The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity, despite what many are inclined to think, is not simply a matter of trivial pursuit, as though we sat back in our leisure to ponder this whole mental concept of one God in three Persons, and three Persons in one God. It is not abstract speculation. And it’s not nit-picky, fine-tooth-combing of minor details that ultimately don’t matter.
The Holy Triune God, as such — the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is the Fountain and Source of all things, of Life and Light and Love and all that exists. To know Him, to believe and trust in Him, to worship Him, the one true God, is to live, really to live forever, in His Light and Love.
And otherwise, apart from Him, you do not live at all forever. Apart from this one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are damned and die forever in despair and utter darkness. You need Him. You need to know Him. You live only in Him. You live to worship only Him.
But how on earth does that happen? How do you know this God? How shall you believe and trust in Him? How shall you ever be able to find everlasting life in Him?
How is it that you know God the Father and have Him as your own dear God and Father? How do you become and live as His dear child? And how is it that you receive the Life-giving Holy Spirit and breathe Him into your body and life, so that you truly and eternally live?
It is always and only in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, that you do any of this. You do not know God at all apart from Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by Him. It is in Him, and through Him, that the Holy Spirit is poured out upon you generously. And apart from the Christ, the Anointed One, you receive no anointing of the Holy Spirit.
It is Jesus, or it is nothing.
Dr. Luther has it right in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, when he sings of this Lord Jesus Christ, that there is no other god. Do not think to yourself, Well, there’s the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Holy Spirit are no other god than this one true God who is Jesus Christ, the Man from Nazareth. That is the point. And that is the great Mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Each Person is one and the same only true God. If you do not know Jesus Christ, you do not know the true God. But if you know Jesus Christ, then you know also the Father and the Holy Spirit.
This is what was so scandalous to the Jews in this Holy Gospel and elsewhere. This Man from Nazareth, the Son of Mary, He is the true and only God. Not only does He live forever in Himself with the Father and the Holy Spirit, but He gives eternal life to the children of men. He is indeed greater than Father Abraham and the Prophets. You do not know God at all apart from this Man.
Therefore, when Philip later says to Jesus, “Show us the Father, and that will be enough,” Jesus replies, “Philip, if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
Jesus is the true and only God. He’s not simply one option among others. There is no other Way: no other Way to God, and no other Way to Life. And that is true, not only for us now in the New Testament, but so has it always been from the very beginning, throughout the Holy Scriptures, in the Old Testament and the New. The people of God in the Old Testament were saved through faith in the Christ who was to come. And in the Word and promises of God, Christ was there.
Abraham rejoiced to see the Day of Christ. He saw it in the birth of his son, Isaac, who was born according to the Word and promise of the Lord. And he saw it especially when he looked up, and he saw that Ram caught in a thicket, whom God provided in place of Abraham’s beloved son.
In all the Words and promises of God, Jesus was there. Not simply as information, but as the very God who was with His people, powerful to save them from sin, death, and the devil.
Abraham believed in Him, and it was credited to him as righteousness. He believed the promise of the Christ who would come in the flesh among his descendants. And now you are justified and saved by faith in the Christ who has come, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, dead and buried, risen and ascended, now given and poured out at His Altar in His Church on earth, even to the close of the age. For the Word has become Flesh, and He tabernacles among us. All the fulness of God dwells with us in the Body of Christ Jesus.
Your faith in Him is faith in the true and only God. Your life in Him is life with God. It is by Him that you are saved. It is by and with Him that you know and worship the Father in the Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Word of God by whom all things were made, and apart from whom nothing was made that has been made. Whenever God works, He works through this Son, this Word. It was Christ whom the Father spoke in the beginning, and it was so. It was by this Word that all things were brought into existence, and that you also have been brought into existence, the object of the Holy Trinity’s divine, eternal Love and affection.
One and the same Word and Wisdom of God has become Flesh and dwells among us, because He took our flesh and blood from the womb of His Mother Mary and became true Man. And having taken flesh like yours to be His own, He also took your sin and death upon Himself and bore it in His Body to the Cross. And there God, the Creator, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the almighty and eternal Son of the Father — there on the Cross He suffered, bled, and died. It is correct and necessary to confess that God died when Christ Jesus died, for He is the true God.
The Son of God laid down His life for you. And it is by the death of this true and only God that death is defeated. It laid hold of One it could not contain. It bit off far more than it could chew. It was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
In His innocent suffering and death, and by the shedding of His holy and precious Blood, is the Atonement for your sin, and for all the consequences of your sin. In His death, Satan has been trampled underfoot, and the tyranny of death and the grave has been ended. And this great Victory of Christ, the Son of God, your Savior, is manifested in His Resurrection from the dead. For His crucified and risen Body is the First Fruits of the New Creation, in which Life and Light and Love now reign forever and ever. In His Body, there is no longer any death or darkness or despair.
