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I invite you to open your Bibles or Service folder to our second lesson, Romans 11, where Paul’s great doxology reminds us that there is no one like our God.
Ask anyone who has been through Catechism class to define the word Trinity and they should be able to tell you that it means that God is One divine being and yet three distinct persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We know the definition of the word. But if we made a list of things that we could never fully understand no matter how hard we tried; the doctrine of the Trinity should be on the top of the list. Any time you try to illustrate what the Trinity is like– different forms of water, three leaf clovers, whatever it might be– you end up being a false teacher. That’s because, by definition, God is completely other. There is no one and nothing like him. He says through the prophet Isaiah, there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
There is only one true God. The only way we can know who he is, what he wants, and what he is like, is by studying what he has revealed to us about himself in the Bible. It is there that he clearly states that he is one divine being, and yet, as we see at Jesus Baptism, he is Father speaking from heaven, Son stepping out of the water, and Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove, all at one time. The claim made by God that he is Triune can only be accepted by faith. There is no experiment that can prove or disprove his claim. It’s a matter of trusting what he says about himself in his word. But as we study his word and learn about the being who is one God in three persons, we can’t help but react in awe and wonder and praise as Paul does.
When we learn about the riches of God, we realize that we can’t possibly fathom the depth of his riches. He owns everything. The Psalmist says that he owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and he owns the hills too. Everything that exists belongs to him. The sun, the moon and the stars belong to him. Every person and every nation on earth belongs to him. Every penny in every bank and piggy bank belongs to him. As the Psalmist says, the earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
What does this mean? It means that if you think what you have is yours, you are sinning. You are not giving God all the glory he deserves. You won’t appreciate what he has given you. You won’t want to help others keep what God has given them. You will be greedy and jealous. It means that when you realize that God is the owner of everything, and he graciously lets you be his steward; you will have peace and contentment and do all you can to help your neighbor keep what God has given them.
I’m sure most of you have laid on the grass on a clear, cool summer night and gazed at all the stars. God challenged Abraham to count them if he could. He couldn’t. Neither can we. Don’t you just stand in awe of the wisdom of God? We are still, after thousands of years of investigation, just discovering some of the things that God thought up at creation. And we haven’t even made it outside of our own solar system yet! The beauty and complexity of God’s creation, even now after it has been corrupted by sin, boggles our minds.
What does this mean? It means that if you think that all these things came about by accident, you sin. You are not giving God the glory he deserves. You will begin to think that humans can change the climate and bring about the end of the world if we don’t change our ways. Yes, we are to be good stewards of all that God created, but the world will end when God decides to end it. Acknowledge that everything belongs to him. Use everything you have wisely and to his glory. Look forward to the time when he will bring this corrupt universe to an end and make a new heaven and a new earth were everything is perfect.
Don’t forget the knowledge of God. He knows all things. He knows in advance everything that will happen. In fact, every one of his predictions, prophecies, has come to pass. He knows the number of hairs on your head, and everyone else’s too. He knows what every world leader is thinking, and he knows how to make whatever they are planning serve his eternal purposes.
Don’t forget, he foretold that his Son would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem. He made use of a decree from Caesar to make sure Mary and Joseph were in the right place at the right time for Jesus to be born. He used the sinful hatred of the Jewish leaders to accomplish the redemption of the world through Jesus death and resurrection. He knows your every sin, even your most secret sinful thought, and yet, in Jesus, he provides forgiveness for you, and for every sinner. Oh the depth of the riches, and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments! The way that he decided to save the world is something no human could ever figure out. The only thing that makes sense to us is salvation by merit. If you want something you have to earn it, so you should have to earn your salvation by making up for your sins, by doing more good than evil. But that doesn’t work with God. No sinful person can make up for even one of their own sins. They can only make themselves even more sinful. So, in mercy and grace, God decided to send a substitute, someone who could live without sin so that he could take everyone else’s sins on himself and pay for them on the cross. He decided to judge us not guilty because of what Jesus has done in our place. No human could have come up with that plan much less carry it out. But God did.
How untraceable his ways! Thomas understood that God’s ways are untraceable. When Jesus talked about the way to heaven, he asked Jesus, how can we know the way? How can we get to where you are going, to where the Father is? Even the best tracker couldn’t follow your tracks. We can’t see heaven. There aren’t any golden roads or street signs to follow. On our own, we would be lost forever trying to find the way to heaven. But you know how Jesus answered Thomas. I am the Way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. Like the teaching of the Trinity, we would not be able to track the way to heaven without God revealing it to us in his Word.
As we consider the unfathomable depths of the riches, wisdom and knowledge of God, we have to agree with Paul. Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his adviser? Obviously, he doesn’t need our advice. But how often don’t we try to give him advice? How often don’t we think that we know better than he does? Instead of praying for his wisdom and guidance we suggest to him what we think he should do. When something happens, we are quick to question why? Why did God do this or that, or allow this or that to happen? All the while we are thinking, “If God would just listen to me, my life and everyone else’s would be better.” NO! you can never be God’s advisor. All you can ever be is his dutiful servant. And the more you let him advise you through his word the wiser you will become.
Who has first given to God that he will be repaid? Since God already owns everything you can’t give anything to God that he doesn’t already have. You can’t do anything for him that earns you a reward. As Jesus says, so you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ The only thing God owes you is a just punishment for your sins. Thankfully, he gave your punishment to Jesus instead. The one and only true God, the creator of heaven and earth, who sent his Son to be the savior, doesn’t owe you a single thing. Anything he gives you, especially your forgiveness and eternal salvation, is all a gift of grace, the opposite of what we deserve.
From him are all things. Without him nothing we know would exist. He called everything we see into existence by the power of his word. Everything we have belongs to and comes from him.
Through him are all things. The only way for anyone to be saved is through the plan he devised and declared in his word. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus. No one gets to the Father except through Jesus.
To him are all things. His goal, his desire is that all would come to him, that all would come to the knowledge of the truth that he has revealed in Scripture. He is the one and only true God. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the creator of all that exists. He is the one who took on flesh and blood to redeem us so that we could be declared not guilty of our sins. He is the one who revealed himself to prophets and Apostles, guided what they recorded so that it was without error, and continues to preserve it for us today so that we might become wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
To this one and only, true, eternal God, be glory forever and ever. Amen!