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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