The Divine Mystery of the Holy Trinity: Begotten of the Father’s Love

May 26, 2024 – Holy Trinity Sunday | John 3:16-17


Holy Trinity Sunday

Holy Trinity Introduction

In a world of mysteries, none captivate like the Holy Trinity—the divine unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This concept, central to monotheistic faith, challenges our understanding of existence. Since ancient times, it inspired and puzzled humanity, standing out amidst polytheistic beliefs. 

The term "Elohim," used for God in Hebrew, hints at this unity in plurality. In creation, God says, "Let us make man in our image," reflecting this unity of three persons - the Holy Trinity. The Athanasian Creed affirms this, emphasizing their indissoluble oneness. Yet, the Holy Trinity isn't just a theological concept. It's a manifestation of boundless love. Scripture says, "God is love," finding its ultimate expression in the Holy Trinity's relationship. This love, seen in the Father's giving of the Son, shapes our understanding of love's depth. 

As we approach Father's Day, we witness fatherhood expressed through the Holy Trinity. The eternal begetting of the Son by the Father reveals sacrificial love. Through this, we glimpse a love beyond comprehension. Read as we explore each individual's role in the Holy Trinity and its profound impact on our faith journey. Immerse yourself in God's love, welcoming the incredible power of this eternal truth.

The Divine Mystery of the Holy Trinity

Today, we gather in awe and worship of the divine mystery of the Holy Trinity. God has revealed Himself to us as three persons in one divine being. Accordingly, we echo the confession of Moses: "The LORD our God is one." This revelation was profound in Moses' time and remains so today. 

In contrast to the many cultures that believed in a pantheon of gods—for example, the Greeks, who had gods for weather, fertility, and protection—we affirm the existence of only one God. Despite our modern sophistication, people still place their faith in various "gods," whether spiritual or physical. However, Scripture teaches us that all other gods are mere imaginations of human hearts. As the Psalmist says, idols are "the work of man's hands" (Ps. 115:4).

We are also awed by the revelation that God, as one divine being, is a unity of persons. The Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is plural. In Genesis 1, Elohim refers to Himself in the plural when He considers creating man: "Let us make man in our image and our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). The Scriptures reveal this unity comprises the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). 

The Christian Church has long confessed, as stated in the Athanasian Creed, that these three persons are distinct yet indivisible. The Creed proclaims: "For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit is all one... so the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God."

Divine Love: The Mystery of the Holy Trinity

The mystery of the Trinity becomes even harder to grasp when we consider the account of Jesus' baptism in the holy Gospels. At this moment, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all present but spatially distinct: the Son stood on the banks of the Jordan River in human form, the Father's voice resounded from heaven, and the Holy Spirit descended upon the Son like a dove. Praise God for the mystery and wonder of His being!

This unity of persons in one divine being also humbles us with the economy of God's love. As Scripture teaches us, "God is love" (1 John 4:8). This divine love is revealed in the relationship among the persons of the Holy Trinity and extends to us. There is the divine person who is the source of love, the divine person who is the Gift of love, and the divine person who brings this love to life in us.

The True Meaning of Fatherhood and the Holy Trinity

In a few weeks, our secular society will observe Father's Day. While it is good to celebrate this day, it offers an opportunity to teach our society the true meaning of fatherhood. Today, we understand that the essence of fatherhood is found in the Holy Trinity. 

This is revealed in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." These words assure us that our salvation originates from the Fatherhood of God. We can truly say that those who are saved are begotten of the Heavenly Father's love.

Fatherhood involves the act of begetting. If you have read the first five books of the Bible, you will recall the extensive genealogies: "so-and-so begat so-and-so." These passages can seem tedious, but begetting is essential to life and defines what a father does. "To beget" means "to bring forth." Life begins with begetting, and mothers give birth to what is conceived in them, but it is the father who begets or brings forth that life. This concept is mirrored in the dynamics of the Holy Trinity and our salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Giving Heart: God's Love and Salvation

According to the Athanasian Creed: "The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding." Similarly, the Nicene Creed states: "I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made..." 

Though it is beyond our comprehension how the Son of God can be eternally begotten of the Father, it is through this begetting that God's love reaches us. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The key word here is "gave." Giving is the essence of begetting, of being a father. Fathers give life to their children and continue to provide for their needs throughout life.

