Let us pray: O Lord God, heavenly Father: We poor sinners confess that in our flesh dwells no good thing, and that, left to ourselves, we die and perish in sin, since that which is born of flesh is flesh and cannot see the kingdom of God. But we pray that You would grant us Your grace and mercy, and for the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, that being regenerate we may firmly believe the forgiveness of sins according to Your promise in baptism, and that we may daily increase in Christian love and in other good works, until we at last obtain eternal salvation; through the same Your beloved Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33-36 NKJ)
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
God wrote through His prophet, Isaiah, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” This passage expresses the transcendence of God. Who He is and His works are out of reach for us! His nature and works are beyond what the human mind can know. But God mercifully reveals to us who He is and His will through Scripture and through the coming of Christ into the world. God, though far above us, becomes immanent, that is He comes among us, to be known and received through faith. Through Christ and His Word, God is with us, knowable to us, yet this knowing and receiving of God is not something that we come about by human effort or reason, but it is a gift of God through the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the words which we just read, Paul is expressing awe and wonder at God and His wisdom and His ways. In the previous chapters, Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, wrote how God, in His perfect wisdom, knows exactly how get His elect from among the Jews and Gentiles to the goal of eternal life. God man’s wicked disobedience and jealousy, and also His own judgment to bring the Gospel to the elect. God’s nature is beyond us, but He often works in ways that we wouldn’t expect such a mighty and infinite God would work. And so Paul humbles himself before God, in awe of His wisdom and mercy.
These words of Paul are very fitting words of praise to our High and almighty God this Trinity Sunday. Our glorious Triune God, in mercy, condescends to us, His fallen creatures. With humble ourselves before Him and with awe we give Him all praise and glory.
Who He is is beyond our comprehension. We can understand what Scripture says about the Trinity, but we cannot wrap our minds around how the Three Persons of the Trinity can be only one God as we confessed in the Athanasian Creed earlier. Some have tried to explain God in such a way that His nature can be grasped human reason, but this always leads to disastrous errors. They say that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are just three different masks or modes of one Person. So that God sometimes acts as Father, sometimes acts as Son, and sometimes acts as Holy Spirit. This is the heresy called modalism, and a person who believes this cannot be a Christian. Scripture makes clear that the Father is distinct from the Son, the Son distinct from the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit distinct from the Father. For the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten of the Father from eternity, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. And so there are three Persons, not one.
We might also be familiar with illustrations about the Trinity, using an apple, that in the one apple there is the peel, the core, and the flesh. Similarly, with a three-leaf clover, you have three leaves, but it is one clover. But in each of those illustrations, the parts of the apple or each leaf of the clover are only a part of the whole, only 33% of the apple or of the clover. But each person of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are completely and essentially 100% God, and not part of God.
Any illustration trying to describe the Trinity falls short. Muslims, Jews, and the world may call us foolish for believing in a God that reason cannot calculate. But so be it, He is beyond our reason, but He has graciously revealed Himself to us.
And consider His attributes, He is eternal! He has no beginning. He is almighty, there is no limit to His power. And He is holy, perfect and righteous in and of Himself according to His essence.
And consider His vast creation. The universe is immense with an estimate of over 100 billion galaxies. And here we are living on a speck of dust compared to the huge universe, and the brightest minds among mankind cannot fully understand all that God created simply by His Word of power.
These things alone should strike awe in our hearts at God’s majesty. He is infinitely greater than us in glory, in might, in wisdom and in holiness!
So, who would be willing to claim to know and comprehend God’s mind? Who would claim to be God’s counselor, His advisor as to how He should act as Lord? Who can give anything to God or gain merit before Him so as to expect something in return from God? These are all foolish notions.
God is so far above us, but then He acts in an unexpected and strange way. And again, it is because of His mercy. He condescends to us, to be immanent, or Immanuel, God with us. The Father not only wants to be the Father of His only begotten Son, but also the Father of undeserving sinners. The Son gives up His throne, and the Creator becomes the created, the Holy One becomes our sin. The majestic “Yahweh” becomes a bloody and beaten and suffering servant. And He who is Life incarnate, dies. And then the Holy Spirit attaches Himself to some of the mundane things of the world: words, water, bread and wine, to work among us and in us and to be received into our hearts to dwell there.
And God works strangely among those who He calls His own. He allows us to suffer trouble, heartache, pain, persecution and death, again for the purposes of His mercy, that we who have been elected to believe in Jesus may arrive at the goal of eternal life!
God has revealed some of His heart and mind to us in Holy Scripture and in the person of Christ. It is His mind for us that we repent of our sins, and that we be saved and live eternally with Him through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ. He shows us His heart, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!
God’s ways are not our ways, and how wonderful are His ways! “Who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?”
Yet, doesn’t it happen that we think that we could do things a little bit better. If God would give us His ear, we could counsel Him and enlighten Him with our wisdom. Might our prayers change from an attitude of humility to an attitude of pride. We might think that our ways would be better, more loving, more wise, more good.
The default religion of fallen man, works righteousness, gets in our head, and we think that we ought to bring something to the table for our salvation. We must be able to earn something from Him. As though anything can come from us. Even the most noble work done with such an attitude is filthy rags in the sight of God. It is wicked sin. Could we really give God something that He hasn’t first given to us? For godly works must come from a heart that the Holy Spirit regenerates. We must be made righteous first by God, before we can do any works. And the works we do, are not to our glory, but to God’s glory, because He has given us such believing heart.
Or how many will think, God, why should you use lowly words, water, bread and wine. We can come up with our own ways to spread your kingdom that would work better, like lights, smoke, and quiet music that gets loud at the right time, and, of course, a coffee bar that rivals any coffee shop in town.
Or perhaps, our humble complaint before God, like the Psalmists, which is good, turns into ungrateful grumbling like the Israelites in the wilderness. We begin to think that God needs to let go of the steering wheel and let us step in the driver’s seat as though we can steer our lives better than He can.
O perhaps, we might counsel God to not get so worked up over our sins, and instruct Him that they are not so bad.