Eight passages on the Trinity
Today is Trinity
Sunday in the life of the Church and therefore I am going to preach
a sermon on the doctrine of the Trinity. I don’t preach a
doctrinal sermon that often. For you who are “first time
visitors,” I want you to know that this is not a “normal”
Sunday morning sermon. Rather, today’s sermon is a doctrinal
sermon about the Trinity.
In the life of the
Church, we have special Sundays. These special Sundays are intended
to remember specific historic events in the life of Christ.
Such as Easter Sunday which remembers the resurrection of Jesus.
Such as Pentecost Sunday which remembers when the Holy Spirit came
and lived within the first Christians. But today is the only Sunday
in the year which is dedicated to a doctrine, the doctrine of the
By Trinity, we mean
to say that God is three in one. That is, there is 1) God the
Father, 2) God the Son and 3) God the Holy Spirit. God is fully God
when God created and still creates the universe. God is fully God
when God lived and still lives in the presence of Jesus. God is
fully God when God lived and still lives in the presence of the Holy
Spirit who lives in our hearts today. These are not three gods but
one God who has three different persona or three different
dimensions or three different qualities. That is what the sermon for
today is about. The sermon for today is about the Trinity.
The Trinity is a
very important doctrine. That is, all traditional worship services
in all mainline denominations begin with the Trinitarian formula.
The worship services begin with these sacred words: “Let us begin
this service in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.” As those words are spoken, the priest or pastor makes the
sign of the cross. Similarly, all worship services in the mainline
denominations conclude with the same ancient formula, “In
the name of the Father and on the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.” For twenty centuries, worship services have begun and ended
in the name of the Triune God.
Also, life itself
also begins and ends with those sacred words of the Trinitarian
formula, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is, at baptism of
infants. People come up to the altar and the new baby is baptized
with the sacred words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father,
and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” And at the end of life when you
die and they put your casket into the ground or your ashes into a
vault, those sacred words are spoken again. “Earth to earth, ashes
to ashes and dust to dust, in sure and certain hope in our Lord
Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Amen.” The sign of the cross is made as the sacred words are said.
In other words, life begins with baptism in the name of the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit and ends at your grave in the name of the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These words are bookends for
the beginning and ending of our lives here on earth.
The doctrine of the
Trinity is also written into the constitution of Grace Lutheran
Church. If you examine the constitution of this congregation,
Article 1, you will read the words, “We believe in the Triune
God.” The Trinitarian formula is also written into the Augsburg
Confession, a foundational document of the Lutheran Church. What is
Article 1 in the Augsburg Confession? Not article two, ten or
twenty. What is the first article in the Augsburg Confession?
“We believe in the Triune God.” We believe in God the Father,
God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. That God is fully Father, that
God is fully Son, that God is fully Spirit.
We are a
Trinitarian Church and that is what I would like to talk about
today. The Trinity is one of the most important doctrines of the
Now, there are a
lot of people today who don’t have much time for doctrine. Such
people are often into spirituality. They like phrases
such as “I am
a spiritual person. I have a spiritual relationship with Jesus
Christ. I believe in Jesus and that is enough for me. I don’t need
Such attitudes of
spirituality without doctrine are not wise. For example, every car
has a chassis. What is a car without a chassis? You have to have a
chassis to on which to put the fenders, the engine and wheels. You
need to have something which holds the whole car together and that
is the chassis.
Or, what is my body
without a skeleton? Without a skeleton, the knees would be flopping
around along with the legs and arms. You need to have a skeleton
within the human body for that human body to stand up on its own two
feet and legs.
Or, what is a fish
without a backbone? We all know what it is. It is a jellyfish. A
jellyfish has no backbone. That is what a lot of Christians are:
they are spiritual jellyfish. They are “a blob of spirituality, a
blob of me and Jesus, a blob of inner spirituality. I am a spiritual
person and that doctrine stuff is not very important to me.”
I believe that
doctrine is like a chassis which holds the car together. I believe
that doctrine is like the skeleton within the human body that holds
the body together and allows us to stand up. I believe that doctrine
is like the backbone of a fish and that inner backbone gives the
fish strength. So it is with doctrine. Doctrine gives our Christian
faith an inner strength and holds the different parts of our beliefs
Today’s sermon is
a teaching sermon. I would first like to review what the Bible
teaches about the Trinity. I would then like to look at what church
history teaches about the Trinity. Lastly, I would like to look at
some contemporary analogies about the Trinity. This is a longer
sermon today but I know that you can handle it.
If you would open
your bulletin and we will examine the Scriptures about the Trinity.
The teachings about the Trinity grow out of the Scriptures. The
word, “trinity” does not occur in the Bible. The word,
“trinity,” come from church history, from about the year 200 CE.
The word, “trinity,” comes from a Latin word, “trinitas.”
The word, “trinity,” does not occur in the Bible, but the
concept of the Trinity does.
twenty-three Bible verses about the Trinity in the New Testament. In
your bulletin insert, I have chosen to focus on a few of them.
The first reading
is from II Corinthians 13:13. “The grace
of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God (the Father), and the
communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
All three Trinitarian words are there in that Bible verse:
Son, Father and Holy Spirit. Let us look at each part of the Bible
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace means gift, God’s free gift
of forgiveness to us. Grace is Jesus dying on the cross to forgive
us our many sins. God’s forgiveness for our sins is free but not
free for Christ. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins when he was
nailed to the cross and suffered unbearable pain for us. His love
and forgiveness for us has been freely given. Grace means freely
given. Like the rain. Like the sunshine. God gives you his gifts
freely. You do nothing to deserve rain, sunshine or forgiveness.
is always called Lord. In the Old Testament, there are two words for
God. There is the word, “God.” And then there is the word,
“Lord.” In the Old Testament, you could say that the Lord made
the heavens and the earth or you could say that God made the heavens
and the earth. When you say the word, “Lord,” you mean
“God.” Throughout the whole New Testament, Jesus is consistently
referred to as “Lord.” When the New Testament writers put the
name, “Lord” by the name of Jesus, it meant that Jesus was God.
The Lord Jesus Christ also meant God Jesus Christ.
next phrase is, “the love of God.” We could add, “God, the
Father.” We hear about the love of God the Father. Now, usually
when people think about God, they think about intelligence,
brilliance, conceptuality. But the Bible does not focus on these
attributes of God. Instead, the Bible focuses on the love of God the
Father. Parents understand the following words: “I deeply love my
children and grandchildren. There is no doubt about that. I love my
children and my grandchildren so deeply, and so does God the
heavenly Father love you and me. We are children who belong to God.
In the same ways that I love my children and grandchildren is the
same way that God loves each one of us. Except that God’s love for
us is multiplied by a billion. We are not talking about
infinite intelligence. We are not talking about infinite
brilliance. We are talking about infinite love. We are
talking about the God who created the heavens and the earth and the
stars and the endless reaches of the universe is also that God who
loves you and me endlessly as a father loves a child.
next phrase is, “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” It is our
belief that the same God who created the heavens and the earth is
the same God who died in the person of Jesus and freely forgave us
all of our sins is that the same God is present right now inside of
your heart and inside of the hearts of this congregation. It is all
the same God. The same God who was present at the creation of the
universe is the same God who was crucified in the body of our Lord
Jesus Christ is the same God who is present within the Christian
community. This is not a lesser God who is present this morning in
our community. This is not a lesser experience of God here within
this church. This is not a secondary experience with God here in our
worship service right now. The living God who is living inside this
congregation today and living inside of your hearts is the same God
who created the heavens and the earth and is the same God who was
living inside of the body of Jesus.
examine your bulletin insert and look at the second Bible verse. “4Now
there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and
there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6and
there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who
activates all of them in everyone.” I Corinthians 12:4-6. Focus on
the italicized words. The same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God.
These are three references to God the Son, God the Father and God
the Holy Spirit.
examine the next Bible verse and the oneness of God. We are not
talking about three gods but one God. “There is one body and one
Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,
Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one
God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6.
Underline or circle the italicized words. One Spirit. One Lord. One
God and Father of all.
examine the next Bible verse. “Go therefore and make disciples of
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the
Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19. This is an obvious
reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptisms are to be
done in the name of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
all of these passages, we don’t hear the word, “trinity,” but
these Biblical passages consistently referred to God the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit. The word “trinity” is a short hand formula
for Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Now, let us look
at our bulletin insert at the four Bible verses and all four verses
are from the Gospel of John. The Apostle John is convinced that we
can use the words, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, interchangeably. Let
me illustrate. Jesus was talking to his disciples and said that he
was going to heaven. He said, “I am going to send my Holy Spirit
and my Holy Spirit will live in you.” Then he also says, “In the
future I am going to come and live in you.” And then he says,
“The Father is going to come and live in you.” Now, who is going
to come and live in you in the future? Is the Father going to come
and live in you or is Jesus, the Son, going to come and live in you
or is the Holy Spirit going to come and live in you? We discover
that the Apostle John uses the words, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
look at the first verse from John 14:23. “23Jesus
answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my
Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our
home with them.” Now, who is going to come? Is Jesus going to come
and live in you? Is the Holy Spirit going to come and live in you?
Is God the Father going to come and live in you?
look at the next verse in your insert. “When the Advocate/Counselor
comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit
of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my
behalf.” John 15:26. What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit, the
Spirit of truth? The Holy Spirit will testify on behalf of Jesus and
convince us of the true identify of Jesus, that he is the Son of
look at the next verse. “And I will ask the Father, and he
will give you another Advocate/Counselor, to be with you
is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,
because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he
abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you
orphaned; I am coming to you.” John 14:16-18. Now, who is
going to come and be in you? The Father? The Son? The Holy Spirit? I
ask you another question: who is in you today? Is it God the Father
the creator of the heavens and the earth who is inside of you? Is it
God the Son inside of you? Is it God the Spirit who is inside of
you? Who is inside of you today? It is all of them. It is one God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
the Bible study portion of the sermon for today. These Bible
passages were all written down by the year 100 CE. We now walk
forward one hundred years to the time of Tertullian. This is the
second portion of the sermon. We will focus on early Church history
and the three ancient major creeds of the church. We will begin by
listening to a man by the name of Tertullian.
lived from the year 150 to 220 CE. He lived in the city of Carthage
which was in North Africa. Tertullian was a very brilliant lawyer
and he was converted in his adulthood to Christ and Christianity. He
was converted by none other than Augustine, the greatest of the
early church leaders.
we need to set the historical background. In the year 323 BCE, there
was a great man by the name of Alexander the Great. Alexander the
Great conquered the whole known western world and the western world
started to speak Greek. Our New Testament was written down in Greek.
Why was the New Testament written down in Greek? Because the whole
western world at that time was speaking Greek. Why did the whole
world speak Greek? Because Alexander the Great conquered the whole
western world in 323 BCE and the Greek language was used throughout
his whole empire. But empires always rise and fall, and the Greek
empire started to fall. The Greeks started to lose power. A new
government, a new culture and a new civilization began to rise. It
was the Roman Empire. And what was the language of the Roman Empire?
now we have people starting to translate the Bible from Greek to
Latin. The first famous person to start to think and write in Latin
was a man by the name of Tertullian. Tertullian gave us important
words. Tertullian gave us the word, “persona,” that God is three
different persona or auras of personhood. Tertullian said that God
had the persona of the Father, the persona of the Son and the
persona of the Spirit. People have personas and so does God. A
persona is a quality of personhood, an aura, an ambience. Tertullian
also gave us the word, “trinitas.”
We don’t have the word, “trinitas,” in the Bible.
“Trinitas” was a Latin word that was used one hundred years
after the Bible was written in Greek. Tertullian also gave us the
word, “sacramentum.” “Sacramentum”
means mystery. That Jesus was present in the bread and wine was a
mystery that could not be intellectually fathomed. That God had
three persona, three dimensions, three auras; this too could not be
intellectually fathomed. This too was a mystery. Tertullian also
gave us the Latin word, “substantia.” That means that God the
Son and God the Father were of the same substance. The man,
Tertullian, in the year 220 CE, was enormously influential on the
language of the church for the next thousand years when Latin
reigned as the primary language of the Gospels and the western
let us briefly examine the three ancient creeds of the church and
these ancient creeds are all Trinitarian. You need to remember this:
the first three creeds of the ancient church were all Trinitarian. I
would like you to turn to page 84 in your green Lutheran hymnals.
You see the Apostle’s Creed. This creed is called the Apostle’s
Creed, not because the twelve Apostle’s wrote it, but because this
creed was named after the Apostles. The Apostle’s Creed was the
baptismal creed of the church. For nineteen hundred years of church
history, every time there was a baptism, the church members recited
the Apostle’s Creed. When we have a baptism in our church, at our
traditional worship, we always say the Apostle’s Creed. Look at
the Apostle’s Creed. “I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.” “I believe in Jesus Christ his
only Son our Lord.” Then the third article. “I believe in the
Holy Spirit.” This is a Trinitarian Creed.
go to the left page. This is the Nicene Creed. This creed was
written in the year 325 CE. Let me explain this. There was a man by
the name of Constantine who was the emperor of the Roman Empire.
