Sermon Text: John 3:1-17
Pastor Daniel Schmidt
During our services last weekend we celebrated The Festival of Pentecost. Pentecost Sunday is a time for us to focus our worship on the third person of the Trinity – God the Holy Spirit. In our services this weekend, God’s Word focuses our thoughts and attention on all three persons of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
The word “trinity” or “triune” is a word you will NOT find in the Bible. It is a word invented by human beings to describe what the Bible teaches us about the one and only true God. “Triune” is a combination of two Latin words: “tri” which means three, and “une” which means one. The one and only true God, as revealed to us in the Bible, is the “triune” God; the “three-in-one” God: three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet only one God. Today, on this Trinity Sunday, rejoicing in the great, undeserved love of our Savior-God, together you and I lift our hearts and voices in praise and GIVE THANKS FOR THE LOVE OF OUR TRIUNE GOD!
The verses before us from John chapter 3 emphasize the love of the Triune God. God the Father showed this love as he sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the price demanded for your sins, for my sins, for the sins of all people. God the Son showed that same love as he willingly offered his life as the perfect sacrifice in the place of sinners. It is in love, that God the Holy Spirit, working through the powerful Word of our God, has created faith in Jesus as the Savior in your heart, in my heart and in the hearts of all believers. Give thanks for the love of our Triune God that won for you and me the forgiveness of all of our sins! Give thanks for the love of our Triune God that won for you and me the gift of eternal life in heaven!
It has been suggested that people only want to hear sermons which talk about life applications. They want to hear how a certain section of Scripture applies to them for a specific situation that they are dealing with in their life here and now. There are many portions of Scripture which offer these “life-applications.” Certainly it is good for us to spend time on those sections of the Bible, and apply them to our own lives. But, there are also many portions of Scripture which simply encourage you and me to sit back and realize who the Triune God is and marvel at all that our loving Triune God has done for you and me.
The Gospel lesson for this “Trinity Sunday” from John chapter 3 is an example of such a section of Scripture. Yes, you and I certainly are able to say that this passage applies to you and me here today in the fact that you and I enjoy the love of our Triune God. But on a Sunday such as today, you and I give thanks that the blessings of the forgiveness of all of our sins and the gift of eternal life are yours and mine to enjoy, not because of anything you or I have done or are able to do. You and I enjoy these blessings only because of the love of the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, each day of his grace to you GIVE THANKS FOR THE LOVE OF OUR TRIUNE GOD!
At this time, I would like us to make use of a creed that reminds us of some wonderful truths about our loving Triune God found in the Word of our God. It is a confession of faith that we don’t use very often in our worship services. Please turn to page 132 in our hymnals. There you will find the Athanasian Creed.
In the early history of the Christian church, our spiritual forefathers adopted three universal creeds (sometimes called ecumenical creeds; a creed is a statement of what a group of people believe) to define and defend the truths of the Christian faith. We still use two of these creeds, the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, on a regular basis. However, it is our practice (and the custom of many churches) to make use of the third universal creed, called the Athanasian Creed, once a year on Trinity Sunday.
Because we confess this creed only annually and because its language may sound confusing in some places are harsh in others, it is important for us to have at least a basic understanding of the times in which this creed was written. The following words of introduction are printed on page 132 of Christian Worship…
This creed is named after St. Athanasius, a staunch defender of the Christian faith in the fourth century. It was prepared to assist the Church in combating two errors that undermined Bible teaching. One error denied that God’s Son and the Holy Spirit are of one being or Godhead with the Father. The other error denied that Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one person. The Athanasian Creed continues to serve the Christian Church as a standard of the truth. It declares that whoever rejects the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of Christ is without the saving faith.
A statement that has troubled some comes at the end of the second section: “Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire.” These words are not an endorsement of the idea that a person is saved through works. The statement is actually a paraphrase of the words of Jesus in John 5:29.
It is important to remember that any work that is considered “good” in God’s eyes is a fruit of faith, something a believer does as an expression of gratitude for everything God has done for us. Good works do not save us. They are the evidence of saving faith, which the Lord has given us as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-10).
M: Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian faith.
C: Whoever does not keep this faith pure in all points will certainly perish forever.
M: Now this is the true Christian faith:
C: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being.
M: For each person—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—is distinct,
C: but the deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty.
M: What the Father is, so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated; the Father is infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father is eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal;
C: yet they are not three who are eternal, but there is one who is eternal, just as they are not three who are uncreated, nor three who are infinite, but there is one who is uncreated and one who is infinite.
M: In the same way the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty;
C: yet they are not three who are almighty, but there is one who is almighty
M: So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God;
C: yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
M: So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord;
C: yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
M: For just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually to be God and Lord,
C: so the true Christian faith forbids us to speak of three Gods or three Lords.
M: The Father is neither made nor created nor begotten of anyone. The Son is neither made nor created, but is begotten of the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeds from the Father and the Son.
C: So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
M: And within this Trinity none comes before or after; none is greater or inferior,
C: but all three persons are coequal and coeternal,
M: so that in every way, as stated before, all three persons are to be worshiped as one God and one God worshiped as three persons.
C: Whoever wishes to be saved must have this conviction of the Trinity.
M: It is furthermore necessary for eternal salvation truly to believe that our Lord Jesus Christ also took on human flesh. Now this is the true Christian faith:
C: We believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man.
M: He is God, eternally begotten from the nature of the Father, and he is man, born in time from the nature of his mother, fully God, fully man, with rational soul and human flesh,
C: equal to the Father as to his deity, less than the Father as to his humanity;
M: and though he is both God and Man, Christ is not two persons but one,
C: one, not by changing the deity into flesh, but by taking the humanity into God;
M: one, indeed, not by mixture of the natures, but by unity in one person;
C: for just as the rational soul and flesh are one human being, so God and man are one Christ.
M: He suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose the third day from the dead.
C: He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty, and from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
M: At his coming all people will rise with their own bodies to answer for their personal deeds.
C: Those who have done good will enter eternal life, but those who have done evil will go into eternal fire.
M: This is the true Christian faith.
C: Whoever does not faithfully and firmly believe this cannot be saved.