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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The God of Our Only Comfort is the Triune God
Text:LD 8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Trinity
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-04-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 81:1,2,3                                                                                       

Hy 4:1,2,3  [after Athanasian Creed]

Reading – Ephesians 1:15-23; Ephesians 3:14-21

Ps 62:1,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 8

Ps 149:1,2

Hy 82:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in the Lord, as Christians we believe in the God who is Triune. You could say that the Trinity is one of the distinctive Christian doctrines, if it is not the most distinctive! For other religions have a doctrine of sacred scripture, believing (like we do) that one or more books are holy and authoritative. And other religions have a doctrine of eternal life, believing (like we do) that our short existence on earth is but the beginning of something everlasting. Other religions also have a doctrine of creation, or a belief in one God only. But the doctrine of the Trinity is an outlier: that there’s only one God, one divine being, yet this God exists in three persons, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is a unique doctrine, so we’re sometimes called on to defend the Trinity. For there are those who deny this doctrine, like the so-called Christian churches like the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons. People of other faiths, like Muslims, appreciate that we are a “people of the book” like they are, yet they condemn us for worshiping three gods.

So can we prove that the Trinity is a Scriptural teaching? That this is really how the true God wants to be known, that these “three distinct persons are the one true, true, eternal God”? (Q&A 25). Can we prove it? I sometimes give my younger Catechism students a $10 challenge, if they can find the word “Trinity” in the Bible. I haven’t had to pay anyone yet!

The actual word isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. But that doesn’t concern us, because we turn to places like Matthew 28:19, where Jesus tells his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Or 2 Corinthians 13:14 for that Trinitarian blessing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” These are good and obvious proof texts for the Trinity, for the three persons are placed next to each other—on the same level, in the same category: equally God.

But these aren’t the only passages. For the New Testament speaks of the Triune God on a regular basis. You could say that the Trinity is “assumed” by the apostles, for the doctrine of the Trinity is woven right into their teaching. As one example, we can consider the letter to the Ephesians where Paul prays for the church. And when you look at them, his prayers have a Trinitarian structure—built onto the framework of the Trinity. He’s not out to prove the Trinity; it’s just natural for him to speak this way. For the Trinity isn’t some obscure teaching, but it has a vital place in the life and salvation of the Christian! Let’s study Lord’s Day 8 under this theme,

The God of our only comfort is the Triune God. We pray,

  1. to our almighty and loving Father
  2. for the illumination and strength of the Holy Spirit
  3. and for a greater knowledge of the exalted Son

 

1) We pray to our almighty and loving Father: Paul and the Ephesians enjoyed a special bond. During one of his journeys, he’d spent almost three years in this city. So Paul knew the Ephesians well and cared for them deeply. And out of this warm affection he prays for them in the two passages we read, from chapter 1 and chapter 3.

We can’t look at every detail of these prayers, but see how Paul begins by talking about the good work God was doing among the Ephesians: “After I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers” (1:15-16). He was so grateful that they had received the gospel of Christ. He knew that not everyone believes, but it’s only by God’s grace that we do.

There was much to be thankful for in Ephesus, yet there’s always more work to do, always room to improve, areas to progress. That’s why Paul prays for them to the Triune God. And that’s why we must pray to the Triune God.

Just notice how the prayer in chapter 3 begins: “I bow my knees to the Father…” (v 14). Kneeling shows Paul’s deep reverence and submission, and it marks the earnestness of his prayer. Clearly, he recognizes who he’s talking to. He’s praying to “the Father,” the God who created the heavens and the earth with the word of his mouth. He’s speaking with the God who upholds the entire universe with the palm of his hand. What is there that God the Father can’t do? What request can He not answer?

This reality should inspire a great confidence for our prayers. When we pray, we’re not firing arrows at the moon, or sending up Chinese lanterns to float into the never-never. We don’t make requests to a God who doesn’t care about us. No, we’re kneeling before our Father. Remember what Jesus said about asking earthly fathers for the things we need: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt 7:11).

Likewise in the prayer in chapter 1, as Paul begins to pour out his petitions, he prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you…” (Eph 1:17). Who is the chief recipient of our prayers? It is “the Father of glory.” And He is glorious, because He is perfectly wise and just. He is glorious, because He is eternal. Glorious, because He is almighty.

When you’re a child, you typically have a keen sense of how strong your father is. It seems like there’s nothing that Dad can’t do, and there’s almost nothing around the house that he can’t lift or move with his brute force. Children will sometimes even boast to one another about the muscles of their dads, and who’s stronger than who.

What about God the Father in whom we trust, the “Father of glory”? We’re allowed to know “what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty power (1:19). Underline those words about the Father: the “exceeding greatness of his power…” and “the working of mighty power.” This is a Father we can boast in, a Father we can be sure of, and depend upon, always. To this God we can pray:

Father, nothing exceeds your power.

