Text: John 16:12-15
Date: June 15 & 16, 201 9
Event: Trinity Sunday (Confirmation Sunday), Year C
John 16:12–15 (EHV)
12“I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own, but whatever he hears he will speak. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I said that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.
The Trinity Is United for Your Good
It’s fitting that Confirmation Sunday falls on Trinity Sunday this year, because the Trinity looms large in our Confirmation instruction. The basic teaching of the Trinity is baffling to human reason: there is only one God, but God has three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of those persons is wholly and completely God, not 1/3 God, but still there is only one God. We know 1+1+1=3, but when it comes to God, 1+1+1=1.
This is an offense to reason. And so we talk through that in Catechism and each year of my 11 years teaching Catechism classes, I have made the students an offer: they can reserve as much of my time as they want, come to my office and talk. If they, after any number of hours, can explain the concept of the Triune God to me so that I don’t have any questions about it and walk away with what feels like a complete understanding, then they can get an instant A+ in the class and be confirmed the next Sunday, potentially skipping up to 4 years of class with me. It’s an intriguing proposition! But in 11 years, after we’ve gone through the basics of the trinity in class, no one has taken me up on that offer.
The Trinity is a teaching of God’s Word falls into a similar category as other teachings, like the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. It’s something that we know is true because God has told us that it’s true, but we can’t understand how it could be true because it doesn’t make sense to us. In Catechism class we call this an “article of faith,” something that we trust to be true because God, who does not lie, has said it’s true, but we can only trust him on the point, rather than fully understanding it ourselves.
We cannot understand or comprehend the “how” of the Triune God. But even if we can’t understand how God can be triune, Jesus in our Gospel for this morning comforts us with the what of the Triune God, namely, what the Triune God does for us, each person being united for our eternal good.
The words of our Gospel come from that Maundy Thursday evening, Jesus’ last conversation with his disciples before his death. Whereas the other Gospel writers spend just a little bit of time on what Jesus said that evening, John spends a long time, four chapters! Take a spin through John 13-17 and see all the different bits of comfort that Jesus had to give to his disciples and to pray for them. But as he says in our brief lesson, in the hours just before his arrest, crucifixion, and death, he had many things to tell [them], but [they could not] bear them now.
The disciples did not know everything they needed to know, so Jesus makes them a promise, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” We saw a very clear outward fulfillment of that promise last weekend on the first Christian Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came and emboldened the disciples to be confident witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.
More broadly speaking, Jesus’ promises that the Holy Spirit would come to be their teacher, to guide [them] into all truth. But here is where we see the unity of the Trinity. There are not three lessons to be given, but just one. It’s not as if the Father has truth to give, the Son his own truth to give, and the Holy Spirit yet a third truth to give. No, they are all unified in message and teaching. Jesus said, “He will not speak on his own, but whatever he hears he will speak…. he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15Everything the Father has is mine.”
The Father has truth and has made that belong to the Son as well. The Holy Spirit takes of that truth and brings it to the disciples and to all Christians. The Holy Spirit is the one credited with inspiring the whole of the Bible, giving us God’s flawless Word. But it’s not as if the Holy Spirit was working independently; every bit of inspired Scripture is drawn from what the Father and Son then share with the Holy Spirit.
Of course, we’re back to this being an article of faith, aren’t we? If there is one God, how is there all this source and sharing of truth. We’re not told how it works, just that it does. But we can see this unity in the Trinity most clearly in God’s plan of salvation.
If we go back to the Garden of Eden, the Triune God made mankind in his own image, that is, that mankind was in perfect harmony with God. But that harmony quickly evaporates when Adam and Eve sin. But the Father’s love for his creation cannot deal with his people being sent to hell for their rebellion. So the Father, drawing on the truth of his love for us but also on his justice, tasks his Son with a mission: he is to go to earth, take on our human flesh, live, suffer, and die in our place to save us.
And so he does. We’ve traced that work from the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel during Advent, through his birth, his epiphany or revelation to the world, finally through his suffering and death in Lent and his glorious, triumphant resurrection at Easter. We were lost in our sins and by following his Father’s will, Jesus released us from that sin by paying the price for every sin every committed.
The problem is that without faith to believe these things, it doesn’t benefit it us in the least. If we do not know what Jesus has done, we are still lost in our sins. And so for this reason, God needed to teach us his truth. So the Holy Spirit comes and points to love of the Father that sent the Son that we would have the free gift of eternal life.
Without the Father, the Son does not come and the Holy Spirit has no good news to teach and share. Without the Son, the Father’s love goes unfulfilled and the Holy Spirit, again, has nothing to teach us that would be of any good. And without the Holy Spirit’s gifts of God’s Word and the faith to believe all of these things, neither the Father’s love nor the Son’s sacrifice matters at all for us. Without the complete unity of the Triune God we are lost in our sins forever in hell.
But because there is that unity, because they are all working together, we are no longer condemned. By the Holy Spirit’s work we have God’s Word, taken from the Father and the Son preserved for us in the Bible. By his work we also have the faith that trusts that what Jesus did for us actually removes our sins and gives us the free gift of eternal life in heaven. The Father’s love executed his plan to save us in his Son’s life and death, taught to us by the Holy Spirit.
This is the faith that our confirmands will publicly declare here in a few minutes. This is the faith that we are all eager to build up in our own hearts. And this is the faith that we are eager to share with others who do not yet know it.
We may not be able to explain the how’s of the Triune God, but we know the what’s and the why’s: God loves us. We are freed from the debt we owed to God. We are rescued from hell. We will be with our Triune God face-to-face in eternal life, just as he originally intended for us to be. Thank you, Father, Son, and Spirit, for these and so many other blessings! Amen.