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Lindemann on the Feast of the Holy Trinity

by revalkorn ~ June 6th, 2011

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY TRINITY

This Sunday was long considered the Octave of Pentecost and provided with Propers harmonizing with that use. In the eleventh century local dioceses observed the Festival of the Holy Trinity on this day. Pope Alexander II in this century and Pope Alexander III in the following century discouraged such an observance as unnecessary because the Holy Trinity was acclaimed in every day’s worship. However, Pope John XXII in 1332 ordered this festival to be observed universally and on this Sunday. Propers were chosen from offices used in various sections of the Church. Some local dioceses in Germany and England retained the original Gospel appointed for the Octave of Pentecost. The Roman Missal has substituted the Divine Commission in the Name of the Holy Trinity (Matt. 28:18-20). The retention of the original Gospel by the Lutheran Reformers has created a real difficulty for the preacher. Our Lord’s teaching on the Second Birth and its necessity is an important part of Christian doctrine. But it cannot be connected with the Feast of the Holy Trinity, not even artificially. The original Gospel is utterly out of harmony with the other appointed Propers. The Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, and Preface are devoted to admiration and praise of the Triune God, and a sermon on the Second Birth is out of harmony. The doctrine of Regeneration and the article of the Holy Trinity are two separate and distinct doctrines and should be presented at different times on the basis of different texts. This difficulty is not solved by an old Lutheran Church Orders when it states: “The Christian congregation is to be instructed on this day about two great doctrines of Christian teaching, of the Holy Trinity and of Regeneration.” A sermon on the appointed Gospel would mean that the preacher introduce a new subject after the congregation has been prepared by the other Propers for a sermon on the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

The Festival of the Holy Trinity marks the end of the Church Year’s first half. The festivals of the first half commemorate past historic events. This festival differs radically in that it is an expression of a great doctrine. It comprehends all the teaching in the historic events and is in expression of the Church’s adoring worship of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Introit. “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to Him because He hath shown His mercy to us. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!”

Or: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts. Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth!”

Both Introits strike the keynote of this day’s celebration, which is adoration. The Antiphon of the first is ancient. The Roman Missal refers to Tobit 12:6 as the source. The Antiphon of the second is composed of Is. 6:3 and Rom. 11: 36. The Psalm Verse of both Introits is Ps. 8:1. The Church on earth joins her adoration with that of the Church Celestial. “We worship the Trinity in Person and the Unity in Substance, of Majesty coequal,” we sing in the Preface. Looking back on the first half of the Church Year and the teaching of the historic events considered, we declare in the first Introit that we give glory “because He hath shown His mercy to us.”

The Collect. “Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us, Thy servants, grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity, we beseech Thee that Thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities.”

This is one of the least admirable of all Collects in the Church’s use. Its dogmatic phraseology is too involved. Furthermore, it has lost by translation. The Latin preposition “in” is used in both clauses and is translated with “by” in one and with “in” in the other. “By the confession … by the power” would not only preserve the native balance but also clarify the meaning. Preferable is the original: “through the steadfastness of this faith we may evermore be defended from all adversity.”

The Epistle, Romans 11:33-36. This Sunday is the climax of the Church Year, and we are thinking of all that has gone before, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost.. “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen!”

The Gradual. “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who beholdest the deep, and who dwellest between the cherubim. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven, and greatly to be praised forever. Alleluia! Alleluia! Blessed art Thou, 0 Lord God of our fathers, and greatly to be praised and glorified forever. Alleluia!”

The source is the Song of the Three Children 32-34, 29.

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! O Lord, deal with Thy servant according unto Thy mercy, and teach me Thy statutes. I am Thy servant, give me understanding that I may know Thy testimonies. Alleluia!”

Or:”Alleluia! Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers; praise Him and highly exalt Him forever. Alleluia!”

After the Gradual, the Athanasian Creed may be said or sung.

The Gospel, St. John 3:1-15. Dr. George Stoeckhardt, for many years professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, once wrote: “Our Lord’s instruction about regeneration is indeed a theme of which Christendom should be reminded again and again. But, when expounding this Gospel, one should confine oneself to the text and the theme conformable to the text and not draw in extraneous ideas, of which our Lord did not think when He conversed with Nicodemus and which did not occur to the ancient Church when she appointed this lesson for the Sunday after Pentecost. If the preacher at some time wishes to do justice to the observance of the Festival of the Holy Trinity, let him base the sermon on one of the loci classici from which we derive the doctrine of the Triune God, as for in-stance Matt.28:18-20 or 2 Cor. 13:14.” We do well to follow the suggestion of the learned Doctor. Our purpose is to do justice to the observance of the Festival of the Holy Trinity. Since the holy Gospel appointed for the Octave of Pentecost is not in harmony with the Propers for this Festival, we shall base our sermon on Matt. 28:18-20, which is the lesson in the Roman Missal and also appointed in the Thomasius Selections.

The Proper Preface. “Who with Thine only-begotten Son and the Holy Ghost art one God, one Lord. And in the confession of the only true God we worship the Trinity in Person and the Unity in Substance, of Majesty coequal.”

SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

In the first half of the Church Year we considered God’s great acts for the salvation of the world. Today we bring this Half Year of the Lord to a close by observing the last festival of the Church Year, which we call the Festival of the Holy Trinity. We observe it in commemoration and confession of the God who has done all the great things that are preached in our churches throughout the year. The object of our observance is to confess that this God is God alone, that we know Him as He has revealed Himself, to give expression to our faith in the one God and to praise and extol Him as the God who alone is worthy to receive praise and worship.

Great and wonderful and mysterious is what we know of God. Human reason tells all men that there is and must be a God who is one and eternal. But we know more of God from His Word. We know that this eternal God is Three in One, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three separate and distinct Persons. As such He revealed Himself, for instance, at Christ’s Baptism. Yet He is only one divine essence, one God. The Athanasian Creed declares: “The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.”

The Epistle for this day, however, does not speak of God’s essence but, as the texts on other Sundays, of God’s works and counsels for man’s salvation. Yet, whether Scripture speaks of God’s essence or of His ‘ works, -what we hear is always great, wonderful, unsearchable, inscrutable. The final purpose of revelation is always that God be honored and praised. The Epistle, too, is to serve this end. The Apostle directs our attention to God’s judgments and ways and calls to us: See and note the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! This cannot but prompt us to glorify the God who does all this. We meditate then on:

The Depth of God’s Riches and Wisdom and Knowledge
a Reason for Praising and Glorifying Him Always

1. We are bound to praise and glorify Him when we see the riches of God’s judgments. In the chapter of the text St. Paul thinks of God’s dealings with Israel, His chosen people, and exclaims: “How unsearchable are His judgments!” God rejected the people to whom the promises had been given and through their unbelief the saving Word was given to the Gentiles. God chose Israel, then rejected it and chose the Gentiles in its place. As the Apostle considers this, his reason comes to a standstill. He feels like one who stands at a boundless sea and has waded in a little distance, but then draws back from the unfathomable depths. He has followed the workings of God for a time, but he meets such riches of divine wisdom and knowledge that he declares God’s dealings are even more unfathomable to his reason than the bottomless depths of the sea to his feet. How unfathomable are His judgments!

God had chosen Abraham’s children as His peculiar people that the Messiah might be born of the Jews. Therefore God saved Jacob’s family from famine through Joseph in a most miraculous manner, delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh by His omnipotent interference, fed them for forty years in the wilderness with bread from heaven, gave them a land where milk and honey flowed, kept the people together for centuries in spite of conquests and destruction by their enemies, had many prophets promise the Messiah to this nation, yet when the Messiah finally came, God had already rejected the Jews and hardened their hearts. He had known all the while that Israel would not accept the Savior and Himself had said that they would deliver Him up to the Gentiles. Why did God bring this judgment over His chosen people? Why did He take the Gospel from this nation and give it to the heathen? We cannot understand it.

We never can understand when God reveals His power and majesty and, at times, His terrible wrath because of sin. Who can search out why God brought damnation over all men under heaven because of the sin of one? How terrible and unsearchable is the judgment of the Flood, by which God in His all-destroying wrath condemned the whole race and exterminated it wholly, with the exception of eight souls. How terrible was His judgment over Sodom, over Pharaoh and his army, over the Canaanites whom Israel had to destroy when taking possession of the land, not sparing old men, women, or children.

