Col. 1.15-20 & Heb. 1.1-3 July 5, 2015
Introduction: When I was in my last year of seminary, my field work, together with one of my classmates was to help the N.J. State Prison chaplain in Trenton in his routine duties of interviewing incoming inmates to the Prison. Our job was to talk to the new inmates about their spiritual condition. Many of them were Muslims, and eager not to give me information about themselves, but to convert me to Islam, mainly by criticizing Christianity.
One of the first things they started with was to criticize the Trinity and try to get me to explain how God could be God in Heaven, and God in Christ on the Earth and God, the Holy Spirit, invisible in the heart of the Christian.
Well, with all my vast knowledge as a senior at Princeton Theological Seminary, I attempted to explain the Trinity to them with exactly zero success. Trying to explain the Trinity is still an issue as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Muslims and Mormons all still reject the idea of the Trinity. And, over the years I have encountered this problem of a mere created human being trying to explain my creator in all his majesty, power and sovereignty in human intellectual, philosophical and – even theological terms as an exercise in frustration. – That is the bad news!
- Now, at least the comforting news is that we are not alone in that frustration.
It took the Apostolic and Early Church about 350 years to come up with an intellectual
and theological explanation of the Trinity to try to clear up a vast amount of varying ideas that circulated in the Roman Empire about the relationship between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
- In the year 325 A.D., Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nicea which came up with a definition of the unity of God the Father and God the Son, but neglected the Holy Spirit. So they had to get back to the drawing board to include the Holy Spirit in a follow-up of that Council, in 381 A.D., with a final draft which produced what we know as the Nicene Creed. You can read that definition in the hand-out you received this morning. When you read that, I think you will agree with me that that definition may be helpful for a seminary student, but not to the man or woman in North Georgia or Western North Carolina.
- So, that, at least leads me to consider how difficult and even absurd it is for any of us who are the mere created beings of the majestic hand of God to attempt to explain to another of God’s created beings the one who created the entire Universe. That is like asking one of Audrie Tittle’s delicious deviled eggs to explain to another deviled egg the most intimate details of Audrie’s life history from her birth, life as a young girl, her family right up to this morning at 11:00 a.m.
- And, that, of course, is what Isaiah was telling us this morning in the first Bible reading from his prophecy, chapter 55.6-11. We will neveron this side of Heaven ever fully understand the Lord God of Hosts in all of his fullness.
- So, in trying to understand the Lord God of Hosts we are not left without a witness according to Hebrews 1.1-3 (read): Why not let Jesus speak for himselfwhen he is speaking about his relationship to the Father, and the Holy Spirit? That is precisely what Jesus told us in Matt. 11.27: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” There is the Key! Jesus is the Key to understanding the Father, and the Trinity as well! We have heard the bad news, the comforting news. Now this is the good news – “….no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
- Now, there are many places in the N.T. where Jesus speaks about his intimate relationship with the Father, but we will concentrate on a few: Listen to what Jesus said about this. He had just finished healing a man on the Sabbath when we read, (John 5.17, 19-24). (Read together, slowly)
- John 37-40. (Read together, slowly)
- John44-50. (Read together, slowly)
- So far we have not spoken about the Holy Spirit, but we find no ess references from Jesus about his relationship to the Holy Spirit which, of course came mainly on the eve of Jesus’ words of farewell to his disciples, in the Upper Room:
John 14.16-20, 25. (Read together, slowly)
John 15.26—27. (Read together, slowly)
John 16,5-7, 12-15. (Read together, slowly)
- Now, why in the world didn’t I think of all of this when I was talking to those prison inmates? What took me so long to figure that out? Maybe I was too hung up on theological and philosophical niceties. Why didn’t I remember that no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom he chooses to reveal him?
Just listen to the words of Jesus as He himself reveals himself to you; let them sink in. Let those words of Jesus do their work of generating in you new life and understanding.
Conclusion: Now, you may not be called upon to explain the Trinity to a Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness any time soon. But reading, re-reading and meditating on these verses will help you understand the the mystery of the Trinity and how God the Father, God the Son and God the present Counselor by your side can and will help you navigate through this life.
And the lesson that must remain with us all is that if you want to understand who God is, Father, Son and Helper is that “No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” – In the New Testament like we did today through the witness of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray!