy Spirit—
The perfect Trinity.
Let all the worlds give answer:
Amen! So let it be. [LSB 539.4]
In the Name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit!