Holy Trinity - St. John 3:1-15 - May 31, 2015

Order of Holy Communion (Pg. 15)
Hymn #298 Baptized into Thy Name Most Holy
Hymn #238 All Glory Be to God Alone
Hymn #244 Glory Be to God the Father

Ezekiel 18:30-32
Romans 11:33-36
John 3:1-15

Collect

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who hast given unto us, Thy servants, grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the Eternal Trinity and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity, we beseech Thee that Thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities; Who livest and reignest, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. 

Sermon 

1)         We hear from John chapter 3 how Nicodemus approaches Jesus at night to speak with Jesus privately. And while the text doesn’t seem to have much to do with the doctrine of the Trinity, it is most certainly present. Nicodemus confesses that Jesus is a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him. Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit when He teaches Nicodemus that if he wants to enter the kingdom, he must be born of water and the Spirit. Jesus also says that no one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. God sends Jesus. Jesus descends from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven. To enter the kingdom one must be born again through water and the Spirit. The three persons are present in the discourse. Jesus ties it all together when He mentions a plurality in the Godhead when He says most assuredly, I say to you, We speak of what We know and testify to what We have seen and you do not receive our witness. Three times Jesus uses the first person plural pronoun ‘we’ instead of the singular pronoun ‘I,’ just as was spoken by the Lord in Genesis 1:26 at creation, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. The Lord speaks of Himself in the plural again in Genesis 3:22, after Adam and Eve fell from faith into unbelief and sin. He says, Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. Here again the Lord is speaking of Himself a plurality. We speak of what We know and testify to what We have seen.

2)         And what is this that the Holy Trinity speaks of and knows and testifies to? What is Jesus speaking about? What is Jesus teaching Nicodemus this night? The things which Christ comes to teach man is about salvation from sin through being born again, or better translated, born from above. Christ teaches Him of Holy Baptism. Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Most assuredly I saw to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Jesus testifies, and the Father and the Spirit testify with Him, He says, about the rebirth that is necessary to enter the kingdom. It is necessary because our first birth, our physical birth, avails nothing before God. Our first birth is fleshly, that is we are born in sin and condemned even as we take refuge in our mother’s wombs. This is what David means when he sings, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5) We confess this in the Augsburg Confession when we say that all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost. The flesh avails nothing because the flesh is sin, death, and condemnation. The flesh cannot fear, love, or trust in God above all things. The flesh can only disobey, run from God and hate His judgments. So we must be born again, from above, by means of water and the Spirit. Nicodemus can only see things from a fleshly point of view, so He fails to understand Jesus’ word. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Nicodemus, like all mankind, want a God they can figure out on their own, a God they can dissect, a God they can examine and understand. This is the way the sinful flesh wants to have God: on its own terms. This is not the way that God will be had by anyone though. You must be reborn with water and the Holy Spirit and thus be reborn spiritually, that is, in faith. Jesus then points of that Nicodemus believes the wind, which blows where it wants, that is, he believes in other things he cannot understand so why not believe what Christ says?

3)         Thus the text for this Sunday does teach us the Holy Trinity, not according to His essence (for God in His essence is incomprehensible as we confessed a moment ago) but according to His will. It is the will of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that you not be condemned for your sin, but that you escape the wrath of God upon sinners by being born again, from above, through Holy Baptism. This will we heard explicitly from the words of Ezekiel 18: Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord GOD. Therefore turn and live! (Ezekiel 18:31-32) It is the Triune God’s will that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) How does He save men from their sins, both the sin and guilt inherited from Adam, and their own sins of thought, word and deed? He shows us His will in Baptism. It is His will that our old self die, that our flesh be mortified in those waters and that the new man be brought forth, a spiritual man, a new creation who lives before God by faith in Christ’s work accomplished for him on the cross and at the empty tomb. It is not God’s will that any should perish, though many judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life by their unbelief. It is God’s will that you be baptized with water and Spirit so that you may thus escape His just judgment and His righteous anger against sinners by being born as the new man, reborn as a child of God the Father and heir of all His heavenly treasure.

4)         Baptism shows us God’s identity as Triune and gives us our identity as His sons and daughters. Consider the last chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus institutes Holy Baptism and commands His apostles to teach the nations. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19) He reveals Himself to us fully at our baptisms. Who is our God? Not a generic ‘god.’ Not Allah. Not an impersonal force. Not someone unknowable person. He reveals Himself to us in those waters as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In that self-revelation He also puts that name onto you. That is part of what it means to be baptized in the name of someone. That baptism incorporates you into the Triune God. You become His treasured possession, so that you are able to say with the Shulamite woman from the Song of Solomon, I am my beloved's, And my beloved is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3) You are crucified with Christ in those waters, having been united with Christ in His death and resurrection, so that in baptism you die to sin and rise to new life, a life in which you daily put off the sinful flesh through repentance and daily rise to the new life of faith toward God and love for your neighbor in any and every need.

5)         Being baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit also means that you have been baptized not with the hand or will of man, but God Himself. The minister who baptized you was only the instrument. Baptism is not the pastor doing the baptizing. It is God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost who is doing the baptizing through His called and ordained instrument, the pastor. So it is the Triune God who is washing your sins away in those waters. It is the Holy Trinity who is rebirthing you, putting to death your sinful flesh and bringing you forth to new life with the Holy Spirit. In that baptism the Triune God forgives all your sins, as He promises through St. Peter’s preaching at Pentecost. And because it is a work wrought by the Triune God and not by man, it remains forever. Baptism, worked by Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is a sacrament in which we daily live. Baptism is a steadfast rock to which we cling in the mist of temptations to sin, for in the moment of temptation we are to remember that we are baptized, that we belong to the Triune God and so our members are not to be willfully given to serve sin. Baptism remains as our fortress against the assaults of the Devil, world, and our flesh, because in it we have precious promises of God which remain always true even when we are in the midst of doubt and despair. Baptism remains for us as prodigal’s father remained for him, always waiting, ever watching for us to return so that in it, our Lord can bless us with the forgiveness of our sins, strength for our conscience, and joy in our salvation.

6)         It is in Holy Baptism that we see most clearly the doctrine of the Trinity. Your baptism is where God’s identity and will for you intersect and are the most clear. Your God is not a generic god, nor is the false god of Mohammed, nor is it the god of your own imagination and heart. You are baptized by the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity. He baptizes you to save you, to rescue you from eternal death by putting your flesh to death already. He baptizes you to save you from your sins and their deserved punishment by washing your sins away. He promises your baptism remains forever so that no matter your sin, no matter your trial and cross, no matter your situation, you know that you have a God who is for you, who loves you and is gracious to you, not in a generic way. For His amazing grace is not a generic or nameless grace, for God’s love and grace are manifested only in Christ Jesus crucified for you for the forgiveness of your sins, Christ crucified for you so that He might baptize you, rebirth you in water and the Spirit in the of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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