All good things have been accomplished in Christ Jesus. In His Person, in His works, in His death, in His Resurrection and Ascension, and in the preaching of His Word, God is actively present and at work to save you in love. To save you for Himself forevermore.
This is how you know God. In Jesus. In the Gospel. In the stories of the Bible. Especially in the stories of Jesus in the Holy Gospels of the New Testament, but so also in the stories of the Old Testament, all of which were always about Him and have been fulfilled for you in Him.
Apart from Jesus you have no life, but in Jesus you have life everlasting. And that really is what it’s all about. God desires that you would live with Him, and He brings that about in Christ Jesus.
So, then, how do you know this Jesus of Nazareth? How do you have Him as your Savior and your God? That is the most urgent and important question that now faces you, and the answer is just as challenging and scandalous in our own day as the Word of Jesus was for the Jews in His day.
You do not know Jesus apart from His Word of the Gospel. You do not know Jesus apart from His external means of grace. You do not find Him in your head or in your heart, not apart from His Word. To measure God, to measure Jesus, according to your feelings and emotions, is only to make a god out of yourself and out of your own selfish conceits and desires.
You have the Lord Jesus only as He gives Himself to you through His Word. For He is Himself the Word of God. And as such, the Word of Christ is not simply information about Jesus. It is the Word of Jesus Himself speaking to you, in which He is personally present and gives Himself to you. What is more, He still becomes Flesh to dwell with you, to be your Strength and your Song, your Savior and Salvation, to shelter and protect you, to forgive your sins and give you life.
In the waters of your Baptism, that is where you have Jesus. And in Jesus, that is where you have the Father and the Holy Spirit. Look for Him there in the waters of your Baptism. By repentance and faith, by His Word and Spirit, be returned each day to the waters of your Baptism, to where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have actually given you His own Name and His own divine Life.
Where is Jesus? He is on the Altar in the Holy Communion, given and poured out for you and for the many. He feeds you with His Body and His Blood. You don’t get any closer to God anywhere else in the world than there. This is the Body of God, given for you to eat. This is the Blood of God, poured out for you to drink. It is God who thus gives Himself to you, and in this eating and drinking of Him in the flesh and blood of Christ, you have His Life forever in your body and soul.
When Jesus puts Himself in you, He binds Himself to you, and you to Him. And He declares to Satan, and to death, and to the whole sinful world, that none of them can have you, because you are His. You are His very own. You are His forever. You are His for Life.
You do not have Jesus apart from these means of grace — His Word and Sacraments. And apart from Jesus, you do not have the true God, no matter what you may think or feel or experience. But in these means of grace — in this Word and Sacrament of the Gospel — you do have Jesus. Or, better to say, He has you; and in Him, you are a child of His Father, anointed by His Holy Spirit.
If people took this to heart, they would be beating down the doors of the Church every day of the week to hear the Gospel preached, to receive the Holy Absolution, and to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. So would they seek and find His Kingdom and His Righteousness.
As it is, the pursuits of this world — and we Christians fall into those same pursuits far too often and too easily — they are temporal things that come and go without giving life. At their best, they are perishing. At their worst, they are false gods that cause you to perish in both body and soul, both now and forever. But here in His Church, hidden under the humility of His Cross, the very God of very God gives you Himself, and with Himself He gives you divine, eternal Life and Light and Love, which no one and nothing in all of creation shall ever be able to take away from you.
The Life that the Lord Jesus gives to you by the Ministry of His Gospel is not only for your spirit, nor only for your soul, but also for your body. Though it gets sick, and gets hurt, and gets weak, and has to sleep, and some day will die, your mortal body of frail flesh and blood, fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, will rise and live forever, immortal, imperishable, and glorious in Him.
Raised in the Resurrection of Christ, ascended into heaven to the Right Hand of the Father in and with Him, you live with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. That is the pledge and the promise of which you partake, already here and now, in the Body and Blood of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.
That is what you are here to receive. And receiving these gifts, you worship the Father in the Spirit and the Truth, and you live by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
This is what it is and what it means to be a Christian. Not only to confess the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but to worship the Holy Trinity — the Father in His Son and by His Spirit — in and with your spirit, soul, and body, within the one Body of Christ, His Church, on earth as it is in heaven.
This is what it is to live — here in time, and hereafter in eternity.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.