The Incomprehensible Love of the Triune God
O Father, Son and Holy Spirit - You are the one true Triune God of the Universe. You are a God of love who has mercy on sinners like us. You have planned our salvation, carried out its work, and conveyed its benefits to us as individuals as You call us to faith. We will praise Your name now and throughout eternity! Amen.
“The Incomprehensible Love of the Triune God”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning is found in the New Testament Gospel of John, chapter 3, verses 1-17. Here we read:
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." 3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." 4 Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" 5 Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" 10 Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 "Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Today we have come to that Sunday of the church year known as Trinity Sunday. Traditionally, it is on Trinity Sunday, in particular, that we take time to meditate on the Triune nature of one true God, as He is revealed to us in Holy Scripture – the fact that He is three separate and distinct persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), and yet, that He is not three different gods, but that He is finally only one, indivisible God.
While on a certain level we can teach, confess and even whole-heartedly believe in the triune nature of our God, we also must admit that within the confines of our present, limited, earthly experience and intellect we cannot yet fully understand just how all of this works. When we think about just how exactly it is that the triune nature of our God plays itself out in certain situations, it can still seem more than a little confusing, at times.
But, then again, that’s OK too, isn’t it?
Frankly, when it comes to our life of faith in God through His Word, this is ultimately a life of child-like faith. We don’t necessarily need to fully understand everything that God tells us in His Word, we just need to trust that it is true because He is the one who is telling us these things. In fact, where human beings like us start getting ourselves in trouble, at times, is when we start trying to fit everything that God reveals to us in His Word into neat little packages that seem to make more sense according to only our lowly, human ways of thinking. More than one false teaching has arisen over the years because man has tried to limit God and His Kingdom in a way that seems to make sense according to our human ways of thinking, but in the end actually changes the substance of His Word in doing so.
Rather, when it comes to God, His Word and His saving Kingdom, we are simply taught by His Spirit to believe all this at face value – even when everything doesn’t always seem to jive with our limited, human ways of thinking and logic. Martin Luther once said that when merely human ways of thinking about things would try to usurp the clear principles that are taught in God’s Word, then it is at this point that a person should learn to “poke out the eyes of his reason”, and bow solely to the authority of God’s Holy Word.
And, really, the truth is, because God is so much greater than us and because His ways are so much higher than our ways, it only makes sense that this will be the case sometimes. It’s like we heard in our first Scripture reading for this morning, Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 "For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" (Romans 11:33-34)
Again, within the limited context of this life we will not always be able to fully comprehend the vast depths of God’s ways and workings, however, thankfully, we don’t have to do this. God has already figured everything out for us. And then God puts His Spirit in us to believe this is true – and in this Spirit-created faith is found truly the kind of peace in our hearts that surpasses all understanding.
It is in our text for this morning that we hear of how Jesus spoke with regard to such matters as He conversed with the Jewish Pharisee, Nicodemus, who had come to speak with Him by night.
So, as Nicodemus came to Jesus that night, Jesus began by instructing him with regard to a matter that is as important a matter as there is – He instructed Nicodemus with regard to matters of just how it is that sinners like us are made members of God’s saving kingdom of Heaven.
Again, in this light, Jesus begins by saying to Nicodemus, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." After Nicodemus failed to fully grasp the meaning of Jesus’ words, He further explained these things by saying, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Unfortunately, the age-old human idea of work-righteousness had reared its ugly head within the circles of the Jewish religious community. This being the case, many of the Jewish teachers believed and taught that it was one’s own efforts and works according to God’s law-commandments that gained a person entrance into God’s saving kingdom. Of course, on this occasion Jesus taught something completely different. Jesus taught that one could only be converted and made a member of God’s saving kingdom completely apart from one’s own will or efforts – in fact, He taught that one can only be received into the Kingdom of God by the converting work and the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words whenever a person is connected to God and His saving Kingdom of Heaven, this doesn’t have anything to do with what the person has done, but this has everything to do with what God has done for that person.
As Jesus spoke of such things, He then also began to speak of the Spirit’s miraculous converting work in water baptism.
