Trinity Sunday – June 7, 2020
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’.”
2 Corinthians 13:14
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
SLIDE 3-title slide
- At the heart of the cosmos is life, The Life, the life that is the source of all life, the ground of all being: a pulsating, vibrant, exuberant community of joy that Christians reverently call the most blessed holy Trinity.
- Today, Trinity Sunday, I want us to marvel together in breathless adoration and utter wonder at the astonishing beauty of our triune God. We are on sacred ground here, so we will want to approach the subject reverently, with our minds eager to learn and our hearts humble and hungry for Him.
- The words of Tom Torrance are helpful here: “The truth of the Holy Trinity is more to be adored than expressed.”
- Today I want to paint a brief picture for you of the Triune Life,
- Then we will talk a bit about what it means to share in that life,
- Then we will survey the unique ministries of the Father, Son and Spirit in our lives,
- Finally, we will conclude with a single take away.
- We start with a brief description of the luminous beauty of the Triune life…
The luminous beauty of the Triune life
- Let’s go back to a portion of the first text that Lauren read to us out of Matt 28. The first half of verse 19 reads: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
- Three things we should note here. The first is the participle “baptizing”. The Greek verb baptizo means, to submerge: to take something out of its existing environment and plunge it into another environment, so that it is changed. In the words of Darryl Johnson, to baptize means: “to immerse, to plunge in and beneath, to be inundated and drenched.”
- So, a first century merchant might take a bolt of white linen and baptize it into a vat of blue dye; the result being that the linen absorbs the dye into itself and is changed: it no longer is white. It’s blue. This is the basic meaning of baptism.
- The second thing to note is the thing into which we are baptized: the Name. In bible times (from start of second millennium BC to 100 or so AD), names were not just labels; denotative ways to refer to an individual. They were immensely significant as expressing what that person is really like. The noun “Name” (which in Heb. is shem; and in Grk. onoma) reflected a person’s inner self.
- Thus the OT patriarch Jacob, which means “one who grasps the heal/deceives”, lived that way much of his early life; then he had an encounter with God and became Israel=one who wrestles with God.
- The name Yahweh, the covenant name for God in the OT, derived from the verb hayah, “I am”, meaning that He is the only self-determining, self-existent, non-contingent life source in the universe; the one who does not change but who is for Israel, all that Israel would ever need in any set of circumstances.
- In the words of one scholar: “Someone’s name was believed to be intimately connected to their being and essence.”
- So, to be baptized into the Name of the triune God is to be placed into and enveloped within the triune life, so that we participate in the love, glory, joy and authority experienced by the Father, Son and Spirit. Peter SLIDE 5 expressed this idea in different language when he wrote in 2 Peter 1:3-4:
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may become partakers in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
- The third thing I want us to note in the wording of Matt 28:19 is the lack for grammatical agreement between the noun “Name” (singular) and the plural referents that follow: “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. As my youngest grand daughter Eloise would say: “Dat’s weird”. You would expect Jesus to either use a single referent like “into the name of God” or the plural form for name, names, as in the phrase “into the names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. That fact that He doesn’t do that is highly significant.
- What this tells us is that, while He is talking about a single being who is the subject of the Name, that single being subsists in three persons. IOW, within the unity of the one being, there is a inner complexity or internal diversity. It was verses like this that led the early church to develop the language for expressing the NT idea of a divine trinity or triunity. The German language has a wonderful word for it: Dreieiningkeit, meaning “Three-Oneness”.
- How are we to envision the divine three-foldness within the single Oneness, the plurality within the unity?
- One way that the early church described it was through the act of speech. SLIDE 6 Each time you speak a word, you reenact a kind of triune pattern.
- Your Mind conceives a thought-part 1;
- You express that thought aurally in a Word, a kind of auditory embodiment or enfleshment of the thought-part 2;
- And as you speak out that thought, the word is carried on your breath and becomes available to others-part 3.
- Word. Breath. Father. Son. Spirit.
- The Father is the “unseen God”, the hidden, originating mind.
