About Today’s Sermon
The better you understand God as Son, the better you understand God.
Full Sermon Transcript
Pastor Chris Paavola:
This weekend, I sound like this, but I’m not sick, I don’t think. I was at my son’s hockey tournament and I was cheering for him a lot and they just won the championship. I just found this out this morning. Isaiah was like, “Dad, I got a medal and it’s made out a real gold.” I’m like… But anyway, so I was yelling a lot this weekend. I wasn’t yelling at the refs, but I was just cheering them on and all that kind of stuff. So you have to forgive the gravelly voice this morning. But yeah, it’s great to be with you guys. My name is Chris Paavola, I’m the Senior Pastor here at St. Mark and it’s great to be with you guys as we continue this series called the Trinity where we are we looking at the person and the work and the members of the Trinity.
And I said this last week, and I’ll say it again, just kind of a caveat, this sounds really dry and intellectual and academic, it’s not. My intent is not to give us knowledge for knowledge’s sake so we can puff ourselves up and walk around a bunch of Pharisees proud of what we do and don’t know. This whole series, because I believe just on a very basic level, the more you know of God, the more you love God, and the more you know who God is making you to be. So the more you know of God, the more you love God, and the more you know who God is making you to be. And so, in this series, we are trying to understand God more. We are looking and glimpsing, as we’ve said, kind of our tagline, glimpsing into the mystery of this thing called the Trinity, and that’s the purpose.
And today, it’s going to happen again. We’re going to look at the person of the Son and the Trinity, and I promise you, you’ll walk out of here today thinking differently about the Son and thinking differently about your relationship with God the Father. So give me time, we’ll get there, but we’ve got to wade through some intellectual waters here for a second. The first thing, just another caveat, last week after we talked about the Trinity, I got a bunch of emails and comments from you guys about different ideas of what the Trinity is and what the Trinity looks like and all this kind of stuff and just metaphors.
METAPHORS OF THE TRINITY
I heard a lot of metaphors this week about the Trinity. And all of these metaphors, I mean if you think about what a metaphor is trying to do, it’s trying to take a complicated topic and make it simple, make it digestible. So I understand the reason we would use metaphors to describe the Trinity. This is a complicated topic. We’re trying to take something that we have this limited human capacity to understand and we’re trying to understand it. So of course, we would use metaphors, but all metaphors break down if you push on them too hard. And the problem is when you push too hard on the metaphor of the Trinity, you eventually wander into this thing called heresy. And I’m not saying you’re a bunch of heretics if you’ve used these things to describe God before, but I am saying that metaphors about the Trinity eventually break down.
And so, maybe just go through a few of them, maybe you’ve heard these and just lay it out there what the limitations of these metaphors if you do decide to use them. The first one is that the Trinity is like water. H2O is the molecule and it has three states, solid, liquid, gas, ice, water, steam. And that’s like the Trinity, right? So the Trinity is one substance, but it has three different iterations. And that sounds fine, but eventually, this gets into what the early church, because they were trying to describe this and eventually they called this a heresy called Modalism. Stick that to your quiver and use it later in a conversation. That’d be awesome.
But Modalism is this idea, you’re saying that God takes on one form at one time but not another. And so, for instance, God the Father in the Old Testament, God the Son in the New Testament, and then in the last 2000 years, God the Spirit, it’s one God, but he’s taking on different forms. That’s just not true. Scripture, at least as I believe and as we read, talks very clearly about the Son being eternal and the Spirit being eternal. There’s never a time where the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit did not, will not, do not exist. And so, any type of thing that would say that it’s one God taking on different forms is actually Modalism.
All right, second one that I heard actually this week too is this idea of an egg. The trinity is like an egg. You got a shell, you got a white, and you got a yoke. Or maybe you’ve heard of the apple, like the skin of the apple, and the meat of the apple, and the core of the apple. Or St. Patrick, that’s not an Irish accent, I don’t know why I just did that, but a clover with three parts. St. Patrick was teaching the Trinity and that’s why we dye the river green, I don’t know, and drink beer. But anyway, he was explaining the Trinity and three different parts and that’s all fine.
But anytime you use these concepts to describe the Trinity, you eventually get into something called polytheism or partialism. And basically what you’re saying is that God the Father is one third of the Trinity. God the Son is one third, and the Holy Spirit is one third, but that’s not, again, we can’t say that because the Son is fully God as we’ll see in some scriptures that we’ll take a look at later on. Or the Spirit is fully God, the Father is fully God. They’re not like robbed of their divinity because someone else is active. And that’s where the mystery really kicks in.
