There is one thing most orthodox ministers will believe and declare boldly, yet ask them about it, and they will struggled to put it into words. You may even witness their tongue-tying before your eyes – The Trinity. It is a fundamental Christian belief, and yet one of the most difficult to explain. If you float in Christians circles long enough you will eventually come across some well-meaning, but heretical explanations as to just what the Trinity is. Whether its the legend of St Patrick using a shamrock to explain it to Irish Pagan’s, or some awful Sunday School attempt at mixing three different colours to produce black; or the scientific one – the three states of Water (Liquid, Gas, Ice) being used to explain God. The Trinity is comprehensively confusing, yet fundamentally important to orthodox Christian faith. It is why Athanasian wrote in his creed: “Whoever wishes to be saved must think thus of the Trinity. And whoever rejects this faith will perish everlastingly.”
The Trinity is part of our identity as Christians, it informs us as to the nature of God, and the nature of God’s way of working in the world. Trinity Sunday reminds us that the Trinity matters because the gospel matters. We a people of the good news, and if there is no trinity, then there is no gospel because, for two thousand years, the Church has declared the work of the triune God in Salvation. The Anglican Articles of Religion hammer home the foundational nature of trinitarian belief to orthodox Christian faith as article one of our thirty-nine states:
” There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in the unity of this Godhead, there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” 1
The Sunday after Pentecost marks Trinity Sunday across the global Church with readings from the lectionary that should cause us to stop and consider the triune nature of God and what it means from. Hence the set prayer for today declares “by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity.”
The Trinity is never mentioned explicitly within Scriptures. Yet, it is visible throughout all of Scripture. Whether in Genesis at creation, the Gospel Accounts in the life and ministry of Jesus, Acts as the Church is born, or the end of All things in Revelation. Today, we seek to allow God to speak to us through such a passage – Matthew 28:16-20. Where the triune nature of God is visible, and we are reminded as to what the Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit did in unity to bring about the Salvation of sinful humanity. Then we are challenged as to what the Lordship of Jesus looks like as we carry out the work of God – The Great Commission. The Call of all Christians in response to the saving work of God through the Cross fo Christ to make known the cause of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring Glory to God the Father. This Trinity Sunday, let’s consider Matthew 28:16-20, let us think about what it means to continue the work of God the Father, to teach the example of the Son, empowered by the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom. Especially today, as we come out of Lockdown. The world wrestles with Panic, fear and confusion.
MATTHEW 28:16-20 | THE GREAT COMMISSION | NIV
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
A GREAT COMMISSION (MATTHEW 28:16-20)
We are living in the middle of strange days, exemplified by so many rapid changes in places where change is normally slow. Church embracing technology and video conferencing are used for meetings that would have once only taken place in person. The world is changing before our eyes, at a pace that we can barely keep up with and no one is really sure just where we will settle. In times of uncertainty, it can be hard to know what God is doing or what we should be doing for God. Yet, what is a new experience for us is the norm for a lot of our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world today who live daily with the threat of disease or war.
Moreover, it was the world the Church was born in to, and the world in which the disciples proclaimed the good news of Jesus, and sought to advance the cause of his Kingdom. History reminds us that the Kingdom advanced because of difficulty. It was in those moments that the worth and beauty of Jesus was displayed most supremely.
Today we must be mindful fo the example of our brothers and sisters across ages who regardless of context, security, or resources proclaimed the good news of Jesus and got on with the Spirit-empowered work. Thus, I think the challenge for us this Trinity Sunday, as we think about the saving work of God, is to recommit our selves to the mission. To realise the urgency of the task, and as the world changes adapt and pivot to speak the good news of Jesus again, to example the way of Jesus anew by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why? So that God the Father is glorified and people know the wonder of a relationship with him. Today may the Spirit recommission us to the Great Commission, and then through the Word of God equip us for the mission of the Kingdom.
The challenge then as we read four verses from the end of Matthew 28 is not to ignore our context but to allow the Holy Spirit to change our view, so that we see this ever-changing world through the lens of Scripture. Specifically here today through the lens of the Great Commission. Today let us not be overcome by the fear of a changing world, no let us take advantage of the new opportunities. Briefly, I think there are four things this passage offers us today, as we seek to witness in Lockdown and continue to walk with Jesus.