Even today we have such unsearchable judgments before our very eyes. Who can say why millions of human beings who are redeemed, for whom Christ purchased heaven, nevertheless continue in their sin and die without ever having heard of Christ? Who can explain why the black darkness of heathenism again settles where once the sun of God’s grace shone brightly? Or why people who year in year out hear God’s Word yet do not come to believe and are lost? Or why one is converted and the other not? These are such unsearchable judgments of which the text speaks.

When we consider them, many questions suggest themselves. Again and again our reason asks why? But it is vain, “for who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?” We could learn what God has resolved and how He will bring it to pass in only three ways. One is that we knew His mind and could look into His heart; then, that we had been His counselor, had advised Him what to do; and finally, that we had given Him something, done Him some service, and could now gauge His compensation by the value of our service. But all are out of question. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” All things are from God, have their source in God, are put into effect by Him, and serve His purposes.

2. All this is true not only of God’s judgment but also of His ways. St. Paul says that His ways are inscrutable. The term “ways” here means the wonderful ways of grace and mercy God leads man for his salvation. Here again we find such riches, such unfathomable depth of wisdom, that our reason stands aghast.

Consider the way God took to redeem the fallen human race. How did His wisdom find a way in which His justice would be fully satisfied and yet man not be damned? What human wisdom would have dreamed of this, that God Himself became man, suffered and died that the lost and condemned world might be saved? That is a way so contrary to human reason, so past finding out, that even the angels of heaven cannot grasp it.

What man could have thought of such a way to salvation as God directs us? After God had become man and saved man by suffering and dying, the question would be: How shall men now learn that heaven is open to them? We would have answered: Write it in the heavens with letters of fire, so that all have it before their eyes constantly; let an angel preach it from the pulpit every Sunday; make everything as glorious and wonderful as possible. But what is God’s way? He has poor sinful men write His message with a pen, has these writings collected in a book like any other book, He has sinful, weak human beings preach His Word. If we had been asked: Who shall go to heaven? we would have answered: He who does many good works, who labors with might and main to show himself worthy. But God says: No, without works, through faith alone, by grace. If we had been asked to institute sacraments, we would not have taken such common things as water, bread, and wine. We cannot understand God’s ways of doing things, and yet we must confess that only in this and in no other way could man be saved.

How wonderful are also the ways God employed in dealing with His people in the Old Testament! When He chose the father of what was to be a great nation, He chose not a man with many children, but one who at the ripe old age of one hundred years was still childless and then was presented with a son contrary to the laws of nature. The future deliverer from the bondage of Egypt was hidden among the reeds by the Nile in order that he might be taken to the court of Pharaoh, there to be instructed in all the wisdom of Egypt and so be trained to be God’s instrument in leading Israel out of slavery. Esther the Jewess became the queen of a great heathen kingdom in order that the people out of which the Savior was to be born might not be exterminated.

In the New Testament, all nations spoke different languages when the time came for the Scriptures of the New Covenant to be written. That all might read and understand the writings of the Apostles, it was necessary that one and the same language should be known by all. Therefore God had the heathen Alexander the Great conquer the world three hundred years before and make Greek the language of the world. When then the time came, the New Testament was written in Greek and all could read it. Again, God took Luther and led him into a lonely monk’s cell and then to Rome, in order that he might learn to know the abominations of a decadent Church the better, and transformed an archpapist into the last great prophet of His Gospel.

No doubt many of us can tell of such mysterious ways of God. At times we plan long and carefully, and when we are about to see our hopes fulfilled God says: “No, My ways are not your ways.” Often we find it extremely difficult to bow to His superior wisdom. We cannot understand how certain things are good for us. Our reason asks, “Why?” At such times it is necessary to cling blindly to the truth that for God’s children all ways lead through darkness to light, through the cross to the crown. God expects us to bid our reason be silent and trustingly to commit ourselves to God’s love in the conviction that He does all things well. The time is coming when God will permit us to search His judgments and find out His ways. Then He will give us the answer to our questions, why He did this and that, and adoringly we shall fall on our knees before His throne and exclaim: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! To Him be glory forever. Amen.”

SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

With this Sunday we have come to the end of the festive half of the Church Year. As we look back upon the half year lying behind us, we see a panorama of great events: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost. All great events on the earth, but events in which the hand of Almighty God was evident, working out what was absolutely necessary if man was to come into his own, be what God intended him to be here in time and in eternity. We are today celebrating the Festival of the Holy Trinity. We are not commemorating some act of God for our salvation, as on other festivals, but we consider the great doctrine that our God is a mysterious God, three distinct Persons in one divine Essence. This doctrine is the center of the Christian faith, the very foundation of Christianity. “I believe in God the Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit” is essential to Christianity.

