I. He brings justification
II. He brings joy
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Today on Trinity Sunday I invite you to open your hymnals to page 132 in the front part. There you will find one of the three creeds that we in the Christian church subscribe to because it accurately states what the scriptures say about our God. That creed is called the Athanasian Creed, named after St. Athanasius, a defender of the Christian faith in the fourth century. This creed stresses two truths about our God. First it deals with the triune nature of our God and secondly it describes how Jesus is true God and true man. These two truths are essential to our Christian faith. Listen as I read the first part of this creed.
Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all else, hold to the true Christian faith. Whoever does not keep this faith pure in all points will certainly perish forever. Now this is the true Christian faith: We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being. For each person -- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit -- is distinct, but the deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory and coeternal in majesty. What the Father is, so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Spirit uncreated; the Father is infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite; the Father is eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal; yet they are not three who are eternal, but there is one who is eternal, just as they are not three who are uncreated, nor three who are infinite, but there is one who is uncreated and one who is infinite. In the same way the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty; yet they are not three who are almighty, but there is one who is almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God; yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord; yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord. For just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually to be God and Lord, so the true Christian faith forbids us to speak of three Gods or three Lords. The Father is neither made nor created nor begotten of anyone. The Son is neither made nor created, but is begotten of the Father alone. The Holy Spirit is neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeds from the Father and the Son. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And within this Trinity none comes before or after; none is greater or inferior, but all three persons are coequal and coeternal, so that in every way, as stated before, all three persons are to be worshiped as one God and one God worshiped as three persons. Whoever wishes to be saved must have this conviction of the Trinity.
As you may have noticed this creed is long and slightly hard to follow. This is because the creed to trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that might help sinful human beings understand the eternal nature of our perfect God. Any attempt to do this will always fall short, since we can never fully understand every aspect of our God. And why would we think we could? We canít even understand things about our own bodies and the world around us. What makes us think we could understand every aspect of our God who created this world and us?
Yet although we canít understand his nature, how there can be one God yet three distinct persons, we can certainly see what his actions mean for us now and for eternity. This helps us understand a little about the Trinity. Today we have before us a section of scripture that mentions all three persons of the Trinity. We will use Romans 5 and pray the Lordís guidance as we contemplate the Trinity by considering the theme: Our triune God is explained by his actions. I. He brings us justification. II. He brings us joy.
In the first two and a half chapters of Romans Paul has convicted the world of sin. This was a universal conviction for every person who has ever or will ever live. Then in the second half of chapter 3 Paul describes what God did for the whole world. He says that we have been justified. All people who have ever or will ever live have been declared not guilty of their sin because Jesus paid the price for all sin when he died on the cross and rose from the dead. That does not mean all people are saved. Sadly many reject the payment that Christ had made. But our triune God still brings justification for the world.
And our triune God brings justification to each of us personally. This happened when he worked faith in our heart. When The Lord brought us to faith he assured us that this justification was ours. Paul is talking about believers and describes the results of God bringing justification to us. ďTherefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.Ē We did not earn this justification. It was not our work. Our triune God brought it to us and made it our own.
The Trinity is a mystery to us and so is the fact that God would do this for us sinful human beings. But what is not a mystery are the results that are ours through this declaration that our sins have been forgiven and heaven is ours. The first blessing is peace with God. Because of Jesus we have a peaceful relationship with our heavenly Father. He is not out to get us. He is not angry with us. We are his dearly loved children.
The second blessing is access to God. There is not a process that we have to go through to get to God the Father. There is not a person we need to communicate with before we can talk to God. We have gained access to Godís throne of grace through faith in Christ Jesus. If you received an invitation to the White house, it would probably be a one-time thing. You could not keep going back with that same invitation. But our access to God is a continual access. In fact there is no separation at all because our sin has been removed and we know we will live with our God forever in heaven.
The final blessing that comes as a result of our justification is our condition. We stand in grace. We cannot understand how there can be three persons in one God but we can easily understand what it means to stand in Godís grace. We are all in this room. Imagine that it is grace. It is below us, above us and all around us. No matter who we are, or where we are sitting we are in this room. The same is true as we stand in grace. We are in a constant state of forgiveness. This does not give us the freedom to sin. Rather it gives us the confidence that our sins have been forgiven. That is our relationship to our triune God through the work that Jesus the Son of God has done for us all. We canít fathom the trinity, but looking at our justification, looking at how God acts toward us, we see clearly how much he does love us all.
