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Archive for the ‘Trinity’ Category

Isaiah 40:25-28

trinitysealI was watching a movie this week and there was a scene where a priest was catechizing the children of his Church and he asked them to name the persons of the Holy Trinity.  One child said, “the Father,” and another child said, “the Son,” and another child said “the Holy Ghost.”  The priest said, “Very good, here are some prizes for you.”  Then he asked, “So how Gods are there,” and the children said, “Three.”  The priest said, “Give me back those prizes.”  It does seem logical that after you have said the names of the Trinity, and believing that each one of those persons is God, to think that we believe in three Gods.  Of all the great mysteries of the Christian, perhaps the one that seems the most difficult to understand is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.  We believe in God, and yet we believe that there are three persons who are God.  The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, but yet, as we just confessed in the Athanasian Creed, there are not three Gods.  We are not tri-theists. 

For some people, the doctrine of the Blessed Holy Trinity presents a major stumbling block. Three can’t be one.  One can’t be Three.  As Mr. Spock on Star Trek would say, “Illogical.  Totally.”  So, we try to provide various analogies to show it is not illogical to believe in the Trinity.  We say that water can be a solid, liquid, and a gas.  We try to explain it in terms of relationship, that I can be a husband, a father, and a grandfather all at the same time.  Like St. Patrick, we can hold up a shamrock and say that the shamrock has three petals, but it is one shamrock.  Or we could say, the Trinity is like an egg, there is the shell, the yolk, and the white, but it is one egg.  On and on we could go with the various analogies, but in the final analysis we say that nothing really describes the Trinity perfectly.  All analogies and explanations fall short.  But just because our analogies and explanations fall short does not mean that doctrine of the Trinity is false.  After all, didn’t the Lord say in our text, “To whom shall ye liken me.”  In Isaiah 46:5, he asks the question again,

“To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?”

You can’t say, God is like this, and then feel that you have thoroughly explained the nature and character of God.  Of course, as we go through Scripture, God is compared to various things to give us some glimpse into what he is like, but Isaiah 46:5 reminds us that  when we have done our best, drawing all of our analogies from the world, there is nothing, no explanation that we can give that will adequately and exhaustively describe God.  The idea that we cannot fully understand all there is to know about God is what the theologians refer to often as “the incomprehensibility of God.”  We just confessed it a moment ago when we recited the Athanasian Creed that not only is the Trinity incomprehensible, but that each person of the Holy Trinity is incomprehensible.  This is not to say that we know nothing of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  We know a great deal about them as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.  But since each person of the Trinity is God, each person is infinite, unlimited, and therefore, the human mind could never come close to understanding all that there is to know about each person of the Trinity.

With God’s incomprehensibility in mind, why would anyone refuse to believe in the Trinity just because they can’t fully understand it?  We constantly admit that there are subjects about which we will never understand everything.   When I was studying for my Ph.D. in English, we often discussed how it would be humanly impossible to read every book, every article that has ever been written on Shakespeare and his plays.  One could probably read everything that has ever been written on a single play such as Macbeth or Hamlet.   Then, if we move to the sciences, could you exhaustively understand everything that there is to know about the physical phenomena in the world.  For example, let us take just one little flower.  Could you ever completely understand everything that there is to know about this one single flower?  How many cells make up a flower?  To understand every single thing about a flower, you would have to know everything there is to know about chemistry, biology, physics.  You would have to know everything there is to know about vacuoles, tonoplasts, molecules, atoms, sap, protein, cell walls, cellulose, pectin, protoplasts, plasmodesmata, endoplasm, chloroplasts, chlorophyll, pigments, photosynthesis, and I haven’t even scratched the surface yet.  

But let’s go beyond one single little flower, and let us see if you could understand everything that is happening right now throughout the universe.  Could you ever understand everything that is happening, everything that there is to know, about this planet on which we live?  Every planet in our solar system.  Every galaxy.  Every star in every galaxy.  Of course, it is too ridiculous to even contemplate such a thing isn’t it?  Could you ever understand all the laws of physics and say that you know everything there is to know about the universe and how it works?  We are making constant strides in our knowledge of physics, but if man could survive another 100,000 years and advance incredibly in his knowledge of all the sciences, his knowledge of how God moves and works would still be only like a grain of sand compared to all the mountains of the world.  Think of it, God is the one who made the universe, all the galaxies, all the stars, all the planets, every single molecule, atom, proton, neutron, and electron, and has perfect knowledge of what is happening in this entire universe down to its subatomic levels.  And you think you can wrap your tiny pea brain around God?  You have the audacity to say you will not believe certain things about God because you cannot fully understand them?  No, when we say that don’t believe in doctrines such as the Trinity because we can’t understand them, what we are saying in fact is that we do not want to believe them. 

The Christian doesn’t refuse to believe when he encounters things he cannot understand about God.  Rather, the Christian worships and bows in humility before such a God.  After all, the Apostle Paul said in Romans 11:33, 

“how unsearchable are his judgments, and his was past find out!”

In Isaiah 40:28 we read

“there is not searching of his understanding.”

The Psalmist said in Psalm 145:3,

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praise; and his greatness is unsearchable.”

The Lord tells us in Isa. 55:8-9,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Puny, arrogant man, thinks that he can question this God, thinks that with all his scientific knowledge he can explain the ways of God, thinks one day, if he does believe in God, he will be able to explain him completely in terms of scientific knowledge.  What arrogance!  What sinful pride!  Don’t misunderstand me.  I am all for scientific knowledge.  Let us make all the advances in the sciences that we can make, but let us also realize that when we will have exhausted ourselves in making these advances, we will have not even begun to understand a fraction of all that there is to understand about God.

