Lord God, Merciful Father, may my words be acceptable in your sight and fruitful for those who hear. Amen.
It is Trinity Sunday and, as seems to be traditional, today’s sermon will be an attempt to examine the Trinity and try to offer some understandable explanation. This is, I believe, important because, what we are about, everything we believe and do, established through what we learn from the bible and other sources, is at the very heart, trying to form a relationship with God through our Lord Jesus the Christ and with the help and counsel of the Holy Spirit of God. I know this is important because when you’re in a relationship with someone it’s a good idea to try to get to know that person better! The best bit of relationship advice I’ve ever stolen is ‘when you have a wife try to find out something new about her every day’.
Now in order to do that within my own limited ability, and without talking about three leafed clovers, it will be necessary for me to do so step by step.
Step one; we have to examine the question, is Jesus, God? There are, I believe, two distinct ways for a Christian to approach this question. Through faith and prayer (Israel = wrestles with God), or through examining the evidence as best we can. The first approach is in my view a personal affair and must be done within each of our own abilities and faith and as such is not appropriate for a sermon. The second is eminently suitable for a sermon. So that’s what we’re going to do today, and I hope you will, by the end, see why I’ve chosen this question to help us examine the mystery of the Trinity.
So, what is the evidence? Well, the only evidence we have available today, and in my view the best evidence, is in the bible and it is there if you look hard enough. The witness testimonies of the people who were there at the time and risked everything, their lives; their property; their good name in the community in order to testify to what they had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. Our Lord Jesus tells us the answer Himself, in the earliest Gospel to be written. Mark, chapter 14:61-62. In this section of the Gospel our Lord Jesus has been arrested in the garden of Gethsemane and is being questioned by Caiaphas, the High Priest of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin members have asked our Lord Jesus several times “are you the Christ” and he has not answered them. Verse 61 but He kept still and did not answer at all. Again the High Priest asked Him, are You the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One), the son of the Blessed One? And our Lord Jesus said, “I AM; and you will all see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power (The Almighty) and coming on the clouds of Heaven.” Now context is always important and we have to remember who our Lord Jesus is talking to here. He is talking to a group of people who could quite reasonably make the claim to be the pre-eminent scholars of Holy Scripture in the world at that time. The only job they had was basically studying Scripture, debating Scripture, enforcing Scripture, because their world is still under the Old Testament and their laws are written in stone, not in our hearts. These members of the Sanhedrin would have made the connection immediately, because it is, in effect, a direct quotation from Scripture. In fact the High Priest immediately tears his clothes and states “what need have we for more witnesses, you have heard his blasphemy. This is directly from the book of Daniel chapter 7:13. I saw in the night visions, and behold, on the clouds of the heavens came one like the Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. In the Old Testament only the Holy Spirit of God is shown as ‘coming on clouds’. Indeed the symbol of the Holy Spirit of God is clouds. They would also have known the significance of our Lord Jesus stating that they would see Him seated at the right hand of The Almighty. Psalm 110:1. The Lord (God) says to my Lord (The Messiah), sit at my right hand, until I make your adversaries your footstool. No other person is ever depicted as sitting in the presence of The Lord. Moses, David, Enoch all stood in the presence of The Lord. Only God can sit in the presence of God. Sounds weird but bear with me. We also have the testimony of the Apostle John 1:1. In the beginning (before all time) was the Word (Christ) and the Word was with God and the Word was God Himself. 1:18 No man has ever seen God at any time; but the one and only unique son, the only begotten God who is Himself God and is in the closest relationship with the father.
Side note: if you ever read the Gospel of John always keep in mind that John wrote verses 1 to 18 of the first chapter as the lens through which you should read the rest of that Gospel.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5,6. Let this same attitude and purpose and humble mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus, who although being essentially one with God and in the form of God (possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God, God ) did not think His equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, One of the many pieces of evidence from the Old Testament is Isaiah 9:6. For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father of Eternity, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 48:16. This is Yahweh speaking. Come near to me and listen to this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it happened, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent His Spirit and with me. Zechariah 12:10 Yahweh is again speaking And I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of Grace and they shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son How can a God who is pure Spirit and immaterial be pierced?
There is also the clearly observable behaviour of the first generation of Christians. These were exclusively Jews and the one big rule in the Jewish faith is there is only one God and you shall have no other god or worship any other god. It is in the first four of the Ten Commandments and in the Shema, which is a declaration of faith every Jew makes twice a day “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one”. It is almost in their DNA and yet we see these first Jewish Christians accepting the Divinity of our Lord Jesus without a murmur of dissent right from the beginning.
