Holy Trinity

Strange, indeed, is the Athanasian Creed.  Perplexed tongues undulate in unusual patterns, expressing what confuses us, as we quiver molecules of air about the mysteries of God.  The creed’s words speak of the blessed Trinity, on the threefold nature of God, whom we can never master.  No mere created being can comprehend the Creator’s mind (Romans 11:34), including the writers of today’s long and laborious creed.  Beyond all our abilities, God is unsearchable, dwelling in unapproachable light.

The ancient prophet, Isaiah, takes a measure of us next to God.  In images we understand, God sits on the circle of the earth and we, its inhabitants, are like grasshoppers.  How much can an insect conceive about us?  So are we with God, but more so, unable to apprehend the essence of an all-knowing and absolute Being. 

Here are a few pieces we can fathom. “Lift your eyes on high.  Recognize who created the heavens, who brings out the starry host and numbers them, calling them all by name.  By the greatness of his might and strength of his power, not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).  Ah, so God is as we proclaim, “Almighty.”

“The nations are like a drop in a bucket, like a speck of dust on the scales; like fine dust, he can lift the islands.  Compared to him, all the people are like nothing, counted by him as empty nothingness” (Isaiah 40:15, 17).  Now, if this befalls the assembled might of man, what of us?  In our many meanderings of life, something always comes along to stomp our bigness down to size.  So, many of our efforts revolve around striving to safeguard our lives and prop them up.  Will our struggles end in nothing?  One day, we are alive, not so the next.  Is all an empty chasing after the wind?

Suppose we wanted the bugs of the world to discern our human mind.  Though an impossible endeavor, pretend those crawling creatures of lesser intelligence can now learn a bit of who we are.  How can this be?  Only by us becoming what they are, using their ways to convey, in some way, who we humans are.  Of course, such creatures come with a less-complex intellect, limiting their capability to comprehend us.

To experience God, we must undergo a similar process, understanding Him by the God who became human.  Otherwise, everything we seek will be futile.  In Christ, God came to us and revealed Himself in human terms. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). 

To be in Jesus is to find yourself connected to His Father.  In Christ, we behold “the glory as of the One-and-Only of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  Some 30 years after His birth, we learn the height of His glory turned out to be the killing cross, the most momentous act of God as a human. 

On the wood of death, we gazed on God in His humanity, while His God-ness remained unseen to our eyes.  For God’s holiness surpasses our sinful capacity to endure.  So, He came to us in His hiddenness.  Now, we can relate to Him. 

So, what is God?  Recall the cross and what led Him to the slope of death—love!  For you and me, the ungodly, He died. “No one shows greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). 

Only in this Son, and no one else, can we savor and bask in the Father’s disposition toward us, which is our eternal deliverance.  For when sin puts us on the wrong side of God, Jesus answers for us in love.  In Him, we stand forgiven, and our guilt is gone.  Now, Jesus’ Father is also ours because of what He did for us.

So, God isn’t your Father because He happens to be the Creator.  Now, whether you trust in Him or not, He is still your Creator.  Ah, but God does become your Father when the Spirit joins you to His flesh-born Son.  So, because of Jesus, you are God’s child to live forever in the life He gives.  Any other road to heaven abandons you, leaving you forsaken in your sin. 

The Scriptures tell us, “No one can claim ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).  The Spirit creates faith in God’s sin-forgiving Son.  Now, we may delight in Him as our death-defeating Savior who becomes, for us, our access to the Father.  Only this Spirit shows, and delivers, Jesus to us. 

The Heaven-sent Spirit doesn’t point us to Himself.  No, He comes to us through the Christ-infused Word and turns us around, so we identify Jesus as He is: The Father’s Son, our Redeemer.  Remember the Small Catechism.  By our reason or strength, we can’t come to believe in Christ.  No, the Christ-giving Spirit must call us through the Gospel and keep us in true faith. 

