Three days ago there was the festive celebration at the Redeemer when we again recalled the teaching of a doctrine of the Holy Trinity. As we consider our knowledge of this significant subject, we may agree that our understanding of God’s nature is never good enough. Therefore, it seems very reasonable to speak on the Holy Trinity in each well-timed occasion. With this thought in mind, we look for the ideas in (Acts 26), the text provided by the Daily Lectionary for this Wednesday. Unfortunately, we don’t find anything doctrinal concerning the Trinity in this text except the one idea that can be used as a starting point for the discussion. But before making an all out-effort, let’s ask the unsearchable God for guidance and counsel.
Here we pray, ” Holy Trinity, our mind cannot comprehend the mystery of Your Being apart from the inspired Word and the spiritual vision given to the chosen men. We heartily thank You for this treasury; we thank You for shaping us in Your divine image; and we thank You for maintaining us in the unity of the Father and the Holy Spirit in the bond of peace through the Son. Almighty Father, we employ You, provide us with the brotherly community of the true believers where we would be nourished, protected and blessed through the means of grace and our relations with Your people. We pray, save our Catholic faith from false teachers who teach and preach foolish ideas regarding Your nature and Your purpose of all humanity, for to You alone belong all glory and honor, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, One God, world without end.” Amen.
After addressing our thanks and petitions to God, we are ready to address ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Trinity with the focus on our Wednesday reading from the book of Acts. The previous chapter (Acts 25) says that when the apostle Paul had been under the custody of the Roman governor Festus at Caesarea, the king Agrippa made a visit to the governor. And as they were talking, Festus mentioned the prisoner Paul in connection with his conviction by Jews and the following trial. Since Agrippa heard many amazing stories about Paul, he asked the governor to bring the prisoner for a hearing. The request was answered by Festus in a cordial manner, and on the next day Paul was brought before the most brilliant audience he had ever faced. There were king Agrippa with his sister Bernice, the distinguished men of the city, and some Roman officials including governor Festus. At first, the governor introduced Paul’s case, and after that Paul was allowed to speak. Our text narrates the brief but exhaustive account of Paul’s belief and his apostolic ministry. In the course of this witness, he mentioned the dramatic conversion from Judaism to Christianity. By no means possible by itself, but by Jesus personally, Paul was converted to Christianity. When Jesus appeared to him in the heavenly vision of the only Son of the Father, the former persecutor of the Church was transformed into a zealous preacher and some years later, he became the founder of the local churches. All people, Judaizes and Christians, were amazed at his conversion.
When Paul ended his story, the Roman governor Festus exclaimed, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind,” (v. 24). In order to be sure that Festus’ opinion regarding Paul was serious and without a double meaning, we refer you to English – Greek Lexicon. It says that the word μαι?νομαι can be translated as “to be mad” or to appear to others as “being out of his mind,” or as “disordered in intellect.” We guess the reason for calling the apostle as one who is “out of his mind,” was Paul’s persistence in teaching Jesus’ deity and his resurrection from the dead. After all, What do you think, Paul was really a madman as the result of his too much learning?Perhaps some skeptics and atheists would say that he was. The same opinion they might have regarding the Christians who believe and act in one accord with Paul’s teaching. No wonder that those people call us foolish for the reason that we worship one God in Trinity. Some of them say, “Aren’t you foolish to believe the idea where it teaches that 1+1+1 equals 1? Isn’t the Trinity an entirely man-made conception in origin, and people are foolish who believe in it?”
In response to the opinion of these critics, the Christian apologist Anton Hein says, “A person who claims the doctrine of the Trinity is false because the word ‘Trinity’ is not found in Scripture is as foolish as someone who claims 3½ inches, or, say, 5¼ centimeters do not exist because his ruler only shows whole numbers. The doctrine of the Trinity is presented in Scripture clearly enough for spiritual people to recognize and solidly enough for unspiritual people to stumble over.” Friends, our belief in the Holy Trinity is based not on a human reason but on the Word of God. Didn’t the apostle say? “… what seems foolish in God is wiser than men; and what seems feeble in God is stronger than men.” (1Co 1:25).
Many great theologians of the past including M. Luther insisted that skeptics are outside the church and without hope of salvation if they deny the Triune God and His redemptive work. In fact, the mystery of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who coexist in three distinct persons in one divine essence and nature cannot be explained in physical terms; but it is enough if we confess and believe in such a mysterious God. Since we are the confessors and believers of this mysterious God, then there shouldn’t be contention or dispute among us. Therefore, it is not necessary to treat the Holy of Holiest further, but fear Him and love Him with all our hearts.
Now consider one illustration in connection with Luther’s thought. It says, “A gentleman passing a church with Daniel Webster asked him, ‘How can you reconcile the doctrine of the Trinity with reason?’ The political leader replied by asking, ‘Do you understand the arithmetic of heaven?'” This wise remark can be addressed to the intellectuals who claim that Christians believe the idea where it teaches that 1+1+1 equals 1. However, it is not what we believe!!! Isn’t the arithmetic of heaven quite different from the arithmetic of earth? The people who don’t understand this simple reality cannot be found among wise men but they are foolish because they separated themselves from the Truth, (Joh 14:6). On the other hand, we are not out of our heads, but our belief is true and wise, said the apostle, (v. 26).
Now we set out in the next part of our discussion stating that having faith in the Trinity means much more than just to believe in a doctrine. Please consider the apostle teaching about the Almighty God who calls us to an interpersonal relationship with Him. It is a very Scriptural to believe that our salvation depends on a friendly relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The shocking reality is that by sinning against the divine will and His statues, people separated themselves from the Trinity beginning with Adam’s time up to now. In order to solve this desperate reality, the second Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son, entered into the physical world becoming a God-Man; his name is Jesus Christ. By virtue of Christ’s vicarious atonement on the cross, God the Father pardoned our sins even before we were born, (Joh 1:29; 3:17). This news was preached by the apostle Paul to the poor and rich, to the unknown and famous as the king Agrippa and Roman governor Festus, for example. In that instance Paul preached ” to the people in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance, (v. 20).
The apostle taught that, through faith in Christ Jesus, people are not only accepted into the interpersonal relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but by the given grace they are expected to grow in togetherness with God. According to Stephen Seammands’ book, Ministry in the Image of God the author distinguished the four characteristics of the relationship within the Godhead which we can also practice among the brothers and sisters of our local churches. The writer distinguished such characteristics as equality, submission, deference, and intimacy. Practicing these virtues, we will certainly grow in an interpersonal relationship with the Holy Trinity, and it is an ultimate purpose of all Christian life!
God the Trinity made us for themselves and now He is graciously inviting us to be the imitators of His character. Dear friends, do not allow this world to make you foolish with any false arguments against the sound doctrine of the Holy Trinity preached by the apostles. On the contrary, be wise as Paul by keeping on doing the right things with contentment and fear of God, especially when we come closer into the image of the awesome Trinity. Think over our Father’s love in forgiving our transgressions and respond to it with love toward one another; meditate on the Son’s suffering on the cross and be faithful to his teaching of righteousness; finally, have the peace from the Holy Spirit and be guided by Him.