Step two, we turn to the Holy Spirit and the evidence for the divinity of the Holy Spirit is right there in the first two verses of the Bible Genesis 1:1-2. In the beginning God prepared, formed fashioned and created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving over face of the waters. Right from the beginning we see the Holy Spirit and God as two distinct and separate entities, both with the attributes of God. Psalm 104:30. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. In Genesis chapter 1:26. God said, “Let us make mankind in our own image, after our likeness,” This use of the plural could not have been the plural of majesty because, and again context is always important, the Jews had no concept of the plural of majesty. They would not have understood the concept of the royal we because it wasn’t until hundreds of years after these words were written and became the Torah and the establishment of Israel in the promised land that the Israelites asked God through the Prophet Samuel to give them a king. Also note the use of the word us; the Holy Spirit is not an it. The Holy Spirit as attested by the word of God is a person. The Bible tells us that the Spirit is omniscient in 1st Corinthians; omnipresent in psalm 139 and eternal in Hebrews 9. These are all divine attributes, only God can be these things and yet the Spirit is distinct from the Father.
Step three; is God, God. I’m not even going to go there. If you have to ask that question then it might be thought you’re in the wrong house. I will just say this The Lord our God tells us in Jeremiah 23:24. Can a man hide Himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do not I fill all heaven and Earth? Says the Lord.
So if I’ve managed to keep all my ducks in a row and make myself as understandable as I can we have three distinct persons who are all one God! How can that be? A good definition would be that God is one in being and three in person. Humans, you and me are one in being and one in person but God is not a mere human. God is one in Being and three in Person. A being is what you are and a person is who you are. What I am is my physical presence, my membership in the human race, but who I am is something else entirely. I am a loving caring person as all my ex-girlfriends will doubtless tell you. So we are all one being and one person. But God is one in being and three in person, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three equal persons because they are all God; they have all existed from before the beginning, they are all eternal in existence. They are all omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. They all have the attributes of God, but there is only one God. They are equal in being but they are not equal in role. In John 14:28 our lord Jesus tells us “The Father is greater than I”.
What does this mean I hear you ask? Well look at it this way. We have one ministry team here; Rev Jane, Rev Karen, Rev Trudy, Nikki, Jenny and me. We all have different roles, and we are all a part of the one ministry team. But Rev Jane is greater than I, with more tasks, more responsibilities; but we are members of the team. We have one ministry team with six persons. So if the Father is God John 17:3 and The Son is God John 20:28 and The Spirit is God, Heb. 3:7-11 and the Father is not the Holy Spirit John 14:26 and the Son is not the Father John 6:38 and the Holy Spirit is not the Son Acts 10:38 and there is only one God Isa 44:6; if we accept all that as true because it is all from Holy Scripture, then we can only really come to one conclusion. The Trinity is the only way to explain and understand the evidence of Holy Scripture. Three persons, of one being, who all have different roles but who all are together the one true God. Indeed it could be said that we are forced into this view by the Triune God Himself. God Himself has told those who care to hear and seek to understand through His Holy Scripture “This is who I am, This is my nature.” I am who I am. Isaiah 55:8-9 He tells us unequivocally. For My thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways My ways, says The Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Who are we to argue. We must not fall into the trap of trying to understand the Lord our God by human standards but by studying scripture with an open mind and an open heart and through prayer.
So, here endeth the lesson for today; but there is one other thing I would like to try and get across to you, and this part is, in my own personal view just as important as what has gone before, if not more important for some of us. If I haven’t managed to advance your understanding of this very simple and extremely complex subject, please don’t worry. For centuries the clergy of the churches, Bishops, priests and deacons have all struggled to get their heads around the truth that we have One God in Three Persons. Not so long ago I attended the course for new LLM’s. We spent hours on this subject and in my class there was a brain surgeon, a thoracic surgeon, a barrister and several teachers and we all struggled to understand what on earth the tutor was talking about. Mainly because he was so far up his own fundament he just lost us all by trying to impress himself with how clever he is. And that is by no means an isolated situation. Clever people love to make things complicated if only to keep themselves out of work and in the classroom. Remember, our God will not subject us to an entrance exam on the intricacies of scripture and liturgy on the day of Judgement. He loves us as only a divine Father can; He wants us to be with Him in His Garden for all time; He wants us to know we did our best and we deserve to be there, which is why He lets us find our own way to the best of our abilities but makes sure to send us His Holy Spirit to guide us and defend us from the enemy. All He asks is that we resist temptation as best we can and stay as strong in our faith as best we can in this fallen world. I’ll try if you will. I’ll try if you won’t. Amen.