Proverbs 8: 22-31
Romans 5: 1-5
John 16: 12-15
“The Simple Trinity”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
One of the most confusing things to talk about let alone understand in our Christian faith is the Trinity. But what makes it difficult isn’t that it is complex, it isn’t. Rather, what makes it difficult is that it is quite simple; we just don’t like the simplicity of the Trinity for we keep on asking how. We want the Trinity to be complex and full of depth. We want images and metaphors and example to help us understand. But we don’t necessarily get that in Scripture. Instead we get brief matter-of-fact statements that quickly dive into the importance of the Trinity. Most of the time the Trinity is just a given as the narrative within Scripture progresses. Such cases include the various times God says, “Let us…” Who is this “us”? Well it’s the Trinity obviously. That’s the thing, the Trinity is treated more as a given. Yet throughout history many have grown dissatisfied with the lack of answers to the question, “How is this so?” So out of a desire of answering this question, which Scripture does not answers, many have abandoned Scripture, using human knowledge to fill in the gaps.
The picture you see in today’s bulletin, next to the sermon title is a perfect representation of the simple Trinity. There is only one God, not three Gods, but within God there are three distinct separate persons who are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is the simplified Trinity.
The Father is not the Son nor is He the Spirit. The Son is not the Spirit nor is He the Father. The Spirit is not the Father nor is He the Son. But the Father is not one God not the Son a different God and the Spirit another God, but that there is only one God and all three persons are that one and only True God. What I just there is no different than my prior simplified statement of the Trinity, just with more elaboration. But the elaboration is necessary because unfortunately in the quest to know more, some heretical beliefs about the Trinity have risen, and it is the addressing of these heresies that has led to the simple Trinity being stretched out into what we now know as the Athanasian Creed, which we will soon read.
The simplicity of the Trinity still exists in this Creed, but it unfortunately has to be repeated and reworded multiple times in order to address each heresy that popped up during the times of the early Church. Since then more new and interesting heresies related to the Trinity have arisen. But if we just ignored all the clutter of heresies in our age, to include all the attempts to explain the Trinity by making it more complex than it needs to be, then we get one simple explanation: There are three persons but only one God. That’s all we need, but because we are uncomfortable with having faith in God’s Word which doesn’t elaborate on such, we must add counters to all the heresies which muddy the simple Trinity.
Faith in God’s Word… do you remember what I say regarding the Lord’s physical presence in the Bread and Wine? Lutherans simply believe and have faith in Jesus’ promise that the bread is His body and the wine is His blood. We believe He is
telling the truth. Then the question comes, well then how is it true? We don’t go there. We never address how the Bread is His literal Body nor the Wine Blood because He never told us in all of Scripture; we simply have faith in His word. No fancy arguments that have no Scriptural grounding; just faith. The same applies to the Trinity. No fancy arguments; just faith.
So what are some of the things we do believe regarding the Trinity in accordance with our universal faith? One, we believe that even though through the Creeds we acknowledge that God the Father is creator of Heaven and Earth, we also affirm that all three persons were involved in the Creation. In Genesis, God said, “Let us.” In John 1:3, “All things were made through Him,” aka Jesus. 1 Corinthians 8:6, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” These are examples that affirm that God the Father was not alone in the creation. And if the Son and Holy Spirit were both involved in the creation then they are not themselves created, but that should be implied if we believe that all three are one God. Yes Jesus was begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds out of the Father and Son, but neither are created. Thus from there very beginning there was one God and three persons.
Another, we believe that all three persons are equal in power and majesty, unlimited and eternal, and that not one person in the trinity is neither greater nor lesser than any of the others. If one was greater than another, then that would imply there are more than one God, but because there is only one God then all three persons must be equal. Now God the Father is the head of the
Trinity, but that is not because he is more powerful or more majestic or greater than the others. It also does not mean he has more authority than the others, but out of respect to the relationship the Son and Spirit have towards the Father, the Father is the head and the other too honor Him. This is in line with the fourth commandment, “Honor thy Father.” It is also in line with Hebrews 5:4-5, “And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” The Father does not have more honor or authority than Christ, but out of respect toward the relationship between Father and Son, and because it is not proper to place honor upon yourself, the two and the Spirit honor each other.
And that leads to the final belief, we believe that the three persons, though one God, are distinct from each other. Their distinction is not found in their power or majesty as we acknowledge that they are equal in all respects. Their distinction is found in how they relate to each other and to us. There is only one Father, not three. There is only one Son, not three. There is only one Spirit, not three. The Father is the father in relationship to the other two. He is the head of the Trinity, but only in relationship and not out of prowess.
The Son is the Son in relationship to the Father, and unlike the Father, under the command of the Father, which He is not, took the form of a man in order to die on the cross for our sake. The Father did not, nor the Spirit, die on that cross, only the Son. As God, whom the Son is fully, He is still equal in everything to
the Father. As a human, whom the Son is fully and willfully took on, He, like all humans, is subordinate to the will of God. His divinity did not turn into humanity or the other way around. He is not confused. He is in perfect unity with Himself as both God and man. God did not become man, but rather God took humanity into himself for it was the Son alone that became man.
And the Spirit is the Spirit in relationship between the Father and the Son, proceeding from both, but not created by either, being in equal power to the two. The Spirit is to us the source of our faith in Jesus Christ who is our Savior. Jesus is not the source of our Faith in Him, but according to our Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” And in today’s Gospel, the entirety of it, is all about how the Spirit of Truth, which is the Holy Spirit, will testify to us on behalf of the Father the truth, will reveal all this to us and within us, so that through the Spirit we may see Christ for who He is and have true faith in Him. The Spirit does not speak on His own authority, but of the Father’s. This does not mean that the Spirit is lesser than the Father, but that He respects the Father as head. The Spirit is still equal in everything to the Father, but the Spirit’s role in this Trinitarian relationship is not to be the head but the one who provides for us faith in the salvation which was one for us through Christ.
So there are three persons in the Trinity. All three are distinct in their persons, but all three are one and the same True God for there is only one God, not three Gods.
Everything I’ve said this far is the plain and simple Trinity revealed to us in Scripture. There are many things about Him we do not know nor could ever fathom as fallen human beings. There are things about God that He did not reveal to us intentionally, but there are a few important things that are revealed in Scripture. Instead of making things up to describe God, which unfortunately might lead to a complete misunderstanding of God, Why not just refer to the few in number simple references God makes to His Triune nature. And instead of becoming dissatisfied with the lack of robust theological hooks, let us have a quiet faith comfortable with the fact that there are many mysteries about God that we will never truly grasp in this life, focusing instead on that which is revealed to us in scripture: the Father is God, Jesus is God, the Spirit is God, but there are not three Gods but only One God.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all three of you are equal in power and all are one. Guide us in the one and only true catholic, or universal, Christian faith, so that in faith toward you the Triune God and all the promises fulfilled in Scripture we all may be sanctified and united as one holy Church. In your holy name we pray, again: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.