The Feast Of The Holy Trinity
Beloved. Our text comes at a very interesting point in St. Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. Up until our text, St. Paul is discussing doctrine—like righteousness, the Law, faith, reconciliation with God through Christ, baptism, sanctification. Then comes our text. And then after our text, St. Paul begins to address issues that these Christians in Rome were facing—issues like living with our fellow Christians, our relation to the government, on how to deal with those who are weak in the faith. So we see in the way that he writes this epistle that St. Paul is teaching us a vital fact—our doctrine/ what we believe and teach is very practical. It is the foundation of our lives as Christians; what we believe affects—or should affect—how we live our lives every day. Our Christian faith is not just a Sunday morning thing; it is not just a small corner of our life. Instead, what we believe as Christians is like yeast that influences every other part of our life.
To put it differently, our daily lives, as we make our way in the world today, is merely the living out of our faith. The issues that we face in our everyday lives we look at and handle in the light of, and influenced by, our faith, which has as it foundation the teachings of the Church/ the teachings of holy Scripture. In our nation, this is really what is meant by freedom of religion. Freedom of religion is not that you are free to believe whatever you want within the four corners of your church—but outside of it you are to conform to what the powers that be want. No! Instead, freedom of religion is to live out your faith in the world; it is to let your faith influence and guide your everyday life and actions. This is a precious freedom for us Christians, but one that is increasingly under attack.
Our text does not only come at that vital point in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans where he looks back over the doctrines he had just talked about—and especially over God’s abundant grace to His OT people—and must say: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how untraceable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his adviser?” “Or who has first given to God that he will be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. But our text also comes at that time in the Church year in which we have just finished going through once again our Lord’s life—from His conception and birth from the blessed virgin to His suffering, death, and resurrection and His ascension and, last week, His sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. As we today stand and look back over all the events and workings of our Lord for our salvation, how we, too, must in total awe and wonder exclaim with St. Paul: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how untraceable his ways!
And then, today, our focus in church is on the very basic doctrine of God—who is God? What makes us Christians is that we believe that the one true God is the holy Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe that He is one God but three distinct persons. We just confessed in the Creed: So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God. No other group worships the same God we do; the Christian alone worships the one true God. You will hear people say that because Jews and Moslems worship one god—that they are monotheistic religions andreligions that can trace themselves to Abraham—they worship the same God we Christians do. That is false! Christians are Trinitarian—we recognize that there is one God, but He is three distinct Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we recognize that Jesus is the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. No other group confesses that God is Triune—three in one; no other group confesses that Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.
Does the doctrine of the Trinity make sense to human reason? Absolutely not! How can the Father be God, the Son be God and the Holy Spirit be God—and yet there be only one God? We cannot explain this rationally, but this is the clear, consistent teaching of all of Holy Scripture, both Old and New Testament. Again, we must bend the knee and bow our heads in humility and simply recognize this fact/ doctrine, and revere and treasure it and in awe say with St. Paul in our text: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how untraceable his ways!
The doctrine of the Trinity is indeed a great mystery but praise be to the holy Triune God that in His grace and mercy toward us He did reveal Himself, reveal that He is Triune—one God but three Persons. That He did so is a great spiritual blessing and comfort to us!
All people have written on their heart—that is, that they know instinctively—that there is a God. It’s not something that has to be taught. After all, where did the notion of “God” come from if it wasn’t already in the human heart? How is it that the notion of “God” is found in all peoples throughout the world, if God hadn’t first written it on the human heart? And then there’s nature around us preaching to us that by its very existence there had to have been a God who have planned and designed and made everything. The problem comes in, though, that, yes, we know that there is a God but because of sin we don’t know who He is. That’s why people from all over the word came up with their various gods—the Greeks, their Zeus, the Germans, their Wotan, etc. There are limits to human knowledge. It can only go so far. People know in their heart that there is a God but sin clouds and destroys us from knowing who He is. That’s why God, in grace and for our salvation, revealed Himself to us. He did so through His dealings with the great saints of the OT; through His holy word of the prophets and apostles; and most fully and completely through Jesus—the very God Himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity who became also true man.
