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“The Holy Trinity,” Matthew 28:16-20

 

Audio

 

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed 5Creedccthem. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

 

In the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Into this Name were you baptized.

Into the Name of the Only true God were you baptized.

Besides this One true God, there is no other.

The true God is One in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God.

God has revealed Himself in this way—Three Persons, yet One God.

What God has made known about Himself through Holy Writ, this we confess, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty…And in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord…  I believe in the Holy Spirit…’

We confess what is common to all Christians, not only on this day called Trinity Sunday, but every Sunday.

It is common to all because all Christians believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.

As confessed in the Augsburg Confession,

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself. (AC, Article 1, Of God)

Christians everywhere believe and confess this, with the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creed, because these expound what Holy Scripture teaches concerning the Godhead.

Believing in Jesus is what saves, this is true, but believing in the Jesus of the Bible means also believing His Word, even where He says, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30), and “Whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37).

The Christ of Scripture cannot be divorced from His Father, by whom He was begotten.

Whoever receives Jesus receives also His Father.

Whoever does not believe in Jesus does not believe in the Father.

“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 Jn. 2:22-23 NKJ).

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. 1:9 NKJ).

This was and is the problem of all who speak of a ‘belief’ in God, but who do not acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son.

You cannot have the One apart from also having the other.

All who claim to have the true God, like Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, they do not have the true God.

They worship a false god, a god of their own making.

They deny the divinity of the Son, thus also the Godhead.

Because they do, their god is false, an idol, not to be feared.

Such words contrast with our world and many in Christendom today who don’t know or don’t really care about the truth because they rather live in their own self-made reality, where they can personally believe what they want, regardless of what the Bible says.

Such is the spirit of our times, as it has always been: to dismiss God’s Word and to follow one’s own ways.

Such a way minimizes the Godhead according to personal opinions.

Such a way sifts through the teaching of the Bible, picking and choosing what is acceptable to the reader and not what is according to what the text actually says.

God speaks differently.

God speaks the truth of man’s waywardness and corrupted hearts and the truth of salvation in Christ.

He Himself reveals what is to be believed and how to live, by faith and not by sight.

In the preaching and in the teaching according to God’s inspired writings, you hear God’s Word to sinners, bringing down because of sin, but lifting up in the light of God’s forgiveness.

The Law of God shows you your sin and how you stand condemned before God because of it.

The Gospel of God shows you your Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, the very same whom we confess as the Son of the Father, who now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty since His ascension into heaven.

On account of Christ, you are no longer under God’s wrath and condemnation.

Christ became the sinner for you, “that” you “might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You are not the one who decides what is the right and the true doctrine.

God alone has this prerogative.

You cannot believe whatever you want to believe or follow whomever you want to follow and still rightly consider yourself a Christian.

The tendency to do this is the leaning of all of our natures since the fall in the garden.

Such inclination to go our own way is not of God.

This is one of the crosses we continue to bear as God’s people, even of our own sinfulness, which would lead us away from God’s goodness and grace.

Denying ourselves, we follow Jesus.

God speaks and teaches only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

This is most certainly not always what we want to hear, but God says what you need to hear, that you might repent and be saved.

Good preaching doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, the sought after ingredient of many-a-hearer.

God says what He says in order that you hear Him, listen to Him, be humbled, and that He lift you up.

The way God leads, the doctrine He gives, the Word He speaks, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper administered are for nothing less than your salvation.

He gives you these that you believe Christ to be your Savior from sin and death and that you continue in this faith, the Christian faith, faith in the Triune God.

Jesus Christ is both God and man, for you, dying your death, crucifying sin, and giving Life, even His own life, that you live in Him and He in you, now and forevermore.

For this reason, for your salvation, Jesus sent His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

Jesus preaches His Word, that you be in the faith of our Lord Jesus and remain in Him to the end.

For your salvation did Christ die and live again.

This is why God the Father sent Him into the world in the first place, that you not perish, but have everlasting life.

God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

This is the truth that the world does not see, first, that it needs salvation; second, that God desires this; and third, how God brings about that salvation, not through man’s work, but through His, through Jesus Christ whom He sent.

The world does not acknowledge that it needs salvation or a Savior.

