Sermon – May 31, 2020
John 16:25-33 – The Love of the Triune God (mp3)
We at Crossway have rightly used the phrase, “the gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel.” We believe that the gospel is ultimately about God revealing himself and showing his mercy to sinners for his glory. Great problems have arisen in history over the doctrine of God as Trinity. Many today, I fear, think that the Trinity is just some abstract theological prospect, and that its relationship to the gospel is foggy, at best. Today, we come to a passage in John that will help us see that the Trinity is indeed, rightly understood, standing as the center and foundation of our salvation.
1. We must reject eternal divisions in God
Jesus says at first that he will indeed speak plainly about God, urging us to again pray in his name. Then he makes an important clarification: this praying in his name does not mean that the Son will twist the Father’s arm so that we get what we want. The Father does not need intervention on behalf of the Son to give good gifts to his children. We ought not to think of the Father as eternally stingy, wrathful, and angry while the Son is gracious, generous, and kind. For the Father loves us. But this also needs to be understood from the eternal perspective of the Father’s love for his Son. He loves us through the Son. He will not love salvifically those who deny his Son even while loving them in the providential way he orders the world. The sun will rise on the evil and the good and rain will fall on just and the unjust. But his love for the Son never abates. This is the reason for the Son to have come – so that we might pray to the Father and that he might respond to us as children. Let us never think that there are eternal divisions in God!
2. We must reject temporary divisions in God
But we must just as strongly reject temporary divisions in God. The disciples think that Jesus has now spoken plainly to them. Suggestively, I think that they say this because they had specific questions about what it must mean to “ask in Jesus’ name” and Jesus has now directly answered this without them needing to ask. But, in their exuberance, they think they have accomplished more than they have. They don’t fully believe – they will scatter at Jesus’ hour of greatest need and leave Jesus alone. But the Father never will. We often think, partly on the basis of Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, that the Father forsakes the Son. But that is not what the cry of dereliction says. Rather, it is a cry of God forsaking Jesus to death. What is the difference? Jesus is forsaken, not left without God (if that could happen) but rather without God’s intervention to stop his death. The Son could have pulled himself off of the cross, even if such was impossible for the human nature of Jesus. The Father could have stopped it – so also the Spirit. But none of them did. This is the crux of Philippians 2 – Jesus had all the power and might needed to rescue himself from the cross, but refused to use his divinity to aid him, rather he emptied himself (or: forsook himself) to die on the cross. Yet, the Father never left him. The Son was always eternally loved by God, and no temporary division of that love could gain our salvation. If our sin was enough to break God in two, than our sin has won, and our salvation is eternally lost. But that is precisely the point! Our sin could not overcome God’s love for himself or his love for us. Jesus is indeed victorious over our sin – so take heart!