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 thy 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, one God, world without end. Amen.
For the Epistle. Rev. 4. 1.
AFTER this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
The Gospel. St. John 3. 1.
THERE was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
While all Bible-believing born-again evangelical Christians believe in the Trinity, it is likely that we do not all think about this premier doctrine of God as fully or with as much awe as we should. The doctrine can sound abstract and the incomprehensibleness of God can put us off thinking devotionally. The consequence is that we do not love God as much as we should and through this breaking of the greatest commandment we are all the more prone to various other sins. Self may become more important to us than God.
One important aspect of the Trinity that is neglected is the Unity of the Trinity. So it is that the Muslims think we worship three Gods and the Jehovah’s witnesses also mock the Trinity. Yet the Bible teaches that these three are one. 1 John 5:7 says, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” What could be clearer than that? Indeed nothing could be clearer so this is one of the verses most hated by the devil and questioned as being part of the Bible at all!
The unity of the Trinity provides a coherence and a great witness. A cord of three strands is difficult to break. Two witnesses are good, but three witnesses are most sure. How much more sure when these three witnesses are divine. Jesus said when asked to show the disciples the Father, that those who had seen him had seen the Father. Now we have not seen the Son, but we have the witness of the Holy Ghost and so we have seen the Son and the Father too for they are all one!
The Collect emphasises the unity to be worshipped. Are we up to speed as evangelicals? Do we acknowledge the unity of the trinity as does the Collect? This is important! Let us examine it and then examine ourselves. There is glory in the Trinity and Majesty worshipped in the Unity. The Trinity can seem complicated, indeed the Gospel is hidden from those who are lost ( ). So as we think of the glory of the Trinity we can be captured by the sheer intellectual glory. Yet it should be a glory that causes us to worship the unity of God. There is one God, not three Gods. So the much neglected Athanasian Creed glories in the Trinity and yet leaves one with a sense of awe that is worshipping the Unity. So while John Owen rightly said that we are to commune individually with each of the three persons of the Trinity, we are also to bow down not before three but before one Majesty.
A second point that is too often neglected when considering the Trinity is the eternity of the Trinity. Our reading from Revelation looks into this. Christians can be very worldly and even if they are not lovers of this world, they can be concerned with their Christian lives just for this life.
In the Revelation reading we see the truth is eternal. Worship for ever. How is it possible? Why is it Trinitarian? Here we see it is still the Spirit’s work in us and it is still the lamb who is worshipped. We don’t just leave the Trinity behind and worship the Father alone. It is truly amazing that this Trinitarian aspect of worship continues in heaven and in the new heaven and earth.
The lesson here is that he should not expect to go far from the Gospel doctrine of the cross of Christ. If that is the centre of things in heaven why should we expect to be at some other point now? This is an important point for Christians who would make something else their number one thing. Maybe they are into miracles, or tongues, or doctrines or good works, or church planting or evangelism or preaching. While some of these things are errors others are good in themselves but none can be a higher point than the substitutionary death and life of the Lord Jesus. We must watch ourselves here and see if repentance is called for.
Third, take the Gospel reading. It is interesting that Cranmer chose this for Trinity Sunday. Why?
Here in the New Birth we must acknowledge the Unity again and the Sovereignty of God and so give all the glory to God for our salvation. The work of salvation is not the joint effort of God and man. It is the work of three persons but all three of them are one God! Now what confidence the miserable sinner should have!