It is not willing to admit how bad things really are.

We are at a crossroads, literally, with only One to help.

This One is revealed only in the Gospel of Christ.

God reveals this Gospel in His book.

Through Christ, your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God.

This is the ‘how’ of God bringing salvation — through Christ: on the tree, in the tomb; rising from the dead; ascending into heaven; sending His Spirit; preaching His Word; baptizing with water in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; giving body and blood in bread and wine.

Through God’s Christ and by His means, God gives life and salvation.

This life and salvation is God’s desire for all people.

This life and salvation is also the desire of God’s people.

The problem is not that God does not make this or Himself known or that He does not care.

Far from it!

God does care.

God has made Himself known.

God does show forth His mercy to sinful mankind.

Yet, not all believe this.

Not all take God at His Word.

Only those who believe God’s Word will see Christ for who He is: Savior, not Judge; Redeemer, not the one whom we owe; God, apart from whom is no other; the 2nd person of three of the Trinity.

All that we know of God’s salvation in Christ God reveals in Holy Word.

For this purpose was the Bible given, so writes St. John, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, living under the law and fulfilling.

There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Christ, paying the price for our sin with His own death, though He was sinless.

There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Christ, giving His promise through means of Word and Sacrament, giving life where there was only death; giving health where there was only sickness; giving knowledge where there was only ignorance; giving wisdom where there was only foolishness.

There, in the Bible, Jesus reveals Himself to be God’s Son, one with the Father, and one with the Spirit, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Today’s Gospel text from St. Matthew’s points to the Lord’s desire for your salvation, for Jesus Himself says to His disciples before leaving them, “Going (a participle, not an imperative) therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The church is in existence even now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to make disciples, to disciple, by baptizing and teaching.

The Lord Jesus gives His body, the Church, the authority to do so—the authority of God to preach repentance unto sinners, to forgive, to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach.

This is the work of God, the very work that God works through His Church, ushering in new life through His Word, and keeping and sustaining that new life through that same Word.

Where that Word of God is, there God’s Spirit will be, calling by the Gospel, enlightening with His gifts, and sanctifying and keeping in the true faith.

There also will the Triune God be.

Where the Spirit is, there will also be Christ.

Where Christ is, there will also be the Father.

There is no God without the Son.

There is no Spirit apart from the Son.

There is no faith apart from the Spirit.

There is no salvation without faith in the Son.

Where Father, Son, and Spirit are, distinct yet undivided, One God, yet Three Persons, there is salvation, for God the Father Sent His Son to save us from our sins, and the Spirit of truth testifies of the Son (John 15:26).

This we believe, teach, and confess.  Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

Audio

 

 

“Worship in Spirit and in Truth,” John 4:5-30, 39-42

 

5[Jesus] came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

      7There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jesus & Samaritan Woman at well 2Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

      16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

      27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30They went out of the town and were coming to him. . .

      39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

It is truly extraordinary that our God came in the likeness of sinful man.

He became flesh and blood to take your place under the law in order to redeem you from the curse of the law (Galatians 4:5).

You don’t ascend to Him.

He comes to you.

He comes to you in such a way that you can even approach Him.

It was this way for the woman in our text.

At first, she didn’t recognize the identity of our Lord.

She didn’t recognize Him because He didn’t look like anything spectacular.

He looked like a Jewish man of that time, because that’s what He was.

Jesus is also God, but not God revealed in His glory-God concealed in humanity.

You couldn’t tell that Jesus was God just by looking at Him, even as you can’t tell that Jesus is here present, but by His Word.

The woman thought Jesus was just like any other Jew.

Jesus was indeed a man, with all the physical needs that are also our own.

We need to eat.  We need to drink.  We need sleep.

Jesus too experienced these bodily necessities.  “He humbled Himself…taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus asked the woman for water with the intention of directing her to things eternal, not only to things temporal.

As He spoke to her about “living water,” she didn’t get it.

Like with Nicodemus before (John 3), He had told her earthly things, and because she didn’t get those things, she wouldn’t understand as He told her spiritual things.

She continued seeking earthly kinds of things and not the heavenly, even though Jesus sought to draw her attention to matters of eternal significance and away from things temporal.

