The True God Can Only Be Praised in Jesus
Do you think the true God is praised when at high school graduation activities God is spoken about or prayed to not as He has revealed Himself, that is, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but as simply "God?" Is "In God We Trust" a sufficient confession of faith? Is the true God praised when we are content to say, "I believe in God?"
"Well, belief in God seems good enough for the Old Testament." You're wrong if you think that. The God of the Old Testament is none other than the Triune God. The Holy Trinity is in Genesis 1. God the Father is said to create by means of the Word of God while the Spirit of God hoovers over the face of the waters. Then we're allowed to overhear the conversation of the Holy Trinity, "Let us make man in our image." Later, when God directs Aaron to put His name on the people, He speaks of the one name in a 3-fold way: The LORD bless thee and keep thee; The LORD make His face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the LORD lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace." When Isaiah sees the one Lord sitting on a throne in the temple the seraphim cry out a 3-fold glory, "Holy, Holy, Holy."
The Old Testament Church knew, praised, and prayed to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Our God was their God. The Church has expressed this truth by adding the Gloria Patri, after reading or chanting a Psalm from the Old Testament. That's why the Introits which are mostly taken from the Psalms end with, "Glory be the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever." We are confessing that the God referred to is none other than the Trinity. So, David's Shepherd is no different than our Good Shepherd. The Father we pray to is the Father Solomon prayed to. The Spirit of the Lord that fills us through the Word and Sacraments is no different then the Spirit the prophet Zechariah knew.
You read the Old Testament wrongly if you don't see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on every page. And you read the New Testament wrongly if you don't see the Triune God of the Old Testament is fully present in the New Testament Jesus.
Matthew opens his Gospel by telling us in the first chapter that Jesus is Immanuel, that is, "God with us." Matthew closes his Gospel by recording Jesus' promise to be with His Church even "to the very end of the age." This is quite strange because in the verse right before, Jesus commands Baptism in the one divine Name and then expressed it in a 3-fold way. Make disciples "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We would expect Jesus then to say, "And lo We are with you to the end of the age." Instead Jesus says, "I am with you."
Jesus says I not We because all the fulness of the Triune Godhead dwells bodily in Jesus. The God of the Old Testament, the Holy Trinity, is fully present in the Person of the New Testament Jesus. This is what Jesus clearly reveals in our text. He tells the 11 "all authority" not some, not most, but all authority has been given to Him not just on earth but in heaven. There is no divine power that Jesus does not have. There is no power of the Father or of the Spirit that Jesus does not have and exercise. All the power of the Godhead is present in the person of Jesus. All the power of the God who created the world, flooded the world, parted the Red Sea, fed millions by manna, and killed 185,000 Assyrians is fully present in Jesus.
Jesus always had all power in heaven and earth. From the womb of Mary on, all the fullness of the Triune God dwelled bodily in the baby, toddler, boy, man Jesus. But Jesus didn't fully use His divine powers as a baby, toddler, boy, or man. He didn't use them in order to redeem you. If you were to be redeemed, the Commandments that you can't keep had to be kept. But what would it mean to have God keeping His own Commandments? So Jesus didn't use His divine powers but as a Man kept every Commandment." You and I can think of no way not to worry, not to be afraid, not to lust, so much so that we say things like, "Of course, I'm worried;" "It's only natural for men to girl watch;" "Who doesn't want more, better, different?" What we think to be second nature is really proof of our fallen natures that could only be rescued by the Man Jesus keeping the Commandments for us.
But there was still hell to pay for our not keeping them. The worry, fear, lust, and greed we find ourselves doing daily, Jesus paid for as a Man with His blood that was holy because it is God's, and with His suffering that was holy because it was God's. So not using the fullness of the Godhead bodily Jesus kept all of God's laws, and using the holy precious blood of God and the innocent suffering and death of God, He paid your debt of sin. There are no unkept laws waiting for you to keep to go to heaven. There are no unpaid bills waiting for you to pay to go to heaven. This salvation, this redemption, this freedom from sin, guilt, and hell leads you to praise the God who saved, redeemed, and freed you. And this God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, only wills to be known, approached, and praised in Jesus.
Apart from God' revelation of Himself in the Word in the OT and in the Word made flesh in the NT, the true God can't be known, approached, or praised. John 1 says no man has seen Him at anytime. I Timothy 6 says He dwells in light unapproachable. Hebrews 12 says He's a consuming fire. These people who think they can know, approach, and praise God apart from Jesus are simultaneously groping around in the dark and heading for a blinding light which will burn them to a crisp. When people try to approach God apart from Jesus, they're coming from a side He doesn't wished to be approached from. They are scorning the only ladder that God ever let down from heaven, Jesus, and climbing up another way. This does not please God. It is approaching God in way He doesn't wish to be. This is idolatry, and it brings the judgment of God.
But the Triune God invites, welcomes and pleads with sinners to come to Him, to know Him, to praise Him in the Person of Jesus. When God spoke to the Church from Mt. Sinai, the people begged Him not to. They couldn't bear to hear His voice without a mediator, but you can bear to hear the voice of Jesus directly, can't you? He speaks with lips like yours, a mouth like yours, in the same language you do. And He speaks not threats and judgements but mercy and peace. Far from demanding you do this or that for Him, He tells you what He will do for you. He will forgive you and remember your sins no more. He speaks Words that are Spirit and Life from the dead because they send your sins away from you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
When water came from God in the Old Testament, it wasn't a good thing usually. Water from God drowned every man, woman, child, and animal except for what was in the ark. Water from God drowned the Egyptians in the Red Sea. Only by God's blessing could water be used safely. Noah and company floated on the waters that drowned everyone else. Israel was rescued by the waters of the Red Sea that engulfed the Egyptians. Water in the hands of Jesus is always a blessing. He makes water into wine; He heals the blind and paralyzed by means of water, and He gives living water. Living water is water used by His command with His words and does a work greater than physical healing. Baptism brings a sinner into the fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. God the Father becomes our Father; God the Spirit gives us a New Birth and God the Son clothes us with Himself.
The Triune God remained a mystery in the Old Testament. He revealed Himself to Ezekiel in the vision of the wheels covered with eyes, with strange faces, spinning in all different directions. Ezekiel couldn't approach or know this revelation. It knocked him down as if dead. Isaiah's vision of the 3-fold glory of the Triune God only showed him what a sinner he was, so he cried out, "Woe is me, for I am ruined!" Even when Abraham saw God's glory as a simple smoking pot, it brought terror and great darkness.
Men can't bear the Triune God to show them His face. That's why men cry out in despair in the Old Testament when they think God has done that. But Jesus in whom all the fullness of the Triune Godhead dwells bodily, shows Himself in Bread and Wine to our great joy. You can't get your head around the unity of a God who is 3 Persons in one Divine Being, but you can get your mouth around a God who gives Himself bodily to you for Bread. You can't get your heart around a God who is unseeable and unapproachable in His light and fire, but you can get your lips around a God who gives you His holy, precious Blood for Wine.
The true God, the Triune God, wills to be praised in the Person of Jesus. So He comes to you in Words that vibrate your ear drums. He comes to you in Waters that touch your skin. He comes to you in Bread and Wine that you eat and drink. The true God is praised when you receive and recognize His Voice, His Presence, His Body and Blood in Words, Water, Bread and Wine. God is not praised when men praise God apart or aside from Jesus. Outside of the Man Jesus in Mary's lap, nailed to the cross, risen from the grave ascended into heaven God doesn't wish to be known. Outside of Words the Man Jesus speaks into our ears, Waters He washes our bodies with, and the Body and Blood we eat in Bread and Wine, the true God can't be approached. So, belief in God, trust in God, praising God is not enough. But by hearing Jesus, being washed by Jesus, and eating and drinking Jesus we praise the true God. This is more than enough not only for forgiveness, but for life now and for salvation for forever. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Holy Trinity (5-22-05); Matthew 28: 16-20