Is the Doctrine of the Trinity Practical? John 17:3 – Lord’s Day 8

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We noted in this morning’s sermon that the disciples took quite some time to fully understand who Jesus was and what He had come to do. And you have to feel some sympathy for them. For thousands of years, as a Jew, your creed was the words of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” In fact, if you were to make a list of the things that made your religion different from that of all the surrounding nations, at the top of the list would be – They worship many gods, but we worship one.

But now, here was Jesus! And He created a headache for any devout Jew.
• He does things that only God can do. But unlike the prophets who did similar things in the name of God, Jesus does them in His own power.
• He says things like, “Before Abraham was, I am.” And “Trust in God; trust also in me … I AM the way and the truth and the life … Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me … I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever … When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you, from the Father … He will testify about me.”
• So Jesus looks just like you – a regular human being – but He seems to be claiming divinity. And He talks about a oneness with the Father. And He is now saying that He and the Father will send the Holy Spirit.
So there was one but now three? It is hardly surprising then that after Jesus said all this that the disciples said, “We don’t understand what He is saying.”

And neither is it surprising that for roughly the first 700 years of the New Testament church’s existence, the doctrine of Trinity was the centre of the biggest debates.
Whenever the churches of the Christian world gathered together for discussions, one of the main items on the agenda was the Trinity.
To begin with, as you would expect, the questions focused on Jesus. Was He God? Was He fully divine? Was He fully human? Was He created or was He eternal? What was His relationship with the Father? How are we to understand the relationship of His divine nature and His human nature?
And similar questions were soon being asked about the Holy Spirit. Was He a person or a kind of power or force? Was He fully God? And if so, what was His relationship to the Father and the Son?

And out of these discussions came the ECUMENICAL CREEDS that we have at the front of our hymnbooks – the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. And we call them ecumenical creeds because all the churches of the world agreed that these creeds were faithful summaries of what the Bible taught. And if you look at each of these creeds, all three are what we call Trinitarian creeds – they are about the person and work of God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Well, most or all of us here probably CAN’T SEE THE BIG DEAL IN THE DISCUSSION. You know, why the debate? One God; three persons. There is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are three persons but one God.
We freely admit that it is a ‘hard to get your head around doctrine’ – as in, how can there be three who are one and one who is three? But we believe it.
• We accept that Jesus is fully divine and fully human.
• We accept that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force, and that He is fully God also.
• We have heard sermons about the baptism of Jesus: Jesus is baptised, the Holy Spirit descends on Him, and the Father speaks from heaven – Trinity.
• We have heard sermons about the “us” reference in Genesis 1:26, when God said, “Let US make man in our image” – Trinity.
So we believe in a Triune God – One God in three persons. But when all is said and done, is this doctrine practical? Really? We need to know it and it theologians can debate it in theology journals, but is it really any use to me as I go about living as a Christian? Does it make a difference to day-to-day Christian living?

Well, as we consider these words in this prayer of Jesus, we hope to see that KNOWING GOD AS FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT IS THE MOST PRACTICAL TRUTH OF ALL.

As we have already noted, these words of Jesus form part of His prayer from the night of His betrayal and arrest. And I have mentioned before how worthwhile it is to regularly meditate on this prayer in John 17 – a prayer known as Jesus’ High-Priestly Prayer. It is full of truth and compassion and the deep love of Jesus for His own. I Have described it as a warm bath for the believer’s weary soul.

But notice firstly from these words of Jesus that ETERNAL LIFE IS KNOWING GOD AS FATHER, SON, AND HOLY SPIRIT. As Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

1. You see, an implication of Jesus’ words is that as human beings, we do not, at first, know God. In fact, the Bible teaches us that every human being begins life ESTRANGED from the family of God.
a. And to be estranged, boys and girls, means to be away from and outside the family to which you should belong.
i. In human families, sometimes a Father will tell his child that he or she has to leave the home because a very serious rule has been broken or has been broken one time too many. And he might say that so long as the child refuses to repent, he or she is not welcome at home. And so, that child becomes estranged from that home.
ii. Well, God created Adam and Eve as His children who were without sin. And He warned them that if they sinned, they could not remain in His family – they would die. And we know, don’t we, about Adam and Eve’s choice to sin and the consequences that brings to all of humanity. We all begin life with a sinful nature. We begin life estranged from the family of God.

b. And from the Bible we learn that if this estrangement is not dealt with, we will die. Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death.”
i. And we all understand WAGES don’t we boys and girls! If Dad says we can have $5 if we do some chores, that $5 is our wages. If we do the work, we deserve our wages.
ii. Well, God is very clear in the Bible, if you sin, the wages you deserve is death; at the end of your life you will die, and then, when Jesus comes again to judge everyone, you will be condemned to hell – the lake of unquenchable fire and unending agony and torment.
iii. But Romans 6:23 carries on, “But the gift of God is ETERNAL LIFE in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
iv. And eternal life includes all that is good and beautiful and perfect and fulfilling and magnificent and glorious and joyful and true and right and rewarding.
v. So there are two possibilities for everyone in terms of eternity – there is hell or there is eternal life.
vi. And eternal life, as we learn from our text here, has at its very heart, knowing God; We are no longer estranged from God. We are welcomed back into His family. We now know Him as He truly is: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

c. So what does it mean then to truly know God? And we can illustrate this from Scripture.
i. I am sure you boys and girls remember the story of PAUL AND SILAS IN PRISON? They had been beaten and flogged and they were sitting there, in chains, in a prison cell. And do you remember what they were doing? They were singing hymns! And around midnight an earthquake struck that opened the doors of the prison. And the jailer thought that all the prisoners must surely have escaped and he was about to take his own life because he knew he would be held responsible for this. But Paul called out and assured him that they were all still there. So the jailer said to Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And Paul replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
A. Now, what do you think the next question of the jailer would have been? It’s not recorded in Scripture. We are simply told that the jailer was baptized and filled with joy because “he had come to believe in God – he and his whole family.”
B. But we know what that the jailer’s next question to Paul and Silas, after he had just been told to believe in the Lord Jesus, would have been, “Who is the Lord Jesus? Tell me about the Lord Jesus!” If the jailer was to believe in the promise of God, it would begin with Him believing in the God of the promise.
C. So Paul and Silas would have then told him about God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They would have explained to Him that God is one God who exists in three persons.
1) He is our Father in heaven. And we know Him as Father by believing in Jesus, His Son.
2) Jesus is the eternal Son of God who died for the forgiveness of sins and rose again from the dead.
3) And Jesus can be known only by the power of the Holy Spirit who the Father and Son send to live in the heart of all God’s children.
D. Now, you may be thinking to yourself that Paul called on the jailer to believe in Jesus and be saved. How do I get from there to the doctrine of the Trinity? How can I be sure that Paul preached the Triune God to the jailer and his household? Well, what happened once the jailer and his family believed? They were BAPTIZED. And you know what Jesus commanded about how believers were to be baptized. You have heard the words of baptism many times: have witnessed many baptisms. I baptize you into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

d. To truly know God is to know Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And this is why the doctrine of the Trinity is the most practical truth of them all! To be a Christian is, first and foremost, to belong to the Triune God and to be named for Him.
i. Earlier, we recited the words of the ATHANASIAN CREED, one of the three ecumenical creeds I told you about earlier. And it explains to us that we worship one God in Trinity – one God in three persons. And we said, “He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.”
ii. So, those who do thus think of the Trinity, like the jailer and his household, are saved and have eternal life! And that, dear friends, is very practical!
iii. Every time you recite the Apostles’ or Nicene or Athanasian Creeds, in faith, you have a reminder that you truly know God; that you are saved; that you have eternal life!

Well, let’s move, in the second place, to concentrate a little more on the KNOWING God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit side of the equation.

Some people, you see, after what we have just said, may grant the fact that there is something very practical about having eternal life rather than the certainty of facing an eternity in hell. But still they ask, is it really any use to me as I go about living as a Christian? Does it make a difference to day-to-day Christian living?

Well, with his knowledge, I want to set before you our brother, ___________, as an illustration of the fact that knowing God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit most definitely makes a difference to day-to-day living. And I do so in two ways. First by way of a parallel and then more directly.
1. Our brother _______ is recently MARRIED. For many years he was unmarried but now he is married to _________. So let me ask you if being married to _____ makes any practical difference to ________life from day to day? Is his life different now than what it was before he was married?
a. And this is of course a DUH! Question. Of course it is! All those of us who are married know that the very nature of marriage has a huge impact on everyday living. I now live in relationship with someone. I now belong to this man or woman who is my husband or wife. We are to ‘know’ each other. And thanks to the Authorized version of the Bible, which tells us that Adam knew Eve and she conceived a son and Abraham knew Sarah and she conceived a son, we know that ‘to know’ means more than just ‘to know.’ There is to be the most intimate union and communion between husband and wife.
b. So likewise, because you live in relationship with God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there is to be a union and communion between yourself and this Triune God.
i. And I stress here the THREE-PERSONNESS OF GOD. You see, a one person God seems to satisfy many believers.
A. For some, it is all about the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts, the power of the Holy Spirit, deliverance from demons by the Holy Spirit, prayer and praise to the Holy Spirit – they have a union and communion, exclusively or close to it, only with the Holy Spirit.
B. For others, it is all about Jesus. Their thoughts and devotions and worship and work are all about Jesus.
C. But for others it is just the Father. They believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, but now, for all intents and purposes, Jesus is just the name you end your prayers with. When they think of God, they think of the Father. There is little or no purposeful and deliberate union and communion with the Triune God.
D. But we worship one God in three persons. And each of the persons is worthy of your worship and thanksgiving and devotion.
1) In this service, we have already sung, glory be to God the Father, glory be to God the Son, glory be to God the Spirit, great Jehovah, Three in One.
2) And soon we shall sing in praise to God the Father whose rule is just and wise and who does all He has willed to do. And we shall sing in praise to Jesus Christ who has restored peace for us with the Father and who gathers the straying sheep. And we shall sing in praise to the Holy Spirit who keeps us from or who lifts us out of the traps that Satan sets and who averts our woes by His power.
3) And so our meditations and our prayer and our worship ought to reflect the fact that truly know God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Is the doctrine of the Trinity practical? Oh yes. The more we meditate on the way the Bible details the activities of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the fuller and richer our communion with the Triune God will become.
2. But we end now with the MORE DIRECT ILLUSTRATION that is our brother, ________. Just a few months ago, _______ did not know God. Now he does. Does the fact that ______ knows God now have an impact on his day-to-day living?
a. And really this is another ‘DUH! Question isn’t it. Of course it does.
i. For a start, ____ is here in church today. Those who don’t know God do not go to church. __________ prays to God. Those who don’t know God do not pray to Him.
ii. And think of the Epistles. So many of them begin with a survey of who the believer is in relation to the Triune God of their salvation. But then comes the “therefore”…
A. Romans 12 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
B. Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I … implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.
C. Colossians 3:1 – Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
D. And what this looks like is the stuff of every day Christian living. It is being seen, each day, in increasing measure, in _________.
E. And it ought to be seen, each day, in increasing measure, in each one of us.

Is it with you? Your God is Father – He created you. Your God is Son – He died to cleanse you from sin. Your God is Spirit – He is at work in you to make you more and more like Jesus. Is this the God you worship in here and out there, every day? Amen.