I Believe: Trinity

I Believe: Trinity

Text: Job 38:1-15

Have you ever waded out into the ocean, let the waves break against you, felt the sand beneath your feet, and heard the seagulls up ahead?  It is an awe inspiring experience, such power, such enormity, such mystery, depths we will never know, filled with creatures that we will never see, right before our eyes.  When we come before God, we are like children wading out into the sea.  Everything that the child learns in that experience, they can say that really know.  They know that the ocean is massive, and cold, and that the waves will knock you over if you are not careful.  Yet there is so much more that is beyond their grasp.  For the next several weeks, we will explore the shoreline, examine the dolphins out in the distance, and think deeply about taste salt in the air.  We are going to explore the foundational truths revealed in scripture and expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, those foundational doctrines that we know, that we know, that we know, that we know, that we know. And it is fitting that we will begin with the doctrine which, perhaps more than any other, confronts us with the enormity and mystery of the sea.

While it is not laid out and formalized in the Apostles’ Creed, the doctrine of the Trinity shapes the creed. “I believe in God the father almighty”, beings the first section. The second begins, “I believe in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord. And “I believe in the Holy Spirit”, begins the last section.   The other creed that Methodists sometimes use, The Nicene Creed, takes this same shape, and expresses the reality of the Trinity quite beautifully. 

“We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son
     is worshiped and glorified”

In technical terms, when we say that God is Trinity, we mean that God is one being in three persons, but really it comes down to the fact that the following three things are all true. 1. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God.  2.  The Father, Son, and Spirit are all distinct.  3. There is only one God. The Bible never uses the word Trinity nor formalizes the doctrine, but does teach that all of these things are true.  John 1:1 for example, says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (For more context, including the indication that “the Word” refers to God the Son see John 1:1-14).  John teaches that the Word, which in this context means the Son, both was God, and was with God.  The Son is God, but is distinct from the Father.  Acts 5 teaches that to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God (Acts 5:1-4) Yet John 14 teaches that the Father sends the Spirit, who is different than the Son (John 14:15-17 & 25-26).  The Spirit is God, yet distinct.  And last, Deuteronomy 4:39 says “So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.”  There is only one God. 

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are all God.  They are all distinct.  Yet there is only one God.  How does this work?  I have no idea, and that’s the beauty of it.  God is bigger than our minds.   

Let’s turn back to the passage from Job with which we began.  Job is a work of poetry bookended with sections of prose.  In the first prose section, Satan comes before God and claims that the only reason Job is faithful is because God has blessed him.  “But stretch out your hand now,” Satan says, “and he will curse you to your face.”(Job 1:11) God then permits Satan to have at Job, and attack him in any way, short of killing him.  And Satan does just that.  Job’s cosmic tormentor subjugates him to unrelenting agony.  Job mourns, Job wrestles, but refuses to curse God.  Three of Job’s friends come to meet him and mourn with him, and then they begin to debate.  The three friends defend God’s honor and argue that Job must have done something wrong.  Job once again does not curse God, but he also refuses to accept easy, and false, answers.  In the end, the friends are disgraced, and Job is vindicated, but only after coming to grips with the enormity and glory of God.  Near the end of the story, God shows up.

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:

‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

3 Gird up your loins like a man,

    I will question you, and you shall declare to me.

‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

    Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know!

    Or who stretched the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

    or who laid its cornerstone

 when the morning stars sang together

    and all the heavenly beings[a] shouted for joy?

‘Or who shut in the sea with doors

    when it burst out from the womb?—

when I made the clouds its garment,

    and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed bounds for it,

    and set bars and doors,

 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

    and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?

‘Have you commanded the morning since your days began,

    and caused the dawn to know its place,

so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,

    and the wicked be shaken out of it?

It is changed like clay under the seal,

    and it is dyed like a garment.

Light is withheld from the wicked,

    and their uplifted arm is broken.” – Job 38:1-15

This is who we worship: the one who holds infinity in the palm of his hand, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, the One to whom all the wonders of creation, all the glory and mystery of the universe, is dust.  Do we really believe that we can have God all figured out?  God is bigger than our minds.  There should be aspects of God which we do not understand.  This does not give us reason to doubt, but gives us reason to trust.  If we believe we have God all figured out, that should raise a red flag. If we fully understand God, that means that either God is finite (which God is not) or that our capacity to understand is infinite (which it is not).

The journey of the Christian faith is a journey into mystery.  It is a journey into wonder.  The One who is wonder, the One who is glory, calls us to know and be known by Him.  Mystery Himself calls to us.  The sea is calling.  May you wade out into the water.


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