Essay / Theology

Sermon: The Trinity in Romans

triangle preacher A couple of weeks ago I preached at my home church, Grace Evangelical Free Church in La Mirada. We had just completed a months-long series that had taken us through the whole book of Romans, and were finishing up with a few sermons on big topics in Romans that required us to look at the whole book at once, rather than at any particular passage. The elders had decided to draw out doctrines like the wrath of God, showing mercy in response to God’s great mercy, and the Trinity. I got to do the Trinity sermon. You can listen to or download the mp3 of the sermon as long as it stays up on the church’s site.

The full multimedia splendor of the event can’t be duplicated in a blog post: As you can tell from the accompanying drawing by Freddy Age Eight, I read through some of Romans’ most trinitarian passages and rang out chimes on a triangle as I read the words Father, Son, and Spirit. But here is the text of a few minutes of the sermon.

Look at the bigger picture: You can outline the first half of Romans this way: From chapter one up to chapter three, we have God the lawgiver, whose wrath is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness, who justifies both Jew and Gentile so he can be Father of both. Then from the middle of chapter 3 to the end of chapter 5 we see the Son of God as our propitiation, who takes our situation on himself and restores us to a right relationship with God. Then from chapter five to chapter eight the Holy Spirit comes to the front in applying the work of Christ and delivering us from sin. So we have

1. The Father’s judgment
2. The Son’s propitiation
3. The Spirit’s deliverance.

The whole structure of the book has been Trinitarian, because the Trinity has been lurking in this inspired book. We didn’t need to be saying the T word every week to be immersed in the reality of the Triune God. What matters is not that we say the word Trinity over and over, but that we come to the Father through Jesus the Son, guided by the Holy Spirit. I’m not doing this sermon to make sure that for once in our lives we’re Trinitarian: in our preaching and worship, we’ve been Trinitarian all along.

So then, if we’ve been successfully Trinitarian all along, what’s the benefit of being explicit about it now?

The benefit is that we are trying to be alert to the Trinity. Being alive to God, let us now be alert to the Trinity.

Let’s bring this out of the back of our minds, into the spotlight of our conscious attention. This is something we all know, but we should take care that we know we know.

Once when I was a little kid, I was standing on the front lawn of my great-grandmother’s farm watching clouds pass in front of the moon. It was early evening, the sun had just gone down, the moon was already very bright, and the clouds were blowing quickly across the face of the moon. It was very beautiful, and I was standing on the front lawn, just looking at it. My uncle Dan came out and asked, “What are you looking at?” I said, “I’m watching the clouds go by the moon.” He asked, “What does that make you think about?” I replied, “Well, really I’m waiting to see if any of the clouds will go behind the moon. So far they’ve all gone in front of it.”

Uncle Dan stood there with me watching clouds, and after a while he asked, “Where is the moon?”

“It’s in outer space.”

Some more time went by. “And where are clouds?”

“They’re in our upper atmosphere,” I said.

More silence.

“Ohhhh…. Right,” it dawned on me. “I’m going to stand here a long time before I see a cloud going behind the moon. In fact, it’s not going to happen.”

What I always come back to in that story is the question: Did I know that, or did I not know that? I had in my mind all the information I needed, but I had never put it together. You might say I knew, but I didn’t know that I knew. And that put me in an awkward position, made it very likely that I would say foolish things and even waste my time waiting for something that was never going to happen.

If you’re trusting Jesus to be your salvation, you already know the Trinity. But it’s a great benefit to know that you know the Trinity. It’s great benefit to know that you’re a Christian because you’ve received a Spirit of adoption from the Father, that lets you call God “Abba, Father.”

The Trinity is lurking in Romans, and I hope you can see that it is lurking in the life of every believer. This trinitarian reality is going on in your life whether you know that you know it or not.

The other sermons in the series are also available in the archive. In addition to solid and powerful preaching through the whole series, the big picture sermons by Erik Thoennes on showing mercy and on God’s wrath are especially good.

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