The Father did not merely send His Son into the world to save it; He gave His Son as the salvation of the world. The Father's Son is the atoning sacrifice for sinners, the ultimate gift of the Father's love. Therefore, when we contemplate our salvation, we must begin with the profoundly giving heart of God the Father. As John Henry Jowett wrote in "A Passion for Souls," "The gospel of a broken heart demands the ministry of a bleeding heart." Such is the heart and ministry of God the Father, who so loved the world that His heart bled in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

God's Love Manifested in the Gift of Jesus

This naturally leads us to consider the role of the second person of the Holy Trinity, God's Only Begotten Son. His role is that of a gift—a gift from the heart of the Father. And what a gift He is! Even if we never received any other gift in our entire lives, having this One would make us the richest souls in the universe. To have Jesus Christ is to have the fullness of God's love, to have life, to have God! He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Jesus helps us understand the significance of this gift by referring to the time of Israel's exodus. As Moses led Israel through the wilderness towards the promised land, the people became impatient and complained about the manna God provided daily. They despised God's grace, saying, "We loathe this miserable food" (Numbers 21). In response, God sent deadly serpents among them, and many were bitten and died. When the people repented and called out for mercy, God commanded Moses to construct a bronze serpent and place it upon a pole. Moses lifted the serpent before the people, and God promised that anyone bitten who looked upon the bronze serpent would be healed.

Similarly, God gave His Son to be lifted before our sin-poisoned, dying world. Jesus was lifted on the cross to bear God's wrath against our sins in His own body. God has promised that everyone who looks upon Jesus in faith will not die but live. "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." What an incredible gift the Father has given us! Jesus is not only the incarnate Son of God but also the embodiment of the Father's love, His bleeding heart wrapped in human flesh. In Jesus, God's love is fully manifested to us.

The Tragedy of an Unreceived Gift

What if that gift is never received? Many years ago, when I was serving as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Libby, the congregation began a youth outreach program. Several adult members each adopted one of the congregation's youth. These adoptive parents were to pray for their "adopted" child, acknowledge significant events like baptisms and birthdays, and extend the love of God in various ways. Their identities were to remain secret. Occasionally, they would leave gifts for the youth on a shelf at the back of the church sanctuary for the children to pick up on Sunday mornings. 

Sadly, I remember one gift that remained on that shelf for months. The youth either neglected to look or was never in the church to see it. Whatever the reason, it was heartbreaking to see that gift week after week, knowing the love behind it was neither received nor enjoyed.

Our Heavenly Father does not want this tragic ending for His gift of love in Jesus Christ. He sends the Holy Spirit to bring the gift of the Father's love into our hearts and move us to accept it. In this way, the Holy Spirit begets us as children of God. 

The apostle John writes in his First Epistle: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God..." (1 John 5:1a). Faith in the true Triune God is a gift from God Himself, not a result of our efforts. In the Gospel of John, it is written: "...He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were begotten not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13).

The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost to bring the witness of Jesus Christ to us. He illuminates our ignorance with the knowledge of Christ, leading us to salvation. He transforms our naturally stubborn and defiant hearts into hearts receptive to God's grace and eager to receive His gifts. Without the Holy Spirit's work within us, the greatest gift—Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers—would remain unclaimed, like a forgotten present collecting dust on a cosmic shelf.

God's Love through the Holy Trinity

How wonderfully God loves us! Out of His immense love, He not only gives us salvation through His only begotten Son but also grants us the Holy Spirit to instill faith in us. This faith allows us to receive and embrace the gift of salvation. The work of the Holy Spirit does not happen in isolation. 

Jesus told Nicodemus, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Here, water is a physical element, indicating that the Holy Spirit uses tangible means to deliver salvation and create a receptive heart in us. These are known as the Means of Grace: the Word of the Gospel and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Scripture assures us that through these means, the Holy Spirit brings sinners like us into God's kingdom, makes us His children, bestows upon us the gifts of the kingdom, and sustains us within it.

Today, we worship the Holy Trinity in reverent awe of the mystery of the unity of persons in our One God. We also worship the Divine Holy Trinity with sincere gratitude for the harmonious work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in saving us and drawing us into His oneness. We are truly begotten of the Father's love. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!"

Holy Trinity Reflections

1.) What is the central theme about the Holy Trinity? The overall message is one of reverence for the mystery of the Holy Trinity and gratitude for God's love and salvation through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2. ) How are the three individuals of the Holy Trinity distinguished? The Athanasian Creed distinguishes the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three individuals who are not to be confused with each other but are one in the Godhead.

3.) Describe the mystery of the Holy Trinity at Jesus' baptism? Scriptures describe the Father's voice from heaven, the Son in human form, and the Holy Spirit descending as a dove, all present yet spatially separate.

4.) What is the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation? The Holy Spirit brings the Father's love into our hearts, begetting us as children of God and enabling faith in Jesus Christ.

5.) What are the Means of Grace? The Means of Grace are the Word of the Gospel and the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, through which the Holy Spirit works to bring salvation.

6.) Explain the importance of faith in receiving God's gift? Faith is a gift from God and is necessary for receiving the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

7.) What is the significance of Jesus being referred to as the "Only Begotten Son"? It signifies Jesus' unique relationship with the Father and emphasizes His role as the gift of God's love to humanity.

8.) How does the Holy Trinity relate to the concept of salvation? The Scriptures relate the Holy Trinity to salvation by explaining how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together in love to save humanity.

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