************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 24-25 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 19, 2010
Q & A 24-25
"One God, Three Persons"
How do you go about explaining the Trinity? To little children? To new believers? Some have looked to nature: they see the Trinity in the three states of water (ice, steam, liquid); others see the Trinity in water, air, and ground; still others point to the sun, moon, and stars. There are others who see the Trinity in the family (father, mother, child). But no matter what example we use, they all break down at a certain point.
Let's start off by admitting the Trinity is what the Bible calls a mystery. In the Bible, a mystery is NOT something mysterious. Rather, a mystery is something we do not know unless it is revealed to us. The mystery of the Trinity needs to be revealed to us by the Word and the Spirit.
I God is One
A Scripture plainly teaches that our God is one. The Catechism tells us that is how God has revealed Himself. In the Ten Commandments God makes clear that He is the one only God that can be worshiped. And, right after the giving of the Law, Moses said, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one" (Deut 6:4). It is this one God we are to bow before.
In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul speaks of oneness. Listen to what he wrote:
(Eph 4:4-6) There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called-- (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism; (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Paul wrote something similar to the church at Corinth:
(1 Cor 8:5-6) For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), (6) yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
There is only one God. God is one.
B The Greeks, Romans, and almost all pagans have a number of gods from which they choose. There is a god of thunder, a god of rain, a god of fertility, a god of the sun, a god of the wind, a god of war, and so on. Before prayer and worship and in times of distress one had to choose from among these different gods and you always ran the chance of appealing to the wrong god. Furthermore, according to myth, these gods were continually at war with one another. Men were thought to be but pawns in their struggles.
The Christian, however, has one God. To this God he flees for refuge. To this God he can safely direct his prayers. Unlike the pagan, the Christian does not have to pick and choose among an army of gods.
We have one God. Our one only God is in control of everything. We don't ever have to worry that we are appealing to the wrong God.
It is vitally important that we remember that our God is one. We do not have one God Who created us, another Who saves us, and a third Who sanctifies us. No, the God Who does all three is one God. And, to this one God we owe tremendous gratitude, thanksgiving, and love.
C There are those who forget or ignore that God is one. I do not think just of pagan polytheists. I also think of those today who say the Father is judgment and the Son is love – these people try to make a division between the mercy and justice of God. But God is one and we cannot start making divisions and separations in God.
Scripture is clear. Our God is one. There is one only God.
II God is Triune
A The Catechism, based upon Scripture, also tells us that our God is triune. There is but one God but He has revealed Himself in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Did you know that the word "Trinity" is not even found in the Bible? Though the term may not be found in Scripture, the teaching certainly is.
Let's start with our Bible reading: the baptism of Jesus. We hear the Father, we see the Son, and the Spirit descends from heaven like a dove. Notice, all three persons of the triune Godhead are present at one and the same time.
Many times we end our time of worship with the same blessing Paul laid upon the church at Corinth:
(2 Cor 13:14) May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.Notice, this blessing comes from all three person of the triune Godhead.
Consider, too, the great commission of Matthew 28. Jesus commands the church:
(Mt 28:19) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ...Notice, baptism is to be done in the name of all three persons of the Godhead.
Do you remember what Jesus said to the paralytic? He said, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." The Jews fumed about this because only God can forgive sins. "This fellow is blaspheming," they said (Mt 9:2-3). It is an understandable anger. If you don't believe in Jesus but are committed to the confession of Deuteronomy 6:4 that "The Lord our God, the Lord is one," then the claims of Christ are intolerable. "You, a mere man, claim to be God," said the Jews (Jn 10:33). But that was exactly Christ's point: He was claiming to be God; more specifically, He was claiming to be the second person of the triune God.
In this light, I want you to consider the second commandment: that we are to worship God alone. Yet, what do we find in worship scene after worship scene in the Revelation? We find the worship of God and we find the worship of Jesus. Meaning what? That Jesus must also be God.
Truly, as the Catechism says, God has revealed Himself in His Word as one God with three distinct persons.
B Just like there are people who deny the oneness of God, so there also are people who deny that God is triune. The Jews, for instance, reject the Trinity. They believe quite strongly that the doctrine of the Trinity denies the Scriptural teaching that God is one.