- Worship & Doubt (16-17)
- The Authority of Jesus (18)
- The Triune Commission (19-20a)
- A True Assurance (20b )
1. A Worship & Doubt (16-17)
“All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it, tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.” – CS Lewis
The pace of the last two chapters of Matthew (26 to 28) is rapid, it feels like we are running downhill and barely able to stay standing as Matthew goes through the events of the Last Supper, betrayal, sham trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Imagine the emotional state of the disciples over those three days, like the one they had followed for around three years, was murdered by the state, then suddenly was amongst you again. You would struggle to trust your own senses, as they struggled to comprehend what was going on: for the eyes that had seen Jesus crucified now witnessed him standing atop of the mountain.
An Honest Journey
I think verse 17 captures the essence of our journey with Jesus succinctly. To see him resurrected is to Worship him, yet it does not mean there will be no struggle along the way, no wondering if he is who he says he is, and we are with him. The essence of our discipleship is worship and doubt. I love the honestly of Matthew 28:16-20, in this great moment of victory and Commission there is a place for real honesty, and admitting of the obvious. It is an honesty that captures the fullness of the moment, that Worship and Doubt can go hand in hand. These men had just experienced a rollercoaster of emotion’s, and while they did not yet understand all that was going on, they knew that something good was happening. That is why I love that in Matthew 28:16 amid the Glorious triumph of the Cross. With the vindication of the Empty Tomb, even after having witnessed him in his resurrection Glory, Matthew is honest in his writing and tells us that as they saw him some worshipped and some doubted.
An Honest Witness
It is a phrase that acts as a witness to the integrity of the Word of God. This is not some great cover-up by the disciples to the death and betrayal of Jesus, nor is it some attempt at power. It is a recording of one of the most glorious acts of God in human history, so mighty is it that they who witnessed it are honest enough to record their struggle to believe and comprehend it. Yet, believe it they did, a belief that leads them to change the world! Matthew 28:16-20 reminds us that our triune God is comfortable with our questions, with our struggles, it challenges us to bring them to God, and provides us with a solution to those struggles. It also challenges us to example what we read, there is nothing worse than a dishonest Christian, if our Scriptures can be real about the struggle of faith, then let us be honest about our walk with Jesus, and let us trust that God the Spirit will use our honestly, doubt and worship to make us more into the Image of the Son for the Glory of the Father.
” All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it, tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest – if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself – you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.” – CS Lewis
Dealing with our Doubt
We deal with our doubt by seeking Jesus: No sooner do we see the picture of doubt, do we see it dissipate and dealt with by the approaching Jesus. No by any teaching or action, simply by his presence. His being there assures the disciples in their struggles that even though they do not understand, they can trust who is he, and what he is going to do. Today whatever we are wrestling with let’s bring it to the Lord and seek more of His presence, through the study of his Word, prayer, and community; and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. In his presence may we find the peace of Christ anew
2. The Authority of Jesus(18)
I always find it interesting that in a world obsessed with individual autonomy and authority, we are still obsessed with the relics of authority from bygone era’s – Consider the UK royal family and what it represents not just at home but across the world. Imagine if you were called by the Queen to fulfil a certain function or task – you would rightly consider it a great honour. We might change our Instagram or Twitter bio to let people know of our “Royal Commission.” Yet, it would be a privilege only for a few, and a commission beyond the reach of many. How more amazing then is the privilege of the Great Commission that is given to all who will receive it, not by any king but the King of Kings and the Lord of life and death. As disciples of Jesus, we are commissioned by the one who is sovereign over all to continue his work, in his world, with him and to his Glory. Jesus is king over all, and the Commission’s his followers to do the work of his Kingdom. The Authority of Jesus is the bedrock of our identity, confidence and hope. Furthermore, it is our confidence in work. He who is sovereign over life and death will continue to be at work in the world.
Hence, when Jesus declares “All Authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to me” he is reminding his disciples that the Cross was always the plan and that because of the Cross he can be trusted, even two thousand years later. Jesus calls us to join in his work, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost reminding us that God is as active in and committed to the world today as he has ever been. Hence, what Jesus commissions his followers too, he will see it through by his authority and power. Today we can have confidence that whatever situation we find ourselves facing, we can trust and know that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is at work in it.