Father, nothing is too great for you to do.

Nothing is too good for you to give.

Infinite is your might, boundless your love, limitless your grace, glorious your name.

So I ask great things of a great God.

Notice how the Catechism links the work of God the Father to “our creation” in Q&A 24. It took unimaginable power and wisdom to create all things in the universe. And it takes unthinkable strength and knowledge to uphold and govern heaven and earth and all creatures. But this is our God, for whom nothing is impossible. This is our God, and our Father.

For this almighty Father is also “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:17). See the close connection between the Father and the Son, how Scripture moves so naturally from speaking about God the Father to speaking about God the Son.

When we think of the Triune God, we shouldn’t picture the Father over here, doing his own thing, and Jesus over there, working on a different project. Nor should we have a “favourite” person of the Trinity, when one believer is partial to God the Father, and another really loves Jesus, and a third believers just wants to live in the Spirit. There’s a perfect and unbreakable unity among them. The Father is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ—and He has become our Father for Jesus’ sake.

This marvelous unity shines through in the prayer in chapter 3, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (vv 14-15). Again, He’s the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so He’s also our Father. For though God needs no one, He saw fit to create a family for himself through his Son. We, little people, sinners and mortals, have been included in it—named as children of God the Father, part of a family in heaven and earth.

It means we can experience all the blessings of being part of God’s own household. For like the devoted earthly father Jesus spoke about, our heavenly Father will care for us, He’ll provide, He’ll teach us. And when we sin and repent, He’ll forgive us. We may put our trust in God on the Father on account of his exceeding greatness and his faithful love.

What else does God our Father do? In chapter 1 Paul prays that the Father “may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (1:17). In the New King James Version, the word “spirit” isn’t capitalized, but this likely refers to the Holy Spirit. So we see again that close unity, this time between the Father and the Spirit. The Father wants us to know him as Father, and He want us to know his Son, so the Father sends us his Spirit of wisdom and revelation.

 

2) We pray for the illumination and strength of the Holy Spirit: To so many people, the Trinity makes no sense, and it’s just too difficult. But we know the truth about the Trinity. We have insight into God’s being and persons, such that we can talk about three-in-one and not end up in utter confusion.

Yet this understanding isn’t our own doing. Think of what’s written in the first letter to the Corinthians, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (1 Cor 2:14). To minds that haven’t been transformed, doctrines like the Trinity, or providence, or eternal life, are only so many unknowable mysteries. Sin clouds our minds and weakens our wills, so that we miss the real point of what Scripture is saying.

This is why we need to pray for insight. Like Paul prays: “That the Father may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph 1:17). It’s a vital prayer, for only through Spirit can we know the things that have been freely given to us by God (cf. 1 Cor 2:12). We must pray often for the Spirit of wisdom, for the Spirit of “revelation,” for the Triune God to show us his perfect ways.

Maybe that’s your prayer when you’re making a big decision: “Lord, teach me what pleases you for my career. Please reveal your will to me at this moment of crisis.” But we should pray for the Spirit’s wisdom and revelation not just at those critical intersections of life, but every day! One of our greatest daily needs is to have a better knowledge of God’s truth, to know his will and then to do it. We pray to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ and the Father of glory.

And if we will, we need his Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to make our knowledge of God far more than a dry knowledge of biblical words and theological ideas, but to make it a knowledge that is living and real.

Paul compares it to the opening of the eyes. A person’s eyes can be closed, shut tight, so that he doesn’t see a thing. Like those party games that nobody enjoys, when you’re blindfolded and have to perform some task, or find your way across some obstacle. With the blindfold on, you stumble around, bumping into things, losing all track of where you are. But when the blindfold is removed and your eyes are opened, there’s immediate relief. You see your location, you see your surroundings, you see where you need to go.

So for the work of the Holy Spirit in our life. We need the Spirit, so that “the eyes of [our] understanding [would be] enlightened” (Eph 1:18). We need the thick blindfold of sin to be taken off, and for the light of God’s Word to shine in. With this kind of enlightening, we get a different vision of life and what it’s all about.

With the Spirit’s help, you start to grasp what it means that you were chosen from eternity. You start to understand that you’ve been adopted as God’s child. You begin to cherish redemption in Christ—and these things change you. Through the Spirit’s work, you don’t look at life in the same way anymore, but you realize that you have a security that is unfailing, and you have a purpose that is holy. Pray for this kind of vision, so that with the eyes of our heart we may see what is truly real, that we may see who we really are!