Some might say that surely everybody believes this doctrine and it is quite unnecessary to preach on it. But not everybody believes it, and therefore it is necessary that it be preached. Even within the so-called Christian Church there are many who no longer believe what the Christian Church confesses in the Three Articles of the Apostolic Creed. God the Father the almighty Creator of heaven and earth? No, evolution is the thing. Jesus Christ true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary? No, He was a great prophet but a mere man, the same as you and I, and not the Second Person of the Godhead. Man regenerated by the power and working of the Holy Spirit? No, it is all man’s doing. There are not three Persons in God, but Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three names for one and the same person.

These people have given up the doctrine of the Holy Trinity because they cannot understand it. Why do we still teach and confess it? Because we understand it? By no means! No one can understand or explain how there can be three Persons and yet only one God. Yet we teach and believe that there is one God and three Persons in that God, because in His Word God tells us that this is true. If God in His Word reveals a truth which we cannot grasp with our reason, we bow to His superior wisdom, put chains on our reason, and humbly exclaim with St. Paul in this day’s Epistle: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! … From Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever.” In this frame of mind we step before God this day and learn from His infallible Word what He has revealed to us concerning Himself.

God tells us: “The fool says in his heart, There is no God.” It is not that men who deny the existence and presence of God merely lack in judgment or, at the very worst, are half-witted, for the error is not merely of the understanding but of the affections. Perhaps we come closest to the meaning of “fool” when we say that he is foul, morally corrupt, dishonest. The world, nature itself, bears undeniable testimony that there is a power greater and higher than that of men. Man’s conscience, too, bears witness to this fact. How can we prove that? Our first proof is the infallible Word of God. The Holy Spirit says by the pen of St. Paul: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” The Apostle is speaking of heathen ,who have never as much as heard that there is a Bible, a revelation of God written by God through men. He says that these heathen know there is a God and that this God is eternal and powerful. How do they know this? They see it clearly from the creation of the world, they know it by the things that were made. St. Paul states that no man can view this beautiful creation, so wondrously constructed and wisely arranged, without coming to the conclusion that all this is not the handiwork of man or the product of chance, but that a higher power has here been active, that He who made all this must have existed before the world and be eternal, and that He must be a Being all-powerful, all-wise, the absolute Master over all that lives and breathes on this His wonderful earth. So man knows from the creation that there is a God who is eternal and omnipotent. David wrote: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world” (Ps. 19:1-4).

Besides the testimony of the creation there is in every man the voice of con-science hearing testimony to the existence of God. In speaking of the Gentiles, who have not the Law, never heard of the Ten Commandments, St. Paul says: “They show that what the Law requires is written on their hearts, while their con-science also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them.” He says that though they do not know the Ten Commandments as God gave them from Sinai, they know by nature that stealing and murder is wrong, their conscience bears witness that there is a higher being who demands certain things of them and forbids others. They know that there is a Supreme Being. This knowledge is planted in every man’s heart by nature. Therefore the man who denies the existence of God is morally corrupt because he denies against his better knowledge. He lies, for he knows better.

However, who God is and how He is in His divine Essence will always remain an insoluble problem. To know more of God than creation and conscience tell man, we must go to the revelation God has given us of Himself, to the Bible. “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (John 1:18). To the eternal Word we must go for a more complete knowledge of God. What has God revealed concerning Himself? Time and again He impressed on His people: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, is one Lord.” St. Paul writes: “There is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). Again: “[There is] one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:6). Again: “There is one God, and there is one Mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5).

That this one God is not in one Person becomes evident from the words of this God at creation: “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” In speaking of Himself God uses the plural, “Us,” “Our.” From the account of creation we may know that there are three Persons. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth by the eternal Word and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light.” The Father created through the Word, who became flesh and lived among us, and the Holy Spirit moved over the face of the water. In the first chapter of his Gospel, St. John writes that the Word God spoke and through whom He created all things was the eternal, personified Word, the Son of God. In speaking of this Word, He says: “All things were made through Him.” “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Aaron, the first high priest, was told to bless the people: “The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” He mentions three, all three being the Lord, and pronounces a blessing of all three. Time and again when the Old Testament speaks of God, it does so in the figure of three.

