S-1364-TS/C 5/26/2013 Hymns: (O) #239; (S) #40; L.S. #246; #243; (C) #244
Texts: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Acts 2:14, 22-36; John 8:48-59
Theme: “Opposition to the Unity of the Trinity” (John 8:51-53)
Question: “Have you ever been persecuted for being a Christian?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for Trinity Sunday is from the Gospel lesson: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My Word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps My Word, he will never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do You make Yourself out to be” (John 8:51-53).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Precious people of God, Jesus was not crucified because He was a good man, a great teacher or a wonderful example. He was crucified because He spoke the truth claiming to be God. The Jewish leaders of His day understood well what Jesus was saying about Himself; that is why in the text before us we hear the opposition rising like flood water. They opposed Him with these words: “The Jews said to Him, ‘Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps My Word, he will never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do You make Yourself out to be?” These leaders were questioning Jesus and the claim He was making about Himself. The sentence, “Who do You make Yourself out to be?” In the original language begins with a word that expects a negative response. In essence they were saying: “Surely you are NOBODY of importance. In fact, You are demon possessed. But Jesus comes back, with the affirmative answer that He is greater than father Abraham, the prophets and all of them combined. He was and is the Great I AM of the Old Testament and there is none like Him who is able to save. And with that the opposition heightened to the point they picked up stones to stone Him.
On this Trinity Sunday, we are once more faced with the truth of the great opposition to the Unity of the Trinity. Oppositions against Christianity is nothing new. Jesus experienced it firsthand. You know that full well. He taught it in the public square that He would be handed over to the Jewish leaders, would suffer, be crucified and put to death. He even told the disciples they will endure these kinds of persecutions as well because they are His followers. He stated: “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor Me” (John 16:1-3). Indeed, opposition to the Unity of the Trinity is increasing daily and I assure you it will get much worse; and if you haven’t experienced it you will. PAUSE.
This opposition to the Unity of the Trinity has been around since the days the Lord Jesus walked this earth in human flesh. And it has increased and continues to increase. Many have questioned the authority of Jesus as God in human flesh. Many have debated if He is a lunatic, liar, loser or Lord. And one of the greatest enemies of Christianity is Islam.
Islam was and is a prominent world religion. It began through the prophet Muhammad, who was concerned about the moral condition of people around him. In AD 610, he claimed that the angel Gabriel (or as he called him the Holy Spirit) appeared to him to reveal a new religion. Since then, Islam has flourished and spread mostly by the power of the sword. Today, with over a billion Muslims in the world and over six million in the United States, it is the number one religion that opposes Christianity. Throughout the history of Islam they have attempted to wipe out Christianity by force. They have burned churches, killed and raped Christians, denied them jobs and positions in government, all in the name of their religion. And as you compare Islam with Christianity quickly you will notice the differences.
One of the most significant points of opposition is the Unity of the Trinity. Christians believe and confess that we have one God, yet three persons in that one God. Islam’s response can be summarized in their central teaching the Shahadah, (say it in Arabic) that is: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” Islam strongly disagrees with the Christian Trinity, since it maintains that God must be one and cannot at the same time consist of three. PAUSE.
But it is not only the Muslims that oppose the Unity of the Trinity; we have the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Scientologists and many others. They claim Jesus is merely a good teacher, a wonderful example, a son of God BUT not THE Son of God. He can’t be God. He can’t obtain the glory that belongs to God, nor do the things God does.
For this reason, Islam, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and others have great difficulty with the Christian doctrine that Jesus is of one substance with the Father and equally eternal. But the words of the Gospel text for today show how crucial this truth about Jesus is.
Jesus states clearly and concisely His intimate relationship with the Father, saying: “But you have never known Him. I continually know Him. If I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and I keep His Word” (8:55). Indeed, Jesus continually has known the Father from eternity and has kept His Word faithfully and completely.
As a matter of fact, not only has He continually known the Father, but He has brought us His Word—which brings forth Eternal Life. Jesus of Nazareth is the Word Incarnate that gives life eternal and anyone who doesn’t believe that Jesus Christ is God will not have salvation. As we confessed few moments ago in the Athanasian Creed: “…Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of the substance of his mother, born in the world; perfect God and perfect man, of a rational soul and human flesh subsisting.”
This is our bold confession as Christians—to admit and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He is the ONLY One who kept God’s will and command perfectly—even to the point of death—death on a cross. He is the One who guarded the Word by teaching the truth to all who follow Him and believe in Him. He is the One who brought glory to God, not by brining attention to Himself, but by being humble and completely surrendered His life to the will of His Father. PAUSE.
Indeed we shouldn’t be surprised that the opposition continues even today and age. Many people still deny the Unity of the Trinity. We Christians are being demonized by many who don’t agree with the Biblical teaching that sin leads to death. That gays, lesbians, those living together outside the bond of marriage is my view verses yours. When we speak up and stand up for the truth, we are attacked on every side. People say all kinds of evil against us. While the stones they throw may not be real, the verbal stoning we receive is vicious nonetheless! Again, we shouldn’t be surprised because Jesus said, this will happen to us—His followers.
For this reason, on this Trinity Sunday we boldly confess our belief as Christians, we have one God in three persons; and not three Gods. And anyone who opposes us, in essence is opposing the Unity of the Trinity.
But we can be thankful, that Jesus’ Words in the text encourage us in our faith and give us strength in the face of a fallen world to stand firm to the end. Undoubtedly, His teaching will rebuke our timid response to the denial of those who denigrate Him as God. Above all, knowing the Savior more completely will glorify His Name.
This is our privilege and honor to bring glory to the Lord God Almighty, who in His life has glorified His Father by being faithful, keeping His Word to the end. Today, the Holy Spirit blesses us as we stand united bowing our heads and hearts before this Awesome God—who is God in three persons. This God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have a Father who gives lovingly, A Son who SERVES faithfully, and the Holy Spirit who teaches truthfully.
What a blessing to be in this place, gathered in His presence to receive His goodness through His Word and Sacrament and go out into the world confessing the truth there is one God—the Great I Am who is able to save. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLE DEO GLORIA.