“Purity of Doctrine”
Trinity Sunday: May 27, 2018
Isaiah 6: 1-5/Psalm 78: 1-8/Romans 8: 12-17/John 3: 7-16
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
The day that we have been waiting for all this time is finally here. It is Trinity Sunday! You may be having your Trinity stuff – the traditional Trinity Sunday food: three-bean salad, three-minute eggs, Neapolitan ice cream, and three-layer cake. It is Trinity Sunday, and maybe, we look at it as not quite a kind of a feast, but in the rank of the Church, it is right up there with the major seven Feasts that the Church never misses.
Trinity Sunday is always there, being something that the Church set over a thousand years ago making it one of the younger Feasts. It always comes after Pentecost Sunday. The Philippines has its own version of the Trinity found on the one thousand bill; however, in the Trinity of the Church, the members are God; in the Philippine Trinity, it is not about picture of the three people shown, but that the bill is god.
The reason why Trinity Sunday is not that anticipated so much is because Trinity Sunday is only the major Feast that is focused on a doctrine instead of an event. Doctrines are not as quite interesting as events. Trinity Sunday in the Church reminds us of the importance of this doctrine of the Trinity. In 1Timothy 3:15, it says that the Church is the pillar and support of the truth. God has placed His church here to be that pillar and support of that truth; but to be the pillar and support of that truth, we have to know what the truth is. We can belittle doctrine and say, “Doctrine divides people. It is boring and we lose people because of it. People don’t come to church because of doctrine.” However, unless we have a certain understanding of some doctrine, how can we be a pillar and support of the truth?
What is truth? How can we know unless the church sets the time for us to understand it? This is what Trinity Sunday is all about. What is the truth? It is Jesus! He says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” If the Church is the pillar and support of the truth, the Church is the pillar and the support of the doctrine of Jesus Christ Himself, Who is indeed a part of the Holy Trinity.
Sometimes we make doctrine about right and wrong. We make doctrine about laws and commandments; we make doctrine about good and evil, but this is not really the purpose of doctrine. Doctrine is not there to set things and to say that if you do something wrong, you are bad. Doctrine is there to help us understand who God is as He has revealed Himself so we know what to believe. We can’t really have a religion without faith; we can’t have an approach to God without faith; faith simply means what we believe.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” Unless we have some belief system, we can’t please God. Unless we have faith formed by good doctrine, we can’t please God.
It is good that Trinity Sunday can’t be commercialized. The meaning doesn’t get lost like some of the other Feasts so the meaning stays pure and true. We have to have a proper doctrine to nourish our faith so that we know what to believe so that we can please God. 1Timothy 4:6 says, “They were nourished on the words of faith and sound doctrine.” Faith and sound doctrine go together. We say that doctrine can’t save us and this is absolutely right, but doctrine can teach us and point us to what can bring us to salvation. Doctrine will teach us and lead us to Jesus Christ, Who is our salvation.
Good doctrine will point us to salvation. Bad doctrine will steer us away from salvation and this is where we get into trouble. This is how important it is that our hearts are nourished with faith and sound doctrine.
I am not going to tell you how the Trinity works because I don’t really know; it is quite complicated. However, there are some points we can know about it. I can tell you that there is a Trinity and it does work. The Trinity does work; it is through Trinity that God relates to His people.
In Psalm 78:3, it says, “I will utter dark sayings and I will tell them to the next generation. I will teach them to the children.” Dark sayings are not the creepy and eerie things, but things that are hard to understand. Definitely, the Trinity would qualify for this. When we try to explain how can God be One, and yet be Three Persons, this can qualify for a dark saying. The Psalmist says, “I will share these dark sayings even to the young ones,” because it is critically important for them to have the doctrine that they need so that they will embrace the right type of faith.
We have the Scutum Fidei which is translated in Latin as “shield of faith”. It gives us a picture of the Christian Trinity that says that the Three Persons are not each other, but each one is God. They are all equally important, but something that has been under attack for the history of the Church is the one that says, “The Son is God.” This is a critical part of the Christian faith. Without this, there is no Christian faith. “The Son is God” is what makes a Christian a Christian because this is part of what Jesus said. We don’t get to make a faith. The faith the Jesus Christ handed down to us as one of the cornerstones is: the Son is God.
