The Holy Trinity and Having a Gracious God - First Midweek in Advent
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
John 3:16
December 02, 2020

For these Wednesdays this Advent season, I am inviting you to meditate with me directly on our God as Holy Trinity as taught by Holy Scripture. And I am planning to approach these meditations on the Holy Trinity from the standpoint of what each person of the Holy Trinity gives. My overall theme is: The Holy Trinity: Our personal and giving God. Tonight the theme before us is that the Father gives the Son.

Let’s get the wheels turning by making a couple of claims. One claim would be that the Gospel teaches us the Holy Trinity. Another claim would be that if you want to know how to find God as graciously and kindly disposed toward you and you want to find inspiration of God’s love directly from God, you need to know the Holy Trinity, or we could say that the Holy Trinity is essential.

But how can this be? Is not the Holy Trinity an abstract doctrine of speculative theology that really has nothing to do with earth, life, grace, love, or salvation? And what advantage is the Holy Trinity? For it is claimed that other monotheistic religions or quasi-religious philosophies, like Hinduism and Buddhism, and rationalist philosophies and Unitarianism, that teach an absolute One, also teach “how to be saved” or how to be good and “love” as well. The problem is that these belief systems teach that you must achieve unity with the One, however conceived, by your own good conduct and moral quality. They do not teach God reaching out to us with grace and love. But the Holy Trinity teaches us God reaching out to us in grace and love. It is always a puzzle, as well, how beings inherently corrupted by selfishness by nature, for which there is ample evidence, could make themselves good. So we have some things to explore.

By Unitarianism I mean the teaching derived from human reason that God is only one. That is, when you have said that God is one, you have said all there is to say. The rest is law and ethics. There are no three persons.

Now before going on, let’s review what we mean by the phrase “Holy Trinity.” We mean that, as holy Scripture teaches, God is One in being, yet there are three really distinct persons that are each truly and equally God. The three persons each have the same nature, that is, divine nature, but it is not as if God is divided up three ways. We could say that I, David, and Tawnya sitting here all have the same nature, human nature. We also rightly say that I, David, and Tawnya are three distinct persons. But I, David, and Tawnya really are three distinct beings, as well as three distinct persons. We are not one in being, while three in person. But God is one in being, and three in person: Trinity. And if God comes to us in persons, then God is living and personal; not an abstract concept; not an impersonal One.

But let’s get back to my claims. My claims assert that the Gospel teaches the Holy Trinity such that it gives us a gracious God who is kindly disposed toward us and forgives sin and empowers God’s love in us. What is my evidence for such claims? Here it is: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is the Gospel in a nutshell, as it is often said. It leads us into the heart and knowledge of God, which is Holy Trinity, as well as grace and love; both.

Now John 3:16 certainly teaches us about God’s love: “For God so loved . . .” But does it teach the Holy Trinity? It does, because it speaks of God and God’s only-begotten or absolutely unique Son. God and Son. God and Son are two distinct persons, otherwise the language would be meaningless. But the language is not meaningless because Jesus is quite real as a distinct person and is the one who said these words, speaking as the Son.

But are God and Son One in the sense of one divine being? John 3:16 teaches that they are because of what faith in the Son gives: deliverance from perishing and eternal life. If trusting in the Son for eternal life gives you eternal life, which only God can give, then the Son is truly God.

Notice what I am doing here. I am not arriving at the Holy Spirit through a speculative process away from Scripture and Jesus as our incarnate Savior. Rather, we are being taught the Holy Trinity by the Gospel, that is, by the salvation that we have in Jesus given to us, as testified to us by Scripture.

Now Jesus confirms His deity expressly elsewhere when He says explicitly: I and the Father are one (John 10:30). The Apostle Paul affirms Christ’s deity when he says that the original Christian community called Jesus “Lord” (Romans 10:9; Philippians 2:11) and when he calls the Christ blessed God, over all things (Romans 9:5).

God the Son has come to us as Jesus to be our Savior, to believe in Him is eternal life. For this we give thanks, all glory, and praise. But if Jesus gives us eternal life, then He is also our God, to whom we give thanks, all glory, and praise. But if He is our God and God is one, then we are being lead by the Gospel and Jesus into the most holy place of knowledge and faith in the Holy Trinity, the one true God, to whom we give thanks, all glory, and praise.

So John 3:16 teaches the Holy Trinity. Well, of course, we would have to complete the picture with teaching about the Holy Spirit, which John 3:16 does not quite explicitly talk about, though eternal life is also connected to the Spirit. But Jesus confirms the deity of the Holy Spirit elsewhere when He calls the Holy Spirit the Spirit of Truth (e.g., John 15:26). And we could point to other places in the Scripture (e.g., 1 Corinthians 2:10-12), as well. But we will hold off on that until two weeks from tonight when we talk directly about the Holy Spirit.

Back to John 3:16. Now what does it say God did and why? It says that God gave His only Son. This is God in action. It is God in action toward us here in our world. God has stepped out of Himself, so to speak, to come and save us.

Salvation is not our action toward God. It is God in action toward us in His Son, Jesus, and this action is love. John 3:16 tells us that this action is love because it says that God gave His Son because He loved. This action is also grace because it tells us that God loved the world. This is grace because the world is in rebellion against God. It has sinned against God and stands condemned under God’s law and God’s righteous judgment. But God loved this world, so that He gave His Son to bring redemption to it.

And just what kind of giving is this of His Son? It is sacrifice. Jesus says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up” (John 3:14). This is Jesus talking about being lifted up on a Roman cross. In this God has done what God has forbidden any human father or mother to do: to offer a child as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of the gods. He has done this to pay the penalty for sin.

But some wise persons might say that God should also be subject to God’s own law. But how we humans can convince ourselves that we are so wise. The wise fail to understand, however, that if God thought like us, legalistically like us, then He could not have overcome the law that condemns us; He would have never given His Son in sacrificial death to redeem anyone.

So God has become a fool, we might say, and so we must become fools with God, we might say, in order to be truly wise. The Apostle Paul says, “The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men; the weakness of God is stronger than the strongest of men” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

Of course, God is no fool, but infinitely wise, for God understands perfectly well what is involved in saving us from our sin. And motivated by His love He does what His wisdom knows must be done.

So here the evidence confronts us with the most profound things. God is righteous and holy and has all rights to all things by right. Yet God loves a corrupt and rebellious world, which He created, but which has turned from Him in its own lusts and wisdom and pride. But He loves so He gives His Son. The Son was lifted up on a Roman cross to take into Himself all sin and all of God’s wrath against it, to kill both sin and God’s wrath in His own death. His resurrection from the dead is the demonstration of the turning away of God’s wrath in atoning sacrifice and the winning of eternal life. This is grace and this is love. God the Father and Son, both true God. The Father giving the Son as atoning sacrifice. The Holy Trinity reveals to us a gracious God.

So there it is, understanding that we also include the Holy Spirit. The Gospel teaches us the knowledge and heart of God. Knowledge of God: the Holy Trinity. The heart of God, amazing love and grace brought to us by the Father and the Son. The Gospel engulfs us in the Holy Trinity.

All praise be to the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; the revelation of God who comes to save us. Amen.


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