May 30, 2021 A+D
St. John 3: 1-17, Athanasian Creed
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Trinity. Amen.
After laying out the doctrine of the Trinity in a simple yet detailed manner, the Athanasian Creed is explicit: “whoever is to be saved must think thus about the Trinity.”
Unless they repent, those who actively deny the Trinity will be condemned. This includes those who follow the religions of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, and modern day Judaism. They all actively deny the Holy Trinity. Thereby they separate themselves from the one, true God and His atoning sacrifice.
But they are not all who are in danger. To be saved one must think rightly of the Trinity. Those who claim to be agnostic, who might say they are spiritual, but not religious, or those who follow and believe the tenants of freemasonry and make a claim that there is only one God but that He can be reached in many ways or worshipped by different names, are likewise condemned unless they repent. They do not confess the God confessed by Holy Scripture and the Athanasian Creed.
Ignorance, willful or not, and denial of the Holy Trinity damn a person. This might sound overly harsh to you, but it is not our place to judge God. For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Our God is a jealous God. He does not force Himself upon humanity, but neither will He tolerate rejection and blasphemy for eternity. Whoever is to be saved must confess and trust in the Holy Trinity.
There are at least three ways this might be applied to us who do confess the Trinity. 1. Don’t stop confessing the Trinity even though the doctrine defies your reason or confounds your mind. 2. Don’t try to bend the doctrine of the Trinity to your reason. Submit to Scripture. Accept the mystery. And, finally, 3. Don’t be discouraged from thinking about the Holy Trinity even if it sometimes makes your head spin. The effort is worth it. The desire to draw closer to God is a godly desire, prompted by the Holy Spirit. A little head spinning and mental effort is good for us.
That being said, when we confess or read the Athanasian Creed, it might feel as though the doctrine of the Trinity is a doctrine of the Law. The Creed serves us by establishing categories and limits, defining what is in and what is out, and making some serious threats.
But in the end, the mystery of the Holy Trinity is a revelation of God’s love for us in Christ. The Doctrine more than the revelation of the threefold plurality of Persons in the Unity of the Godhead. It is also the revelation that God is Himself a family: a Father, a Son, and their Spirit. The Father is the Lover. He loves the Son, His only begotten and beloved. The Spirit is Love. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, is sent by the Son from the Father to testify of Christ, to comfort us with the Gospel, and to take what is God’s and declare it to be ours by grace.
American Christianity’s favorite verse is John 3:16. There Christ speaks in a pointedly Trinitarian way. God the Father sent Him. He is the only and eternally begotten Son. The Father did not send Him to condemn the world but to save the world. Elsewhere Christ promises that His Father is our Father. We are not begotten of the Father as is the Son. He is the only and eternally begotten. We are begotten of the Spirit, born from above by water and Spirit. We not only enter into the Kingdom, but we are made part of the family. We rightly call God Father and come to Him with boldness and confidence.
Despite the connotations of the word “Trinity” our God is not a mathematical formula or geometric proof. Nor is He revealed in such things. He is, in Himself, a Family: a Father, a Son, and their Spirit. This God reveals Himself to faith in His Word and invites us, not as merely creatures, but as His own beloved children and heirs, redeemed by the Blood of the Son who advocates for us.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the purest expression of the Gospel. It confesses and bestows the Father’s sending and loving, the Son’s redeeming and praying, and the Holy Spirit’s convicting comfort, all bound up in a family to which we ourselves have been called. To think rightly of the Holy Trinity is merely to believe the Gospel. To think wrongly of the Holy Trinity is to reject the Gospel.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.