Sermon for Trinity Sunday, May 22nd, 2016
The Lessons: Psalm 8, Proverbs 8:1-11, 22-31, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15
In Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel, Ronald Allen and Gordon Borror write:
“Consider the Biblical teaching about the essence of God. He is one God, three persons. Throughout the ages this concept has caused no end of confusion and frustration to theologian and layman alike. Much has been written and said about this eternal truth. But by no available means is it more beautifully expressed than in the music of Bach’s trio sonatas for organ. Musicians through the years have marveled at the artistic excellence of these works. They have one melody in the right hand, one melody in the left, and yet another in the pedal line – all sounding at once, each retaining its own identity, yet together forming beautiful harmony. The composer intended this to be an expression, a tonal picture, of the eternal mystery of the Godhead.”
Community of life characterizes God the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostles had walked with the Lord Jesus Christ during his life as a Rabbi, or Teacher, on earth, and now, in today’s Gospel Lesson, Jesus is telling his disciples how their shared relationship and community of life will continue. Whereas the coming of the Holy Spirit is adversarial for the world, since they are convicted of sin because of their unbelief, and of the righteousness of Christ in that He ascends to the Father, and of judgment because the Devil (the prince of this world) is judged, it is enlightenment for the Apostles, and for the whole Church.
THE REVELATORY WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
All that Jesus has belongs also to God the Father, and the Holy Spirit brings each believer into the fellowship of the Father and the Son. He shares with every believer the messages, the wisdom, and the knowledge that the Father and the Son tell Him to share, and some of these words concern things in the future (John 16:13). In sharing these truths with Christians, the Holy Spirit brings glory to the Son, because He receives this knowledge from the Son to give to the Church. As each Christian and all Christians together as one Church listen more and more to the Holy Spirit speaking to them, so the Spirit guides them into all God’s truth. The truth, of course, is centered in the Lord Jesus Christ who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Now some have mistakenly interpreted the Spirit’s guidance of the Church into all the truth to mean that He guides them into more and more liberalism, and further away from the plain meaning of Holy Scripture. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit reinforces the power of God’s written word, and always abides by it. Consider the Lord Jesus Christ’s explanation of how a person receives the Holy Spirit:
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him (John 14:21). Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (John 14:23). But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).
In other words, first a person is drawn by the Holy Spirit to hear and keep God’s commandments, showing that he loves God by doing so. Then the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ will love him, and Christ will reveal himself to him. Then the Father and the Son will come to him and live with him. Finally, the Holy Spirit comes also to be the new believer’s Advocate and Counsellor forever. So it was, long before the Church Councils had formulated the Nicene Creed and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity that St. John clearly taught it, though without the official terminology later used by the Church in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D.
What we must clearly understand, is that the Holy Spirit does not draw us away from the revelation of God’s written words, but continually reinforces and emphasizes it, as well as illuminating it for us in new ways. The Spirit’s goal is to conform our life and character to the image of God’s only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. His goal includes leading us to participate more fully in the divine life of God shared by Father, Son and Holy Spirit in everlasting communion and union.
This means that the Holy Spirit does not lead us into emphasizing the role of reason as more important than the written Word of God in discernment; nor are the traditions of the Church to outweigh the supremacy of God’s written Word; nor must charismatic inspiration, or dreams, or visions, outweigh or contradict what God’s written Word reveals or commands concerning salvation and all that pertains to it. The Holy Spirit led the Church into the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, but He never permitted the Church to overturn any moral standards set in the Bible.
The Holy Spirit does not function independently of the Father and the Son, but in full communion with the Father and the Son, He leads the Church into all the truth, and He leads each Christian into the fullness of the truth about God and about his own life, too, if each one really seeks to know that truth.
LISTENING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Do Christians today listen more to the Holy Spirit than they do to themselves and to other human beings? How easy it is to listen to the voice that says, “Don’t bother to pray every day!” or “Reading the Bible is not important!” or “It’s not necessary to come to church services!” The psalmist reminds us: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly” (Psalm 85:8). Turning again to folly is what all of us tend to do more readily than hearing what the Lord will say to us, and obeying it. That is why the Spirit of God (pictured as Wisdom personified in Proverbs 8) calls out:
O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Hear, for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things. For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.
(Proverbs 8:5-9, KJV)
St. Thomas à Kempis wrote:
Blessed is the soul who hears the Lord speaking within her, who receives the word of consolation from His lips. Blessed are the ears that catch the accents of the divine whispering, and pay no heed to the murmurings of this world.
(Imitation of Christ, Bk. III, chap. 1)
To this, one must add the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28, KJV).
How easy it is in this part of the world, if you are not paying attention, to be driving on completely the wrong freeway, and be heading in a direction you never intended to go! How easy it is in life to find yourself going away from God more and more, instead of drawing closer and closer to him!
To whose voice are you paying more attention? The voice of the Holy Spirit, or the voice of others, or yourself, or the Devil? The Holy Spirit, the Wisdom of God, is calling us to spend more time with God, with His Word, the Bible, and with the Church. The Holy Spirit is calling us to obey God, and to follow His will, and partake more fully and richly of the divine life of God.