Jesus is this way with us, too.

We are yet in the flesh.

How often we set our minds on things of the earth and neglect the heavenly things promised in Christ! (Colossians 3:1-2)

We fret and worry about life’s circumstances.

We not only fail to see God’s Word and promises right before our eyes.  We demonstrate lack of confidence and faith in what our Lord has said, even seeking comfort and help from that which is not of God.

We feel sad, get frustrated, and become depressed because things aren’t going our way or because things are just so hard.

We doubt the very promises of our Lord.

We are tempted to think that God doesn’t care.

We fail to see the blessings of our Lord in the midst of difficult times.

We are distracted by the here and now and we miss the big picture, the big picture of the eternal, that which is, and will be, according to what God says, and that which is our sure hope in Jesus.

Like the woman at the well who heard of living water and sought after only earthly water, we hear about prosperity and blessing and temporary fulfillment.

We might think that God promises earthly wealth and a worldly kind of happiness.

We hear the words of peace and we might think that God promises an earthly utopia.

We hear the words of forgiveness and we might think that God is okay with sin and that sin is really no big deal.

Truly this is how some even perceive the Christian faith, that it has more to do with earthly kind of things than even of heaven itself.

A worldly kind of gospel finds a great following among many today, but it is a gospel that has little to do with the Jesus of the Bible and more to do with feeding the dream of success, earthly contentment, worldly peace, and self-satisfaction.

THE Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to do with eternity.

It has to do with contentment in Christ, not in what one does or doesn’t have in the world.

It has to do with how you now stand before God because of Jesus—truly forgiven, your sins not being added to your account, not because your sins are in any way minimized, but because Jesus paid the full price, purchasing you with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to do with the message of eternal life, not earthly wealth, earthly gain, success, popularity, or acceptance.

The things of the world are passing away, the Bible says, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter 1:25).

The circumstances, conditions, and emotions of our lives constantly change, up the one moment and down the next.

We experience uncertainty.

But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

We know God’s disposition towards us from day to day because of Him: for good, and not for evil; for salvation, not for condemnation; for help, not for destruction.

“Salvation is,” as our Lord says, “from the Jews.”

Jesus Himself was a Jew, born of Mary, the very seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 1:2).

Herein is your hope.

You don’t climb a mountain or go to Jerusalem to worship.  Nor do you not know Who you worship.

You do.

You do know who you worship because of Him who reveals Himself to you in the Word as the Christ.

This One reveals to you that He is the Son of the heavenly Father, whose Father is now also your Father.

When Jesus says as He does in our text, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth,” Jesus is NOT saying that you worship our Lord however you want.

Worship in spirit and truth does not mean that.

Spirit and truth kind of worship is that kind of worship that is according to God’s Word and Will.

That kind of worship which is according to God’s Word and Will is that kind of worship which has Christ Jesus as the center.

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, he had said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

It is not the one who only thinks that He is worshiping God who truly is, but the one who actually is worshiping God as God wills Himself to be worshiped, that is, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible doesn’t talk about a generic god.

Nor does it talk about a god that contradicts himself or allows inconsistencies to abound.

Any and all who say that all religions worship the same God don’t worship the true God, for the true God they do not know.

Any and all who say that Jews and Muslims worship the true God don’t know the true God, for the true God is He who does not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11).

The true God reveals Himself as Triune, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; not three gods, but one God; three persons, yet one God.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is indeed a mystery—a mystery that you believe just the same.

You are happy and bold to confess the Trinity.

Also are you glad and bold to confess God’s Son, Jesus.

“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22, 23).

“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.   He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.   He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:9-12).

We worship the Lord God in Christ Jesus.

We confess Christ, seek forgiveness of sins from Him, and seek everlasting life from Him.

Because we believe Christ to be the only begotten Son of God, who gives true and living water unto eternal life, we also gather here in this place.

We know that Jesus is here.

God promises that here, Jesus speaks, according to His Holy Word.

Means of Grace-window-round1Here, Jesus gives His own body and blood to eat and to drink, not to condemn, but to forgive and strengthen faith.

Here, Jesus absolves you of your sin and cleanses you from all unrighteousness.

Worship in spirit and in truth is not about you doing for God.

