“Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the Undivided Unity!”
᛭ INI ᛭
Now, Trinity talk is often lofty talk. Big ideas for a supposed big God. “Substance.” “Nature.” “Person.” “Godhead.” “Trinity in Unity.” “Unity in Trinity.” (Athanasian Creed) All these and more are used to defend the Church against those who twist the Scriptures to their own harm and damnation. These terms and phrases and even the Creeds are just the Church using other words to safeguard and confess what the Triune God reveals about Himself in the Scriptures.
Now, whatever we know of the Trinity, whatever we believe about Him is from Scripture alone, but what Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reveals about Himself isn’t just information. It’s all revealed in Jesus. Jesus is the eternal Son, the second Person of the Trinity.
Now, the Trinity isn’t far off, and you’re not far from Him. That’s not just revealed in the Son coming to us. The Trinity unites Himself to you and you to Him. That’s what’s revealed to us in Holy Baptism, the first time the Trinity encountered you personally, to save you.
(Three “nows” for three sections.)
((3. The Trinity κατὰ θεότητα transcends us.))
Now, using all sorts of lofty talk to confess the Trinity sort of makes sense. The Trinity in Himself, according to His divinity, transcends us. He’s “incomprehensible” (ἀνεξεραύνητα), “inscrutable” (ἀνεξιχνίαστοι), indivisible, invisible. He’s unknowable (ἀνεξεραύνητα), unsearchable (ἀνεξιχνίαστοι), undivided, unseen—“whom no one has ever seen or can see!” “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unknowable (ἀνεξεραύνητα) His judgments and unsearchable (ἀνεξιχνίαστοι) His ways!”
The Father is not the Son nor the Spirit. The Son is neither His Father or His Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father, and He is not the Son. “The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” (Ath. Creed)
There is only one God, “but there are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (Christian Question 8) “The Father is God only, as is the Holy Spirit; but the Son is both true God and true man. He died for me and shed His blood for me.” (Christian Question 10)
“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons in one divine essence and nature, is one God, who created heaven and earth.” (Smalcald Articles, Article I, §1) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit “is,” not “are,” the one God. (Schlink, 63)
((2. The Trinity κατὰ οἰκονομίαν reveals Himself to us.))
Now, we know all that stuff about Trinity, how the persons relate to each other, and that those persons together is the one God—we only know all of that because God reveals it to us!
It’s not just that God reveals it by telling us about it. It’s not just that this mystery is written down throughout the entire Bible. It’s all revealed to us in a person. It’s all revealed in Jesus.
Jesus reveals the Trinity to us. He is the Word of the Trinity. (That’s a little deep.) Anyway, He’s the Son sent from the Father. He speaks for His Father; His Father speaks through Him. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, “begotten of His Father before all worlds.” (Nicene Creed) “He is the exact imprint of His nature.” (Heb 1) “In Jesus the fulness of God dwells bodily.” (Col 2) As Jesus says later in John, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (Jn 14)
Jesus says the same thing today in John 3! “Truly, truly I say to you, WE speak about what WE know, and WE bear witness about what WE have seen, and you do not receive OUR testimony.” (Jesus the Son speaks for His Father and the Spirit.)
This is also hinted at in the song of the Seraphim in Isaiah 6: “Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of His glory.” But also in the next verse after our reading we hear the King, Yahweh, speak: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for US.” (Is 6:8) (The Son speaks for the Father.) And “God sent His Son into the world so that the world would be saved through Him.”
“Jesus is a mirror of the fatherly heart.” (LC II§65) The Son reveals His Father’s heart, His mercy and love, at Calvary. There the Son is “high and lifted up” (Is 6:1) for you, “just like Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so it is necessary that the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes would have eternal life through Him.” This is the Lord, the King, the Jesus that Isaiah sees: “I saw the Lord high and lifted up,” also prophesied Isaiah 52 and 53: “Behold, My Servant shall deal wisely and will be high and lifted up and very exalted….And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
The Father gives up His Son unto death. The Son submits, is sent, and gives up His life unto death. “He is the propitiation for our sins, but not ours only , but for the sins of the whole world.” (1 Jn 2) The Spirit makes this known to us, creates the faith within us, “so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” We know all this from Jesus, the Son, who reveals the Triune God to us.
((1. The Trinity κατὰ βάπτισμα unites Him with us.))
Now, all this, all that Jesus, the eternal Son, reveals about the Triune God, isn’t just revealing intimate details about the inner workings of God just because He can. He’s not telling us things God’s anatomy so we can be super smart. It’s not some philosophical or theological or religious system. It’s actually about knowing, or rather being known by this Triune God who saves you.
God doesn’t reveal Himself to you so that you have to make your way to Him. He reveals that He has already made His way to you. Even you! There’s no need to get yourself out of the depths of what you don’t know or the depths of your sin or the depths of your grave! The Son comes from the heights into our depths to bring us up from our depths unto His heights! Or to put this another way: The triune God doesn’t just reveal Himself to us; He unites Himself with us!
You are Baptized. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You bear His name, His holy name, so you are Holy. The Father’s mercy, the Son’s redemption and forgiveness, and the Spirit’s holiness all yours! Through the Triune God’s precious promises, promises made and delivered in Baptism, “you become sharers of the divine nature!” (1 Pt 1:4) No sin, no darkness, no trouble, no death, no grave can change what He has done for you, not just in Jesus, but at the Font, in the water and word of your Baptism.
Now, Trinity talk is often lofty talk to confess the Transcendent Trinity.
Now, whatever we know of the Trinity, whatever we believe about Him is all revealed in Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, as the Scriptures say.
Now, the Trinity isn’t far off, and you’re not far from Him. The Trinity unites Himself to you and you to Him in Holy Baptism.
Or to summarize our three “nows”:
THE TRANSCENDENT TRIUNE GOD REVEALS HIMSELF IN JESUS AND UNITES HIMSELF TO YOU IN BAPTISM.
Jesus is the Son sent from the Father, sent to die and rise for you, and so He did. The Spirit makes it yours. Creates faith within you. This Triune God unites Himself to you and you to Him in Holy Baptism.
One day you you’ll see it, see Him! “Right now we see in a mirror dimly,” as Paul says, “but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor 13)
“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons in one divine essence and nature, is one God, who created heaven and earth.” (Smalcald Articles, Article I, §1) Not just that: saved you. Calvary and Holy Baptism.