- The Son is the enfleshed word that takes on material form (He’s called the Word or logos in John’s Gospel)
- The Spirit is the life giving breath (the ruach in Heb. or the pneuma in Gk., the exhalation of the Father).
- All are part of the same speech act, yet each plays a different role.
- What does this suggest about the nature of the Holy Trinity/ It informs us that there is a deep connectedness but also a distinctions between the persons of the holy Trinity. There is a kind of movement within the Godhead; a giving and taking, a mutual sharing of life. Jesus hinted at this in John 17 when he prayed in verse 5: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began… and in verse 10: All that are mine are yours, and all that are yours are mine.” You see? There is a distinction between the persons of the Father and Son, yet an intimate sharing of life.
- S. Lewis notes in Mere Christianity: “God is not a static thing—not even a person—but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you won’t think me irreverent, a kind of dance.”
- SLIDE 7 Here’s a modern graphic representation of this trinitarian dance motif. I like it: you see the three members connected to one another, bound by love, representing the heart shaped by their coordinated movement.
- There is a far more ancient way to graphically portray this idea, one that incorporates the Celtic triquetra; SLIDE 8 You’ll recognize this as the symbol we use in our logo here at Holy Trinity Chico, with the three persons represented by the three-fold pattern of the bluish colored triquetra; and the unity of essence represented by the gold circle uniting the Three.
- Here’s variant of the triquetra idea that is helpful. SLIDE 9 You can really sense the movement, the energy, the life here. It captures well the inner dynamics of the holy Trinity. Catherine LaCugna explains: “The three persons “mutually inhere in one another, draw life from one another, ‘are’ what they are by relation to one another”.
- This metaphor of a dance has an ancient pedigree in the history of Christian Trinitarian reflection. Dating back to the early church fathers and mothers, the movement and mutual indwelling of the Trinitarian members has been described by the word perichoresis. (means a kind of rotation or dance, deriving from the Gk. root chorein, from which we get our word “choreography”).
- Guys, imagine the boundless delight, passionate love, and joyous admiration and affection that continually flow between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is what the NT is talking about when it speaks of life to the fullest: over-flowing, eternal life! This is the the fountain of living water from which we are invited to drink. Baxter Kruger writes: “The Father, Son and Spirit live in conversation, in a fellowship of free-flowing togetherness and sharing and delight – a great dance of shared life that is full and rich and passionate, creative and good and beautiful.”
- See, we often imagine God’s holiness as a crimped and straight-jacketed existence, a kind of sterile and lifeless ethical rectitude. That is such an abysmally wrong idea! God’s holiness is the wholeness, purity, wonder, glory and abundance of the shared love, life and laughter of the Father, Son and Spirt. As Kruger puts it: the divine life is “pregnant with the wonder and the beauty, the uniqueness and health and rightness of the Trinitarian life.”
- So, when Christian’s talk about the triune God, this is what we have in mind friends! And all that is good in creation—all music, beauty, laughter, joy, peace, goodness, and delight—derive from this primal divine “dance” of life and love. All good things come from God. As Paul put: “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom 11:36).
The invitation to join in
- Now, astonishingly, the Father, Son and Spirit determined to create different races of beings to share in their affection, joy, glory, and authority. They didn’t want to keep those things to themselves. They wanted to open up their dance to others.
- So, SLIDE 10 God made an array of spiritual beings to populate and share in the oversight of the spiritual realm. In the OT these beings are referred to variously as Sons of God, angels, holy ones, cherubim, seraphim, watchers, members of God’s divine counsel; collectively they are referred to as (small g) gods or elohim. In the NT, these beings are called angels, authorities, powers, thrones, dominions, spiritual forces. These beings were created by God to collaborate with Him in lovingly and justly ruling over the spiritual, unseen heavenly realms.
- God also created SLIDE 11 human beings to populate and oversee the material realm here on earth. Made of matter and spirit, hybrid beings, we were meant to collaborate with Him in exercising his providential care over the earth, to take the beauty, harmony and justice of Eden (a kind of intersection of heavenly and earthly realms) and extend them to the ends of the earth.