Worship in spirit and truth is seeking from God mercy and forgiveness, life and salvation—through His Son.

Worship in spirit and in truth is looking to Jesus.

It is believing Jesus and trusting His Word and promise.

From this, all else follows.  Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasFather, forgive me for worshiping You my own way.  Grant me to worship in spirit and truth, according to Your Holy Word and Holy will, trusting Your Word, believing Your promises, confessing Your Name, and so living. Amen.

 

Luther’s Small Catechism, Part II: “The Creed”

The Apostles’ Creed

The First Article

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

The Second Article

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

The Third Article

I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

5CreedccIn the church, Christians universally confess formulated statements of faith.

These formulated statements of faith, known as Creeds, are the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

In the Small Catechism, the Creed “learned-by-heart” is the Apostles’ Creed.

As we continue engaging Luther’s Small Catechism during this season of Lent, we now come to that Creed, that formulated statement of faith whereby Christians everywhere confess belief in the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Apostles’ Creed consists of three articles.

Each article acknowledges the Person and work of the Godhead.

The First Article confesses God the Father and creation, saying in summary form what the Bible reveals about God as Maker of heaven and earth.

The Second Article confesses God the Son and redemption, by and through whom God the Father gives salvation to sinners.

The Third Article confesses God the Holy Spirit and sanctification, how God “calls, gathers, enlightens, and keeps us in the true faith.”

According to Holy Scripture, the Christian Church believes, teaches, and confesses that God is One.

There is one God, and one God only.

Thus, in the First Commandment, the one true God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod. 20:3 NKJ).

The prophet Isaiah declares, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me” (Isa. 45:5 NKJ).

Jesus Himself says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6 NKJ).

He also says, “I and My Father are one” (Jn. 10:30 NKJ).

Jesus also declares, “You believe in God, believe also in Me” (Jn. 14:1 NKJ).

To rightly worship the true God is to believe, teach, and confess the Holy Trinity, for so has God revealed Himself to be.

In fact, to “confess the faith” is literally to “Say the same thing” as God has said.

This is what faith does.

Confessing sin before God is saying, “Amen,” to what God has said about us and our condition.

Confessing the Christian faith and the Holy Trinity is saying, “Amen,” to what God has revealed about Himself and the true teaching according to His Holy Word.

The Second Chief Part of the Small Catechism confesses God’s revelation of Himself, for our salvation.  It testifies to God’s work in Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification.

In distinction from the Ten Commandments, the First Chief Part of the Small Catechism, the Creed does not command anything.

The Creed does not tell what to do, how to live, or how to become better.

The Creed, with linguistic precision, declares what the Bible teaches, and therefore, what Christians believe, of God and His work, not for Himself, but for us:

God’s work of creating, preserving, providing, and sustaining us in our earthly needs;

God’s work of saving sinners through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, by whose fulfillment of the Law (i.e. The Ten Commandments) in their entirety and whose sacrificial death in our stead is eternal life; and

God’s work of creating, preserving, providing, and sustaining us with the needs of the soul, through Christ’s church, which is all about the Means of Grace, God giving life and salvation, won for us by Christ and His cross, given in God’s blessed means of Word and water and bread and wine according to God’s divine institution.

We believe these things because God so says and so promises.

God makes known in His Word what we are to believe, and so we do believe, for we are His people and not another’s.

We note the words, “I believe” in the Creed.

As a statement of what is believed by Christians everywhere, the Creed does not say everything word-for-word that the Bible teaches of God.

The Creed does identify, clearly and concisely, Who God is, in distinction from Who God is not.

In the First Article, Christians say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

In a few words, Christians confess that God “Created the heavens and the earth,” just as recorded in Genesis 1:1 and given throughout the Bible.

What this means, however, is more than just that God created the world at one point in time and is now either indifferent to it or just doesn’t care about what goes on it anymore.

Nor does God having created the world imply that we are free to believe according to our own notions or that of popular scientific theory that God created differently than what the Bible records.

To believe either that God did not create as the Bible tells us in Genesis 1 & 2 and throughout Holy Writ, or that God just doesn’t care about His creation is to deny what the Bible teaches about God as Creator.

