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Author:Pastor Ted Van Raalte
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 Canadian Reformed Church - CanRC
 
Preached At:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.redeemer-canrc.ca
 
Title:Do You Know Your God?
Text:LD 8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Trinity
 
Preached:2004-09-19
Added:2005-09-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 48:1,3.
Athanasian Creed
Psalm 102:10,11.
Read: 1Cor. 8:1-6; 12:1-11.
Psalm 50:1,8,11.
Text: Lordís Day 8
Hymn 1B.
Psalm 41:1.
Hymn 3.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,

It was just this past week that our very own prime minister used the name of Jesus Christ as a swear word during a public debate. This raises the question of whether he knows who Jesus Christ really is. He did apologize, but not because he had offended God. It was only that he offended his aunt and might have offended others. Either he does not recognize Jesus Christ as God or if he knows that Jesus is the Son of God, he simply does not care to mention it.

At the very least this afternoon, we will see why we must not use the name of Jesus Christ so lightly. He is God! But more than that, we seek to know more fully the identify of the one whom we trust and worship. It is not enough to refrain from taking his name in vain. We need to trust him with all our heart and fill our lives with his worship. We must mould our faith and worship according to his likeness, rather than thinking of him on our own terms.

We must not drag God down to our level. God is not like us. He is faithful. He is perfect peace . . . because he is also perfect love and justice. He is the only God worthy of the title and name he has. This is how we must know him.

When we say that Jesus Christ is God, we are already entering a world of thought beyond our full comprehension. We say we worship one God but then we say that Jesus Christ is also God. Add in the Holy Spirit and we confess that he is Three-in-One. What is that? We donít fully know. But we know he is a great God, awesome and exalted! He is One beyond us, which is exactly what a God worthy of the Name should be. He is the One whom we certainly must trust and worship.

Your God calls you to trust and worship him as he is: Three-in-One:
1. He made this plain by his works;
2. He now confirms this by his Word.


1. He made this plain by his works:

Now it is easy to say that God has made plain by his works that he is Three-in-One. But it may be an altogether different matter to prove the point. If we begin with Adam, did he know God as Three-in-One from Godís works? We are not informed of Adamís knowledge before the fall into sin. After sinning, Adam was promised someone who would have the power of God to overcome Satan (Gen. 3:15) but Adam never saw this Someone. It seems that Adam knew and worshipped God simply as the One God.

Abraham lived later, but he did not know God as Three-in-One either. It was not plain to him. We may remember that Abraham once entertained three men and one of them was the LORD, but as we read, the other two were angels. There is no clear doctrine of the Trinity in Godís works.

Moses knew more than Abraham. He wrote the first five books of the Bible. He wrote of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2. He wished that all Godís people were prophets, filled with Godís Spirit. He longed for a Mediator who might atone for the sins of Israel. He wrote of the angel of the LORD as though that angel was the LORD himself also. Yet Moses did not know God as Three-in-One by his works. The only hint of Godís works being performed by Three Divine Persons was God revealing himself by his Spirit and God acting through the Angel of the LORD.

Was the nature of God as Three-in-One plain to the psalmists? No, not to them either. We certainly read in Psalm 110:1, "Yahweh said to my Lord, sit at my right hand," but the clear meaning of it in Christ was still unknown. We read in Psalm 33:6 that by the Word of the Lord were heavens made and their starry host by the Breath of his mouth. There seems to be some understanding of a three-fold Divine involvement in creation but it still was not yet plain by Godís works that God was Three-in-One.

Even the prophets such as Isaiah who had so many wonderful revelations about the Messiah did not see him. The truth that God is Father and Son and Spirit was not plain to them. They knew him only as One God. They do describe the beginning of some distinctions in God. Daniel sees the vision of God and one "like a Son of Man" with a divine description approaching Godís throne (Dan. 7:13). Isaiah prophesies about the Servant of the LORD who bears his peopleís sins, and the Angel of the LORD who gives his people rest and the seven-fold Spirit (Isa. 53 and 63 and 11). But he only witnessed the beginning of the divine deeds of the Son and Spirit.

The Old Testament room is still very dimly lighted. It is only pre-dawn. The sun has not yet risen upon them. Indeed, the Son of God had not yet risen upon them with his healing rays. They may discern certain shapes in the corners of the room, but they do not know what these things are. They go forward in faith that their God holds the future.

This God did not disappoint his people. In the fulness of the times, God made plain by his works who he is. When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law (Galatians 4:4). The angel told Joseph that Maryís son would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The angel tells Mary that the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke. 1:35). But even in this there is no full-blown doctrine of the Trinity. There is only the statement that this child will be as God to the people, for they are called "his" people, and he will be the Son of God. It means that he will be God, since Godís own Son must be fully like his Father to be his Son. But God did not teach his people the full meaning of all these things yet, for he would do so only by showing us three-fold Divine works.

