Summary: Trinity (b) Jesus is both Christ and Lord. So we are assured that His sacrifice is acceptable and sufficient, and our salvation is perfect and certain.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“The true God truly saves”
Last week, on Pentecost, we heard the first portion of Peter’s sermon that day to the crowds in Jerusalem, and how God was establishing a new covenant people, a new Israel, and calling and choosing people from all places and nations and ethnicities to be His treasured and chosen ones. Today, Trinity Sunday, the Gospel reading brings us the conclusion of that sermon, where Peter proclaimed the Jesus was both the Messiah and God incarnate, and that there is life in His name for all who believe.
How then, does this fit with the doctrine of the Trinity? And just what is the doctrine of the Trinity, that we celebrate and confess today? The Trinity is this – there is one God of three distinct persons, each of whom is equal with the others, all of whom are fully God.
Where did this doctrine come from? From the Apostles and the early church, based on the truth of God and Jesus in the Scripture. This is why we say, “We have received the truth faith from the Apostles.” It is the Apostles who were witnesses to Christ, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection. As Peter said in His sermon, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” (verse 32).
After Peter’s sermon, there were 3,000 baptized that day. Three thousand! For they heard the Gospel of Christ, and the Spirit worked repentance in their hearts. And they had faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. The Church started with a bang, and the church continued to grow. But it was not long before some people had other thoughts about Jesus, and who He was and is. Here we are not talking about those who did not believe, those who rejected Him. But those who claimed to be Christians. They no longer believed in the same Jesus that the Apostles had taught, in the Jesus testified to in the Scriptures.
You see, there were those who believed that God was one, and only one. No persons. No Trinity. No Father, Son, Holy Spirit. There was just God. That’s it. They then tried to say that when the Scripture say, “Father,” or “Son of God,” or “Spirit” that God was merely appearing in that way at that time. That God sometimes showed up as Father, and then appeared as the Son, and other times as the Spirit. But it was just the same one God. Just like a man, can be a son, a husband, and a father. Three different names, three different roles, but all the same guy. Or the way that water can be ice, or water, or steam. It’s all the same water, just different modes or forms. And we still have false religions teaching this today. It’s usually called Unitarianism or sometimes Unity. These people were all about the number One.
Then there were those who said yes, they were three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But they said, it is only the Father who is truly God. Jesus, is the Son of God, and He was created by the Father, they claimed, and then the Father and Son together created the world and the universe. So, Jesus was like-God, almost God, a kind of God. But not fully God in the same way that the Father is. They were not equal. Same too, they said, of the Spirit. He was just a tag-along. So they had three, but they did not have Trinity.
Now all of this was going on in the fourth century. And all of the bishops came together in a church council at Nicea in 325. Here they wrote most of the Nicene Creed. But what they wrote was not enough to end the claims of those who said Jesus was just “god-like.” So 76 years later, in 381, the Emperor called all the bishops together again at Constantinople. And now finally, the false teaching of about a “god-like” Jesus was ended, and they finished the Nicene Creed, almost as we have it today.
Open your hymnal to the back inside cover. There you will find the Nicene Creed. Look at the second article, about Jesus. See how it says, “very God of very God, which means true God of true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father?” Those words are in the creed to show that Jesus was truly and completely God, not just God like. And that there are three persons in the Trinity, not just one unitary God force.
Well, okay. But Vicar, does it really matter whether God is unity or God is trinity. One person or Three persons. I mean, if you believe in Jesus, that’s what counts, right? Well, you see, what you believe about God, about the Trinity, has a direct effect on what you believe about Jesus. While a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, a false Jesus by the same name, “Jesus” is still false. So, how then are these connected? Trinity and Jesus.