Trinity Sunday (Rom 5:1-5; John 16:12-15)
Today is Trinity Sunday. Have you heard about the Holy Trinity? Apparently, not everyone has!
Back in the days when Poland was still a communist country, a priest was called out to a dying man in the middle of the night. He jumped on to his bicycle and hurried down the dark roads where he was stopped by an officer of the law. “You are driving a bicycle at night without lights – that’ll be a fee of 200 zloty.”
“But dear sir, I’m bringing the Lord to a dying man!” cried the priest.
“What? Two on one bicycle? Make that 400 zloty!”
The priest pays the fine, and as the law officer disappears into the night the priest is heard muttering, “Just as well he’d never heard of the Holy Trinity …!”
The Bible doesn’t actually use the term ‘trinity’, and we do struggle to explain the doctrine fully. Nevertheless, God does reveal it to us, and the concept of the Trinity is a most important part of the Christian doctrine. In the text books, we are told that the Trinity refers to the Christian understanding that the one divine nature of God is a unity of three persons; and that God is revealed as three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
What we call the ‘trinitarian formula’ is mentioned in the Great Commission given by Jesus and recorded in Matt 28:19, ‘Go and make disciples ... baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’; and it is in the benediction that the apostle Paul used in 2 Corinthians, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.’ (2 Cor 13:13)
The concept of the Trinity is also the only way that we can understand some of Jesus’ teachings. You will recall some of his statements such as, ‘If you have seen me you have seen the Father’; ‘I and the Father are one’; and the statement in today’s Gospel reading, ‘All that belongs to the Father is mine’. Other statements associated with God dwelling with us, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us are other examples of the many statements of Jesus that led to the understanding of the Trinitarian nature of God.
So, the concept of the Trinity is essential to our understanding of the Christian God and of our salvation.
The Trinity forms the very basis of our salvation because God’s desire for our salvation arises out of his nature. You see, as we are reminded in Proverbs 8:4, God who cries out to us is a relational God who craves company. He is a relational God by his very Trinitarian nature: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have always existed in relationship.
In fact, our salvation depends upon a belief in a triune God. In other words, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all involved in restoring our relationship with God.
Not only is God relational in himself; but he also craves to have a relationship with you and me. We were created to be in relationship with him; and when mankind broke off the relationship, God put in place the plan that is being worked out from the beginning to the end of time to enable us to come back into an intimate relationship with him.
The passage from Romans 5:1-5 gives us a succinct summary of how God has provided this restoration of relationship with him:
I. God the Father loves us
It all starts with the ‘love of God’. God lovingly created us in his own image. In fact, the Palmist who wrote Psalm 8, in answer to his question on why God would bother with us indicates that we have been created to be only ‘a little lower than God’ himself.
Because he loves us, he offers to us his forgiveness which we can have, by faith, through grace. That word ‘grace’ refers to a free gift – a gift that we do not deserve yet can have simply by reaching out and accepting it in faith.
John 3:16 summarises this: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ This is an amazing love!
Unfortunately, some people do not understand the extent of God’s love for us. Perhaps preachers have put too much emphasis on sin, giving the impression that God is angry with us – or at the very least, disappointed. Some people seem to think that they have to constantly earn God’s love.
But the bible says that god is madly in love with us. The Proverbs passage for today tells us that God has delighted in us from the very beginning when he first created us in his own image. Verse 31 (of Proverbs 8) has wisdom, ‘… rejoicing in God’s inhabited world and delighting in the human race’. Psalm 8 (v.5) says that we have been, ‘crowned with glory and honour.’
So, God the Father, who loves us and delights in us, is the initiator of our salvation – and the sender of God the Son, Jesus. He sent Jesus for a purpose:
II. God the Son (Jesus Christ) gives us peace with God
Because he loves us, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to provide a way of receiving forgiveness and a restoration of the relationship with God. On the cross, Jesus, who himself was without sin, paid the penalty for our sin. He achieved victory over the power of sin, and if we accept Jesus, then Christians share in Christ’s death and resurrection. God no longer views us as sinners, and we are freed from sin – no longer slaves to the sinful nature.