And then, the third one, final one, the third one is this idea of one person taking on three different roles. So I’m a husband, I am a father, and I’m a son. And that’s all fine, it makes a lot of sense. But the problem is again, these are three distinct persons of the Trinity. And when we look at this, eventually we get into something called Arianism. It’s named after a guy named Arian. I don’t know if he had a vote on what we would call this heresy, but he is like, “Hey, I’m standing right here.” But Arianism is this idea that the Son became God. So Arian postulated that Jesus wasn’t God, but through his obedience, he became God, and then the resurrection is when he was fully God. And that’s just not true. We believe, again, the Son is eternal. And so, anything where we get into one person having multiple roles or taking on new roles like I haven’t always been a husband or something like that, eventually you delve into and you dip your toe into Arianism and that’s bad, bad, bad.
The point is, I get it. I get why we’re using all these metaphors. We’re trying to take a complicated topic and make it simple, make it understandable, but don’t do that. As we talk today, you’re going to hear things that make you go, “Wait, what?” And that’s okay. This is not a problem to solve. This is a tension to embrace. Just embrace the tension. You look in space and you see space, but you can’t see space and you can’t fathom space. You stand at the edge of the ocean, you see the ocean, but you can’t fathom it. It’s okay. You are a limited creature. You have a limited intellectual capacity. So just as we read these verses and we start talking about the idea of the Son and being a part of the Trinity, understand that it’s all of these things together and that’s okay.
We’re glimpsing. I mean, if he’s God, he’s going to be bigger than us. He’s going to be bigger than us, and beyond our comprehension. So when we get to the Son then, speaking of the Son and things like Arianism or Modalism or partialism, what they eventually do is they rob Jesus of his divinity. He’s not diet divinity, he’s not discount deity, he’s fully God. And there’s actually verses that talk about how he is fully God. Probably the best one comes from Colossians 1:19, Jesus, the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. And this is an interesting way to say it in a nuanced language, but Jesus is the fullness of God in bodily form. That’s what scriptures teach. And Jesus, just to start right out, he is the fullness of God. He’s not partial God. He is the fullness of God and he describes himself as such.
JESUS CLAIMS TO BE GOD
So one of my favorite examples, probably the best example of this is there’s one time Jesus says, “I’m the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” And one of the disciples hears this and his name is Philip. And he goes, he’s very pragmatic. He’s like, “Lord, just show us the Father and that will be enough. Just show us the Father and that’ll be enough. You don’t need to be a middleman. Just show us the Father, and that’s enough.” And what Jesus says is this divine claim, and he makes a lot of divine claims, but this is so wild when he considered the Trinity, Jesus answers, “Don’t you know me, Philip? Even after I’ve been among you for such a long time, anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Wow! “How can you say show us the Father? Don’t you believe that I’m in the Father and the Father is in me?” And this is Jesus making a divine claim, but also a triune claim that he’s a part of the trinity.
OTHERS CLAIM JESUS AS GOD
But it’s not just Jesus claiming to be God, other people claim he is God. We see a lot of different… Thomas after the resurrection, he doesn’t believe. He’s like, “I got to see him and I got to touch him.” And then he sees the risen Jesus. He touches the risen Jesus. He’s like, “Oh, my goodness.” And his response, take a look, John 20, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus is clearly called God here. My Lord and my God. And Jesus doesn’t correct him. It happens again. In Titus, Paul is talking to a man named Titus. He talks about we’re looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our savior, Jesus Christ. And then again, he’s writing to a church in a town called Colossae. He writes, “The Son is the image of the invisible God.”
JESUS WORSHIPED AS GOD
So not only is Jesus calling himself God, but his followers are calling him God and they worship him as God. We don’t think about this, but it happens. When Jesus is born, the magi show up, and they worshiped him. Jesus performs a miracle, calms the storm, disciples freak out, lie in the bottom of a boat, face down, and they worship him. After the resurrection, Jesus rises from the dead. The women are at the tomb. They clasp his feet, and they worship him. And at no point does he stop them. When angels appear, we have scriptures that talk about this all the time. When angels appear, they’ll say, “Don’t worship me. I’m a created being just like you. I’m a servant. Worship God alone.” But not Jesus, he receives our worship. He receives your worship. Wow!
