Sermon June 15/ Acts 2:14a, 22-36 and Matthew 28:19/ The Triune God Saves Us!
32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Last Sunday Pope Francis hosted a prayer meeting at the Vatican. That in-and-of itself is not very interesting. However, what might pique your curiosity is whom Pope Francis invited to participate in this prayer. Francis invited Israeli President Shimon Peres (a follower of Judaism) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (a Muslim). The Roman Pontiff invited these men of two different (non-Christian) faiths to join him in “heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.” Along with the two political leaders came Jewish Rabbis, Druke and Muslim Sheikhs, and other religious leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths. At the meeting Pope Francis, President Peres, and President Abbas each prayed for peace on behalf of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Portions of the Old and New Testament of the Bible were read along with readings from the Quran. Although a number of religions were represented in this meeting, they all attempted to pray to the same God.
However, there is a problem. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are not simply different but equal ways of expressing the same faith. It is true that there is only one God. Yet the god of Islam and the god of Judaism are not the true God. The only true God is the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Jesus told his disciples: “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled…. Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.” Jesus tells us that the Old Testament is all about Him! The Old Testament promises that Jesus, God with us, would be crushed for our iniquities. Judaism of today is not the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is not the true faith of the Old Testament. Modern Judaism denies that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies. It denies that God promised to send Jesus when he spoke to the serpent in Genesis 3:15: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.” It rejects the Apostle Peter’s words when he spoke in the Holy Spirit saying that King David: “foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ” in Psalm 16. The followers of modern Judaism believe that God is One, as God commanded Moses to say in Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” However, no one can know the true God unless they know Jesus. Jesus says: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” We know God through Jesus. Without Jesus we do not know God. Those who reject Jesus, reject God as Jesus said: “the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The Muslims too confess one god. That God is one is the most important teaching for a Muslim. However, the Muslims too deny the true God. The Quran, the so called “holy book of Islam,” said to be God’s word, rejects Jesus as the Son of God. The Quran states in Sura 4 verse 159 that one must believe that Jesus is “only a messenger of Allah and human being.” It further says that Jesus will witness against those who confess that Jesus is the son of God. In Sura 18:4 the Quran warns against those who “say that Allah has begotten a son.” The Quran rejects the teaching that Jesus died on the cross (Sura 4:157). The Quran insists that God cannot be joined to humanity.
While the Christian Church confesses the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be the true God, three distinct persons, yet one God united in one Trinity, the Quran rejects the doctrine of the Trinity as blasphemy. Sura 5:73 states: “They disbelieve who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except one God. If they desist not from their word of blasphemy, verily a grievous penalty befall the blasphemers among them.”
Judaism and Islam reject Jesus as the Savior and they reject the Holy Trinity as the one true God revealed in Scripture.
We confess that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Yet we confess that there are not three gods, but one God, the Holy Trinity. We confess three co-eternal equal in glory and majesty Persons, yet we confess that they are one God.
That doesn’t make sense! Why do we believe such an impossible thing? Because God tells us in the Scriptures that he is three Persons, yet One God.
We know that God is our Father. Malachi 2:10 states: “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” Jesus teaches us to pray to God calling him: “Our Father.” There are some sects that claim that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all just titles or faces of the one God and not three distinct Persons. These groups deny the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds with the catchphrase: “deeds not creeds” which in essence means: “works not faith!” They claim that Jesus is the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit the way that I am a father to my daughter, a son to my father, and a husband to my wife. Instead of three Persons, they say that there are three modes of God.
However, this is not how Scripture speaks of God and Jesus. Jesus makes clear that the Father and the Son are distinct Persons. Jesus says in John 12:49: “the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.” Jesus repeatedly states that he is sent from the Father. Jesus prays to the Father: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” John writes in his Gospel: “The Word (who is the Son of God) was with God.” Scripture distinguishes the Father from the Son. Scripture states that the Father begot the Son. John 3:16 states: God so love the world that he gave his only begotten Son. John 1:14 says that Jesus is the only-begotten Son of the Father. In Psalm 2:7 God states: “You are my son. Today I have begotten you.”
Yet the Son did not come after the Father, but was with the Father from the beginning (John 1:1). Jesus says to the Father: Glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the cosmos existed.” The author to the Hebrews states that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” So Jesus, the Son of God is distinct from the Father, having been begotten from him from eternity and sent by him to earth. Yet, the Father and the Son are one God! “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jesus says: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Thomas correctly confessed of Jesus: “My Lord and my God.”