In the New Testament the doctrine of three Persons in one divine Essence is most clearly taught. In the text Christ commands His disciples to baptize all nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Just as clear is the revelation at Christ’s Baptism. The Son stands by the Jordan; the Father’s voice is heard, “This is My beloved Son”; and the Spirit of God descends like a dove and alights on the Son.

The three Persons in God are separate and different. Each Person is different from each of the others. The Athanasian Creed states that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, and neither confound the Persons nor divide the Substance. The Father is not made or born or created, but from eternity. The Son is born or begotten of the Father from eternity. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son from eternity. All three are equally eternal, equal in glory and majesty. The Father is not greater than the Son or the Holy Spirit. That is the Bible doctrine: one God, three distinct Persons. “Which faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.”

How do we make the right use of this doctrine? Not by merely saying: Yes, the Triune God is the true God, and there is none beside Him. To use this doctrine properly, we must believe in this God and truly make Him our God. We were baptized according to Christ’s command, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We were baptized into this Name. The Triune God was present Himself. The Baptism into His Name was His own act. God the Father was there and declared: “I am your God, and you are My child. I have created you, and though you became a sinner and fell away from Me, this shall no longer separate us. I forgive you everything. I will care for you as your Father as long as you are in this world, and when you leave this life, heaven will be open to you as your eternal home. Believe this. Be Mine until death.” The Son of God was there, took you in His arms, and said: “You poor, sinful man, I am your God and Savior. All I have done for mankind I have done for you. My blood cleanses you from all sin, you shall have the cloak of My righteousness as your dress. In death I shall be at your side as the mighty Victor over death and hell, and lead you safely through death into life eternal. Only consider yourself My blood-bought property throughout life until death.” The Holy Spirit was there and said: “I am your God, and you shall be Mine. I have regenerated you, I have given you faith and a new heart and made you a child of God. I will be your Helper and Comforter and Teacher. I will be your Strength, that you may overcome and continue and remain a child of God until death. Permit Me to live in your heart, to rule you in body and soul, and do nothing to drive Me from you.” That is the covenant, the contract the Triune God made with us in Holy Baptism, and we make the right use of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity when we remain true to our part of the covenant, daily think of the wonderful blessings of Holy Baptism, and let it be a constant source of comfort and joy to our hearts.

Furthermore, we make the right use of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity if we bear in mind that the Triune God is the only God. It is said often that all men have the same God. It is argued that Jews, Mohammedans, Buddhists, who die without having heard and believed the Gospel, will not be damned if they were sincere in their particular religion. In this connection many say: “We all believe in the same God.” We do not! The only God is the Triune God. The Jew does not believe in the Son of God and rejects the Second Person. He has not the true God. The Mohammedan knows only Allah, no Son and Holy Spirit. He has not the true God. The same is true of the Buddhists and any other heathen. The Unitarians in our own country have not the true God, for they do not believe in the God of three Persons and deny that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are separate Persons. All of our modern preachers who do not accept the doctrine of the deity of Christ, who make the Son a mere man, have not the true God. Every fraternal organization that does not recognize the three Persons in God but wor-ships and prays to a nondescript supreme being who is acceptable to Jew, Mohammedan, Buddhist, and Hindu, is worshiping a false god. The only true God is the Triune God, and the worship of any other is idolatry. Our Lord said: “The Father … has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” . . . St. Paul knew but one God, and He is God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Can we not join in the worship of a false god if we think of the true God when the false is mentioned? If we privately and personally believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, can there be any harm in outwardly joining in the idolatry of others? The Corinthians in St. Paul’s day thought there was no harm in that. They participated in the feasts of the heathen and ate of the sacrifices offered on such occasions. They argued that they knew the true God and that the gods the heathen worshiped were no gods at all. Therefore they looked upon the sacrifices of the heathen as harmless and innocent. But the Apostle wrote: “My beloved, shun the worship of idols. . . . What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pa-gans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the Cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the Table of the Lord and the table of demons.” St. Paul argued by the Holy Spirit that although there was no such god as the pagans worshiped, their sacrifice was not as innocent as it looked. Since they did not worship the true God, they worshiped demons, their sacrifice was offered to demons, and the Corinthian Christians should have nothing to do with such worship. “I do not want you to be partners with demons.” The worship of the true God and the worship of demons do not mix. Christians can have no fellow-ship with such as sacrifice and offer worship and pray to a false god. They cannot drink the Cup of the Lord and the cup of demons, cannot be partakers of the Lord’s Table and of the table of demons. To join in the worship of a god who is not the true God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, would be idolatry. Shun the worship of idols!