The faith-creating Spirit causes us to cling to Christ’s saving work, reconciling us to the Father.  Now, our trespasses no longer condemn us because Jesus brings us, absolved and cleansed creatures, back home to the Father. “Behold what manner of love the Father bestows on us, calling us his children—and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

In everything associated with the Trinity, so far, who is doing the verbs, you, me, or God?  By God’s own actions, we learn to value Him—demonstrated most by His sin-cleansing work for us in Christ. 

In His life-granting grace, God reveals Himself as a three-personed God.  Brood over Jesus’ words for baptism.  Born of water and also Spirit, someone is born from above into the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. 

Once a year, we confess the Athanasian Creed.  The default confession for the Service is the Nicene Creed, denoted by the original language of “we believe.”  The Apostles’ Creed is for one’s baptism, where the baptized person believes and trusts in “God, the Father Almighty,” “in Jesus Christ,” and “in the Holy Spirit.” 

In the life of our Lord’s Church, events took a disturbing turn, making these creeds necessary.  Some began to maintain the Son is not eternal, but the highest creation of the Father.  Now, this undercuts the entire redemptive work of Christ, for if the One who redeemed us is not also God, He dies as an ordinary man.  Such a death conveys no forgiveness or restoration. 

A deacon, Athanasius, soon to be a bishop, understood the implications of this false teaching and defended Christ’s deity at the city of Nicaea, in 325 AD.  An enlarged creed resulted.  The council affirmed Jesus as the only Son of the Father, who is of one substance with Him, by whom everything came into being. 

Stagnant in sin, however, many found this path hard to walk.  Some challenged the humanity of Christ, while others made Him less than the Father.  The confession of the Trinity became corrupted, and confusion increased.  So, the truth-proclaiming Church again needed to defend her heavenly and holy doctrines. 

With craft and precision, the Church chose specific words to describe the Triune God.  Over time, this creed grew in its use.  In honor of the staunch defender of Jesus’ divinity, people referred to this as the Athanasian Creed, spoken by us moments ago. 

Today, our mystified mouths muttered through its maze of words.  Though we uttered them as our own, don’t think they explain every nook and nuance of God.  A creed can’t collect every divine truth about an incomprehensible God.  No, we are mere echoes, repeating what pleased God to tell us about Himself.

A faithful creed surrounds us with insight about God while leaving much unsaid.  Still, these series of statements serve as a boundary, allowing us to realize when some falsehood will place someone outside our Savior’s Church and the Faith we believe. 

Despite all this, God’s majesty and mechanisms still baffle us, for we cannot perceive everything about Him.  Sheer folly and presumption will lead us to think we can, attempting to contain Him in our little, controllable, and tidy boxes.  No, for who can grasp the mind of the Lord?  (Romans 11:34).

Though this is true, do not fret, for God chooses not to reveal His full magnificence and splendor to us for our benefit and well-being.  Still, He did show all we needed for our salvation.  In Him, we find mercy and forgiveness for sinners, in the One who became incarnate to accomplish our redemption.  Yes, God put Himself within our grasp, unveiling Himself in Jesus of Nazareth, earning for us our everlasting life. 

Like God becoming a flesh-and-blood man to save us, He also selects to deliver His gift of life to us, cloaked in the things of this physical world.  Today, He does this, using words, water, bread, and wine.  To be present, God approaches in His self-chosen delivery methods of grace, supplying us with His salvation.  So, be where He wants you to find Him.  To search elsewhere is but the worthless wanderings of a fool. 

So, our pride must take a lower place if we are to live in God.  To us, sin-infected beings, Jesus still descends as He decides.  Through the spoken Word and in the food of wine and bread, He again humbles Himself to be with us, for our limits do not define Him.  No, God sets them for Himself. 

Only as God desires to give us of Himself, can we receive Him.  No one can clamor his way up to God.  No, He comes to us, all the way.  How merciful God is, displaying His kindness, as He blesses us with what Christ achieved.  From the sending Father, through the saving Son, and in the belief-bestowing Spirit, never-ending life is now ours, without respite or end.  Amen.

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