Trinity Sunday

June 4, 2023

Matthew 28:16-20

Today is the one day of the liturgical calendar when there’s probably more grumbling than any other day. Instant gratification and low attention span get the best of us as God’s people sinfully lament: “Do we really need to recite this whole Creed? It’s just sooo longggg.” While it’s long, the Athanasian Creed beautifully sets forth the Scriptural teaching concerning the nature of God against the background of false teaching that crept into the Church throughout the course of her early history. As all creeds and confessions do—and this is something we really ought to know as confessional Lutherans—this Creed sets forth what it is we believe and what it is we don’t believe according to God’s revelation in Scripture. God’s Word teaches that...


Already that statement is an argument against an opposing belief—one that states there is no god. All of creation testifies to God’s handiwork. Life so intricately, delicately fashioned. A solar system arranged perfectly—a smidge closer to the sun the earth bakes and a smidge further the earth freezes. The Law written on the hearts of all humanity finds expression in similar law codes against murder, theft, etc. all around the globe. None of these things are accidental. They are too magnificent to be by chance. However, by nature people live as if there’s no God. Often we act as though God can’t see what we do or peer into the heart of what we think and believe—or maybe we just don’t care. It boils down to denial of God.

The Creed “we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity” also makes a confession opposed to those who worship multiple gods, idols of their imaginations, images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things, and those who seek to exalt themselves as a god. In all of these examples, the creature worships the created—a false worship that spans around the world and dates back to Adam and Eve. Within these different idolatries, there is a common untrue theme: a person enters afterlife or reaches oneness with the divine by trying to harmonize with or otherwise please these false gods. A person is always told that unity with the divine happens through something they must do to attain it. The endgame becomes either a delusion in one’s mind that they have done so exactly as needed (even though that can’t be possible) or one falls into despair believing there to be no hope at all. Yet, by nature humans live selfishly for our own selves as if we are god—commanding others to serve us, do things our way, and give us what we desire.

The Creed makes a confession against those who deny the “One God in three persons and three persons in One God.” Islam argues that god is only one divine being (period) and that our whole existence is about submitting to this one god. There’s no grace. Some parts of Judaism are still awaiting the Messiah’s arrival while others reject that belief. Judaism doesn’t receive the Triune God, because in not recognizing the Messiah whom God has sent, they also fail to recognize the Father who sent Him.

Some groups desire to be called Christian or true Christians while they deny the Triune God. Mormons teach that the father, son, and holy spirit are three gods among many more gods and that it’s possible for humans to become gods through obedience. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the father is god, while Jesus is a created being on whom the (spirit) the power of the Father descended in his baptism. They don’t worship Jesus as the eternal God. Other false beliefs gaining worldwide popularity teach that there’s a father, son, and holy spirit. But it’s taught that these are modes of one person. The existence of a Triune God is denied, even though the Trinitarian language is kept. This ancient heresy—called modalism—often goes by the adjective “oneness.”

Scripture clearly addresses all these false teachings. God has in fact revealed Himself to us. Scripture says in two different Psalms, “The fool says in his heart there is no God.” This God is God alone. Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Isaiah 43:11 says, “I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Savior.” Isaiah 44:6-8 says, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.’”

This only one true God exists in a multiplicity of persons. Even the grammar of the Hebrew Old Testament indicates this truth. Very strictly translated, the first verse of Genesis we heard earlier says, “In the beginning, Gods/He created the heavens and the earth.” The subject of the sentence is both singular and plural. A little later in the same chapter, strictly translated it would say, “Gods/He said, ‘Let us make man in our image and in our likeness.’” In Psalm 110 David prophesies, “The LORD said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies my footstool.’” David spoke of God the Father and God the Son. Of course, we absolutely find the entire triune God present at Jesus’ Baptism: “When Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”

How do we know these are the persons who are the only one true God? There are many more passages in Scripture. has a list of the “Top 25 Bible Verses about the Trinity.” The clearest of the passages is found in today’s Gospel reading: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” One name given as three persons. Trinity in unity and unity in Trinity. The persons of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit united as one God.

God is united to save you, to save all sinners, to bring all who believe into this unity of our Triune God. In order to accomplish this mission, the Father sent His only, uncreated, eternally begotten Son into the world to take on human flesh, live a life of obedience to the Law, die in the place of all sinners, receive God’s wrath in their place, rise again on the third day, and to ascend to the right hand of the Father. The Father and the Son together have sent the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of faith—trust in Jesus and what He has done in death and resurrection to save sinners. Through faith in Jesus worked by the Holy Spirit, we also recognize God the Father as our Father. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, though three distinct persons exist as one substance that alone is the one true God. Do you fully understand it? Good. Neither do I. It’s called being a humble creature.

God unites you with Himself through the work of Christ whom He sent and the gift of the Holy Spirit whom the Father and Son have sent. The Holy Spirit works to restore all that was lost in the fall—the beauty of Eden, that the Lord fellowshipped with Adam and Eve and they weren’t afraid to be in His presence. The Spirit works to renew you in the image and likeness of God—a state of original righteousness, to perfectly trust God, to perfectly love God, and to perfectly live for God. The Holy Spirit is restoring and renewing these things now, and we will be brought into full and complete unity with God when Jesus returns at the resurrection.

How does the Holy Spirit restore and renew? Through the means appointed by Jesus. Baptism—the blessed water where you were buried and raised with Christ, the blessed water where you were clothed with Christ, the blessed water for the forgiveness of your sins, the blessed water of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit poured out on you, the blessed water that now saves you. In Baptism God gifted you His Spirit and claimed you for Himself. Thus, you received God’s name in Baptism: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Our Triune God didn’t stop there. Jesus also commanded that you should be taught to cherish everything that He has commanded. We so often think of what Jesus has commanded solely in terms of Law, as if Jesus is saying, “Here, we’re going to baptize you, and give more commandments on top of what Moses gave so that you’ll be even more burdened.” That doesn’t at all sound like the Jesus who did say, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Jesus is telling you to treasure and adore His Word. The Word He spoke, the Word His apostles spoke in His name, the Word His prophets spoke in His name, the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ Word and teaching is that of our Triune God.

Everything commanded by Jesus involves both Law and Gospel, the threats and the promises of God. The Holy Spirit works through Jesus’ teachings to show you that you aren’t well. You are sick. So am I. The Lord Jesus is the Physician who heals you—through His death and resurrection for you. The Holy Spirit convicts you of your sinfulness and rebellion against God, so that He then may comfort you with the forgiveness of your sins in Christ Jesus. What a great treasure! Though we are sinful and deserving of eternal death, Christ has redeemed us and the Spirit has called us to be the children of our heavenly Father. Cherish the Word, hear it as often as you can, study it whenever possible, meditate upon it day and night. For it tells you of the God who is Trinity in Unity and desires to share that unity personally with each one of you.

The Athanasian Creed may be long, but it so beautifully confesses our God of steadfast love and mercy. It’s worth confessing at least once a year—if not more often. Amen.