Very simply, such positions deny God as God.

Far from being indifferent to the world and His creation, God continues to provide for its needs.

Human worry and anxiety about our world, including that of climate change, population growth, health, and advancement, are largely commentaries on sinful unbelief.   They are not expressions of confidence upon God to sustain and preserve His creation as He Himself wills.

Yet, as St. Peter says, “By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:5-7 NKJ).

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein,” writes the Psalmist (Ps. 24:1 NKJ).

If God was indifferent to the world and the people of it, as some erroneously claim, believe, or demonstrate in plentiful ways, what is to be made of all that the Bible records of God’s caring for His people, His provision of food and water through fields and rain, His compassion on the weary and spent?

How are we to comprehend the sending of the Father’s only-begotten Son, if not by the love of God for the world?

How are we to believe the giving of Christ in Word and Sacrament, if not as the Lord having mercy and compassion upon sinners, sinners who can’t and don’t save themselves, and who, apart from God, remain condemned in their sin?

The Second Article of the Creed clearly testifies to God the Father’s love for the world, in Christ Jesus.

Listen to the meaning given to the Second Article, as expressed in the Small Catechism.

“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

These words most certainly testify to what the Bible teaches of God’s love in Christ for sinners.

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28 NKJ).

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10 NKJ).

“In due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6 NKJ).

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8 NKJ).

“When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10 NKJ).

And, “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:1-2 NKJ).

We are not deserving of any of God’s mercies and kindnesses—none of them—yet God freely gives what we are not able to earn or merit.

God freely gives that for which we do not ask.

Of His love, God hears our petitions for Christ’s sake and answers according to His good and gracious will and for our good.

Not only does God provide by means physical for body. God provides by means physical for the soul. We call these means, “Means of Grace.”

Throughout these days of Lent, the Sunday readings press onward toward Jerusalem, Gethsemane, and Golgotha, significant locales in the Passion of our Lord.

On the cross is where Jesus won your forgiveness, your salvation, your eternal peace with the Father.

There, Jesus died.

There, His shed blood cleanses you of all your sin.

But you don’t there go to receive such blessings, your forgiveness, your peace with God, your salvation.

You don’t go there.

Christ Jesus comes to you.

Christ comes to you in Word, in water, in bread and wine.

Here is where God freely gives you life to sustain your soul, the certainty of sins atoned, God’s grace unmerited.

This is what the Christian congregation is all about—giving God’s divine gifts.

The is what Christians confess by the words of the Third Article of the Creed.

God’s call by the Gospel is through the means of Word preached and Sacraments administered.

This is how the Holy Spirit works, not through the empty vacuum of space and the unknowable, but through the concreteness of the Word proclaimed, the earthiness of water applied, and the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood in real bread and real wine.

By these, the Lord creates faith and sustains faith.

Outside of us and from the Lord, according to His Word, they are certain.

Even as what is outside of us is the means by which God provides for the body, so by what is external to us is the means by which God gives and sustains us to eternal life.

These things we confess in the Creed.

It is not we who provide and do for ourselves.

It is God, Who, through means, continually does so.

Such is His love, that God neglects neither the smallest detail nor our greatest need.

We are bold, then, to confess, “I believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God is my God, of Whom I am not ashamed.  He keeps me.  He sustains me. He saves me.” Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-Canvas“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14 NKJ). Amen.

 

 

Series on Luther’s Small Catechism for midweek Lenten Services.

 

 

The Holy Trinity

 

Article I. God

Augsburg Confession

 

Trinity1 We unanimously hold and teach, in accordance with the decree of the Council of Nicaea, 2 that there is one divine essence, which is called and which is truly God, and that there are three persons in this one divine essence, equal in power and alike eternal: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. 3 All three are one divine essence, eternal, without division, without end, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, one creator and preserver of all things visible and invisible. 4 The word “person” is to be understood as the Fathers employed the term in this connection, not as a part or a property of another but as that which exists of itself. (Tappert, 1-4)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The above words accord with the faith of God’s people because they accord with the Word of God (see below). God’s people confess what Holy Scripture reveals of God. Thus, the words above accord with the words of Scripture. They do so because they agree with what God has made known about Himself in holy Writ.