The truth that God is Three-in-One was revealed not so much in words as in deeds. Until God had shown and proven by his works that he was the Three-in-One God, he could hardly expect his people to comprehend this at all. In this sense God has progressively shown us more about himself. He himself has never changed, but he has shown us who he is more and more over time. This true God is unique. While the nations had to resort to myths to explain their false gods, the true God revealed himself in the actual history of his people. There he was, right among them. Here came his Son, full of grace and truth. Who can come full of grace and truth except God himself?

It was through the actual coming of Jesus Christ that God really began to make plain that he calls us to trust and worship him as Three-in-One. Joseph and Mary knew that this child was conceived without the help of a man. God began with them. Even when this one was but a baby, wise men worshipped him and shepherds heard angelís songs. At Jesusí baptism he begins his public ministry, and God there made a public declaration that this was his Son. Godís Spirit was seen to rest on Jesus in the form of a dove. When our Lord began to preach, the people were astonished by the power of his words. His authority was irresistible. By his miracles he revealed that he had the power of God, as his own power. He himself drove out demons and raised the dead. And finally, he gave his life as an offering and a sacrifice for his own people. His love was evident by his deeds. But following this great act of love, he rose from the dead - his greatest act of power. He showed that he had life in himself, as only God could (John 5:26). By these works he made plain to his people that he is almighty God. They could not help but trust and worship this great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. God convinced his people of his own nature by his works. Jesus is God.

Nor our God stop at the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This Son of God proclaimed that he acted by the power of the Spirit of God (Mt. 12:28). He then promised that he would send this Counselor as his replacement on earth. By the observable and powerful Pentecost actions of God the Holy Spirit the church was convinced that he too was fully God. God made it plain by the signs: the fire of God and the sound of the storm. These are signs of the presence of God. Then the power of God came to work through each apostle. Each one prophesied. God spoke through them, even in many different languages. The church soon found that the presence of the Holy Spirit in their hearts filled them with boldness and power (Acts 4:31). They knew Jesus Christ among them even better than when he had been present in person, for now they were filled with the knowledge of God. They now understood Christís divine actions. The present work of the Holy Spirit among the church - his power, his revelation, his illumination, and his comfort - all these works made it plain to the church that he too was truly God. They knew the Spirit in their hearts and midst as a divine personality.

This, brothers and sisters, is how God made it plain by his works that he is Three-in-One. The whole revelation of it centres in the two great events of the coming of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The church learned that both were worthy of trust and worship. They learned that the God whom their fathers had worshipped for centuries was this very God: He is Three-in-One. They trusted in and worshipped Jesus Christ just as God in heaven. So too the Holy Spirit. And they were not sinning in doing so, but acknowledging what God himself was making plain to them. They were filled with faith because of what they saw and heard (1John 1:1-4). Their hearts were filled with adoration. They worshipped this God without hesitation.

Their recognition of the Son and the Spirit did not lead them to worship three Gods. Not at all! More than once they confessed that God is One (1Cor. 8;6; Eph. 4:6; 1Tim. 1:17; 2:5; Jude 1:25). His divine works showed how much he is one. These very works convinced them to worship the one God, present in all three Persons.

We are now convinced in the same way: not by a special treatise on the Trinity in one or another chapter of the Bible. That does not exist! We are certainly led to faith by what is written. But the point is that what is written is a description of the very things that convinced the Church long ago: the divine power and works of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit together with the Father, not a special treatise about essence and persons, etc. Through these works we are convinced and moved to confess him as he is: Three-in-One.

Our eternal and unchanging God now calls upon us to worship him in this way, congregation. We live in the time after he has done these mighty works of salvation. We enjoy the benefits of the full work of all three Persons of the Trinity. More than ever, we must worship God not simply as One, but as Three-in-One. He has made it plain by his works that this is who he is.

The Three are One, and thus it will not do to focus on one only. Pentecostalism falls into the danger of overemphasizing the Spirit. Others emphasize only the Son without the Father. But God is a mystery. When our faith worships the Three, we should be drawn also to the One. When our we put our trust in the One, we should also be drawn to the Three.

There are no earthly analogies that are the same as this God. Let me present just one: Human beings might be said to be made up of body, soul, and spirit. You see? Three parts in one. It might sound right but it does not fit, because our body or our soul does not have all the properties of a human being. But Godís Son has all the properties of God. He is not just a part of God but he is God. We cannot fully explain God. We can only confess God. We can only confess what we learn about him in Scripture. It is clear that he is unique and beyond us. His very existence calls for our trust and worship. His uniqueness enhances our worship much more. There is none like him. All three Persons are the true and eternal God. Let us now turn to the way in which he confirms this by his Word.

2. He now confirms this by his Word:

What Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and Daniel did not know, you now know. They had hints of it. We can see the outlines when we shine the New Testament words back onto the Old Testament. But they did not know it because God had not yet revealed it by his works.