Trinity Sunday brings us to this thought because it says in 1Timothy 4:1, “There has gone out deceitful spirit and doctrines of demons.” There are not just good doctrines which we can learn from the Church, but there are also deceitful doctrines. We have Trinity Sunday so that we can remember: don’t be deceived by something that says that the Son is not God, that Jesus did not come in the flesh, and that if He came in the flesh, He was not divine.
Scriptures show us examples of what will happen if we forget Trinity Sunday. 1 John 5:10-11 says, “The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” 2 John 1:7 says, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” A lot of religions mention Jesus, but they don’t talk about Jesus Christ coming in the flesh, as Jesus Christ the Messiah. They talk about Him being a good man; they talk about Him being the best person that God ever made, but this is short of what Jesus Himself said, “I Am,” which is the name the Father gave Himself back in Exodus 3.
2 John 9 says, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.” 1 Timothy 6:3 says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,” then, in verse 20, it says, “Guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’.” Guard what is entrusted to us, but avoid arguing about it. God doesn’t give us things so that we can go out and argue about them. It is not about arguing, which is totally opposite to the purpose of having doctrine. God gives us doctrine so that we can be equipped and so that we can know what Jesus said is true, and so we can be aware of what is false without fighting about it.
One of the reasons the Church is being slow in evangelizing the world is that we take the good things of God, the pearls of God, and we throw them at the unbelievers as if they were weapons. God says to avoid arguments and stop arguing with people who have other ideas, whether in the Church or out of the Church.
Let us be empowered with the truth that are given in the Word, especially on Trinity Sunday – The Father is God; The Son is God; The Holy Spirit is God. The Trinity may be complicated, but we can understand that there is one God in three persons. Don’t argue with what is called false knowledge. Doctrine was given to us to point us to Christ, to point us to the right belief so that we can understand who God really is: love. This is what the world should be seeing. This is what we are supposed to be sharing with each other.
The Trinity message is to hear the truth, stand on it, and not be deceived. If we stand on the truth of Christ, the love of God will be in our hearts and this is the message that we want to share. We don’t fight with those who don’t believe in this. We go out in love, not judgment. God gives us doctrine, not for argue with others, but to direct the Church in the right way. Without this, the Church can believe anything. Unless we have examples of pure doctrine, then, how can we be the support and the pillar of truth? Doctrine is to direct and to guide the Church, not divide the Church.
God doesn’t approach people with a vengeful attacking mode. God approach to mankind is seen in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish.” This is God’s interaction with the world for the unbelievers – those who are mad at Him; those who don’t know Him; those who speak against Him. God giving His Son is His response to them.
John 3:14-15 shows God’s attitude toward those who are against Him. God loves those who do not understand Him. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”
This story is found in Numbers 21. Israel has already been wandering in the wilderness for a long time. Aaron is already dead; Miriam is already dead. They have been there for a long time, and for all these years, they have been blaming God for all their problems. They were stubborn and rebellious in their hearts, and years into this journey, there came a time when the Canaanites rose up against Israel and God delivered them. But in response, they spoke against God and against Moses. Some of them were taken captive and they complained. God gave them manna every day, and yet, they were still complaining. Even if they were rebellious, God deals with these people who don’t understand Him differently than we think. He gave them a bronze serpent to look upon and be healed from the snakebites that were afflicting them. In the midst of their rebellion, He sent a source of healing.
This is exactly a picture of what God did in Jesus Christ. We were rebellious, always blaming Him for things. We thought everything was His fault. We misunderstood His love and everything else, and yet, He made a way for us to be healed. This is how God responds to our unbelief. He makes a way for our salvation. Bronze serpent in the wilderness, cross on Calvary: they’re there for us who do not understand to come in the fullness of our salvation.
This Trinity Sunday, remember that doctrine is not to be argued. It is there to guide us, not to divide. And remember that Jesus Christ the Son is God.