Constantine was enormously influential on western history.
Constantine was the emperor who insisted that you had to be a
Christian to be part of his empire. He also allowed the church to
own property and the church became very wealthy. Constantine also
said that clergy should be except from serving in the military and
since that time, clergy have been exempt from the military service.
this time of Constantine, there were two men by the names of
Athanasius and Arius. Athanasius said that the God who created the
heavens and the earth became a real live human being in the person
of Jesus. Jesus was fully human and fully God at the same time. But
Arias said. “O no. This human body that suffered and died on the
cross could not be fully God. God would never allow himself to
suffer so immeasurably. A God, who is fully God, would never allow
himself to be crucified. Jesus was a kind of God but was not
fully God.” So Arius and Athanasius had this big debate. The
results of this debate are found on page 384. “We believe in one
God, the Father, the almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all
that is, seen and unseen.” Closely look at the next lines: “We
believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally
begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God of
true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father (of one
substance with the Father). Through him, all things were made, for
us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven by the power of
the Spirit and was made man.” When you read these lines about
Christ, you know that the early church believed that Jesus Christ
was fully God. … That was the argument. There were many people who
were saying that Jesus Christ was not fully God. That was a huge
theological argument in those days.
a footnote, Martin Luther said that
the authors of these creeds were like honey bees who went to
different flowers to get honey from each of them. Similarly, the
people who wrote these creeds went to different places in the
Scriptures and took many phrases from many different places in the
Bible and constructed a creed based on these Biblical phrases.
Please turn to
page 54. This is the Athanasian Creed, the third great creed of the
ancient church. All the mainline churches believed that the Bible is
the inspired and authoritative Word of God for us. In addition to
that, we mainline Christians believe in three creeds: The
Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. All
three of these creeds are part of the constitution of our
congregation as they are part of all Roman Catholic churches, all
Episcopalian churches, all Presbyterian churches, all Methodist
churches, etc. These are all creedal churches and creedal
denominations. These denominations believe in the inspired and
authoritative Word of God and also in the truth that is expressed in
the three major creeds.
the creed on page 54, the Athanasian Creed. This creed was not written
by Athanasias but was named after him. Athanasias could not have
written this creed. Athanasias died three hundred years earlier.
This creed was named after Athanasias who wrote the Nicene Creed.
The argument in this creed was whether or not the Holy Spirit was
fully God e.g. whether or not the God who lives in you right now is
fully God. This creed confesses that the same God who created the
heavens and the earth and the same God who lived in the body, heart
and mind of Jesus is the same God who is fully present in the Holy
Spirit. At this point in history, the argument was between Rome and
Constantinople and you have the beginning of the Greek Orthodox
Church. The issue is whether or not the Holy Spirit was as fully as
God the Father and God the Son. This became the division between the
Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Church. In this Athanasian
Creed, it says very clearly that the Holy Spirit is fully God.
are a Trinitarian Church. We believe that God is the creator of the
universe and it still creating today. We believe that God was fully
present in the person of Jesus Christ. We also believe that the Holy
Spirit is also fully God.
one of the sermon: we studied passages from the Bible about the
Trinity. Point two of the sermon: we studied the three earliest
creeds of the Church and these creeds are all Trinitarian. Point
three of the sermon: we are going to briefly examine analogies about
the Trinity and these analogies are helpful.
first analogy is from Dorothy Sayers. Dorothy Sayers is a Christian
theologian and she wrote the book, THE MIND OF THE MAKER. Would you
all think of the play, HAMLET by Shakespeare? (Or any play for that
matter.) Sayers said that the play was first in the mind of
Shakespeare. Then, secondly, Shakespeare wrote it down on paper.
Then, thirdly, the play was acted out on stage. Now, which of those
three expressions are the play HAMLET? In the mind? On the paper?
Acted out on stage? All three expressions are HAMLET. These are
three different expressions of the same Hamlet. She said that is the
way of God in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
All three expressions are fully God.
using the argument and language of Tertullian from 220 CE, he said
that there are three persona to the presence of God. Let me apply
this analogy to myself. I have several different persona or roles.