May God by His Holy Spirit give us grace to confess and acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, to continue steadfast in this faith, and always to make the right practical use of the doctrine of the Trinity.

SERMON ON THE PSALM VERSE OF THE INTROITS

Ps. 8:1a: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent [majestic] is Thy Name in all the earth!”

With the Festival of the Holy Trinity the festive half of the Church Year comes to a close. We have observed Christmas in honor of God the Father, Easter in honor of God the Son, Pentecost in honor of God the Holy Spirit. Today we commemorate that the greatest and the only true religion in the world presents God as three in distinct Persons yet one in Essence.

Some time ago a group of young people were returning from a gathering. Between songs they discussed the examinations in science that were to be given during the coming week. Almost forgotten terms began to strike the pastor’s ear and memories of college courses came to life. The conversation made clear the regrettable fact that these boys and girls were not taught to see the Creator in His creation. How much more the universe with its mysterious laws would mean to them if they saw God reflected in His handiwork! To supply, in a measure, this lack in our pagan educational system is the purpose of the sermon this morning.

The revealed religion of the Old Testament taught that God is one. This was a new message at the time of Abraham, for man’s imagination had created many gods. Therefore, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, is one Lord” was impressed on God’s chosen people for centuries.

Then came Jesus of Nazareth and presented this one God in three Persons. At the very beginning of His ministry, the voice of the Father spoke out of the open heavens: ” This is My beloved Son.” The Son stood praying by the Jordan after His Baptism. The Holy Spirit descended visibly upon Him. From that time on, in all His preaching and private conversation, the Son spoke of His Father and Himself as two distinct Persons. “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27, also Luke 10:22). Yet He declared: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30); and: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

There is a third Person in this Oneness. Our Lord said: “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Again: “When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father … He will bear witness to Me” (John 15:26). This third Person, who is distinct from the Father and the Son, is represented everywhere in the Bible as being God. He is treated, listened to, and obeyed as a divine Person. He is sent by the Father in the Name of the Son, and by the Son from the Father. Our Lord commanded His disciples to baptize into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We have here a Name, but a threefold Name. Everywhere in the New Testament, each one of these Three is represented as being God.

We have here an absolute Threeness. There are definitely and absolutely no more and no fewer than three Persons in the Godhead. Each one of the Three is so genuinely distinct from the other that no one of the Three can possibly be either of the others. No two of the Three can exist without the other.

We have also absolute Oneness. The Three are represented as absolutely One, and each one is God. This does not mean that each one is a part of God, but each one is God. Each one is the whole. For God is indivisible. If God is Three in One, each one of the Three is God, and each one is the whole of God.

We have here three modes of being. As personal Beings, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are represented as three things which God is. We must not think of them as three ways in which God acts, three modes of action or manifestation, but as three things which God is, or three modes of being.

We have here a logical, or causal, order. Scripture clearly presents the Father as first, the Son as second, the Holy Spirit as third. It is not that one is first in deity, for all are God. Not that one is greater, for all are infinite. Not that one is first in time, for all are eternal. It can only mean that one is first, one second, one third in a logical, or causal, order. The Father is represented as the Source. The eternal Son is begotten of the Father perpetually. The eternal Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.

In this Triunity, the Father is unseen. He reveals Himself in the Son. “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (John 1:18). The Son is the visible embodiment of the Father and of the Godhead. “God . . . has spoken to us by a Son. . . . He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature [the express image of His substance]” (Hebr. 1:2,3). “In Him [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). Our Lord said: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The Son acts. He does the things that are done. God created the world through the Word, the Son, as we confess in the Nicene Creed: “By whom all things were made.” It is the Son who became man, died, rose, raised the dead and judges on the Last Day. The Holy Spirit, like the Father, is unseen. He reveals the Father in the Son. He works unseen in other beings, above all in men.