3. A Triune Commission(19-20a)
Last Sunday was Pentecost, the birth of the Church – when the Holy Spirit came into the world to empower the Church to continue what Christ started in his earthly ministry – bringing in the Kingdom Of God. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is a passing on of the baton from Jesus to his followers. A commission from a Heaven’s King to continue the work, regardless of context or circumstance. The word “Therefore” at the beginning of verse 19 reminds’ us that this Commission is based on the authority of the Son. Thus it’s not a request but a command: In response to what he has done for us, we gladly “do” for him. To follow Jesus is to join in his mission in the world. The call of the disciple is to declare the good news of the Cross, to “go” and make disciples where God has placed us we help people see the good news and identify publicly with God (Baptism), then learn what it means to live a cross-centred life, to walk the way of the foot washer. To be a disciple of Jesus is to identify with him, learn from him, live like him and to advance his cause.
The Work Goes On Regardless!
In March I was blessed to be in Nigeria, I heard from brothers in the faith who were called by God to do his work in places where Extremist groups where active, the Church had literally been burnt down, and there was very little government or order. In short, they were called to work in a difficult circumstance. Yet, as we met with them and prayed with them, their prayer was not that God would lighten their load, call them to somewhere nice, or even keep them safe. No their prayer was for boldness and courage, and that they would be fully equipped to do the work of the Great Commission. They gladly wanted to give all for the cause. The willing got on with the work of the great Commission irrespective of their context. What excuse do we have? Today, let us stop and consider anew how God is calling us today to continue the mission? If we follow Jesus then we are called, even commanded to join in this great work, the work of making his name know in the power of the Holy Spirit so that people can know the forgiveness of sins and relationship with God. It is an imperative of coming to faith, in response to what we have received we give the Good news to others. The fulfilment of the Great Commission will look different in each Church, community, and individuals’ life. As God uses the gifts, he has given us to fulfil the work where he has placed us.
4. The Assurance of Faith (20b)
While the work will look different per context, the assurance of the Great Commission is the same – the Authority, character and integrity of our triune God. The second half of verse 20 wonderfully reminds us wonderfully of the truth that we worship a God who does not call us and then leave us to it. No, he joins us in the work that he calls us too. Hear that again: “That which God calls us to, He joins us in.”
Jesus assures the disciples that in the work of the Great Commission, he will always be with them. A declaration that found reality at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus to empower them for the work of God. The same Holy Spirit is still at work in Gods church today. Thus, even during a pandemic as followers of Jesus as we seek to advance the cause of the Kingdom of God we too can be assured by the presence of God the Holy Spirit, that God in Trinity is with us and working for His Glory and our Good.
As We Go From Here
Let’s Make Sure Where we Stand
On this Trinity Sunday as we reflect on the Tri-unity of God and think about the Great Commission given in His Name, to His people. Let’s remember to stop the most basic truth of this Commission – it is given to his disciples. The Commission, assurance, and confidence of God is only known through acknowledging our sin before God, and the saving work of Christ. Today, let us make sure of where we stand concerning God. Then as we stand confidently let us marvel at the gift of Salvation which we are invited into. Then by the power of the Spirit and the work of Jesus on the Cross let us witness to God the Father so that in this time of Lockdown when the world is searching for hope, they might find the true hope of the Gospel.
Let’s Get on With the Work
” Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t.”- John Piper”
Finally, let’s be clear on one thing, to follow Jesus is to join in his mission. Today our church buildings might be closed, but that does not mean the implicit mission of the Church has been suspended. No, more so: it means by the power of the Holy Spirit, we find new ways to do the work of the Great Commission and in our living bring Glory to our Triune God.
The mission does not stop because the context has changed. The method changes, but the work of the Kingdom still goes on. We still must “Go,” “Baptise,” and “teach.” However different it might be in this season. Today as followers let us take some time in prayer, study and thought to consider how we might continue the mission of the Great Commission in the days and weeks ahead. Perhaps in how we care for our neighbours, perhaps in how we behave online? Perhaps through economic support of Great Commission work in a difficult time. Whatever God gives us, let’s get to it.