daily biblical sermons


THE HOLY TRINITY BOTH IN ITSELF AND IN ITS SAVING WORK FOR US
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the Most Holy Trinity (Trinity Sunday), May 27, 2018
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40, Psalm 32, Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28:16-20


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

"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" (Matthew 28:19).


Today is Trinity Sunday, a day on which we reflect on the great mystery of the Trinity, that there is only one God, but that he consists in three divine persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these three persons is equally God. In God there are three distinct persons, but between these three persons there is only one divine essence or substance or nature.


In God there is only one divine mind and will, not three divine minds and three divine wills. Each of these persons uses this one common divine mind and will, yet each one knows himself as a distinct person from the other two persons, and each person does this using the one common divine mind to do so. Each person also loves the other two persons, using the one common divine will to do so.


And how do we know all this? We know it because Jesus, the incarnate Son of God was a divine person, not a human person, and he had two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. He had one person, but to natures, whereas God himself has three persons but one nature.


Furthermore, Jesus had two minds and two wills, a divine mind and will and a human mind and will. His human mind and will had to pertain to his human nature, not to his human person, because he did not have a human person to which they could pertain, for he had only one person, and that was a divine not a human person. So if Jesus' human mind and will pertained to his human nature and not to a human person, then it is logical to conclude that his divine mind and will similarly pertained to his divine nature, and not to his divine person. So we conclude that mind and will (whether divine or human) pertain to the nature, not to the person.


Therefore in God it must be the same. Mind and will must pertain to God's nature, not to his persons. But in God there is only one nature but three persons. Therefore God, although he is three persons, has only one divine mind and will that pertain to his one nature. The divine mind and will do not pertain to the three persons in God but to their one common divine nature.


The result is that in God there is only one divine mind and will that pertain to his one nature. And as the three persons all share one common divine nature, containing the one divine mind and will, they therefore have to all share in this one common divine mind and will; yet they do so in such a way that they know and love each other as distinct persons, distinct from each other, as we see in Jesus' prayer to his Father: "Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made" (John 17:5).


Here Jesus is speaking of his pre-incarnate state before the world was created, when he lived in glory with his Father. So before Jesus had a human mind and, as the eternal Son of God, only had a divine mind that he shared with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he still saw himself as a distinct person from the Father with whom he lived in glory.


But how is it that these three persons of the Trinity can know and love each other as distinct persons, distinct from each other, using the same common divine mind and will to do so? We can only say that each person must use the one common divine mind and will in his own way, the Father using it as Father, the Son using it as Son, and the Holy Spirit using it as Holy Spirit. This, of course, is completely mysterious to us, but it seems to be the best we can do to understand this divine mystery.


The Trinity became known to us not by human reasoning on our part, but only because Jesus revealed himself to us as God, equal to the Father. "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). The Holy Spirit becomes known especially at Pentecost, and Jesus speaks of the Father, of himself (the Son), and of the Holy Spirit as three distinct persons: "When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me" (John 15:26). "I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever" (John 14:16). "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me" (John 14:11).


God always existed, and he was always a Trinity. The Father was always a Father and he always had a Son. There was never a time when the Father did not have a Son. The Son was eternally generated from the Father, generated from all eternity.


God is not alone, he always lives in love, even before he created anything, because he is not one but three persons, eternally living together in love with each other.


The only way we can know any of this is through revelation by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Jesus revealed the fact of the Trinity to us. He spoke of himself as the Son of God, equal in divinity to God, who is his Father. And he spoke of the gift of the Holy Spirit that he would send to us from the Father at Pentecost.


The incarnation of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the greatest revelation of the Trinity, but the redemption is the greatest work of the Trinity, after our creation, as far as we human beings are concerned.


In the redemption, the three persons of the Trinity work together to save us. The Father sends the Son into the world as a man with both a human and a divine nature to represent the sinful human race before God and to take our sins upon himself so that he could suffer their just punishment for us by suffering and dying for them on the cross. "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3). Only as a man could the Son die, and only as God would his death be important enough before the Father to count as full payment and reparation for all the sins of the world.


Since our sins were punished in the flesh of the Son of God on the cross (Romans 8:3-4), the Father could declare righteous all us ungodly sinners who put our faith in the Son and genuinely repent of and abandon our grave sins. This declaration by the Father of us ungodly sinners as righteous, because of what the Son did for us on the cross, is God's great act of justification.


Justification comes to us by our faith, not by our works (Romans 3: 20, 28; Galatians 2:16), because our faith is what connects us as individuals with Christ's death on the cross so that the Father can credit our personal account with his death on the cross as payment of what we owe the Father in suffering in punishment for our sins.


So through our faith in Christ, because of what he did for us on the cross, the Father sees that our debt of suffering in punishment for our sins has been paid for us, and so he acquits and sets us free from our sins and gives us a new life as justified Christians who now can and must follow God's moral law and thereby grow in sanctification.


Once we are acquitted and justified, the Son sends us from the Father the Holy Spirit, which renews and sanctifies us, filling us with divine love, for "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Romans 5:5).


Now justified by the death of the Son of God on the cross, through our faith in him, we are sent forth into the world by the risen Son to "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" (Matthew 28:19). So that everyone might have the opportunity to know about and believe in Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation, we preach to all peoples and nations this good news about how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, saves all who believe in him.

 

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