The Holy Spirit likewise is a distinct Person from the Father and the Son. In Jesus’ baptism God the Father spoke from heaven concerning Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. Jesus declares that he sends the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father. Yet, the Holy Spirit is not a secondary demigod or a creation of the Father. The Holy Spirit is God! Hebrews 9:14 says that the Holy Spirit is eternal. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 3:16). St. Peter says in Acts 5 that the one who lies to the Holy Spirit lies to God.
So we confess that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Jesus himself teaches this when he commanded to go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We confess these three Persons to be one God, as Deuteronomy 6:4 states: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”
This confession is troubling. It is hard to accept. Three is not one! Any pre-schooler can tell you that! Yet, we believe this apparent foolishness, because God tells us that it is truth. The mystery of the Holy Trinity transcends all our reason, yet we confess the Holy Trinity to be the one true God.
But why should I put my trust in something that I can’t understand? If we cannot even grasp the reasoning of the Holy Trinity, why should we insist that Islam and Judaism are wrong, when they too confess one god?
Answer: The Triune God is the only God who saves!
In catechism class we learn that the Father is our creator, the Son is our redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is our sanctifier (the one who makes us holy). While this is a helpful way to remember the actions of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, this teaching does not intend to limit how we understand the Holy Trinity. God the Father indeed created us and the entire universe (Mal. 2:10). Yet God the Son (Jesus) also participated in the creation of the universe. John 1:3 states: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” The Apostle Paul states: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17) And again St. Paul writes: “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” And the Holy Spirit too participated in the creation of the universe: “The earth was without form and void…and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
So although we learn that the Father created the universe, we also learn that the Son and the Holy Spirit participated in this creation, as they are one God. (Also note that God said: “Let us make man in our image.”) In like manner, we learn in our catechism that Jesus, the Son of God is our redeemer. However, the Father and the Holy Spirit too participate in our redemption from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
We do not believe that the Father became man or that the Holy Spirit died on the cross for our sins. Only Jesus, the Son of God took on human flesh and died on the cross for our sins. Yet the Father and the Holy Spirit worked together with the Son Jesus to save the human race.
God the Father took pity on us sinners. The Father loves us so much he sent Jesus for the purpose of saving us from our sins. Jesus says in John 6: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.” Jesus also tells us: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
It was the Holy Spirit who overshadowed the Virgin Mary and caused Jesus to be conceived in her womb. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to cause the Apostles to proclaim the saving Gospel. God tells us through St. Paul: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” And St. Peter assures us that God the Holy Spirit is the author of the saving Gospel: “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit himself comes into our hearts when we hear the Gospel, to create faith in us and make us holy! Titus 3:5-7 states: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Peter teaches us: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And the Apostle Paul promises: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” The Holy Spirit delivers all the benefits Jesus won on the cross for us (the forgiveness of sins and eternal life) to us through the Gospel.
The god of Judaism did not send his son to die on the cross for our sins. The god of Islam did not send his holy spirit to the Virgin Mary and cause her to conceive Jesus. Neither the god of Judaism nor the god of Islam declares us righteous for the sake of Jesus’ death on the cross. The god of Islam did not raise Jesus from the dead. The god of Judaism does not send his Holy Spirit into our hearts, so that we believe in Jesus.
We confess the Triune God, because it is the Triune God who saves us. God the Father planned our salvation with the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit caused the Son of God to be conceived in Mary’s womb. The Son of God indeed took on human flesh and died for the sins of the world. God the Father raised Jesus from the dead through the Holy Spirit. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, into our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel to give us the benefits of his death on the cross. It matters that we confess the Holy Trinity to be God, because the Holy Trinity is the only God, who saves us.
Let us pray:
This Faith owns one alone
True God whom all must trust,
The Father and the Son,
Also the Holy Ghost;
This is the one true Godhead;
All idols are excluded;
He wrought the world’s creation,
And also man’s salvation,
Through Jesus Christ, the Son, our Lord,
Th’e-ternal, saving Word.
 Isaiah 7:14; 53:5
 John 14:6
 Luke 10:16
 Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2
 John 17:1
 John 1:1
 John 17:5
 Hebrews 13:8
 John 1:1
 John 20:28
 Matthew 3:17
 Matthew 3:16
 John 15:26
 Acts 5:3-4
 Matthew 28:19
 1 Corinthians 8:6
 Gen. 1:2
 Gen. 1:26
 Luther’s Small Catechism (Second Article) 16.
 John 3:16-18
 Matthew 1:18, 20
 Acts 2:4; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:33!
 1 Corinthians 12:3
 Acts 2:38
 Romans 8:11