Imagine that God had revealed it by his words. Would they have understood? All around them were pagan gods, multiple idols of silver and gold. If the LORD had said to them, "I am the God who is Three-in-One," they could only imagine him to be like the pagan gods around them - fighting, jealous, trouble-making, and full of sin! But the LORD had decided that he would not be known as Three-in-One apart from his real and true historical activities in this world. He first showed his people. Then he told his people. What a marvellous and accommodating God!

Yet he did not tell us by providing a chapter on the Trinity. In fact, the doctrine by itself is never even defended. Rather, it is everywhere presumed. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are written about freely, and all their works and names are fully divine. God was real to the Church simply because of everything he had done. This is why I say the doctrine is confirmed by the Word, for it shows on every page of the New Testament how all Three Persons were worshipped.

Even the most important proof-text that the church uses today for the Trinity is not first of all about the Trinity. It is about baptism and discipleship. Matthew 28:19: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." We are being commanded to baptize and teach. The baptism is to be in the One Name of God. Notice that it does not say "Names" but "Name." There is one God. Yet his Name is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each are distinct, yet they are united as One. But the text itself was not written so much to teach about the Trinity, but to teach about baptism and discipleship. That is remarkable, but the reason is because the revelation of God as Three-in-One was already complete as far as his deeds were concerned. The Old Testament prepared the way for this truth. The New Testament was written when this truth was fully understood, written after God had acted in Christís death and resurrection and his Spiritís outpouring.

No one in the Church thought that they were inventing clever myths. They were convinced by the works of God and wrote in such a spirit.

The teaching became so common that nearly every letter of the New Testament either opens or closes with a blessing in the name of the Father and the Son at least, or the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In First Corinthians 8, from which we read, the apostle Paul sets out to answer a question of the Corinthians about eating food offered to idols. We know an idol is nothing, he writes, and that there is no God but one. You see that he upholds the oneness of God. He repeats this in verse 5 and 6, saying that even if there are all kinds of gods and lords in this world, for us there is only one God, the Father. But notice now that he does not end there. He writes, "For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." But, he says, some people (who are likely new Christians) still think those idols represent real gods and so they sin when they eat food that was sacrificed to such idols. But we know that there is only one God and all the others are from menís sinful imaginations. But then he does not forget to say that there is also one Lord, Jesus Christ. He might also have mentioned the Holy Spirit, but in the context he had just spoken of many gods and lords. For this reason he only speaks of his God and his Lord.

He speaks of God and Lord, not of Father and Son. You will rarely find the apostle Paul speaking of the Father and the Son, as the Lord Jesus did. This must be because Paul writes as a worshipper. In relation to him, Jesus Christ is Lord. But when Jesus, he named himself in relation to his own Father. He called himself the Son. Yet listen to Paul teaching us the perfect unity of Father, Son and Spirit. Galatians 4:6, "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ĎAbba, Father.í" God sends the Spirit. Yet the Spirit is of his Son. This Spirit then draws our hearts back up to the Father. This is the God of peace and unity, of harmony and love.

Now if Paul was worshipping someone who was not truly God, Paul would be an idolater. Thus when in First Corinthians 8 he calls the Father his God and Jesus Christ his Lord, Paul does not mean that Jesus Christ as Lord is not God. Lord and God are equal terms. Thomas said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God." Paul wrote that, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." There in Philippians 2:10 the apostle gave Jesus Christ the highest honour, yes, divine honour, with the term "Lord." Everyone bows. Everyone worships. He is God. You may only worship God! Thus the Father is God and the Son is God. Yet there are not two Gods, but one. Paul himself writes in First Corinthians 8:4 that there is no God but one. He repeats this elsewhere, "Now to the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever." (1Timothy 1:17).

In First Corinthians 12 the same apostle teaches us about spiritual gifts. In the midst of this he writes, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of workings, but the same God works all of them in all men." The difference between gifts and services and workings is really not that great, but the apostle divided up the spiritual gifts into these three divisions just so that he could mention God, the Lord, and the Spirit. He does so to emphasize the unity of the gifts to the church. They all come from the one God, the God of peace and unity, of harmony and love. The Three-in-One.
We confess his divine works in creation, in redemption, and in sanctification. In all these works our God acts as One God. Each person of the Trinity has a special work most closely tied to his Name, yet in all these works our God is One God. When we sing the Apostlesí Creed we confess him like this: as the God whose works evoke our praise and worship. This Creed is simple in that regard. It does not rule out a more complicated Creed like the Athanasian Creed, for the sake of precision. It was written to make sure that teachers use the right words and describe God in agreement with his Word. This is how you must believe to be saved: That the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, yet there are not three Gods, but One. If you believe that, it is enough. Yet for the worshipper who desires to know his God more fully, let him study the great divine works of this God.

He is so unlike us. He draws our minds to higher things. He is so unlike the pagan gods of human imagination. Our God is worthy of trust and worship. We adore him! He is beyond our knowledge. He is holy and exalted. He is not to be cursed, nor to be challenged, but to be trusted and worshipped.

Amen.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2004, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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