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Today is Trinity Sunday, the Sunday which we set aside to meditate on the three-in-one nature of God.
In the Bible God describes Himself as a single entity. That is, He describes Himself as a single spirit being—one God. But God also describes Himself as being composed of three separate and distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This is a mystery. We can know and believe that God is three-in-one, but we don’t really understand how that can be. To date, man hasn’t found anything in creation that is three-in-one in the same way that God describes Himself. And this makes sense. We would expect to find that the creator is different in some ways from His creation.
When we’re teaching children about the Trinity, we might use an apple to help them get some idea what God’s triune nature is like. An apple is composed of three parts: the peel, the flesh and the core. The peel isn’t pear, it’s apple. The flesh isn’t pumpkin, it’s apple. The core isn’t peach, it’s apple. Peel, flesh, and core are all apple.
In a similar way, the peel isn’t flesh, it’s peel. The flesh isn’t core, it’s flesh. The core isn’t peel, it’s core. But together they are ONE apple.
Others might use water to describe the Trinity. There is liquid water, solid ice, and water vapor—but they’re all water.
But, you know, any visual aids we might use to illustrate what three-in-one means fall short at some point. God is simply beyond any earthly example we might point to.
Trying to explain God’s qualities by using visual aids from the physical world, is a bit like trying to understand an artist by their art alone. We may learn quite a bit about an artist through their work, but we’ll understand a lot more about them if we simply spend time with them. Daily contact helps us to learn what a person is like more than anything else.
The disciples of Jesus had that opportunity. They lived with the Son of God. They traveled and conversed with Him for three solid years during His ministry. They were invited to have daily contact with Jesus, and through this contact they learned something about how the persons of God function together.
Jesus gives us a glimpse into how the persons of the Trinity function in our sermon reading for today. On the night before Jesus was crucified, He told His followers the following.
John 16:12-15 (NASB)
12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
15 “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
On the night when Jesus told His disciples these words, He was well aware of the fact that He would be leaving them soon. He knew that His betrayal and crucifixion were approaching. He also knew that after His crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples would still NOT be ready to hear a lot of the things He had to tell to them. But in time, they would be. And Jesus trusted that at the right time, the Holy Spirit would take up the work of further educating His disciples.
The first thing that we learn about the Trinity from Jesus’ words here is that they work together seamlessly. The things that Jesus couldn’t tell the disciples because they weren’t ready, the Holy Spirit WOULD tell them. Jesus says,
“…When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth;” (John 16:13 NASB).
The second thing that we learn about the Trinity from Jesus’ words is that in their actions toward each other, they are self-less.
Now, when we talk about regular people being self-less, we mean that they aren’t putting themselves first. They consider the needs of others, the plans of others, and don’t push themselves forward at the wrong time. This is what the members of the Trinity do towards each other. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit,
“Will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak;” (John 16:13 NASB).
As the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit has a lot to say. But in the future when the Holy Spirit would come to the followers of Jesus, He wouldn’t start spouting off about just any truth. Instead, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit would speak the things that Jesus gave Him to speak. That is, He would give the disciples the right information, at the right time, so that Jesus’ followers could serve as His ambassadors to the world. Earlier, Jesus had told the disciples,
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26 NASB).
So, in their relationship together, the members of the Trinity work together. They are self-less. And the third thing that we learn here about the Trinity is that they are humble toward one another.
Now, it may sound strange to say that the members of the Trinity are HUMBLE towards each other, but here’s what it means. Look at verse 14 again. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says,
“He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:14 NASB).
The members of the Trinity glorify each other. The Son glorified the Father by doing what the Father sent Him to do. He lived a life free from sin, and offered His perfect soul to redeem sinners like you and me from hell. In response to His obedience, the Father glorified the Son by raising Him from the dead for all the world to see. In turn, the Holy Spirit glorified the Son by proclaiming this truth to the world through the testimony of the disciples.
In Proverbs 27, it says,
“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2 NASB).
This is what the Trinity does. They work together, more seamlessly than any human team. They are selfless in their dealings with one another, and they glorify each other.
Now, sometimes we talk about the different members of the Trinity as having different jobs. In the Apostles’ Creed we say the Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Holy Spirit changes those who have been brought to faith so that they more closely resemble the Son by the things they think, say and do. But upon further review, the jobs that the members of the Trinity do are really TEAM JOBS—that is, they do these things together.