That is, you know me primarily as Ed Markquart, the pastor. There is
a certain persona to that. You know me as a person who preaches,
teaches, cares for you, counsels you, am a friend to you, a leader
of this congregation. Essentially, when you know me, you know me as
Ed Markquart, the pastor. There is several other dimensions to me
that you don’t know about. I am a husband to my wife Jan and we
have been happily married for a long, long time. We have an
emotional and physical intimacy that you may think you know about,
but you really don’t. Our relationship is between the two of us,
and you are not part of the core of our feelings towards each other.
You can observe our relationship, but the intimacies of that
relationship are known only to the two of us. My wife and I share an
intimacy that none of you are a part of. We have a knowledge of each
other and you do not share in that knowledge. I am a husband to my
wife. A third part of me that you really don’t know is “little
Eddie Markquart from Jackson, Minnesota.” Now, I tell all kinds of
apocryphal legends about Jackson, Minnesota. Some of those legends
are true and some of them aren’t. I don’t know where fact and
fiction begin and end with some of those stories. I have told those
stories so often that I actually begin to believe some of the
legendary aspects of them. You know the legends but you don’t know
the stories as my mother and father, brother and sisters and aunts
and uncles and cousins know those stories. These people know Eddie
Markquart from Jackson, Minnesota, but you don’t. There is a child
inside of me that you will never know. All in all, there is a
wonderful complexity to me as a human being, and to you also. There
is the persona of a pastor. There is the persona of a husband. There
is a persona of a child. To know me in all my complexity and
fullness is to know me in all my personas.
so it is with God. To know God in all of God’s wonderful
complexity and persona, you need to know God the Creator who at the
same time is the loving Father. You need to know God the Son who
loved you so much that he died on the cross to forgive us our sins.
You need to know God the Holy Spirit who is in you at this moment.
It is only when you know the full persona of God that you know God.
Luther knew that the truth of the Triune God was based on revelation
and not reason. Let me give you an illustration of this. I am going
to ask you to do something which is impossible for you to do. Would
you imagine that there has never been any Christianity? There has
never been any Christianity and there has been no Jesus Christ. In
that situation, what do you believe about God? There is no
Christianity. There is no Bible. There are no creeds. What do you
believe about God? You answer, “Well, there must be something that
began it all. That something that began it all must be
incredibly large. That something that began it all must be
incredibly intelligent. That something that began it all must
have a mind of beauty because there are so many beautiful things in
creation. There is a sense of mystery to it all.” So these are the
conclusions that your mind in all of its intelligence can
come to about God.
based on the revelation in the Scriptures, you come to the differing
conclusions about God: The God who created the heavens and earth is
the God who loves you infinitely more than any earthly father or
mother. You don’t come to such conclusions by your reason,
intellect or brain. You don’t find such conclusions about God in
your brain. You discover those conclusions through the revelation in
Scripture. Similarly, that God loves you so much that he was willing
to suffer and die for you on the cross, you don’t find that truth
by your reason or intellect but you find it in the revelation in the
Scriptures. That this God is fully present in your heart and my
heart and is with us this day, such truth is not discovered in
one’s own brain but is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. We
find the truth about God and the truth about the Trinity, not
through reason, but through revelation.
this has been an exceptionally long sermon, but it is now finished.
Thanks for listening so long. We conclude with the Trinitarian
benediction: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love
of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, on
this day and forevermore. Amen.”
Bible Readings about the Trinity.
Lord, God and Holy Spirit:
13The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love
of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all
4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same
there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6
and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who
activates all of them in everyone. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you
were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one
Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of
all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)
Congregation: 19 Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
23 Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep
my word, and my Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our home with
them. (John 14:23)
Congregation: 26 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the
Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he
will testify on my behalf. (John 15:26)
20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and
you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)
16 I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you
forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the
world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You
know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 18
I will not leave you orphaned; I will come to you. (John
SERMON. Today, kids, we are going to look at our altar and see the
messages that are in the art work on the altar. First notice the
carving of Jesus and that there are five crosses in that carving
(feet, hands, side) and these represent the five wounds of Christ.
That statue symbolizes God the Son. Second, notice the carving of
the Holy Spirit. Notice the wings of the dove and the wings look
like fire. The second carving represents the Holy Spirit. Third,
notice the stained glass window above the altar and what do you see?
You see a sun, several moons, five stars, and rays of light. The
stained glass window says that God created the heavens and the
earth. The window represents God, the Creator. So up in front of the
church, we see art work that says that God is the Father (creator),
God is the Son, and God is the Holy Spirit. God, Father, Son and
Holy Spirit, the Trinity.