This truth is not a cause of unbelief or even frustration.  Rather, it is a cause for praise.  We should be joyful that God is incomprehensible?  Would he be worthy of our worship if he were not?  In Romans 11:33 Paul is not sad that his judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out.  Paul rejoices in that.  The Psalmist is rejoicing, singing, when he says,

“He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies” (Ps. 18:11). 

When the Psalmist writes about God dwelling in darkness, he doesn’t mean that God has revealed nothing about himself.  After all the Scripture tells us, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.  But when the Psalmist speaks of God dwelling in the dark waters and the thick clouds, he is reminding us that there are things about God which are always going to be incomprehensible to us, and we rejoice that it is so.

This incomprehensibility of God should be of great comfort to us in all our trials of life.  Whenever things do not go the way we would wish them to go in our lives, we often question God, we sometimes even doubt his existence.  How could a loving, good, and merciful God allow such a thing to happen, especially to me?  Remember when all of those terrible things happened to Job, that Job wanted an explanation.  What was the only explanation that Job received?  The only explanation that Job received was that God is incomprehensible.    Some of things that Job’s friends told Job were wrong.  They were wrong in saying that Job was suffering because of his sin.  But they were write in one thing—and that was that God is incomprehensible.    Zophar tells Job,

“Canst thou by searching find out God?  Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?  It is as high as heaven; what cast thou do  deeper than hell; what cast thou know?” (Job 11:7-8). 

Elihu tells Job,

“Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out:  he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice he will not afflict.  Men do therefore fear him:  he respecteth not any that are wise of heart.”

When God finally appears to Job, it is this truth that God reveals to Job, and Job finally realizes that God needs to offer no explanation of his dealings with men.  We must simply admit that his ways are past finding out, and that we must simply bow before him and worship him.  We must simply realize that God is holy and just, and that no matter what may happen to us, he has a wise and holy purpose in it, though it may be, and probably is, totally incomprehensible to us.  We simply bow before his incomprehensibility.  This is where the peace that passes all understanding comes from.  Each Sunday, I give you the blessing,

“Now the peace of God which passes all understanding.”

How do we arrive at this peace that passes all understanding?  We find this peace by submitting to the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth who passes all understanding.

But one of the things we celebrate on this Trinity Sunday is that this incomprehensible God, this incomprehensible Holy Trinity, has condescended to redeem us from our sins.  In I Peter 1:2, the apostle tells us that we are

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling by the blood of Jesus Christ.”

There we saw all three persons of the blessed Holy Trinity involved in our salvation.  God the Father chose us to be his people.  Our Lord Jesus Christ shed his blood for us, sprinkled us with his blood to cleanse us from all our sins.  The Holy Spirit sanctified us, set us apart to be his special, holy people.  Think of it!   This incomprehensible Trinity, whose thoughts are as high as the heavens above our thoughts, has condescended, stooped, to come into this world of ours and make us his people.  Now that is a truth that is really incomprehensible.  No wonder that the Psalmist said,

“LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!  Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Ps. 144:3-4). 

We are not only vanity, we are sinful vanity.  We are not only nothing.  We are sinful nothings.  And yet, this incomprehensible God who has created the entire universe, and still sustains it moment by moment by the word of his power—this incomprehensible God comes into this world to redeem us.    What incomprehensible love that is!  Everything about God is incomprehensible.  His justice, his power, his wisdom, and everything else about him are incomprehensible, but how incomprehensible is his love!  No wonder that Paul prayed for the Ephesians that they

“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” 

As we look at the elements of Holy Communion today, we are reminded of this incomprehensible love of the Holy Trinity.  How could God the Father love me so much as to give up his only Son for me?  How could the Son love me so much that he would endure all the pain and agony of the cross for a sinful wretch such as I?  How could the Holy Spirit love me so much that he would condescend to live in a heart such as mine to reveal to me the glory and beauty of the dying love of Christ?  This is incomprehensible love. 

This is love that passes knowledge, but a knowledge that we pursue, every day, striving to understand more and more of this love.  Eternity will not be long enough for us to understand all that there is to know of this love.  Throughout eternity, we will grow into a deeper and richer understanding of all the attributes of God, his omniscience, his omnipotence, his glory, his holiness, his justice, and yes, his great love for sinners.  And when we have been there 100 trillion years, with minds freed from sin, contemplating the love of God in Christ Jesus, we will be no nearer to understanding it than on that first day when we stepped into his glorious presence.  Do you understand all there is to know of the Holy Trinity?  NO?  Good.  Of course, you don’t.  The Trinity is incomprehensible.  But what you do understand is enough to keep you humble, praising, worshiping God, for the rest of your lives here in this world, and looking forward to heaven, where we will never cease praising His name as we discover new treasures, new marvels found in the incomprehensible God.  Every Sanctus, every Holy, Holy, Holy we sing in this world is a praise of the Holy Trinity, and is a joining with the saints and angels above as they continually sing the praises of the Trinity, as we saw in our reading the book of Revelation,  and when we die, and enter the courts of heaven, we will still be singing the same song, Holy, Holy, Holy  Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.  

 “Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.”  

 Because of the depth of the riches of his wisdom and knowledge, we will spend all eternity, exploring the depths, mining the endless treasures that we will continually discover in the presence of the Blessed Holy Trinity.  Amen.

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