- In all of this creating, God’s intent was that His entire family, in heaven and on earth, would live forever in the uninterrupted harmony and exuberant joy of His shalom, extending the beauty and wonder of the divine life to the ends of the spiritual and material creations, so the entire cosmos would enjoy and reflect the glory of God’s love and goodness.
- But, as the biblical record tells us in places like Genesis 3, 6, and 11, Isa 14 and Ez 28, there were a series of insurrections in heaven among certain of the spiritual beings and on earth among the human beings, resulting in a temporary delay in the realization of God’s plan for cosmic unity and harmony.
- To undo the damage, God imprisoned a number of these rebellious spiritual beings in a place called Tarturus to await the final judgment. Others were allowed limited freedom to operate on earth for a set period of time. We’re not told why God did this, but I think we can reasonably surmise that He intended to provide a training ground for human beings to develop our skills in spiritual warfare, so we could train to rule over the earth on God’s behalf in obedience to the Father, in the authority of Christ, through the power of the Spirit.
- God also devised a way to not just contain the damage done by rebellious humans, but to actually reverse the damage and restore humankind to its full authority over the earth and full fellowship with Himself. This would be done through the loving initiative of the Father, the incarnational ministry of the Son and the restorative work of the Spirit.
- The Father would send the Son out of his immense love for us.
- The Son would join his being to a human body in a permanent fusion of natures, then die in our place in payment for sins, then take our nature back into the fellowship of the Holy Trinity in heaven, then, together with the Father, send the Spirit to live inside of us.
- And the Spirit, would come to indwell us, transforming us incrementally back into Christ’s image, empowering us for Christian service and restoring to us the closest possible face-to-face intimacy with the Father and Son.
- As Tom Torrance puts it: “God draws near to us in such a way as to draw us near to himself within the circle of His knowing of himself.”
- So, each of the three members of the Triune God was involved in our salvation. Let’s take a few minutes to flesh out some of activities ascribed to them as part of their work of salvation.
- As we think though these, it’s important that we think of our salvation, not so much as a one time event (which is common among evangelicals) but as a comprehensive and on-going reality that includes past, present and future dimensions and aims at nothing less than the total transformation of the human condition, resulting in our becoming godlike, replica’s of Jesus Christ, true genetic sons and daughters of God, united to Him in an intimate embrace.
- So, let’s start with the work of the Father SLIDE 12
The Father of glory
- The Father is credited with taking the initiative in bringing us back into a face-to-face, love relationship with himself. A good summary verse might be:
2 Corinthians 5:19
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.”
- While he is the high and holy one who inhabits eternity (Isa 57:15), the awesome Lord who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16), yet he reveals himself to us in tender love, inviting us to call him by the intimate name, Abba (Mk 14:36; Rm 8:15; Ga 4:6).
- What does the Father’s ministry to us entail?
- He foreknew us prior to creation (1 Ptr 1:2; Rom 8:28-29) and predestined us to be his children (Ep 1:4-5; Rm 8:28-30)
- He chooses our places in heaven (Mt 20:23) and calls us to Himself (1 Ptr 5:10)
- He adopts us into His family (Eph 1:4-5)
- He chose to give us new birth (Jas 1:18; 1 Ptr 1:3)
- He shields us by his power (1 Ptr 1:5)
- Made us heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus Christ (Gal 4:7) and reconciled us to himself through the Son of his love (2 Co 5:18)
- He anointed us and set his seal of ownership on us (2 Co 1:21)
- He lavished his love on us (1 Jn 3:1), rescuing us from the dominion of darkness and qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in the kingdom of light (Col 1:12-13)
- He forgave all our sins (Col 2:13)
- He made us alive together with Christ (Co 2:13) and raised us up with Christ, seating us in heaven at his right hand (Eph 2:6)
- All of this, the Father did for us out of His extraordinary grace and overflowing love.