Indeed, the sacrament of Holy Baptism is truly one of the most amazing, but hard-to-understand aspects of God’s saving kingdom – that such a seemingly simplistic act can do such great things – can bring forgiveness of sins, faith and salvation. From only our outside perspective, it can even seem like these things just can’t be. After all, we certainly don’t see anything happen when a baptism takes place, it just looks like plain water, everything looks the same after the baptism happens as before it had happened. And, unfortunately, this even leads Christians, at times, to doubt the power of God which is connected with baptism – which has led some to even withhold baptism from infants and young children. But that doesn’t need to be the case, because, again, we don’t need to fully understand just how everything works with regard to something like baptism to receive its enormous blessings (thank God!), but we can simply be assured in our hearts to believe it is true because God tells us so.
Yes, in words of God, we hear so in the book of Acts, where the Apostle Peter preaches, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) And the apostle then goes on to say how this promise in baptism is for children, also.
Again, speaking of the miraculous, even hard to understand nature of God’s Spirit in His saving kingdom, and in something like the sacrament of Baptism, Jesus continues by teaching Nicodemus, "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' 8 "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Here, Jesus pointed to the wind as an example of something that human beings know to be a very real, active and effective force, but also one that we don’t fully know everything about. Even in our day and age of modern meteorology, there are certain things regarding the phenomenon of blowing winds that are not necessarily fully understood or perfectly explained. Just how exactly is it that a wind begins to blow, or ceases to blow? How is it that a wind can change directions so rapidly and sporadically? And yet, simply because we do not fully understand something like the wind, we would also not want to try to deny its existence as being implausible – no, the plain evidence and effects of its existence are right in front of our faces every time it blows.
Again, Jesus goes on to say such is the case with the miraculous faith-creating work of the Holy Spirit. While we cannot necessarily see it with our eyes, and while we may not fully understand the extent of it with our minds, His work clearly exists. In fact, again, wonderfully, we ourselves are proof of this very thing as the Holy Spirit has created this saving faith within our very own hearts so that we have come to believe in God through Him – we can look back to our own water baptisms as assurance that the Holy Spirit has indeed miraculously come to us in this way.
Now, as Jesus related these important truths regarding the miraculous, saving ways of the Triune God, He lamented the fact that Nicodemus was slow to understand and accept them by faith, even as he was still, trying to rationalize them too much in accordance with his own lowly, human logic and understanding. Jesus lamented this because this man was even a religious teacher among the people of Israel. But then again, this is exactly why Jesus, the Son of God from Heaven, came to this world – to teach and do the things of Heaven for the people of this world in only the way He could, as God from Heaven.
Indeed, Jesus came to be the teacher of even teachers of God’s Word, because no mere human being can ever fully know the truth of God on his own, but we need God Himself to tell and show us these things. And that is why Jesus could do this so well for us, because He is no mere human – because He is God Himself, made man.
In our text Jesus testifies to His divine, joined nature with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as the one true Triune God, as He says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.
In this regard, the Heavenly Teacher, Jesus, goes on to reveal to Nicodemus (and us) the final plan of God’s salvation which would be accomplished in Himself for this world of sinners – that which we need to know most of all. Again, Jesus says, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
And, finally, in a very real way, this might be the most incomprehensible matter of our incomprehensible God – the greatness of His love toward us.
Certainly, it’s one thing to know that the all-knowing, all-powerful, incomprehensible God of the universe exists, as such – it is quite another thing to know that as He exists He does so for the specified purpose of loving each one of us with a perfect, saving love at all times. This is truly what Jesus – the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity – has come into this world to teach us, to show us, and to do for us. He has finally come into this world as God Himself and as the visible demonstration of God’s saving love to us by His perfect life and total sacrifice on the cross to bring us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Just think of this, the all-powerful creator of universe by grace loves and saves us – we, who sin against Him continually throughout our lives. And even though God is the Savior of all mankind, throughout all history, still He loves and knows each one of us better than we know ourselves. He personally comes into each of our hearts by His Holy Spirit to create faith and live inside of us, even as He has come to do in each of us at our baptisms.
On this Trinity Sunday, we praise our incomprehensible Triune God for His seemingly incomprehensible saving love for us. When we think about it, it’s all almost too much to understand – this great God and His great love for us. Thankfully, we don’t have to understand all of God and even His great love toward us to fully receive Him and His benefits to us … but only believe.
And, again, it is the one, true, great Triune God Himself who does this for all for us. He has done so by sending His Son into this world for us, and by sending His Spirit to live inside of us. Amen.