Summary: This is a sermon on the Trinity in honor of Saint Patrick who made famous the illustration of the shamrock. It is topical and alliterated with Power Point available, just email me.
If this sermon is helpful to you look for my latest book, “The Greatest Commands: Learning To Love Like Jesus.” Each chapter is sermon length, alliterated, and focuses on the life and love of Jesus. You can find it here:
SAINT PATRICK’S DAY: THE TRINITY
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
Saint Patrick’s Day is just around the corner and, of course, in our modern-American celebration that basically means lots of drinking and the occasional pinching of those who forgot to wear green. It’s really disappointing that Saint Patrick’s Day has regressed in many parts of the world to a celebration of Irish beer, but in Ireland itself it is still celebrated as a religious holiday by both the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. What’s really disappointing is that many people, even Christians, don’t have a clue what Saint Patrick’s Day is really all about.
Patrick was born in Berniae. Since his father was a deacon and his grandfather a priest, Patrick had a very religious upbringing. But when he was about sixteen, he was out working in his father’s field when Irish militia raided the land. Patrick was kidnapped and carried off as a slave to Ireland. There, he worked as a herdsman, remaining a captive for six years. During that time he writes that his faith grew and that he prayed daily. After six years he finally escaped by stowing away on a ship, traveling more than two-hundred miles, and finally returning home. When he was of age, he followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, eventually becoming a Bishop in the church. But in the latter half of his life, Patrick felt called to become a missionary—to go back to the land in which he had been a slave and share the message of the Gospel. In latter part of the fifth century, just four hundred years or so after the death of Christ, Patrick became instrumental in bringing Christianity to Ireland.
Part of his success came through the simplicity of his message. Where others had struggled to explain the concept of the Trinity, Patrick relied on a simple illustration. Legend says that he used the shamrock, or three-leaf clover, which was a symbol of national pride in Ireland at the time, to explain the nature of the Triune God of the Bible. Each leaf is separate and distinct, yet part of a whole. It’s just one clover, yet with three individual leaves. By making that simple comparison, countless Irish men and women were able to accept the basic concept of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Saint Patrick’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of the life of Saint Patrick himself, who died on March 17, as well as a celebration of the birth of Christianity in Ireland.
So, in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought I would try my best to do what Patrick himself did—unpack the most complicated doctrine of the Christian faith. And just as there are three leaves to a shamrock and three Persons in the Trinity, I’d like to break this intricate teaching into three basic questions: (1) Is the Trinity Scriptural? (2) Is the Trinity Sensible? (3) Is the Trinity Significant? So let’s begin with the first leaf of our clover:
• IS THE TRINITY SCRIPTURAL?
One of the reasons that understanding the Trinity is so difficult is that the Bible never really explains it. While the apostle Paul wrote a practical dissertation on justification by faith and Luke filled reams of papyrus with historical information about Jesus and the birth of Christianity, none of the Biblical writes ever takes the time to educate or enlighten us concerning the nature of the Trinity—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In fact, the word Trinity itself is never used in the Bible. But, what the Bible does make very clear is that there is one God and three individuals who are called God.
The evidence for the Trinity goes all the way back to the first verse of the first book of the Bible. The unforgettable opening words of Genesis declare, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Now, in English this verse doesn’t really seems to provide any evidence for a Triune God, but in the original Hebrew it does. You see, the word translated God is actually the Hebrew word ′elōhim, which is the plural form of the word ′el (which means God) and is a word used for God often throughout the Old Testament (occurring about 2600 times). The word is unique because it’s plural in form, but singular in meaning. An English equivalent might be the word news. News is plural, but you wouldn’t say, “Those News are on at 6:00.” Rather, we say, “The News is on at 6:00.” It’s plural in form, but singular in usage. Just as there is more than one item of news in the News, ′elōhim may indicate a plurality of persons within the God of Creation. In fact, just a sentence later, the Bible says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 NLT). So already in the first two verses of the Bible, we have a reference to God and the Spirit of God.