So, as Rom 5:1 tells us, we have the peace of knowing that we are no longer subject to the wrath of our righteous God; but, have been justified (or made acceptable) through Jesus Christ. God’s peace resides in our heart and opens the way for us to know the truth that God delights in us.
Knowing that God delights in us gives us strength to be able to face adversities in life and hope for the future. Paul continues in verse 4 to say that suffering produces endurance, which in turn produces character, and that character produces hope.
A few years ago, I read Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Victor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor. While a prisoner, he observed that those who coped best with the immense suffering inflicted upon the prisoners were those who did not lose hope.
So, the hope that the Christian has is not an unfounded optimism arising from self will. We have this hope because we know that God delights in us. Verse 5 explains why: ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit …’ (Rom 5:5)
This then, is where the Holy Spirit comes into the picture:
III. God the Holy Spirit gives us God’s love and empowers us
It is through the Holy Spirit that we can know the love that God has for us - by his Spirit God has poured his love into our hearts. The original Greek verb used here for ‘poured’ indicates a present status from a past action. This means that when we first believed in Christ, the Holy Spirit poured out his love in our hearts, and his love for us continues to dwell in us. The Holy Spirit’s presence is the proof that God delights in us.
Throughout the Gospel of John, we are told that it is the Holy Spirit who is the power by which Christians are brought to faith. The Holy Spirit reveals to us the truth of who Jesus is and the way to God that is made available through Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings the world under conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. In John 16:13 we read, that he ‘guides believers into all truth’ with what he hears from the Father and the Son.
And so, he convicts each one of us of our sinfulness arising from our rejection of God and brings us to the point where we are prepared to surrender our lives to Jesus. And when the person accepts Jesus as Saviour and Lord, it is the Holy Spirit who works within that person what the Bible calls ‘new birth’ when the power of the old sinful self-centred nature within us is put to death and replaced by a new spiritual nature: This is why in John 6:63 we read, ‘It is the Spirit who gives life’.
And it is the Holy Spirit dwelling within the Christian who prompts and guides us to live according to God’s law, and empowers us to live the Christian life, as Jesus would want us to live. He enables us to resist the sinful nature - the temptations and selfish desires - and to be obedient to God.
And the Holy Spirit also empowers us to take up God’s mission that Jesus passed on to us, the church – the body of Christ, to be the visible revelation of God in the world and to thereby draw others into the Kingdom of God.
In the Gospel reading for today, John 16:12-15, we see the intimate closeness of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the mission and ministry of God. This passage specifically speaks of the Holy Spirit’s role of revealing the truth to us such that we will be drawn into accepting the relationship with God that was made available through Jesus.
But this passage also indicates that the Holy Spirit is not working independently in this. He does not speak on his own but rather speaks the truth from God the Father as revealed through God the Son, Jesus Christ. What is the Father’s, we are told, is also the Son’s and what is the Son’s is also the Holy Spirit’s.
Each of the persons of the trinitarian family serves the others as all defer to one another: The Son says what He hears from the Father (John 12:49-50); the Father witnesses to and glorifies the Son (John 8:16-18,50,54); the Father and Son honour the Holy Spirit by commissioning Him to speak in their name (John 14:16,26); and the Holy Spirit honours the Father and Son by helping the community of believers - you and me.
Conclusion – let me draw this together:
Probably, like me you may struggle to explain the doctrine of the Trinity fully. Nevertheless, it is the only way that we can understand some of Jesus’ teachings. Importantly, it is essential to our understanding of the Christian God. Each person of the Trinity reveals God’s delight in us. And God’s desire for our salvation arises out of his Trinitarian nature.
It is because of the Trinitarian nature of God that the Christian is able to daily experience God in his three persons; and can speak at the same time of the Holy Spirit living within us and thereby being united with God the Father who makes his home with us, and of Jesus having come to us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Further, in Romans 5, we have seen a succinct summary by Paul of the way that the Trinity is involved in our salvation – the plan that God put into place because he has delighted in us from the beginning of creation. God the Father loves us and has given us his peace through Jesus Christ who died for us and has opened the way for God’s love to be poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit who then enables us to live in a close relationship of mutual love with God.