Trinity 2020 – “Confessing the Trinity” Matthew 28:18-20
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 28th Chapter.
“18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We have just confessed this truth concerning saving faith.
“Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.
And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another.”
This injunction is similarly stated three times in the Athanasian Creed. Each time the words of these injunctions serve reinforce the truth which the Christian church confesses regarding its God, His person and His work.
This confession of faith flows from God’s self-revelation in His written Word, through the Word Incarnate, and by the working of the Holy Spirit through God’s means of grace. Such is the truth which Jesus places in the hands of His Church as He bestows the very power of heaven upon His disciples.
Now this Athanasian Creed does not begin with a question, but with a statement of unequivocal truth. This means that there is no other way for what follows to be understood, taken or believed. In short there is no choice. There are no options. There is one way and one way only to gain the gift of eternal life. There is only one God who gives eternal life. There is only one God who redeems sinners. There is only one God who calls sinners to repentance. There is only one God who creates faith in the hearts of those who repent. There is only one God who raises the dead. There is only one God in whom to trust for salvation.
This one God graciously reveals Himself to sinners. He reveals that He is a caring God. He reveals there is a mysterious relationship within this Godhead that must be received by faith. This Godhead consists of three persons with one divine essence. There are not three gods. There is only One God in three persons.
These three persons are co-equal in authority, power, majesty, will and purpose. They each are ascribed separate works, but each person in the Godhead is indivisibly one. Such is a mystery that cannot be unraveled or grasped by our human reason. Such a mystery is a matter of faith. Hence we confess this truth in a statement of faith or a creed.
Such a statement is given by our Lord Jesus as well. We are to believe that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. When we think about this truth we are brought up short. For we immediately begin to think that Jesus never had “all authority.” Such is not the case. We first must ask who this Jesus is? Certainly we know from the Gospel accounts that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God. He is the 2nd Person of the Trinity. He is true God and true Man. Does He not already have all power and authority in heaven and on earth?
Certainly, this is true. Jesus does have all power and authority of God. We read elsewhere in Scripture that Jesus laid aside this authority and power for a brief period of time. St Paul speaks of this in his epistle to the Philippian believers. Jesus lived in the form of a servant. When Jesus speaks of His being given all authority in heaven and on earth, He speaks of His human nature fully and always now using such power and authority.
Indeed, Jesus showed this power and authority at various times in His ministry on earth. The people to whom Jesus ministered witnessed this authority in the miracles he performed. The people heard this authority in the teaching which Jesus gave. He spoke not as their teachers spoke, but Jesus spoke with the authority of God.
Jesus speaks a final time to His disciples on earth. He is shortly to ascend to His place at the right hand of the Father to dwell in eternal glory with the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Now Jesus dispenses His authority to His disciples. He gives them that power in His command to go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations.
As with all God’s gifts, there is His power and authority attached. Jesus’ command also has the authority of God attached. For these disciples are to go out not in their name, but under the name of God. They are God’s representatives who are to apply Jesus message of salvation to sinners the world over.
Where is this authority centered? God’s authority is wherever God’s Word is found. That Word is embodied in the water of Holy Baptism, and taught in the commands of Jesus Christ. As Jesus says to His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey whatsoever I have commanded you.”
The authority of God’s word has always been questioned. Satan questioned such authority when he tempted Eve with the question, “Did God really say …?” Satan departed from keeping this word of God and sought his own path paved with sinful pride. Such a path leads to destruction and eternal judgment.
In our time, the question remains alive and well. There are those who believe that all who worship a god truly worship the same god. They believe that there are different paths that people may follow and still reach the same goal as all who worship a god. To say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life is unacceptable. To say the Jesus is the only way to the Father is unthinkable. To say that Jesus blood-bought sacrifice is the only means of salvation is too exclusive. Such is the deception under which Satan seeks to destroy what the true God has established.
In the face of these denials, Jesus leaves no doubt as to what we are to preach and teach and do. Everything which Jesus commanded is to be observed, kept, held in ultimate importance and imparted to those who have been redeemed by God. This is what we teach and confess in this House of God and hold closely in our hearts …
“so God and man is one Christ, who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead. At His coming all people will rise again with their bodies and give an account concerning their own deeds.”
The name of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is no ordinary name. The name of our God gives us an identity that transcends any relationship we may have on this earth. Certainly, our relationships with family are important and blessed by God. Yet, what God has done and worked in us is of greater importance. For what God does and works in us is also for life in the world that is yet to be.
God put His name upon us in the water of Baptism for a purpose. He marks us to be heirs of eternal life. He joins us to an eternal family if you will. Those who receive the name of God are made heirs with Jesus Christ and have access to the storehouse of God’s grace and mercy.
Consider the words of the Sacrament of Baptism. As the water is applied, the pastor speaks over the baptized these words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Truly it is not the pastor who is baptizing but it is God Himself who comes and puts His name on the baptized. Consider these words from Isaiah 43.
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel; “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
These words of God are sometimes placed upon baptismal banners. Why is that the case? It is the case because this is exactly what takes place in Holy Baptism. God is taking possession of your life. He is making an eternal promise to you to be your Father, Provider, Protector and Salvation. Jesus brought these words to fulfillment in His ministry, death and resurrection. Jesus poured out the benefits of these words in your life on the day of your baptism. Jesus will consummate this promise of God on the Last Day. When you are raised from the sleep of death, Jesus will restore your body and give you eternal life.
So, by God’s grace and mercy, may you always confess the Triune God. May our Triune God bring us to eternal life.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.