This one God in three distinct Persons, this divine Triunity, is a most mysterious Being, whom we cannot comprehend with our finite mind. Yet it is not unreasonable to expect that this God should be reflected in the universe He has made, in its structure and pattern. The Psalmist, not unreasonably, looked for limits of God in the physical world, and in the text exclaims that he found God’s excellent and majestic Name written in all the earth. We shall this day look at the universe for a glimpse of the Triune God.

When we look at the universe in the hope of seeing a reflection of the divine Triunity, we meet with the significant fact that there are three basic things in the structure of the universe. space, matter, and time. When we examine the three individually, we shall be convinced that God indeed wrote His excellent Name in all the earth.

We first look at space. Space has three dimensions or directions. The mathematician speaks of a fourth and even a fifth dimension, but we shall not be technical. When we build a house, we build it in three dimensions, length, breadth, height, no more, no less. So we have three things in one space.

We have here an absolutely necessary threeness. There must be three, no more, no less. We heard that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are so genuinely distinct from one another that none of the Three can possibly be any of the others. No two can exist without the other. So in space we have length, breadth, and height so distinct that none of the three can possibly be either of the others. Height cannot be length or breadth. Breadth is not, and cannot be, either of the others. Nor can one of the three exist without the others. True, the mathematician speaks of a plane surface. He takes away height, so that he has only length and breadth. But there is no such thing as a plane surface. It exists only in the imagination of the mathematician. You must have height, even if it is only the thickness of a coat of paint. Actual space does not exist unless it has all three directions. With any of the three missing, space becomes nonexistent. To give existence to any of the three, all three are necessary. Space is an absolute threeness, as God is an absolute Threeness.

Space is also a genuine oneness. Length, breadth, and height is not a part of space, but each is space, each is the whole of space. There is nothing in space that is not included in length, or height, or breadth. In a very definite sense, length comprises the whole of space. For space does not exist unless it has all three elements. The length is the whole, and so is the breadth and the height. None of the three can exist apart from the other two. Each one of the three is the whole of space.

The Triunity of Scripture is reflected also in this, that each dimension is not something which space does, but which space is. The three in the absolute triunity of space are three modes of being, just as the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are not three ways in which God manifests Himself, but three things which God is.

So much for space. Next to space in God’s universe is that which fills space and embodies space. We call it matter. But we know that it is primarily energy. Matter is the form which energy takes, so that we can see it, hear it, or feel it. We again have a triunity, three elements in matter: energy, motion, phenomenon.

Remember that we said of the Triunity of Scripture that the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are not merely three names for the Godhead but represent three modes of being. The Father is the Source, the Son acts, the Spirit produces results. The Father begets the Son perpetually, the Son is begotten eternally of the Father, the Spirit goes forth from the Father through the Son and brings about things you can see and feel. In God’s universe, energy is the source, the potentiality, the cause of motion. Energy begets motion, as the Father begets the Son. Motion in turn shows itself in phenomena, as the Son, be-gotten of the Father, makes Himself and His power felt by the work of the Spirit.

Here again we have an absolute, necessary threeness. There must be three, no more, no less.. You cannot have motion or phenomenon without energy. Energy cannot exist without begetting motion. It is the nature of energy to pass into motion. Motion cannot exist without energy back of it. Neither energy nor motion can exist or take place without phenomena inevitably issuing from it. Furthermore, the three are so distinct that none of the three can be either of the other two, leaving two instead of three. When we speak of motion, we do not mean the same as phenomenon. No one of the three can be put aside as being so much the same as one of the others that we do not need to give it a separate name. Matter can be neither more nor less than three. It presents an absolute threeness, as the Triunity of the New Testament.

Matter is also an absolute oneness. It is a unity of three in which each one is the whole. Energy, motion, phenomenon, each in turn is the whole. Motion consists entirely of energy at work, and therefore the material universe consists entirely of energy. But the physical universe consists entirely of phenomena. We have never seen or heard or felt anything else in the material universe. All phenomena are the impact of motion upon our senses or upon instruments. matter is an absolute oneness.

We see a reflection of the spiritual Triunity of the Bible also in this that energy, motion, phenomenon are three modes of being. The Father, the Son, the Spirit are not three “,ways in which God acts, but three things God is. So you cannot take matter and say that energy, motion, phenomenon are three ways in which matter acts. The three are matter. They are the things which the universe is. We cannot say that the physical universe acts through the three, and itself exists apart from them.