The first verses of this text focus on the Father and the Son. The Father has justified the world on the basis of what the Son has done. But the Holy Spirit is also active in this plan of salvation. But he is not really in the forefront. He also points to Jesus. Even on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was very evident with the tongues of fire and the different languages, the message of the Apostles was making Jesus known to the people in Jerusalem. This continues to be our objective in our life and ministry. We seek to make Jesus known and as we do this, we see another action of our triune God and understand a little more about him as he brings us joy.
We have joy in all aspects of life, life now and our eternal life. Paul said at the end of verse 2, ďAnd we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.Ē Our triune God brings us joy as we hope for heaven. The way the Bible uses hope is really synonymous with faith. We believe and are convinced that because God has justified us and because he has adopted us into his family and because he has given us the deposit of faith, he will finally bring us home to heaven. That is our hope and that is how he brings us joy as we look to the future. We know how it will ultimately end. We will be in heaven.
Our God also brings us joy in this life, in every situation of life. The last three verses describe this. ďNot only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.Ē Our triune God has not promised to spare us from trials and hardships. In fact he has told us that we can expect them in this life. But we learn that our God brings joy in the midst of all earthly trial and hardship.
We rejoice knowing that as we suffer we persevere in faith because God keeps us in faith. This perseverance produces Christian character and this character results in hope. A key element to this happening is a connection to our God through trial and hardship. This goes against our natural inclination. When trouble comes we tend to blame others, ask why, get upset, doubt that it will work out. During hardship our natural sinful tendency is to stay away from our triune God. This robs us of joy in our life, but worse than that it shows our sinfulness. It is hard for us to hear and it may sound harsh, but it is a sin to doubt, to blame and complain. God says we should trust, that we should not doubt and when we do the opposite of what God says it is sin. We know from reading the Bible how God deals with sin, whatever the sin may be. Our Triune God threatens punishment for all sin and he keeps his threats, the cross of our Savior is proof.
Yet that same cross that our Savior suffered upon for our sin is the place where we find forgiveness. At the cross we find peace and grace and access to God. The cross is where our God leads us in times of trouble to produce perseverance and character and hope. Our triune God brings us joy by bringing us to see our Savior and his wonderful work for each of us. That work is being done right now through the Holy Spirit working in Godís Word and it will be done shortly as he works through the Lordís Supper.
The word in our lesson that is translated ďsufferingĒ is an interesting word in the Greek language. In Greek there are often pictures behind the words and the picture with this word is a pressure that is surrounding us. That seems to be a good way to describe hardship. It is all around us and we try and escape it but canít. We do all we can to rely on our self or blame our surroundings or our God. But our triune God wants to use this pressure to bring joy as we rely on him to carry us through. At the time of difficulty people will often stay away from the Lord. But the Lord uses that difficulty to bring us back to him to fill our hearts with joy as he directs our attention to our Savior and the heaven he has prepared for us. That is why suffering ultimately produces hope. Our Godís actions serve to increase our faith and build up our joy in life. No matter what we are facing.
Last Saturday I attended a graduation service and the pastor who preached told the graduates about all the hardship they would face in the future as they lived their Christian life. He was right. But Christians also face victory in the future and have joy with our triune God acting for us. The Father created and preserves us. The Son redeemed and intercedes for us. The Holy Spirit keeps reminding us of these truths as the pressures in life mount. In perfect unity, the three distinct person of our one God, work in our life so that we are safely brought home to heaven. I donít get the Trinity that well, but By Godís grace we get what his work means for us. It fills us with joy.
I would like to close today by inviting you to open your hymnals to hymn 272. This is a song that has been traditionally sung after the sermon in many Lutheran churches. It is based on psalm 51 which King David wrote after he repented on his sin of adultery and murder. David had sinned. He repented and then was assured that he was justified. He then prays with this psalm that the joy of salvation would be restored to him. That is always the prayer of the believer in this life. And our Triune God always answers that prayer by reminding us what he has done for us. He has justified us and he keeps bringing us joy. Amen.
Pastor Matt Brown
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (WELS) of Union City, Tennessee, Rooted in the WORD