The Jehovah's Witnesses also reject the doctrine of the Trinity. They claim that this doctrine originated around 2200 B.C. with the demon religions of ancient Babylon, India, and Egypt. Their conclusion is that the doctrine of the Trinity originates with Satan.
It is almost impossible to tabulate all the heresies opposed to the Trinity. It is easy, however, to list three general categories.
The first is Tritheism. This is the belief that there are three gods: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. The Mormons believe in a form of Tritheism. So does the original form of Seventh-Day Adventism.
The second is Arianism. This view states that the Son and the Spirit are less than God and more than man. The J.W.s believe in a form of Arianism.
The third is Modalism. According to this heresy, God reveals Himself in various modes or roles. His first role was Father, then Son, and finally Spirit. God is one person Who keeps changing His appearance just like an actor keeps changing roles or parts. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are different modes rather than three distinct persons. Today, this view is held by Oneness Pentecostalism.
Do you know what these three types of heresies about the Trinity reveal? That people have a hard time believing this doctrine. It appears to be irrational and illogical. The 21st century scientific mind has been trained to believe only that which is rational, logical, and provable. How can we believe there is one God and still maintain that He reveals Himself in three persons? So people rebel against this teaching.
As I said in my introduction, the teaching of the Trinity needs to be revealed to us. Science, philosophy, logic, and mathematics do not give us this teaching. We need to be told this teaching by God. Ultimately, the teaching of the Trinity can be believed only by faith.
III The Trinity and Us
A You may wonder if it is important to believe in the Trinity. Well, keep in mind where we are at in the Catechism. First, the teaching of the Trinity is part of true faith. Second, we are talking about the Apostles' Creed; and, the Apostles' Creed, as the summary of the Gospel, is the content of true faith.
Keeping this in mind, you need to believe the Trinity in order to be saved for it is part of true faith. We will be confessing the Athanasian Creed later in this service. Let me highlight just one article of this Creed: "Anyone then who desires to be saved should think thus about the trinity." To be saved, says the Athanasian Creed, we must believe the Trinity. Not only that, but we must also believe the right things about the Trinity.
In spite of the mystery surrounding the Trinity, in spite of our lack of understanding, even though it may seem illogical and irrational, we must believe this doctrine if we want to be saved.
B As Christians, the doctrine of the Trinity answers three very important and personal questions. The first question: How did I get here? What explains my existence? Who created me? What is my purpose? The answer: God the Father and my creation. This is the God Who is over me.
The second question: How am I saved from my sin? How can I, a sinner, become right with God? How am I released from my bondage to sin? How am I set free from the tyranny of Satan? The answer: God the Son and my deliverance. This is the God Who is with me.
The third question: How do I become like Christ? How can I lead a life that is pleasing to God? How can I say "no" to sin and "yes" to righteousness? How can I become blameless and spotless? The answer: God the Holy Spirit and my sanctification. This is the God Who is in me.
C Did you take note of the songs we are singing tonight? They are all songs of praise to the triune God. The greatest moments of our life are not when we graduate or receive our first pay check or have our first child. The greatest moments of our life are not when we get our driver's license or a new pickup from our parents. The greatest moments of our life are not when we get a place on the team.
I remember the time a father was speaking to me about his daughter's wedding. I was performing the ceremony and he said something that has always stuck with me. I wish I responded to him at that time. This father said to me about his daughter's wedding, "It is the most important moment of her life."NO, it isn't. Absolutely not. The greatest moments of our life are when we spontaneously praise the triune God.
We've been going through Genesis in our morning worship. Do you know why God made us? For His Glory! Well, in worship we are especially doing what God made us to do. So, congregation, praise the triune God. Sing out your heart this evening. Praise Him in the car. Praise Him by the baby's crib. Praise Him in the field and the barn, in the kitchen and in the laundry room. Praise Him in the classroom. Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, praise Him the triune God.
D Think, too, about our prayer life. We pray to God, the Father in heaven. We pray in Jesus' name and it is Jesus who teaches us how to pray. It is the Spirit Who takes our prayers and presents them before the throne of heaven in such a way that they are acceptable to God.
E Think, too, of a typical worship service. We begin with the greeting of the triune God. We baptize in the name of the triune God. We sing to the triune God. We are blessed in the name of the triune God. From beginning to end, our worship is centered on the triune Godhead.
As Scripture says, there is but one God. However, we speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit because that is how God has revealed Himself in His Word – that these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.
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