For example, when the Father created the world we’re told that the Holy Spirit was also present. He was hovering over the waters at the time of the creation. Where life was brought into existence, the Holy Spirit was working. We’re also told that the Son was there. Talking about God the Son, John chapter 1 says,
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3 NIV).
So the Trinity created our universe, together.
We often talk about how Jesus redeemed sinners from hell by dying for them on the cross. By suffering hell in our place, the punishment for our sins was erased. And while it is true that the Son was the only member of the Trinity that became human and died on the cross, we can’t forget what the Father gave up to redeem us. John 3:16 says,
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17 NKJV).
Was it nothing for the Father to give up His only Son? To give over His Son to infinite suffering so that the world of condemned sinners could be redeemed? No! This was a big deal. This had never happened before.
The Trinity redeemed sinners, together.
When we talk about the Holy Spirit and what He does, we talk about the changes that are effected in the hearts and lives of people brought to faith in Jesus. But what message is the Holy Spirit proclaiming through the Gospel? He’s proclaiming the life, death and resurrection of the Son! Through the Words of the Bible, the Holy Spirit teaches us to live our lives as people who now serve our Savior, not our sinful selves.
The Trinity changes the way we live our lives, and the Trinity works these changes in us, as a team.
So, what is it that enables the Trinity to function like this? It is TRUST. They work seamlessly together because they trust each other completely. They can pass off tasks from one to the next, having complete confidence that the job will be done perfectly right. The relationship that exists between the members of the Trinity is marked most clearly by TRUST.
And this is what the Triune God invites sinners like you and me to be part of. A relationship DEFINED by trust.
Having a real relationship with God doesn’t mean just believing that some divine being must exist. Having a real relationship with the Divine begins when we TRUST what He says. That sin really IS that bad. That it WILL sever us from Him forever. But that God’s Son really DID erase the record of our sins by His suffering and death. And that through Him we TRULY stand cleansed from all our past mistakes, evil thoughts, words and actions. A real relationship with God begins when we trust what God says, that through His Son we stand FORGIVEN.
Through this message, we are invited by God to be united to Him. To be reborn into His family through the cross of Christ.
I said earlier that the relationship that exists between the members of the Trinity is marked by TRUST. When sinners begin to trust that the God who made them, has also saved them, then the Holy Spirit begins to educate us further. After faith takes root in our hearts, the Holy Spirit begins to teach us what we weren’t ready to learn before.
He teaches us to work together as one. He teaches us to be self-less, putting the needs of others ahead of our own. He teaches us to be humble, glorifying each other, instead of ourselves. In short, after faith takes root, the Holy Spirit teaches sinners to treat each other the same way that the members of the Trinity treat each other.
“All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:15 NASB).
Through the message of sins forgiven through Jesus, we are invited in to the sublime relationship of the Trinity. To be children of the Triune God. To take our direction from HIM instead of from our own sinful hearts, or from other sinful beings.
If you wanted to learn how to strengthen your marriage, what better way could imagine than by moving in with a couple that already has a strong marriage? And seeing how they work together.
If you wanted to learn how to be a truly good friend, what better way could you learn than by studying the ways of your most loyal and thoughtful friend?
If you want to learn how to function best in all your relationships, what better way than to learn from God, who has existed from eternity in the most sublimely perfect relationship that has ever existed?
That is what God invites us to experience in Christ. But God doesn’t just say, “Here, let me show you how it’s supposed to be done”. First He says, “Here, let me forgiven all your sins by My Son’s precious sacrifice, then I’ll teach you How to live the way We do.”
Some people think that the idea of God being three-in-one is just a theological exercise. You know, just Bible scholars splitting hairs and overanalyzing. But the more we grasp what the Triune God is like, from His own testimony, the more we will understand what He intended US to be. For in the beginning, God created Mankind in HIS OWN IMAGE.
Is the doctrine of the Trinity worth teaching to our children? To our members? To ourselves? To our friends? Oh yes. For that perfect, sinless, seamless, self-less, humble relationship was not only what Mankind was intended to be, it is what we are invited to reclaim through faith in Christ Jesus.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.