So let’s always remember to combine our reading of Scripture with prayer—and specifically, to pray for the Spirit’s help in understanding. We shouldn’t be in such a rush to read our passage for the day that we neglect to pray for the gift of the Spirit:

O Holy Spirit, that which I know not, teach me.

Keep me a humble disciple is the school of Christ.

Open my understanding to know the Holy Scriptures.

Instill into my dark mind the saving knowledge of Jesus.

Lead me into all truth that I may know the things that belong to my peace,

and through you be made new.

Let us pray daily for a knowledge of God’s will through the Holy Spirit, so that we truly know and understand and do.

As we said, even when it comes to believing in the Trinity, we need the Spirit’s revealing work. The mystery of the Trinity will never be known as true through rational or philosophical explanation. Rather, this doctrine will only be accepted because, as the Catechism puts it, “God has so revealed himself in his Word” (Q&A 25).

We accept this doctrine on the basis of the Word—and then the Spirit shows that this doctrine is true in our lives. For we also come to experience the power of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism links the work of God the Spirit to “our sanctification” in Q&A 24. This is the Spirit’s work of purifying us, helping us to do the Lord’s will.

As children of God, we so often came face to face with our weakness. Our self-control is weak. Our love is weak. Our commitment is weak. Our knowledge is weak. So we pray that we would “be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph 3:16). Let us often offer this prayer to be strengthened: strengthened to do God’s will, strengthened with might in the inner man, strengthened through God’s powerful Spirit.

 

3) We pray for a greater knowledge of the exalted Son: We’ve said that not one person of the Trinity is more important than another, for they are all God, and Lord, eternal and almighty. Yet there’s no question that Scripture speaks of Jesus Christ in a special way. He is the cornerstone of our faith, the very pinnacle of redemption. Without Christ, we have no access to the Father. Without Christ, the Spirit has no saving message to write on our hearts.

So Hebrews says we fix our eyes on Jesus: the exalted Son, who was clothed in human flesh, and who died on the cross for the salvation of sinners. This was an act of deep humbling, yet because of it, the Father glorified his Son.

The Father raised him from the dead, “and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph 1:20-21). Jesus our Saviour is now seated at God’s right hand in honour and power, set in authority over the entire universe—and set in authority for the sake of the church.

What a difference that makes! For the power that is held by the risen and exalted Christ is the same power available to us. For instance, when we fight against the forces of wickedness and depravity, we can do it through Christ’s mighty strength. There are moments when temptations can feel so powerful, and the lure of sin seems irresistible. But then remember the exceeding greatness of Christ’s strength! He is greater than the devil, for He is “far above all principality and power and mighty and dominion.” Pray that you’ll know this power, that you’ll be connected to Christ by faith.

Paul also prays that Christ, besides being seated in heaven, would “dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17). The longer He dwells with us, the more He changes us. Just like the longer you live in a house, the more it shows the sure signs of being yours: you paint, you fix, you renovate, you decorate. Over the years you make your mark.

That’s how it is with Christ residing in us. As He dwells in our hearts through faith, He starts to restore what is broken and to renew what is corrupted. He helps us to grow, so that it becomes noticeable. “Christ in you” has made his mark, because you’re more content, and more patient with other people, and you’ve become a little more dependent on God.

Paul ends his prayer in chapter 3 by asking that we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” (vv 18-19). You know about Christ, but there’s so much more to know and experience. It’s the kind of immense love which gives us a firm foundation. For when you’re built onto the bedrock of Christ’s love, you know He loves you, more than you can say, more than you can ever imagine.

It’s beyond us: Christ’s love is a love that “passes knowledge” (3:19). It exceeds our comprehension. For no matter how tightly you embrace God’s love in Christ, no matter how fully you enter his grace, it always has new dimensions. Even when you think that Christ can do no more, and that this time you’ve overdrawn on his mercy, be sure that He can still exceed your highest expectations and meet your deepest needs.

When we pray, from day to day, and hour to hour, let’s remember who we’re talking to. We’re coming into the glorious and eternal presence of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We’re allowed to kneel before him who can, and who will, do all good things for his holy people. We’ve been baptized into his Triune name, and we confess his Triune name. So we pray:

Three in One, One in Three, God of my salvation,

Holy Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,

We adore you as one Being, one Essence, one God in three distinct Persons,

            for bringing sinners into your knowledge and your kingdom.

O Father, you have loved us and sent Jesus to redeem us.

O Christ, you have loved us and assumed our nature,

shed your own blood to wash away our sins.

            O Holy Spirit, you have loved us and entered our heart,

             implanted there eternal life, and revealed to us the glories of Christ.

Three Persons and one God, we bless and praise you,

            for love so unmerited, so unspeakable, so wondrous,

            so mighty to save the lost and raise them to glory.

O Triune God, let me live and pray as one baptized into your threefold Name. Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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