2019 06 02 PM Trinity Art 8-9 Gen 1

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

One author calls the doctrine of the Trinity The Most Important Doctrine You Never Think About.  I thought that was a little bit of an overstatement, so I have changed it for the title of this sermon to The Most Important Doctrine You Rarely Think About.  

Let me explain why.   That the doctrine of the Trinity is a most important doctrine is plain from our three creeds – the Athanasian Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed.  These creeds are ecumenical creeds, which means that most of the Christian churches around the world agree with what these creeds say.  And all three creeds are Trinitarian.   The Apostles and the Nicene are divided into three sections – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the Athanasian is a detailed explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity.  So the three creeds of the world-wide Christian church reveal the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity.

But the reality is, as one author puts it, that “when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, most Christians are poor in their understanding, poorer in [being able to explain the doctrine], and poorest of all in seeing any way in which the doctrine matters in real life.”  Does that sound fair to you?  Could you be one of those who agrees that the doctrine of the Trinity is important but you cannot see that is useful for mothers, mechanics, or middle-schoolers?

Well, let’s use the remainder of our time to consider three questions then: First, What is the doctrine of the trinity?  Second, Where is the doctrine of the Trinity found in the Bible?  And third, Why does the doctrine of the Trinity matter?  And our aim is to spend most of our time on that last point.

