The Trinity in Three Words

We can know our Triune God and describe him with three words grace, love, fellowship - the same three words that the apostle Paul uses in today's lesson from 2 Corinthians 13:11-14. We learn about "The Trinity in Three Words." June 11, 2017.

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            “God helps those who help themselves.” Have you ever heard or said that phrase before? Do you know where it’s found in the Bible? It’s in 2 Obligations 13:2. Never heard of that book? It’s right after 1 Obligations. Alright. Neither of those are actually books of the Bible and the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves” doesn’t exist either. That phrase doesn’t even line up with biblical truths. God helps those who can’t help themselves. That’s salvation!

            How about this one? “God works in mysterious ways.” Do you know where that phrase is found? It sounds familiar. As good and truthful as this one sounds, it’s not actually found in the Bible either. But at least this phrase is true. God does work in ways that don’t always make sense to us or that astound us and that’s seen on the pages of Scripture and in your own life.

            How about the word, “trinity” or “triune”? Where do you find those words in the Bible? Well, that’s easy, right? We use the words trinity and triune all the time. We have a Holy Trinity Sunday today that focuses on this word. So, trinity and triune must be found dozens of times throughout the Bible! So, do you know where to find those words? The truth is, you will not find the word triune or trinity on the pages of God’s Word. But the words perfectly describe the truths that are on the pages of God’s Word.

            God describes himself throughout the Bible in many ways to give us a glimpse into who he is. One of the most mysterious things about God is how he describes himself as one God with three distinct and separate persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These aren’t three separate gods, but the Father, Son, Spirit are all fully and completely and eternally the one true God. The Bible says so! God says so! Yet our heads spin to the point of cramping up trying to understand this concept and describe the supernatural God and who he is in natural, human ways.

            Trying to know God and everything that he describes himself to be and not finding an answer that absolutely satisfies your inquisitive mind can be frustrating if not even an obstacle that can get in the way of your faith. But perhaps better than this is to understand that the truth of a three-in-one God is true not because of a rational explanation but by knowing what pours out from this Triune God into your life. In essence, we can know our Triune God and describe him with three words – the same three words that the apostle Paul uses in today’s lesson from 2 Corinthians 13. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”  Grace. Love. Fellowship.

            Let me tell you about the manager of a company. He was a great and successful leader. The business had grown large and prosperous. This manager had a great family, was well off, was well-respected. But his heart wasn’t content. Long story short, he secretly had an affair, had the woman’s husband murdered, and thought he got away with it all. Until one day a trusted partner confronted him. The manager thought it was over. He was afraid he would lose everything, his job, his family, his security. He was ruined.

            This manager was David, the King of Israel. God showed grace to him. David deserved to be ruined, to lose it all, to have his life taken from him, to be taken out of God’s presence forever. But God did something unexpected. He gave him what he didn’t deserve. He forgave him. This is grace.

            There was a prostitute who lived a scandalous life, who was looked down on by her own people. Surely God would turn his back on her too. But he didn’t. There was forgiveness for this woman too and a special place in the family line of the Savior. Her name was Rahab and she knew grace.

            I could tell you about a guy who deserted his post and the mission he had received from his commander and hitch-hiked his way to another place to hide. But the commander found him and imprisoned him in a dank and dark cell. The guy thought it was over, but three days later he was set free, by the grace, the undeserved love, of God. His name – Jonah.

            What about the times that you’ve been deceitful to your spouse or in the workplace? The times you’ve plotted to hurt others whether their feelings, their reputations, or their lives? How about when you’ve been adulterous in your relationship with the Lord, giving your heart to the things of this world? The times when you’ve run away from the Lord and his will for your life? Like David, like Rahab, like Jonah, like every other person who stands before God, you ought to be ruined.

            But grace. The Lord God, the triune God, did what you don’t deserve. By grace, God the Father sent God the Son to be your substitute. By grace, Jesus lived for you and died in your place to pay the price for your sins. By grace, God the Father accepts Jesus’ payment for your sins and completely forgives you. By grace, God the Holy Spirit creates faith in your heart to know and trust in Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life.

            The Lord Jesus Christ and his saving work is the defining picture of God’s grace as heard in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

            This grace is possible because of the second word – love. God is love. His very essence is love. What a comfort! God has so much affection for you, he values you and your life so much that he can’t help but do everything for your good. You see this from the very beginning in the way that God the Father created the world with wisdom and perfection, creating a beautiful world for the crown of his creation, mankind, to enjoy. It helps us to understand that God does things in our lives or doesn’t do things in our lives because he loves you and wants what is best for you. God lays out his law, his will for your life and relationship with him, in order to protect you because he loves you.

            Isn’t that the love of a father (we’ll celebrate that next weekend!)? Doesn’t a loving father provide a wonderful home and all that is needed to his children? And doesn’t a loving father do what is best for his children? And doesn’t a loving father sometimes discipline or set rules for the good of his children? And doesn’t a loving father make sacrifices for his children and put his own well-being on the line? This is what God the Father does for you because of his great love for you, his dear child. That love finds its greatest expression in this: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:9-10).

            Grace and love lead to the last word to describe the Trinity – fellowship. The grace and love of God bring us into a special relationship with him. God the Holy Spirit creates in your heart faith that knows and trust in the love and forgiveness of God. The Holy Spirit unites you in a peaceful relationship with God that loves God and strives to live in line with God’s will. The Holy Spirit changes your heart and makes you a new person in the Lord.

            The Holy Spirit brings you into fellowship to enjoy unity with other believers. The apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians to “strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.”That’s a high calling that is hard to come across in our world. How can we have peace when there are terrorist attacks, racial and political divide, and rampant crime? How can we have peace in our personal lives when we don’t see eye to eye, when we’re jealous, selfish, and hurtful? Peace is not going to be found by turning to the god of postmodernism, the god of money, the god of military strength, the gods of programs. Peace can only be found by turning to the true God, the triune God, who through his Spirit gives you a heart of peace that finds comfort in forgiveness and contentment through God’s promises and care. Through this heart of faith, you can live at peace with others.

            Let me sum it up this way. Think about breathing. You do it. It benefits you. In fact, it’s necessary for life. I trust that and I’m sure you do too! But I don’t understand every aspect of the process from the molecular levels of the atmosphere to the body’s ability to inhale air and pull out the needed oxygen and make it useful for life. But I know the benefits – that whether I understand it or not, I need to breathe or else I’ll die. So, while I can’t explain everything about it, I trust it.   

            You know the grace, the love and the fellowship of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If God says that he is these things and you trust and know them, can you not know and accept the more mysterious things too?! You may not find the word Trinity in the Bible. You may not have a perfectly satisfying explanation or understanding about who God is and tells us. But the Bible clearly speaks about what this Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, does in your life. I pray that these three words, grace, love, and fellowship, give you great comfort, hope, and peace that is found in the Triune God. Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI (www.gracedowntown.org) on June 11, 2017

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