The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Today is all about Jesus! I know some of you will be quick to disagree. After all, today is Holy Trinity Sunday. Out of all the days in the Church year, today is the day we especially focus on all three persons of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We even confess our faith using the words of a different creed than what we’re used to: the very long and redundant Athanasian Creed, with all those “the Father is, the Son is, the Holy Spirit is” statements. All about Jesus? Yes…but not today.
Well…that’s where you’re wrong, and the words of Jesus Himself in John’s Gospel make this clear (as do the words of the Athanasian Creed), and—fair warning—some of you may be offended by what you’re about to hear. “God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I know you were expecting something more scandalous and appalling. Sorry to disappoint you.
Okay…so now the big question: Why would I say this is so scandalous and offensive? Well…it’s all about Jesus! In fact, it’s all about Jesus to the point that it excludes everything and everyone else. If you don’t believe in Jesus and His all-redeeming death and resurrection, then you will perish. You will not enjoy everlasting life, but will only know everlasting death. Eternal salvation is found only in the work/person of Jesus Christ, God’s only-begotten Son.
Now, you need to think about what this means. First off, in terms of the trinity—the triune Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—this is how they work salvation. For anyone who takes issue with the exclusivity of Christ alone, you’re argument isn’t with me or the Church, but with Almighty God. This is how our triune God works. The Father sends His only-begotten Son—the Word of God made flesh—to die for the sins of all mankind. The Holy Spirit, working in and through God’s means of grace (Word and Sacrament) opens the heart, mind, and soul of a person so that they may hear this Good News and hold fast to it in faith. Right there in John 3:16 you can see the whole trinity at work for the purpose of your salvation. This is how God works. It’s all about Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Talk about exclusive! This, too, has implications. While everyone here will agree with this statement of Christ regarding coming to the Father through Him and Him alone (Duh! Who would disagree?!), there is truth here that tends to smoke out inconsistencies and errors in our faith. Just consider the popular sentiment (which I’ve even heard around here a time or two): “Jews and Muslims worship the same God of the Old Testament that we do.” No, they don’t. Yahweh—the Lord God—is the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). This is true of the Old Testament. It’s true of the New Testament. It’s true before the world was formed. It will be true into all eternity. There has ALWAYS been the trinity, and the plan of this Triune God—from before the foundation of the world (as Scripture repeatedly attests to)—was to send the only-begotten Son to die for the sins of the world; that is, to make full and complete payment with His own lifeblood for the sins of each and every person for all time.
This means that from before the foundation of the world (Genesis 1), while God was hovering over the face of the deep; before the Word of God spoke all of creation into existence (the same Word who would later become flesh and live and die and rise again for all the children of Adam); before Adam was even made and the Triune God was still dialoguing with Himself, “Let us make man in our image;” before all this the Triune God’s plan of salvation was already in place; the plan of salvation through faith alone (which is a God-given gift and working of the Holy Spirit) in the heavenly Father’s grace alone, which He freely bestows upon us because of the all-redeeming work and person of Jesus Christ alone.
This being the case, this also means that no one has ever rightly worshipped (or even properly known) God apart from this Triune reality; a reality that is focused on God’s only-begotten Son and Gospel promise in the flesh—Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself makes this clear with the Jews in His day. “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him.” Jesus Himself tells the Jews that they aren’t worshipping the one true God; the God of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, David, and Isaiah. Beginning with Adam and Eve, the focus has always been on God’s Gospel promise—the Messiah. All those faithful ones in the Old Testament held fast to God’s promise, looking forward in faith to the coming Messiah. The only difference between us and them is that we look back to this same Messiah, who’s already come and fulfilled His Father’s plan of redemption. They looked forward in faith. We look back in faith. The focus is and always has been on Christ.
The words of the Athanasian Creed clearly confess this. “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic/universal faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally.” Then we hear all those realities about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, particularly focusing on the humanity and divinity of Jesus and His all-redeeming death and resurrection. “This is the catholic faith; whoever does not believe it faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.” Unless you worship the triune God of Holy Scripture; the triune God confessed/professed in this creed, you do NOT worship the God of salvation. It’s that simple.
The reason I tell you all this isn’t to show how terrible and hell-bound everyone else is, but to show you how truly blessed you are. This isn’t meant to be hateful and divisive, but to speak the truth and show you how, by God’s grace, you have been included into His heavenly family. By God’s pure grace you have this saving faith. Through the working of His Holy Spirit, you have heard the Word and Promise of how your heavenly Father sent His only-begotten Son to live, die, and rise again for you. You have heard, and through the working of the Holy Spirit, you believe. You hold fast to this blessed Truth. Through the working of this same Holy Spirit, you are able to recognize the fact that the heavenly Father continues to send His only-begotten Son to you for your peace, your joy, your salvation. The Word and Gospel promise of God still comes to us today in His Word and His Sacraments to absolve us and give us His forgiving peace, to bring His victories over sin, death, and the grave to us by baptizing us into His death and resurrection, to feed us and nourish us with His victorious body and blood. Through the eyes and ears of saving faith, we recognize and hold fast to these blessed heaven-sent, Christ-centered realities.
Yes, there are still lots of people who are outside this Christ-centered joy and peace. That’s just a sad and tragic fact. But…our almighty and triune God desires the death of no one. Our almighty and triune God desires that no one be excluded. This is also why I share all this with you. Faith comes through hearing; hearing the Word of Christ. We preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block for Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but the power of salvation to all who believe. But…how can they believe if they have not heard?
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ: You have the Truth; the power of salvation for all who believe. May God grant you the strength and the courage to confess and profess this Christological Truth to every child of Adam; to every man, woman, and child our Lord loved enough to die for. May He grant you the peace that comes with trusting in the fact that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him. Think about that for a moment. The Almighty Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is working all things for you and through you. If God be for you, who can be against you? If God is with you, what’s the worst that anyone can ever do to you? Make you go home to heaven to be with Him? That’s all you got?!
May this peace of God; the peace of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the very same triune name that He Himself has put upon your head and your heart marking you as one of His children; one redeemed in Christ the Lord; may this peace be and remain with you now and into all eternity.
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