"APPOINTED FROM ETERNITY"
The Holy Trinity
June 16, 2019
Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church
"The Lord possessed Me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth."
Proverbs 8:22, 23 (ESV)
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day on which we contemplate the great mysteries of our God--mysteries that we humans (even with minds enlightened by the Holy Spirit) cannot fully understand or explain or appreciate. All we can do is contemplate them, give thanks for them, and confess them. Obviously the greatest Mystery of all is the Trinity Itself--the One transcendent God who has revealed Himself in three distinct and separate Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can talk about it from now until judgment day and we can devise all the clever analogies that we want, but we can never make sense of the fact that one God is three Persons and that these three Persons are but one God. Nevertheless we rejoice in the fact that our God is that great--that magnificent. The knowledge of this reassures us that He can and will be with us as we face the day-to-day problems of life.
The passage before us today, from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, deals with another great mystery of God. It's a mystery called Wisdom. Wisdom is mysterious even in human terms, because no one can quite figure out what it is and yet everyone seems to know wisdom when they see it in action. I know of no school or college that offers a degree in wisdom or even a course on it. There is no store or telemarketer or website that sells it. And to my knowledge it's not something that any physician, nutritionist, or medication can help you develop. In this passage from Proverbs Wisdom Itself is speaking and is telling us about Itself. As Christians living in the light of the Gospel, we believe and confess that the Wisdom of God is personified in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Let's spend these few minutes on this Trinity Sunday thinking about the Wisdom of God personified in our Savior and revealed to us by the Spirit.
The Wisdom of God is that He Himself has entered His own creation in Christ. This means that the Creator is intimately involved in His creation. This is not wisdom as the world sees it. The wise course of action as far as the world is concerned is to back off of something once it becomes a source of shame rather than a source of pride. But God, who created us in His perfect image in the beginning and watched (no doubt with a broken heart) as we rejected Him in favor other things, nevertheless was willing to jump right into human life and became a Participant in order to redeem us. What God did in Christ totally contradicts one of the most popular false notions about God today. I'm talking about the idea, held by millions, that God (if indeed He does exist) is really nothing more than a kindly old grandfather who once created the world and set it into motion but doesn't bother with it much anymore. If He is aware of what goes on among us, He certainly isn't about to get involved in any of it. He's too great for that. Besides, that's what He gave us a brain for, isn't it? This image of the Creator is shattered by the reality that, in Christ, God has totally immersed Himself in His creation by becoming a Part of it.
In doing this He has done something else that is revolutionary. He has sanctified the material world by becoming material Himself. This goes totally against the fundamental doctrine of the classical philosophers upon which most of the world's religions are based--a doctrine that, sad to say, has unduly influenced some Christians as well. I'm talking about the idea that everything spiritual is good and everything material is bad. Christianity is the only religion that draws a very clear distinction between material things and the abuse of material things. It's not wealth that's sinful; it's the greed that often comes with it. It's not food and drink that are sinful; it's the abuse of these gifts of God. It's not our sexuality that's sinful; it's how we often choose to make use of it. It's not money that's the root of all evil; it's "the love of money [that] is a root of all kinds of evils" (1 Timothy 6:10). Just as sin has touched all of these material gifts of God and corrupted them, in Christ God has touched them and redeemed them to be used to His glory. The idea of the soul being the only good part of us, which longs to be "freed from the prison of the body," is a pagan notion, not a Christian one. God has created the body as well as the soul, Christ has redeemed the body as well as the soul and the Holy Spirit, in the power of Christ's resurrection from the dead, will raise the body to life again and will glorify the bodies of the saved at Christ's coming. That is why we boldly confess in the Apostles' Creed that we believe in "the resurrection of the body" (Apostles' Creed, Article III).
The wisdom of the incarnation of God in Christ is that, all the while that He was accomplishing our salvation through His state of humiliation, He remained God. His integrity has not in any way been compromised by the incarnation. While He became truly human, He remained truly divine at the same time--and indeed He will forever remain both God and Man. This incarnation is yet another mystery of God that goes against human wisdom. According to the wisdom of the world and the religion of the ancients, God is God and man is man--and never the twain shall meet. But according to Christian doctrine, revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, God has identified with His creatures even to the point of becoming One of them in every sense of the word, yet in the process He never stopped being God.
What this means for us is that the God who is caring enough to share our lot in life is also powerful enough to deliver us from our lot in life. While He has become like us in every way except in regard to sin, He is nevertheless infinitely better than us. If He weren't, His becoming human would accomplish nothing other than the proverbial blind leading the blind. You see, God is not just One of us in Christ, He is God among us--God on our side, so to speak (or, as Isaiah the prophet put it, He is Immanu-El--God with us)--forgiving us, purifying us, healing us, strengthening us, and giving us a new lease on life through His own life, death, and resurrection.
In every way imaginable, the mysterious Wisdom of God contradicts and refutes human wisdom. The things that human wisdom extols are nothing in the wisdom of God and the things that human wisdom scorns are precious in the wisdom of God, as the apostle Paul explains: "The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Corinthians 1:25). In order to receive and appreciate God's Wisdom, it is necessary for us to forsake the vain ideas that the world calls wisdom. That's what Jesus meant when He said that we must turn and become like little children. We must turn our backs on our own wisdom, because in reality it is no wisdom at all, since it prevents us from trusting in the Wisdom of God. This is an impossible thing for us to do on our own, but the Holy Spirit enlightens us with His gifts so that we might see the Wisdom of God in His Son and, believing in Him by the power of that same Spirit, receive all of the blessings of salvation that He has won for us.
May the King of Ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, make you wise for salvation through His Word, revealing Himself to you as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, that you may grow in grace and knowledge, equipped to serve Him in all things. He who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. Amen.