QUALITIES THE SON SHARES WITH THE TRINITY
So he claims to be God. Others are claiming he’s God. He’s worshiped as God, which means we talked about this last week, he shares qualities with members of the Trinity. And again, just hang with me guys, we’re going to get to the practical stuff in a minute, but this is so important. We’re laying groundwork here. He shares qualities with members of the Trinity. For instance, he’s co-eternal, like the Father is eternal, like the Spirit is eternal, Jesus is co-eternal with God. In the beginning of John, John is writing about him. It says in the beginning. What beginning? That beginning, the beginning of everything. In the beginning was the word, Jesus. The word made flesh later on in verse 14, and the word was with God and the word was God. In the beginning, he’s co-eternal. Jesus, one time he’s praying and then they overhear him praying and he says, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
There’s not this idea where he never was and he was created and then he’s begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. And then, Jesus answered one time, we talked about this, we read this actually last week, he’s making these claims. The Jewish religious leaders are really upset. And he’s like, “Before Abraham was, before Abraham, thousands of years ago, this Abraham that we’re debating right now, I got to tell you guys, before Abraham was, I am. Me, I am,” which is a Greek Aramaic transliteration of the Hebrew phrase, Yahweh, name of God, I am.
Moses asks, “God, what is your name?” God says, “My name is Yahweh.” I am. Why is that name important? Well, when are we talking? What time are we talking about? I am. Are you talking about the very beginning of the things before all things were made? Even then I can say I am. Are you talking about right now? What’s going on? Even right now, I can say I am. I exist. I am God. Are you talking about in the future when you don’t know what’s going to happen? Don’t worry, I am. That’s my name.
And Jesus, when he says this is making, not just saying before Abraham was I existed. Notice the tense too, Abraham was born, I am. It’s this weird collision of the past tense and the present tense. But every time he says I am, he’s making that divine claim. And he does this all the time. “I am the bread of life. I am the light of the world. I am the good shepherd. I am the way, truth, and life.” We just heard that. I am. And so, he’s co-eternal with God, but he’s not just co-eternal, he’s also co-equal with God. We’ve been reading Philippians 2 a lot lately and it just keeps coming up because it’s such a pivotal section of the scripture. But it talks about how Jesus and the language is clunky, but we’re trying to be specific here, we’re trying to be judicious with our words. Accuracy matters when we’re talking about things of the Trinity. We don’t want to be heretics.
Jesus being in very nature God. (Yeah, I think I got that. I’m tracking.) Jesus being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He has equality, but he didn’t consider it something to be held onto. And so, he was made man taking on the nature of a servant. In Matthew 28, Jesus confirms this. He talks about how all authority in heaven, not just on earth, not just over the kings and princes and rulers of this world, no, no, no. In heaven, I have all authority. All authority in heaven and earth is given to me. He’s co-equal with God. No one else has that authority, but God alone. And he does it again in Matthew 11, “All things have been given to me by my Father.”
QUALITIES DISTINCT TO THE SON
So there we go. He’s co-eternal. He calls himself God. He’s called God. He’s worshiped as God. He’s co-eternal with God. He’s co-equal with God. These are the things he shares with members of the Trinity, but he also has things that make him distinct. We just sang about it this morning. So here, okay, you guys know this. Even if you’re not a follower of Jesus, you’re just looking into this thing. We’re glad you’re here, by the way. But even if you’re not… you know the titles of Jesus, you’ve heard them before. What are some of the roles and titles Jesus has? Just call them out. Teacher, prince of peace, redeemer, counselor, great one. Yeah, Messiah. Anything else? Okay.
All those titles we just said, none of those, and I wrote this this week and I was like, “Am I being a heretic here?” And I’m like, “No, I think this is right.” None of those titles that you just said, Jesus can have none of those titles unless he does this one word. And when you read what Jesus says about the Trinity and his relationships in the Trinity and how he exists in the Trinity and how he connects with them, you can’t have any honest reading without saying this word. It’s a word we don’t like, but it’s a word that is accurate. Submit, submit. Listen, the Son cannot be the savior unless he submits to the Father. He can’t. The Son can only be the savior if he submits to his heavenly Father.