- Now what about the Son? SLIDE 13
The wondrous Son
- The NT presents Jesus as our older brother who shares our flesh; the high king of heaven and our high priest before God. He goes by the names Immanuel, “God with us,” and Yeshua, “Yahweh saves us”. He is:
- The Bread of Life who feeds us: Jn 6:35, 6:48
- Our Advocate with the Father: 1 Jn 2:1
- The Shepherd and overseer of our souls: 1 Pt 2:25
- And the Lamb of God who permanently erases our sins: Jn 1:29
- What does the Son’s ministry to us include?
- He presented himself as a sacrifice to make us holy (He 10:14)
- He redeemed us by his blood (1 Pt 1:18; Ga 3:13-14)
- He took away all our sins (1 Jn 3:5) and gives us the right to be children of God (Co 1:16; Jn 1:12)
- He keeps us safe (1 Jn 5:18; Ju 16)
- He baptizes us with the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Jn 1:33) and continually intercedes for us (He 7:25; 1 Jn 2:1)
- He gives us authority on earth to act on his behalf (1 Th 4:12)
- He is preparing a place for us in the Father’s presence (Jn 14:2-3) and He will come again to earth and gather the elect (Mt 24:31) and judge humanity based on their works (Mt 25:31ff.)
- All of this Jesus did out of love for us, because of the joy set before Him as he anticipated bringing us back into the circle of the Trinity’s fellowship.
- What about the Holy Spirit? SLIDE 14
The life-giving Holy Spirit
- He is the Spirit of life, of adoption, of sonship; He is the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Jesus.
- What does He do on our behalf?
- He gives birth to spirit (Jn 3:5-21; Gal 4:29), regenerating us (Ti 3:5-6) and giving us life (Jn 6:63)
- He saves us through his sanctifying work (2 Thess 2:13)
- He washes, sanctifies, and justifies us in the name of Jesus (1 Co 6:11)
- He seals us until the day of redemption (Eph 1:13)
- He baptizes us, immersing us into the body of Christ (1 Co 12:13)
- He takes up permanent residence within us (2 Ti 1:14)
- He sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts (Rom 5:5) and bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Rom 8:16)
- He causes us to cry ‘Abba, Father’ (Rom 8:15)
- He helps our weakness in prayer, interceding for us with groans too deep for words (Rom 8:26-27)
- Reveals to us spiritual truth (1 Co 2:10-16)
- He transforms us into Christ’s likeness (2 Co 3:16-18)
- He gives us spiritual endowments to serve Christ’s church (1 Co 12:7-11) and empowers us to be Christ’s witnesses (Ac 1:8)
- He speaks through us (Mk: 12:36; 13:11; Lk 12:12), fills us (cf. Lk 1:15; 4:1) and bears His fruit in us (Gal 5:22-23 cf. Lk 10:21)
- He convicts the world of guilt (Jn 16:18) and He teaches Christians all things, reminding us of Jesus’ teachings (Jn 14:26)
- So, there we have it. That’s an abbreviated, select list of things the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have each done to bring you and me back into fellowship with them.
- One way to summarize the list is by noting that, in general:
- The Father initiates (eternity past)
- The Son executes (in time, past tense)
- The Spirit completes (in time, present tense)
- Another way is by using spatial imagery:
- God is God for us—in the Father.
- God is God with us—in the Son.
- God is God in us—in the Spirit.
- However we might summarize the Trinity’s work, the point to take away is the astonishing fact that out of sheer love and overflowing generosity, the Father, Son and Spirit have done everything necessary to make possible for us a whole new way of existence by being immersed into the very life of the holy Trinity and embraced in infinite love.
- Guys, as be begin the season of Trinity today, let’s press in to know him more deeply, cling to him more tenaciously, love him more purely, obey more promptly, enthrone him in our hearts and enshrine Him in our thoughts.
- We are holy ones, made new creatures in Christ by the power of God through the Spirit of God. Having been invited, empowered, equipped, authorized and qualified to live in constant companionship within the circle of the blessed holy Trinity, let’s give Him our best because He has given His best to us.
- Let’s pray.
Slides 17-20 for Nicene Creed: Craig is reading