Not all, of course, believe in God as Christians do. Many do believe in a god, yet the Bible makes quite clear that any other belief in God that is apart from the Holy Bible is belief in a false god.

The Bible teaches that One, and only One God exists (Deuteronomy 6:4). Scripture also teaches that the FaOne true Godther is God, the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. Three persons, yet one God. This is the Christian faith. Any other teaching about God is not according to the Holy Bible and is therefore, not true.

Only the God of the Bible is the God who saves. And He does so through the work of Christ, even through His death on the cross (Galatians 3:13-14). Having become a curse for us, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law. Thus, in Him, no curse of the Law remains.

Because we believe in the Triune God, we also, as His people, make distinctions between the true, biblical teaching of God, and false teachings about God. As did the Lutheran reformers, so do we. Therefore, do we also confess that,

5 Therefore all the heresies which are contrary to this article are rejected. Among these are the heresy of the Manichaeans, who assert that there are two gods, one good and one evil; also that of the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and others like them; also that of the Samosatenes, old and new, who hold that there is only one person and sophistically assert that the other two, the Word and the Holy Spirit, are not necessarily distinct persons but that the Word signifies a physical word or voice and that the Holy Spirit is a movement induced in creatures (Tappert, 1st Article of the Augsburg Confession, 5).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we confess Your holy Name, and pray that You would keep us in the true faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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Augsburg Confession, I. God

Tappert1 We unanimously hold and teach, in accordance with the decree of the Council of Nicaea,3 2 that there is one divine essence, which is called and which is truly God, and that there are three persons in this one divine essence, equal in power and alike eternal: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. 3 All three are one divine essence, eternal, without division, without end, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, one creator and preserver of all things visible and invisible. 4 The word “person” is to be understood as the Fathers employed the term in this connection, not as a part or a property of another but as that which exists of itself4

5 Therefore all the heresies which are contrary to this article are rejected. Among these are the heresy of the Manichaeans,5 who assert that there are two gods, one good and one evil; also that of the Valentinians,6  Arians,7 Eunomians,8 Mohammedans,9 and others like them; 6 also that of the Samosatenes,10 old and new, who hold that there is only one person and sophistically assert that the other two, the Word and the Holy Spirit, are not necessarily distinct persons but that the Word signifies a physical word or voice and that the Holy Spirit is a movement induced in creatures.11

[Notes are from Tappert, Theodore G. The Book of Concord : The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 2000, c1959, electronic edition, Concordia Publishing House]


3 The Nicene Creed

4 The term hypostasis in Greek or persona in Latin were used in the ancient church to repudiate Modalism, which regarded the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three modes or manifestations of the one God.

5 A religion based on Persian dualism combined with Christian and other elements, founded in the third century by Mani and named after him. The Albigensians of the late Middle Ages held similar notions.

6 Gnostics of the second century who took their name from Valentinus.

7 Followers of Arius who were condemned at the Council of Niceas in 325 and who held that the Son was created and of different “substance” from the Father.

8 Followers of Eunomius, an extreme Arian of the late fourth century.

9 The Reformers frequently referred to Mohammedianism and an anti-Trinitarian heresy.

10 Followers of Paul of Samosata, who taught in the third century that Jesus was a man specially endowed by the Spirit. The “new Samosatenes” were anti-Trinitarian spiritualists of the sixteenth century like John Campanus and Hans Denck.

11 Followers of Paul of Samosata, who taught in the third century that Jesus was a man specially endowed by the Spirit. The “new Samosatenes” were anti-Trinitarian spiritualists of the sixteenth century like John Campanus and Hans Denck.

 

 

We Confess the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

 

 

In the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Into this Name were you baptized.  This is who God is, Only God, the Only True God.  Besides this One, there is no other.  The true God is One in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God.  This is so not because it makes sense or because men in the early church made it up long ago, but because God has revealed Himself as Three Persons, yet One God.  What God has revealed, this we confess with the words, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty…And in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord…  I believe in the Holy Spirit…’

We confess what is common to all Christians, not only on this day called Trinity Sunday, but every Sunday.  It’s common to all because all Christians will believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  It can be no other way.  This is the litmus test of who is of the Christian faith and who is not.  Though it is true that believing in Jesus is what saves, believing in the Jesus of the Bible means also believing His Word, even where He says, I and My Father are one (John 10:30) and Whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me (Mark 9:37).  The Christ of Scripture cannot be divorced from His Father, by whom He was begotten.