And that word, we go, “Wait, what? Submit? We just said co-equal with God. Why would he submit to him?” My friends, you don’t need to be subordinate to submit to somebody. Okay, parents, I was going to say, moms because I know dad’s pitching around the house too. When you do the laundry for your children, are you subordinate to them? Are you subordinate to your kids when you do their laundry? No. But you submitted to them, their needs. You did. You submitted to their needs and you did it anyway. Kids, you should say thank you, by the way if you’re sitting. Tell, “Mom, thank you. Dad, thank you.” Especially if they fold your laundry, now you should really.
But you don’t have to be subordinate to somebody to submit to them. And we look at that word and we’re just like, “Ew.” I mean, nobody uses the word submissive as a compliment, very rarely. Like, “Oh, they’re so submissive.” We don’t. And it just conjures up images that we don’t like of a cow ring dog in the corner hoping the master doesn’t harm it or something like that. And like wives being called a submissive wife, that just rubs against us. And yet, this is what Jesus does to his heavenly Father. He submits to his heavenly Father again and again. And this is why what’s so interesting scripture says, “Submit to one another.” You submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, who submits. Submit to the authorities over you. Submit to your governing authorities out of reverence for Christ. This word submission and submissive and submit, I’m sorry, it goes hand in hand with calling him Lord if you’re a servant.
And Jesus has this way of taking a word and making it a compliment, and it happens often. Like the word humility in the ancient world wasn’t a compliment, because to have humility, you meant you were humiliated, you went through humiliation. But Jesus talks about humility, making others greater, and yourself last. And suddenly, humility is a compliment in our day. “Oh, they’re so humble.” And service, same thing. “Oh, customer service is great.” Service with a smile, my pleasure to serve. These are compliments because of Jesus. This is not the way the world worked before he stepped on the scene. It’s just not, it’s the influence he had on humanity, but something happened with submit where we just didn’t get the memo on this one.
We’re like, “Submit?” I think maybe it goes against our Americana, individualistic, independent spirit. We want to march to the beat of our own drums, “Submits? No, thank you. No, thank you.” And if you don’t think you have a problem with submission if you’re on the other end of this extreme, if you don’t think you have a problem submitting, go to your son’s hockey tournament and watch the ref make a bad call. He’s the authority at that moment. And no matter what, I can yell, I can kick, I can scream, I can pound on the glass. I’ve gotten better over the years, but he’s the authority and we have to submit. We have to submit.
I remember I was just thinking about when was submission hard for me or has been hard for me in my life. And I remember very early on when right out of college I was at a church, I was a worship leader. I was there for a few years and then decided I wanted to go to the seminary to be a pastor. And that, okay, cool, that’s a school for a pastor. And so, I had their blessing. They were really excited for me and all that stuff. And they said, “Hey, will you help with the interview process of us finding a replacement?” And I’m like, “Sure, yeah, we can do this.”
And so, candidates would come in and I would be a part of the interview process. And it got to the end and we got down to these final candidates and I gave them my recommendation and they went with the other guy. And I told the pastor, I remember telling him, I’m like, he was a senior pastor there. I’m like, “I just disagree. I don’t think this is a good decision.” And he looked at me and he didn’t say this in a rude way, but he’s like, “But it’s not your decision to make, Chris.” I still remember how much that stung and to this day, and I remember having just a sense of God’s spirit over me. Submit, you are under authority right now. You’re not above the law. Submit.
I’ll say it this way, when you are in relationship with God, if your will never submits to his will, if they always match up perfectly, might I suggest you’re not looking hard enough. Let me show you some examples of the submission of Jesus. And this is just three of them because it’s all I can fit on one screen, but it’s overwhelming. It’s overwhelming. Here’s just a few examples. John 12, he’s talking. He says, “I do not speak of my own. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling you what I heard. I do not speak on my own. But the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I’m just an echo.” Or in John 5, “I do not seek to please myself but him who sent me, not my desires, my will, my interests, my aspirations. No, they’re different than God’s, but I came to do his will, not my own.” And then, John 6, “I have not come down from heaven to do my will, but the will of him who sent me.”
THE FATHER’S WILL
And there’s more. There’s more. But my favorite example of the submission of Jesus is the night he’s arrested. He knows his captors are coming. They’re making their way towards him. And so, he kneels on the stony ground of a garden called Gethsemane, and he prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. This is not what I want. I don’t want to go to the cross. I don’t want to be arrested. I don’t want to be beaten. I don’t want to be handed over and tortured. I don’t want.” He is ridiculously clear. “Take this away.” But then, this is how he operates in the Trinity. He submits and he says, say it with me, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” One more time. Not my will, but yours be done. Not my will, yours be done. And this is a collision of will, his will, his desire, his wants and interests, and the father’s.
