Unity in the Trin­ity

The Covington News - - Business - Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at www.abid­ing­grace.com.

Has it ever dawned on you that what you are about to say to some­one may be the last words you ever get to speak to them? Does that change any­thing in what you say, or in how you say it?

Our text to­day, 2 Corinthi­ans 13:11-14, is just that for the Apos­tle Paul. He doesn’t know if or when he’ll see his friends in Corinth again. And so, even though he’s had to chas­tise them for all sorts of prob­lems they had, this is what he closes with:

“Fi­nally, brothers, good-by. Aim for per­fec­tion, lis­ten to my ap­peal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one an­other with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints send their greet­ings. May the grace of the Lord Je­sus Christ, and the love of God, and the fel­low­ship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

This is the text for what the Church has taken to call­ing “Trin­ity Sun­day,” a Sun­day de­voted to study­ing how God de­scribes him­self as “Tri­une” — “Three (tri) in One (une).” Did you pick that up there? In verse 11, there is one God of love and peace, and yet the bless­ing is from the Fa­ther, the Son and the Holy Spirit. May the grace of Je­sus, the love of God and the fel­low­ship of the Spirit be with you.

His last words to his friends are de­scrib­ing Unity in the Trin­ity. No­tice how he de­scribes the Unity of the Tri­une God, our Unity with the Tri­une God, and Unity from the Tri­une God.

First, look at that Trini­tar­ian bless­ing we have here. Grace from the Lord Je­sus Christ. Grace is that gift that isn’t de­served, the good he has done for us and won for us and gives due in no part to what we’ve done. In fact, it’s con­trary to what we should have com­ing. Paul writes this to a group of be­liev­ers he has just raked over the coals for bick­er­ing with one an­other, tak­ing ad­van­tage of one an­other, lis­ten­ing to false teach­ers, grip­ing against their pas­tor, and all sorts of other things, but then he leaves them with grace.

Praise God that he leaves us with that same mes­sage. Search your heart and lives and you’ll be able to find those very same sins — bick­er­ing, putting self over oth­ers, not be­ing in the word enough to rec­og­nize ev­ery strain of false teach- ing that comes up in your con­ver­sa­tions, and for the last one, let’s be hon­est, we im­per­fect pas­tors don’t al­ways make it easy to re­spect the of­fice of the min­istry all the time. But that doesn’t re­lease you from your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of prayer and sup­port, or the guilt when you fail and have those com­plain­ing con­ver­sa­tions.

And yet, Paul writes — Grace from Je­sus — the one who loved me when I am unlov­able… “and the love of God” — This is that “agape” love, the 1 Corinthi­ans 13 love — the pa­tient, kind, un­con­di­tional, un­de­served, with­out-strings-at­tached love — the love a fa­ther feels for his child the mo­ment that child is born — and he strives to re­mem­ber ev­ery time that child sins. That’s God’s per­fect love for us. And he re­mem­bers it.

And the fel­low­ship — the one­ness, the peace and har­mony of a re­stored re­la­tion­ship with God and one an­other — that comes only be­cause of and through that grace and love.

Think about that — how do you sep­a­rate grace and love and fel­low­ship? You don’t. They all go to­gether, don’t they? They flow out of and through each other. Now think this through — Paul ties one of those to each of the per­sons of the Trin­ity — this three in one God. How do you sep­a­rate the Trin­ity? How do you sep­a­rate God? You don’t. The Fa­ther, Son and Holy Spirit— truly one. As we look at his work the three per­sons seem to over­lap, and yet they are sep­a­rate. The Bi­ble de­scribes the Son be­got­ten by the Fa­ther and the Spirit pro­ceed­ing from the Fa­ther and Son, sent out by them, yet what does all that mean? It’s hu­man lan­guage try­ing to de­scribe some­thing only the divine can grasp.

This Trin­ity thing is just an­other ex­am­ple of what faith is. I don’t be­lieve it be­cause I un­der­stand it, then I’d be trust­ing in my in­tel­lect. I be­lieve it be­cause God says it. That’s the faith of a child, the faith nec­es­sary for sal­va­tion.

“This is who you say you are God, OK.” Con­trary to logic and rea­son we can con­fi­dently say, there is unity in the Tri­une God.

But a much big­ger leap of faith is the sec­ond thing this text tells us, We have unity with the Tri­une God.

Check back next week to cel­e­brate the fact that this God we can’t even com­pre­hend is the God that loves us.

JONATHAN SCHARF COLUM­NIST

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