In other words, whoever receives Jesus receives also His Father.  Whoever does not receive Jesus does not receive the Father either.  This was and is the problem of all who speak of a ‘belief in God’, but who do not acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son.  You cannot separate the two.  It is true that we distinguish between the Father and the Son, but you cannot have one without having the other.  This means that all who claim to have the true God, like Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, really do not have the true God, but worship a false god, a god of their own making, for they deny the divinity, the Godhead, of the Son.

Saying this does not sit well with a lot of people.  We live in an age where everything goes, and it does not matter what you believe, just do not ‘step on anyone’s toes’ or offend anyone, esp. in matters of religion.  As soon as distinctions are drawn and another is said to be wrong, lovelessness and intolerance are said to be at play.  The line has there been crossed.  Discrimination and righteous attitudes are said to be the culprit.  Because not everyone believes what you believe, what you believe might be your faith, but it is not mine.  Just because it might be true for you does not mean that it is true for me.

This notion has also crept into the church.  Just because the church says something, I do not have to believe it.  It is just the collective opinion of people anyway.  I can be a member of this church or of that church, but really, it does not matter what the church preaches and teaches.  I will believe what I want to believe.  It is not about the church anyway.  It is about what I believe.  That is what matters in the end.

Have you heard these things before?  Sound familiar?  It is the spirit of our times.  We minimize the Godhead according to our own personal opinions.  We sift through the teachings of the Bible, and pick and chose what we like or want to hear.  We go to church, not to encounter the Word of God, but to see how good the preacher sounds and catch up with others on their week.

But God speaks differently.  Church is where God’s Word and His gospel are proclaimed.  He has given the church what to speak and He has given you what to hear, both Law and Gospel, Law to the sinner and Gospel to the one sorry for his sin. God speaks the truth of our waywardness and the truth of our salvation in Christ.  He reveals what we are to do and how we are to do it.  He reveals that we are to believe Him and His Word, hear His Word, and receive life through His Means of Grace.  He has not given us to go our own way, but to follow His, for His is the way of life—the only way of life.

We learn this way of God through the books of the Old and New Testaments.  Where the preaching and teaching are according to these God inspired writings, there you will hear God’s Word to sinners, bringing down because of sin, but raising up in the light of God’s forgiveness.  The law of God shows us our sin and how we stand condemned before God because of it.  The Gospel of God shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, the very same whom we confess as the Son of the Father, who now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty since His ascension into heaven.

On account of Christ, you are no longer under God’s condemnation.  Christ stood in your place, becoming sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The only True God does not leave you in the darkness of your sin.  And you are not the one who decides what is the right and the true doctrine.  God alone is the One who decides this.  God alone is the one who has decided this.  You cannot believe whatever you want to believe or follow whomever you want to follow and still rightly consider yourself a Christian.  Your tendency to do this is the leaning of your nature since the fall in the garden, but this inclination to go your own way you are to continue to fight as God’s baptized child.

God speaks and teaches only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  This will not always what you want to hear, but God says what you need to hear, that you might repent and be saved, and not that you feel good about yourselves or find momentary fulfillment.  God says what He says in order that you hear Him, listen to Him, be humbled, and that He lift you up.

The way that God leads, the doctrine that He gives, the Word that He speaks, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are for nothing less than your salvation.  He gives you all these things that you believe Christ to be your Savior from sin and death and that you continue in this faith.  Not only was Christ man.  He was also God, God for you, dying your death, crucifying sin, and giving Life, even His own life, that you live in Him and He in you, now and forevermore.

For this reason, for your salvation, Jesus sent His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and even now through His Word, that you be in the faith of our Lord Jesus and remain in Him to the end.  For your salvation did Christ die and live again.  This is why God the Father sent Him into the world in the first place, that you not perish, but have everlasting life.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  This is the truth that the world does not see, first, that it needs salvation, second, that God desires this, and third, how God brings salvation, not through man’s work, but through His, through Jesus Christ whom He sent.

 As to the first, the law of God is preached among you and in the world to condemn the world and your sinful nature because of sin.  Any lack of tolerance for sin is not first yours.  It is God’s.  The world does not want to hear such things.  They want to hear that it is ok to do whatever they want, regardless of who gets hurt, because, after all, life is all about ME and what I want.  But not willing to hear God’s Law, the world also will not hear of the God-man Jesus dying on a tree as the sacrifice for sinners.  They thus deny God on two counts: one, as to His law which condemns, and two, as to His Gospel, which saves.

The world doesn’t see that it needs salvation because it is not willing to admit how bad things really are.  And how bad things are must be revealed by God Himself, for we can see that things are at least not 100% good, but we think that this is sufficient.  God says otherwise, and this is the condemning thing.  God doesn’t just say, ‘try’ or ‘do better next time’.  To Him, one ‘slip up’ in thought, word, or deed is sufficient for an eternal fall.  This is the problem, because none are even at the least minutely perfect in this regard.  God demands what we cannot fulfill.

We are at a crossroads with only One to help.  This One is revealed only in the Gospel of Christ.  God reveals this Gospel in His book.  Through Christ, your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God.  This is the ‘how’ of God bringing salvation — through Christ: on the tree, in the tomb, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, sending His Spirit, preaching His Word, giving body and blood in bread and wine, and baptizing with water in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through God’s Christ and by His means, God gives life and salvation.  And this life and salvation is God’s desire for all people.  For all people Christ died and gave His life.  The problem is not that God does not make this or Himself known or that He does not care.  Far from it!  God does care and He has made Himself known, and He does show forth His mercy to sinful mankind.  Not all this, because not all take God at His Word.  Only those who believe God’s Word will see Christ for who He is: as Savior, not as Judge; as redeemer, not as the one whom we owe; as our God, apart from whom is no other; and the 2nd person of three of the Trinity.

All that we know of God’s salvation in Christ God reveals in Holy Writ.  For this purpose was the Bible given, so writes St. John, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).  There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, living under the law and fulfilling it for us.  There, we see Christ, paying the price for our sin with His own death, though He was sinless.  There, we see Christ, giving His promise through means of Word and sacrament, giving life where there once was only death; giving health where there once was only sickness; giving knowledge where there once was only ignorance; and giving wisdom where there once was only foolishness.  There, in the Bible, Jesus reveals Himself to be God’s Son, one with the Father, and one with the Spirit, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Today’s Gospel text from St. Matthew’s points to the Lord’s desire for your salvation, for Jesus Himself says to His disciples before leaving them, Going therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).  The church is in existence even now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  The Lord’s authority is now given to the church, the authority of God to proclaim the truth of sin and forgiveness, to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach.  This is the work of God, the very work that God works through His church, ushering in new life through His Word, and keeping and sustaining that new life through that same Word.

Where that Word of God is kept, there God’s Spirit will be, calling by the Gospel, enlightening with His gifts, and sanctifying and keeping in the true faith.  There also will the Triune God be.  Where the Spirit is, there will also be Christ.  Where Christ is, there will also be the Father.  You can’t have One without the Other.  There is no God without the Son.  There is no Spirit apart from the Son.  There is no faith apart from the Spirit.  And there is no salvation without faith in the Son.

Where Father, Son, and Spirit are kept true and distinct, and God undivided, One God, yet Three Persons, there is salvation, for God the Father Sent His Son to save us from our sins, and the Spirit of truth testifies of the Son (John 15:26).

In order that salvation in Christ be made known, our Lord sends His church to proclaim the truth of His Word, even the truth of the Holy Triune God.  This truth is not of human origin.  It cannot be understood by rational formula or common sense.  Though it is true, all will not accept it.  It is only by faith that we believe, faith according to what God has already revealed in His Word, and faith according to what God now makes known to you.  It matters not what part of the world you were born in, or what the majority of the beliefs are in your neighborhood.  The truth of God is true for all people because it is true.  This is what God reveals in the only Holy Book, the Bible, Holy because it is the very Word of God given to man, that God make Himself known, that man believe in His Son and so be saved.  Amen.

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