  1. So first of all, What is the doctrine of the Trinity?
  1. Well, look again at Article 8 of our Confession of faith.  The second line of the article says that “we believe in one only God.”  So boys and girls, if I ask you How many Gods are there? your answer will be?  One.  There is only one God.  But the third line of the article says that in this “one single essence” there “are three persons.”  And those three persons are “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  So in its simplest form, the doctrine of the Trinity is that there is one God who exists in three persons.
  • And we can say a bit more about this doctrine by thinking about the words ‘Person’ and ‘essence.’  
    • Person’ is the easier to understand of the two.  A person is an individual who is distinct from another individual.  So there are about 100 persons in this room today and I am not you and you are not the person sitting next to you.
      • And so, as Article 8 explains, “The Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.”  So boys and girls, if I asked you Who died on the cross, you would be wrong if you said it was the Father or the Holy Spirit.  The person who died on the cross was the Son.  And the person that lives in a believer is the Holy Spirit, not the Son or the Father.  The F, the S, and the HSp are three persons.
    • And yet, while they are three, distinct persons, they are not three Gods, for there is only one God.  And this is where the word ‘essence’ helps us.  Each person of the Trinity is completely and fully God; each person possesses the whole fullness of God in Himself.  So while they are separate persons, they are one in essence or one in being.
    • And you are probably hoping that I will now give you a cute little illustration of the Trinity so that this three and one makes sense to your spinning mind.  But the fact is that there is no illustration that can accurately capture what is ultimately a mystery beyond our full understanding.  Over the centuries, people have tried to illustrate the Trinity.  But one way or another, every illustration fails to capture the beautiful mystery that is one God in three persons:
      • So you may have heard before about the man who is a husband at home and the mayor of the town and an elder at church.  But this illustration is quite wrong because it is just one person who has three roles. 
      • Or what about the three leaf clover; have you heard that one?  One clover leaf with three leaves.  But this illustration fails because each leaf is only a part of the clover, while each person of the Trinity is fully God. 
      • And it is the same with the three states of H2O, water, steam, and ice, for no set quantity of water can ever exists eternally as F/S/HSp. 
      • And there will be issues with any other illustration you have ever heard because of the mystery and uniqueness of the Trinity.
    • But congregation, should we be surprised that that there is beautiful mystery and complexity in the being of God?  He is God, after all!  But while the doctrine of the Trinity is beyond our full understanding, it is not beyond our understanding.  God wants you to understand and believe that God is three persons, that each person is fully God, and that there is one God. 
    • That is the doctrine of the Trinity that is set forth in the Bible.
  1. And that is where we need to turn our attention next.  For while I have explained the doctrine of the Trinity, we ought to see where it is found in the Bible.
  1. And Article 9 of our confession refers to some of the passages in the Bible that set forth the doctrine of the Trinity:
    1. The first one mentioned is Genesis 1:26, where God refers to Himself in plural and singular language. 
    1. But even before that, in vv1-3 of Genesis 1, we read about God creating the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters, and God saying, “Let there be light.”  And John 1:1 calls Jesus “the Word of God … by whom all things were made.”  So with the help of the NT, we see that Father, Holy Spirit, and Son are present in the first three verses of the Bible!
    1. Article 9 next refers to Matt 3 and the baptism of Jesus, where you have Jesus being baptized, the Father speaking from heaven, and the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus as a dove, and in the Great Commission of Matt 28:19, Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize people “into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 
    1. And we could add John 10:30, where Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” and John 14-16, where Jesus repeatedly promised that He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit to believers. 
    1. And the last reference of Art 8 is to the words of 2 Cor. 13:14, which we often use as a benediction at the end of our worship services: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 
    1. But look again at Ephesians 1:1-14 to see how it also wonderfully reveals the doctrine of the Trinity.
      1. In v1, who was Paul an apostle of?  Christ Jesus. 
      1. In v2, from where does our grace and peace come from?  “God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Two persons working in unity.
      1. And dropping down to v13, when we believe in Christ, what or who are we sealed with?  The Holy Spirit.  And our believing in Christ and being sealed with the Spirit is, as v14 explains, to the praise of the Father’s glory.
      1. So here we see the Trinity – three in one and the one in three – accomplishing our salvation and giving us every salvation blessing. 
    1. And so, as our Confession rather nicely puts it: “In all these places we are fully taught that there are three persons in one only divine essence.”  We may not find the word Trinity in the Bible, but it helpfully describes the teaching of the Bible about one God who exists in three persons.
  1. Well, thirdly and lastly then, does the doctrine of the Trinity really matter
  1. Some of you will know that I spoke at the National Deacon’s Conference last weekend.  And I began my first talk with a prayer that I found and adapted for the occasion.  It went like this: Father in heaven, we thank you for your word.  We come with questions and we come seeking instruction.  But do not let our desire for information dominate our need for transformation.  So change us, even as we learn, that we might become more useful servants of Christ.   And that should be our prayer in relation to the doctrine of the Trinity also: How should what I know about God as one God in three persons affect me at home and at work and at school and at church?  What difference should this doctrine make to how I think and behave in this world? 
  • Well, let’s begin with why the doctrine of the Trinity matters as we think about evangelism and cultural engagement
    • If you follow the news or the know anything about the religious and philosophical issues of the day, you will know that two big ones are Islam and post-modernism.  And at its most basic, Islam is all about unity – one God, one way of living, one culture, one law.  Post-modernism, on the other hand, is all about diversity – there is no objective truth, everyone can have their own opinion on anything, and we are all free to live as we please…
    • But both Islam and Post-modernism fail to reflect a fundamental aspect of humanity, which is that there is unity and diversity. 
      • Let me illustrate what I mean.  Take an orchestra, for example; would you pay $70 to sit in a concert hall and listen to 50 violins play the note B for 2 hours?  That would be pure unity but I wouldn’t pay a cent to listen to it!  And similarly, I wouldn’t pay a cent to listen to 50 people play whatever notes they wanted on 50 different instruments for 2 hours, which would be pure diversity.  But put a string section with a woodwind section and a timpani section and a brass section, with a conductor, and have them play different notes that combine as proper chords, and you have a diversity that makes a beautiful unity, which people will gladly pay $70 to listen to for 2 hours. 