And after he prays this prayer, an angel from heaven appears, strengthens him, and he prays more earnestly and he starts sweating so much and so much stress. He sweats drops of blood falling to the ground and he rose from prayer and went back. There’s the Gospel. He rose from prayer instead of running away. He went back out of submission to his Father. Yes, he loved you, but he did it because he’s submitting to the Father’s plan for your salvation. He went back. And this is where all of a sudden this theoretical, okay, we were all fine, doing good, this theoretical conversation about the Trinity and the role of the Son and what he shares with God and what makes him unique with the young members of the Trinity.
But now, whoa, whoa, whoa. Now, we just got real. Now, we just got personal, because now this presses a reality on us. What’s your will?
Or maybe a more pointed way, how has your will come into conflict with the will of your heavenly Father? If we weren’t sitting here, if we were just sitting at a coffee table and having a conversation, how has your will come into conflict with your heavenly Father’s will? How have you disagreed with each other? And again, if you always agree with God, you’re not looking hard enough. I just suggest you read a little bit more.
I’ll give you a few examples. Maybe you married somebody and who they are now is not who they were when you married them. And you’re in this marriage and you’re praying for God to change them, but he won’t. He hasn’t. Or maybe you’re single and you’ve prayed to God, “God, I want a spouse. I want somebody who honors you and I can draw closer to them as I draw closer to you.” And he’s not answered that prayer. God, this is my will. This is what I want. And again and again, the answer has been no. Maybe you have a sickness and you’ve cried out to God over and over for healing. “Lord, heal me. Take this thorn from me. Remove this sickness from me, Lord.” And shockingly, the answer has been no thus far. Maybe there’s a job you want to take, but he doesn’t want you to have it. Maybe there’s a job he wants you to take, but you don’t want it.
How has your will come into conflict with the will of your heavenly Father? Might I suggest that you look again at the words of Jesus and make his words, the words of your rabbi, make his words your own. Yet not my will, but yours be done. That’s so much trust to pray that prayer, you guys. Not my will, but yours be done. Think about who we talked about last week, who the Father is. Actually, if you weren’t here, you can listen to the message online or our podcast, but we talked about the Father and that’s who you’re submitting to. He’s good, he’s kind, he’s gentle, he’s compassionate, he’s merciful, he’s graceful, he’s just, he’s smarter than you, he wants to save the world. And somehow, you are a part of that equation.
God’s plan for your life is a plan to save the world for him to be glorified. I don’t know how it fits in, this thing that he won’t remove from you. I don’t know how it fits in, but I know who your heavenly father is. He’s good. You’re not submitting to a tyrant, you’re not submitting to some domineering power trip kind of a Father. This is a Father who loves you. And I know it’s hard, I’ve got my own battles of the will with him. And I know it’s hard, and I know he’s good. So when you submit or surrender to God, what’s the universal symbol of surrender? The army storm’s in here and we all have to surrender. What would we do to show we’re surrendering? Hands up.
A PRAYER OF SUBMISSION
Last week, we ended our message with the heavenly Father who embraces us, our arms were open wide for an embrace. Because if somebody comes up to you like this, I’ve seen how y’all worship. And he’s like, “Come here.” Same thing this week, same thing this week. New posture, arms up and surrender. So I want to invite you guys to stand, and with heads bowed and eyes closed, I want to invite you to raise your arms and surrender to your heavenly Father as we pray. Lord, this is a hard teaching. We have parts of our life that we wish that we could change, things that we would like to be different, and yet we join as your children, as your child, we join your Son and we pray, not my will, but your will be done. Your will be mine.
And we just ask God, that you would just show us somehow how is this fit for your good and glory, how does this work out the salvation of the world. But we know that you’re good and we know that you’re kind even when we don’t understand. And that’s what looking into the Trinity just forces upon us. We surrender now, Jesus. And we pray now the prayer, the submissive Jesus taught us to pray as followers of the submissive Jesus. And we submit to you the words that He taught us to pray, saying, our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen and amen.
I’m so proud of you guys. I love being a part of a church that dives in like this and we’re not playing church. I just love the way you’re owning your faith, and I’m proud of you to be your pastor.