The doctrine of the Trinity is very humbling because it shows us human wisdom can only go so far. We know there is a God—but who is He? Here we must simply in humble faith acknowledge our inability and receive in the humility of faith what God tells us about Himself. And even here our reason fails us! Reason cannot grasp that there is one God but three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Really, we should take comfort from the fact that we cannot understand God, that He is Triune. After all, what sort of God would we have if we could understand Him perfectly? He couldn’t be all that great if we could figure Him out and understand Him completely. Our text: How unsearchable are his judgments and how untraceable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his adviser?”
God, in grace, does reveal Himself to us today in His holy word. And even here He doesn’t tell us everything about Himself; He doesn’t “solve” the mystery for us of the Trinity. He simply states it and faith believes it. He doesn’t “owe” it to us to tell us everything about Himself to our satisfaction. Our text: “Or who has first given to God that he will be repaid?” But what He does reveal He expects us to believe. Does this mean that God wants us to be ignorant and not to be inquisitive when it comes to Him and who He is? Hardly! He has given us the Scriptures; He has given us Himself—Christ Jesus. Certainly there is enough to study and ponder in the Scriptures to last a lifetime and we will never exhaust them. The more and deeply we study the Scriptures, the more and deeply the Holy Spirit will draw us in and give us further insight, deepen and strengthen and firmly ground our faith. We dare not, though, use our own reason or thoughts to draw conclusions; we dare not inquire curiously or frivolously or speculate. Instead when it comes to the things of God, we confine ourselves to the word/ Holy Scripture where He has revealed Himself. It is very dangerous to try to climb the great heights to search out all the how’s and why’s of God and what He does—because God doesn’t tell us, and if He did tell us, we couldn’t understand it; after all, He revealed He is Triune and we can’t grasp that. So if we try to figure out all of God’s how’s and why’s—which He has not revealed—we are left with our human reason trying to scale the heights of God’s understanding and work. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how untraceable his ways!
Instead of relying on our own thoughts and speculations, if we really want to know and understand God rightly, let us simply look at Jesus, the God-man. The really amazing thing is that when God wants to reveal Himself, He covers Himself. When God wanted to reveal Himself what did He do? He covered Himself with human flesh and blood and became also a true man. If you want to know God, you don’t climb up to Him; He came down for you! Ponder Jesus. He is God—the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Ponder His love for you in that He, the holy God, came down to this earth to be your Savior. Look at His tears as He wept over Jerusalem’s impenitence. Look at how He sees into the heart forgiving the penitent sinners their sin but pronouncing judgment on the hypocrite. Look at His agony in the garden of Gethsemane where He takes on Himself the sins of the world. Look at His bloody and torn flesh as He is whipped showing to what length He goes to suffer for us. Look at His crown of thorns as He is mocked to see that yes, He is a king but to gain His kingship and kingdom, He will have to go through great suffering. Look at how willingly Jesus goes to suffer our punishment as He carries His own cross. Look at how perfectly He loves us as on the cross He suffers the very pains and torments of hell. Look at how perfect His work and sacrifice are as He rises from the dead on Easter, Victor over sin, death, devil and hell. Look at how we are now forgiven our sin—solely by Jesus and His holy, life, suffering and death. Look at His bodily ascension into heaven and see that heaven is now opened to all believers and we will one day be there eternally soul and body.
Do you wonder what God’s thoughts and intentions are to you? Look at how He became man and revealed Himself to us in Jesus. As we think about and truly ponder Jesus, we will come to know God’s thoughts and intentions toward us; we will come to know His graciousness; we will come to know our forgiveness, life and salvation in Him. These are our true treasures—and they do not come from our speculations but are revealed to us by God Himself in Jesus and His Word.
To put this another way, the great mystery of God—that He is Triune and we can’t figure anything out about Him unless He reveals it to us in Scripture, in Christ—is a great comfort to us in our daily lives. If He is gracious to us—which is what Jesus shows—and forgives us our sin and gives us eternal life, then certainly He is dealing with us in grace every day/ moment of our lives. No matter what happens He is dealing with us in that same grace and mercy—no matter what it may seem like to us at the moment. Like the doctrine of the Trinity, we simply bend the knee, revere Him and humbly submit, though we do not understand. And like the doctrine of the Trinity, we take great comfort in what God has revealed to us in His word/ in Jesus. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. INJ