      • And we could reel off example after example from life, which would all demonstrate that fundamental principle of the beauty of unity and diversity. 
      • And it is only Christianity that explains unity and diversity, because this world was created to reflect the Triune God who is one God in three persons! 
      • Do you see how fundamental the doctrine of the Trinity is as an explanation for how creation functions?  It matters for cultural engagement and evangelism. 
  • But it matters also in the area of relationships.  Because the three persons of the Godhead live together in relationship, as those created in His image, we are created for relationship (repeat). 
    • And the first relationship we are created for is with our Creator.  Acts 17:27 tells us that God created human beings “that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him.”
      • So we saw in connection with Article 2 of our confession that God has revealed Himself in creation and in His Word.  And His message is that if we believe that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, we get to enjoy a spiritual relationship with Him now and we will enjoy a face to face relationship with Him in heaven. 
      • And we see that spiritual relationship explored in Ephesians 1.  When we believe in the person and work of the Son, His Father becomes our Father, and the Spirit comes to live within us – we enter into relationship with the Triune God!  And we are given every salvation blessing from God in Christ and by the Spirit.  Isn’t that amazing?!
      • So this is the first example of why the doctrine of the Trinity matters.  The Christian life is about relationship with the Triune God now and in eternity.  And the only way for you to experience this relationship is by believing in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, now. 
    • But we were also created to enjoy inter-personal relationships with other human beings.
      • What was the only thing in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, that was not good?  God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  And so, Eve was created as a suitable companion for Adam.  We were created for relationship.  And the primary relationship that God established was that of marriage.  So let’s think about the Trinity and marriage for a moment.
        • In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness … So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  So we have God who is both singular and plural – unity and diversity, agreeing to create “him”, which is singular, as male and female, “them,” which is plural.  So the unity of the Godhead is reflected in humanity but the diversity of the godhead is reflected in male and female.  Adam and Eve are the same as human beings but different as male and female.  And by God’s design, it is from the union of male and female that children are conceived.  Do you see why all this matters today?
          • It matters in relation to same-sex issues.  Same-sex attraction is a Trinity problem!  It is why Romans 1 says that same-sex desire and sex is unnatural because it ignores the diversity in the Trinity that is reflected in the diversity of male and female.  It is why the whole idea of same-sex marriage and parenting is impossible and wrong, because it cannot reflect God as He is or how He has created us to be. 
          • And as hard as this may be for those who struggle with same-sex attraction to hear, it is what they most need to hear and understand as they seek the Lord’s will in this matter.  And if this is something that you are wrestling with, my friend, you need our love and our prayers.  Please let us help you by reaching out because we care and we want to help. 
          • But again, the doctrine of the Trinity matters, doesn’t it.
        • But think also about how husbands and wives are to relate to each other (and for that matter children and parents, and employers and employees, also).  
          • Ephesians 5-6 explain that this has to do with the Trinity.  We are to be filled with the Spirit.  We are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  And the pattern for a wife’s submission to her husband is the Son’s submission to the Father, and the pattern for a husband’s love of his wife is the example of the Son who loved the church and went to the cross to bring glory and honour to the Father. 
          • So again, the doctrine of the Trinity matters!
      • And where do we turn for the perfect example of parents?  Our Father in heaven.  And where do children turn for the perfect example of children?  The Lord Jesus who was an infant and a toddler and a child and a teenager.  And what hope do we have for healthy family life?  The Holy Spirit who produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  So again, the doctrine of the Trinity matters!
      • But outside the family, the doctrine of the Trinity matters also for relationships in the church:
        • In 2 Cor. 6, God calls His people to be the church, which in one sense means to be separate from the world.  He says, “Come out … [and] I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.”  The church is God’s family.  It is why believers speak of themselves as brothers and sisters in Christ.
        • And what image for the church does Paul use in Romans 12 and 1 Cor. 11?  One body with many members.  Ok.  So there is unity and diversity in the church.  Where have we heard that before?  That’s right – the Trinity!   And Paul used this image because there was a failure in the churches in Rome and Corinth to understand the reality of unity and diversity in church life.  And to one degree or another, this is a problem that affects every congregation today.  On the Unity side, church discipline is ignored or resisted because we don’t take the call to be united in doctrine and life seriously.  And on the diversity side, we find it hard to let our brothers and sisters have different convictions or practices in areas where there should be Christian liberty because we want people to think and behave just like we do.  
        • So relationships in the church are also a doctrine of the Trinity matter!
    • My wife has heard pretty much all my sermons.  And not that long ago she asked me why, when I describe the horrors of hell, do I always mention loneliness?  And I am sure you understand the question – there will be many people in hell so why talk about loneliness?  Well, it is true that relationships are hard work but that is because of the presence of sin in this world.  But we were created for relationships.  Relationships are a good thing; a good gift of God.  So because heaven is a place where there is only goodness, heaven will be a place of perfect relationships and unbreakable friendship.  Take whatever experience you have of relationship sweetness, and that is all there will be in heaven, but 10,000 times better!  And it follows then that because hell is a place where there is only evil and misery, hell will be a place of unbearable loneliness and separation.  Take whatever experience you have of relationship dysfunction and that all that there will be in hell, but 10,000 times worse!  The doctrine of the Trinity matters.

Well, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of why the doctrine of the Trinity matters.  But let us end with this thought: Jesus taught us to pray to our Father in heaven who is able to provide us with all that we need and who desires to do this because He is a faithful Father.  And in the Lord Jesus Christ we have someone who can sympathize with our weakness because He has been tempted in all things as we are.  And in the Holy Spirit we have someone who helps us in our weakness, because He testifies with our spirits that we are children of God, and when we do not know what to pray for, He “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  May the doctrine of the Trinity be a great encouragement and comfort to you all.  Amen.