The Rev’d Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
June 11, 2017
Today we celebrating and ponder together the central mystery of the Christian faith, out of which all other mysteries flow. At this, some may say, “Father Stults, that’s a mighty big claim. Are you sure about that?” This priest will answer, “Without a doubt, for out of this mystery comes the very nature of God Himself, and thus His dealings with us.”
Today, we celebrate the wonderful mystery of the Holy Trinity. Today, we ponder anew the mind-boggling nature of God, as we recognize the makeup of the Divine Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Today, we are reminded of the completely peculiar and distinctive nature of Christianity at its very core.
Let us recap. God is one Being, in which there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are not three Gods. There are not three Fathers. There are not three Sons. There are not three Holy Spirits. There is one Father, one Son, and one Holy Ghost, all of which are God, and all of which are co-eternal, co-existent, and co-eternal. All three Persons of the Holy Trinity are God, yet the Father is not the Son, nor the Holy Spirit. The Son is not the Father, nor the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father, nor the Son. Yet, all are God, without co-mixture, or confusion.
Even though the members of the Holy Trinity are co-equal, why does Jesus say in John 14:28, “…for my father is greater than I.” Isn’t this an apparent contradiction to historic theology? Well, of course our Lord is correct.
Jesus is inferior to His Father in respect to His manhood, yet He is equal to his Father in respect to his Godhood. As far as the Divine Community is concerned, Jesus is equal to his Father, for, as He said in John 10;30, “I and my Father are one.” Recall how this statement so infuriated the Jews that they picked up stones to stone Him.
So it has always been with the Holy Trinity. For those not of the community of faith, it is a source of infuriation, or of disbelief, or of scorn. St Paul once remarked in 1 Corinthians 1:23 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; “ The same can be said in boldface with italics about the Holy Trinity. Recall that this central mystery is also the chief stumblingblock in Christianity for many. It is also foolishness for many. But, here it is: it is the chief truth of orthodox Christianity, one that must be affirmed to be saved.
Let’s explore this a little more….Unless one has the gift of faith, one cannot affirm the Trinity. Recall that every single cult, Christian or not, does not affirm it. They do not because they cannot. This is a mystery, and one only can affirm it with the help of the Holy Ghost, in the same way that one cannot say, “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Ghost.
Here’s the big point, beloved. The Athanasian creed says that one must believe in the Trinity to be saved. Why? Because one must believe in the right nature of God to be saved. What is that nature? Without getting caught up in a tautology, it is the nature of God as revealed in Scripture: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
We Christians must never get caught up in the erroneous concept that everyone can believe what he or she wants, and yet be saved. Consider this: just because we believe something does not bind God to it, or change His Holy Will. Yet, there are an alarmingly growing number of people who adopt this semi-Universalist view. That is, they believe that since they are basically “good” people, God wouldn’t dare send them to Hades, or eternal death, or whatever. Yet, the Athanasian Creed states “He therefore that will be saved must thus think of theTrinity.” We can reject that thought, or we can seek some other way, but it does not change who or what God is. It does not change the fact that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It doesn’t change the fact that no one comes to the Father except by Him.
Sounds terribly absolutist, doesn’t it? Surely there must be a softer, more individualistic, more humanistic way to salvation. Surely, like Islam, we can earn our salvation through good works and following the precepts of the Koran. Maybe, like the Hindu, we can re-cycle our time on earth enough times until we get it right. Maybe like the Medieval Church, we can burn away our sins for a thousand years in Purgatory, then enter the delights of Heaven…Surely there must be a way where this Trinity business is nice, but not absolutely necessary to salvation. Surely there must be a way whereby all men can be saved, without all this theology.
Well, no…. onsider John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This doesn’t leave much “wiggle room.” So, to be terribly dogmatic, one must accept Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, thereby accepting His gracious gift of salvation and eternal life, or not. If one chooses not, then that choice has consequences. At the Last Day, when we all stand before the Throne of Judgment, our choice will be known. Then, we will truly understand the words of Christ from Matthew 22:14 14”For many are called, but few are chosen.”
All mankind ais called by Jesus’ universal call of grace from the Cross, but not all blessed with the gift of faith, for some mysterious reason. On that fateful day, those making other professions will be judged accordingly. Then, the separation will occur.
Thus, let us all praise and bless God for all of His benefits to us, not the least of which is this precious gift of faith. We in this room can affirm the Trinity, even though we don’t understand it.... We can affirm the Lordship of Jesus Christ, although we certainly can’t understand His makeup as perfect God and perfect Man. Nor do we understand the enormity of His sacrifice for us. Yet, we believe and bow our heads in love, reverence, and worship.
This gift doesn’t come of us, but from the Holy Ghost. Only he can visit us and grant us the ability to believe that Jesus Chris is the only-begotten Son of the Father. Only the Holy Ghost can grant us the ability to believe that God the Father loves us so much that He gave His only Son for our redemption. Only the Holy Ghost is our constant companion to lead, instruct, comfort, and strengthen us. When we believe these things, we affirm the Trinity, and when we affirm the Trinity, we affirm our salvation.
Thus, we ask you, do we have cause for celebration today? Do we have a reason to give thanks to God with kindled spirits and enkindled hearts? Do we say to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, “we thank thee, we praise thee, and we gloryify Thee?” Yes, yes and yes….
It’s important that we do this. It’s important that we believe correctly, and that we know what we believe. Trust me, the enemies of Christianity certainly do. That is, whatever creed they hold, they really, really believe it, even to the point of death and destruction.
The blessed new is that we, beloved, are not of such ilk. We don’t trust in bombs, or terrorism, or fear to hold believers. We don’t threaten converts with death if they seek to leave the cult. Instead, we trust in the ever-flowing love of God as we know Him: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
This is the reality is which we trust. This is the reality in which we believe. This is the reality which will secure our eternal blessedness, forever and ever, world without end. Amen.