In matter we have the relationship of the three in the Godhead and the necessity of the threeness and oneness reflected so clearly that we are ready to make a practical application. It is necessary that the Triunity of the true God, the only God, be emphasized. The God of many people is not the true God. It seems that many in our day are still living in the Old Testament. Very few in America believe in more than one God, but that one God is not the God whom Jesus Christ revealed. He is the Architect of the Universe, the Great Spirit, the Father of All. But not more than one person is recognized. Jews, fraternal organizations, even supposedly Christian preachers ignore the Triunity utterly and eliminate Jesus Christ, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The fact that God is a Triune Being, and that each of the three distinct Persons is the whole of God. and that you cannot have one Person without the other two, is not considered vital.

Matter furnishes an excellent illustration of the futility of such a god. En-ergy is the first, the Father. Motion, which embodies energy, is the second; the Son embodies the Father. Phenomena, issuing from motion, is third — the Spirit. The Father begets the Son, works and acts through the Son. The Father’s very Being is that He acts through the Son. Without the begetting of the Son there is no Father. God acting except through the Son is impossible. So God without the Son is nonexistent, impotent. Why pray to a god and worship a god who cannot act because there is no Son through whom to act.

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. Energy is not without motion, and energy and motion are nonexistent without phenomena. The Father cannot exist without the Son and the Spirit. If there is no motion to produce phenomena, there is no source. The Father’s activity is distributed by the Holy Spirit through the Son. The Spirit is the personal medium through whom the Father through the Son touches human beings. God can do nothing for men except through the Spirit. The Spirit cannot come except through the Son, just as phenomena cannot be except through energy in motion. A God who does not include the three essential Persons is not God but an idol.

The third great element in the structure of the physical universe is time. This consists of three things, past, present, future. There are just three, and always three, and only three. There can be no more elements in time, and there can be no less.

Again we have an essential threeness. The three are distinct from each other. They are not different names for the same thing. The past is never the future. No two of the three can exist without the third. None of the three can exist without the other two. Time cannot exist at all without all three. If there is no past, time has never existed until this instant, and a little later this instant also will never have existed. If there is no present, there is never any instant in which time exists. If there is no future, time ceases now, has indeed ceased long ago. Without any one of the three, time cannot exist. It is an absolute threeness.

Time is also an absolute oneness. The three elements are so much one that each of them is the whole. Each element includes all of time. All of time has been or is future. The future includes it all. All of time is, or has been, or will be, present. The present includes it all. At the beginning, all time is future. Be-tween, all time is present. At the end, all time is past. Each one is the whole. They are as wholly one as that one is wholly three. It is an absolute triunity.
Again, past, present, future are not three things time does, but are three modes of being, three things which time is. They are the essential nature of time. Just as the Father, the Son, the Spirit are three modes of being and not three modes of acting.

The relationship of the divine Three-in-One is also reflected in time. The future is the source from which time comes. It floats out of the future, through the present, into the past. The source, the future, is unseen, as the Father is unseen. The future embodies itself and makes itself visible in the present, as the Father embodies Himself in the Son. The present is what we see and hear and know. The present is ceaselessly embodying the future, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, as the Son embodies the Father in the divine Triunity. The past comes from the present, as the Spirit comes from the Son. We cannot say that the past embodies the present, just as the Spirit does not embody the Son. On the contrary, time is issuing from the present into the past, becomes invisible again, just as the Father becomes invisible again after being embodied in the Son, when the Spirit performs His invisible work. The Spirit does not em-body the Son, but proceeds silently, endlessly, invisibly from Him. This is more than likeness between the triunity of time and the Triunity of the Godhead. It is identity, not of substance, but of principle.

So we could go on for hours and see the reason for the universe in God. The farther we were to go, the more we would exclaim with the Psalmist: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent, how majestic is Thy Name in all the earth!” God give us sight, that we may see Him in all the sciences and all the phenomena of the universe, and learn to know Him until we exclaim with St. Paul: “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

1 Response to Lindemann on the Feast of the Holy Trinity

  1. Ryan Tinetti

    “This difficulty is not solved by an old Lutheran Church Orders when it states: ‘The Christian congregation is to be instructed on this day about two great doctrines of Christian teaching, of the Holy Trinity and of Regeneration.’ ”

    Anyone know to what Church Orders he refers? Such instruction about the perceived theological focus for each Sunday would be enlightening.

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