2 Corinthians 13:14 NKJV
and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
THE TRINITY’S LOVE IS AT WORK TO BLESS YOU
1. The Father’s Love from Eternity
2. The Son’s Love on the Cross
3. The Spirit’s Love to Unite
One of the things about growing up in a large family with several brothers who were very close to me in age is that we very often were given similar gifts. I remember one Christmas in which we all received the same toolbox from my grandparents. Quite often my mother would buy all of us the same shirt or shorts with just a little bit different color or pattern. My father would get each of us the same hunting accessory.
Of course, now that I am a parent of similarly aged children, I find that my wife and I are doing the same thing.
In looking at our text for today, this idea of similar gifts is what struck me right away. In this verse we see three gifts from God that are given to you. And make no mistake about it. These three gifts of grace, love, and communion are yours.
Although this verse is often translated as a wish or a blessing, there is actually no verb found in the original Greek. This happens often in Greek; we call it an implied verb. But the verse it literally translates the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit with you all.
Most translators (including the NKJV, which is what we are using today) insert the verb “be” which gives it that blessing idea. But a few translations use the verb “is.” Which would result in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with you all.
But no matter how you look at it, the idea remains the same. These three gifts are yours. Not because of the power of the individual who utters these words, whether it is your pastor or friend or the apostle Paul. The power to fulfill these gifts in your life come from God Himself.
God, who describes Himself in these verses and in many other places in Scripture as Triune. This word Triune is what this weekend in the church year is all about.
It is interesting. Most other part of the church year are based upon events. Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost. All of these recognize certain actions that Jesus took in the plan of our salvation. Yet Trinity Sunday is a festival about a teaching, a doctrine of Scripture. A doctrine so deep that not the most learned theologian or gifted scholar can understand it.
The word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, but the teaching of the Trinity is most certainly there. The word Triune refers to the 3 (tri) in 1 (unity) of our God. Three persons, yet one God. Each person is true God, and yet there are not three gods, but one God.
We all just confessed the Athanasian Creed together and it is one of the best and most comprehensive explanations out there of the nature of the Triune God, and yet even in that creed it is easier to explain what the Trinity is not rather than what it is.
We simply cannot understand or comprehend the immensity of our God. And that is a good thing. It is a good thing that we cannot fully understand the nature of God, because how much of a God would He be if we could figure Him out? We simply accept by faith what we confess every Sunday. That God is Triune because He says He is.
In our text today, in the similar gifts we see that are ours by faith, we see different aspects of the beauty of our Triune God. Similarly to the way that a precious jewel looks different and yet the same depending on the angle at which you look at it, as we consider the different gifts of the Triune God given to you, we get a look at the brilliance and splendor of our one God whom we worship in Trinity and Trinity in unity.
1. The Father’s Love from Eternity
First, we look at the work of God the Father. Our text speaks of the Father’s love playing a role in our salvation.
We have a hard time defining exactly what love is, but the Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). The more we study God and His Word, the more we know about love. The important thing to know about God and His love is that it involves action. We know from our own personal lives that actions speak louder than words. If someone says they love you, but then go on doing very unloving things, that causes us to conclude that they do not mean what they are saying. And yet when God says He loves us, He certainly backs those words up with action.
The Greek word that the Spirit chose to use here is ἀγάπη. Agape love is unconditional love. Love that continues to thrive and abide no matter the reaction or disbelief of the object of that love. A love that will keep working no matter what. That is the love that God has for you. And look how God has backed that up.
In love, God created the world. In love, God continues to preserve the world. In love, God came up with the plan of salvation when we did not deserve it. In love, God chose you and me before the foundation of the world. It was love that caused God to do all that He has done for us. Paul tells us clearly, God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
2. The Son’s Love on the Cross
Christ died for us. That is how the second person of the Trinity showed His love. He died.
The Greek word is χάρις but we know it in English as “grace.” Otherwise known as “undeserved love.” See what I mean about similar gifts? And yet there is a distinction to be made from that agape love of the Father.
Grace is what separates true Christianity from every other world religion. No other religion teaches that salvation is a gift form God that does not have to be earned. This is a concept that is completely foreign to the human mind. The human heart naturally believes that it needs to do or accomplish some set of rules or make some sort of sacrifice in order to be saved.
But as the Apostle Paul says, if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. (Romans 11:6).
This teaching of work-righteousness can only result in hopelessness or hypocrisy. Either you conclude correctly that you can never do enough to save yourself or you conclude incorrectly that you have done enough and are now saved because of how great you are. Either way, it takes the credit away from Christ and His grace. His undeserved love.
It is Christ and His goodness that we can build our hope on. He is our cornerstone, our firm foundation. Paul says earlier in 2 Corinthians, For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (8:9). In order to win salvation for you, Jesus set aside all of His power and privilege in Heaven and came to this earth. Here on earth, He lived under the law and ultimately suffered the most horrific death of all in His sacrifice on the cross. This death was in place of us. It was the death we deserved. And yet because Christ endured it for us, we have now become rich. Not in worldly riches, but in spiritual riches of salvation.
Think about it. What value would you put on your blood or your children’s blood? What value would you put on your life or your children’s life? Now what value would we put on the blood and life of the Son of God Himself? Not all the gold and jewels of this world would be enough.
As the Apostle Peter wrote, knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The grace, the undeserved love of Jesus is complete. It has been accomplished for you and for me. This was the work of God the Son.
3. The Spirit’s Love to Unite
But it is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us into fellowship with God. The Greek word here is κοινωνία. It is often translated fellowship or communion and it emphasizes another aspect of God’s love for us. That is how we are united with Him. It is the Holy Spirit who works in us that faith that allows us to receive that Grace that was won for us by our Savior Jesus Christ.
This is where it is important to emphasize that no one person of the Trinity is superior over another one. Even though we focus so much on Jesus and His work, it would not mean anything if the Holy Spirit had not recorded Holy Scripture for us and worked that Word in our hearts to create faith.
I have used the analogy before of the Grace of Christ being like a great big water tower, large enough to provide grace to all the people of the world. But that huge water tower of grace does not do us any good if we cannot find some way to get that grace to our hearts and our homes. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Faith is the pipeline that brings that grace to us. But it is indeed the grace that saves us.
As Paul says in the familiar verses of Ephesians, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is because the Holy Spirit has worked that faith in our hearts that the grace of Christ can now come to us. And sadly, it is because so many have rejected the Holy Spirit that they are lacking that Water of Life that Christ would so freely give.
Yes, we must always give thanks for the work of the Holy Spirit. Because He is the one who makes us a part of God’s family. By the power of the Word and Sacraments, we are now children of God and have the promise of eternal life in heaven.
It is also the work of the Holy Spirit that brings us into fellowship with one another. No matter what differences we may have in wealth, politics, background, or any other earthly thing, we have a common union in Christ. Any other bond that would unite us is would be torn down by the pressures of this world, but the bond of Christ goes beyond this life.
This benediction from our Triune God is more than just wishful thinking. It is fact. Paul wanted to impart to the Corinthians the grace of Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Spirit. We also need these things for life on earth and for life in heaven. Thanks be to God that we have them!
On this Trinity Sunday, let us remember how the three Persons of our Triune God work in unity to bring about our salvation. Do not worry about understanding the Trinity—we cannot understand it on this side of eternity—but instead focus on how the one, true, holy, Triune God has saved you. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with you all. Amen.”