Trinity Sunday,

Series on Romans: Called for His Glory


Scripture reading: Isaiah 6:1-13.

Sermon text: Romans 1:1-7.

Each year, the Church dedicates the Sunday following Pentecost to one of the most crucial — but yet most misunderstood — doctrines of the Christian faith: The Doctrine of the Trinity. Our belief in 1 God in 3 Persons separates Christianity from both Judaism and Islam, the other monotheistic faiths of humanity.

Some scholars have tried to prove that the early Church didn’t truly understand the Trinity, even going so far as to claim that Jesus Himself did not understand His relationship with the Father. Given the teachings of Christ included in the Gospel of St. John, I find it difficult to believe that Jesus misunderstood His identity when He claimed to be the Son of God the Father. “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), “That they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:11, 22); these statements clearly depict Jesus as claiming perfect unity with the Father, the God of the Jews.

Today’s sermon text also contradicts any notion that the early Church failed to grasp the concept of the Trinity or the importance of the doctrine. St. Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in c. A.D. 57, or roughly 24-25 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension and possibly before the composition of at least 3 of the Gospels (St. Matthew, St. Luke and St. John). The opening words of St. Paul’s letter provide clear evidence that he both perceived and understood the working of the Trinity in the salvation story that the Church proclaims to the world.

Few books can claim the impact of the book of Romans on Western Civilization. Romans was instrumental in St. Augustine’s conversion. After reading Romans 13:13-14, Augustine wrote, “I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.” (Augustine’s Confessions (London: Penguin Books, 1961) p. 178). Martin Luther would read Romans and become convinced that salvation was accomplished solely by justification through faith. This insight would lead him to challenge the Roman Catholic Church and centuries of doctrines. John Calvin would read Romans and become convinced that God's sovereign plan unfolded in time in spite of the worst attempts of evil to confound it.

St. Paul wrote Romans while he was in Corinth. St. Paul wrote Romans to prepare the Roman church for his visit on his way to Spain (15:28). St. Paul was writing to a church he did not found; therefore, he could not exert any authority over them without an introduction.

The letter to the Romans is Paul’s longest letter. The letter itself is a tightly written argument for the necessity of God’s righteousness in life, for the love of God demonstrated in Jesus’ sacrifice, for the inclusion of the Jews in God’s salvation plan, and for the continued presence of visible proof in Christians’ lives that a spiritual birth has occurred in their lives. Today, we also see that St. Paul clearly taught the doctrine of the Trinity through his masterpiece work.

Many people wonder why Christians so emphatically cling to the doctrine. When we begin reading the letter to the Romans, we find several reasons why the Trinity speaks so dearly to believers.

First, St Paul reminded the believers at Rome of Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. St. Paul called himself a “servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” St. Paul recognized Jesus as his Lord and King. Saul the Pharisee had believed in God; he had often quoted the Shema, the declaration of Moses that Jesus called the first commandment: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). When the Christian movement began sweeping through Judea, Saul attacked the believers as heretics. However, on the road to Damascus, Saul encountered a living Jesus. Saul quickly realized that Jesus lived again, changing his perception of the God he had loved and served his entire life.

Saul — now known as Paul — realized that Jesus had set him apart for a special purpose. First, Jesus called him as an “apostle,” or “sent one.” An “apostle” in the Greek world served as a messenger with a special message to those entrusted to his mission. St. Paul knew his message: the “gospel of God.” At this point, God the Father entered the conversation with the Roman believers.

God the Father had revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s descendants as the God of the Covenant. He had first made a covenant with Abraham: “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17-18). God had confirmed this covenant with Isaac and then with Isaac’s youngest son Jacob. On Mt. Sinai, God again confirmed His covenant with Jacob’s descendants through Moses, calling Israel — the tribes descended from Jacob — as a “ a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

Throughout Israel’s history, God had sent prophets proclaiming His coming. In time, the prophets began predicting a strange event in history: God would come to the earth as a human, more specifically as a descendant of David, Israel’s greatest king. Practically every major prophet from Moses forward prophesied regarding the coming of God in flesh.

Unfortunately, these prophecies also included those of Isaiah that God would suffer and die for the sins of His people and for the sins of all humanity. St. Paul reminded the Romans that Jesus’ resurrection following His sacrificial death firmly established His identity as the Son of God, just as He had claimed (John 10:36). Christians from the resurrection forward clearly proclaimed Jesus’ identity in this way, beginning with some before His death (cf. Martha, John 11:27) and emphatically afterward (John 20:31). After his own conversion and calling, St. Paul himself had “proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God’” (Acts 9:20).

St. Paul also reminded the Romans of the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation history. Jesus had promised to send another “Comforter” or “Advocate” to indwell believers after He ascended to the Father (John 14:16-17). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came into the world and empowered believers to carry the gospel of God to all humanity (Acts 2). The Holy Spirit goes everywhere that believers go, giving us the courage and wisdom to proclaim Jesus as the “Son of God” through His resurrection.

Once we hear this proclamation — Jesus has died for our sins, risen from the dead, and now offers freedom from sin to all who believe in Him as Lord — we receive “grace.” Grace refers to the undeserved merit we receive from God, who forgives us of our sins against Himself and against others and declares us as “justified,” or having the standing to approach Him knowing He has forgiven our sins.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we, too, have received the “apostleship” to carry the news of Jesus’ resurrection to those in our lives. The Church has spread around the world to tell people of every nation and language about the freedom from sin we experience through the work of the Trinity in our lives. St. Paul carried this message throughout the Roman Empire, calling people to believe in Jesus and live in “the obedience of faith for the sake of his name.”

St. Paul then addressed the Roman believers directly, reminding them they were “called to belong to Jesus Christ;” the Holy Spirit had worked in their hearts to convict them of their sins and bring them to salvation through their confession of Jesus as Lord of their lives. One of the Church Fathers, a man known as Ambrosiaster, stated that the Roman Christians accepted Christianity without any notable miracles and without any apostolistic proclamation of the faith. Most likely, Jews from Rome were present at the events of Pentecost and carried the new faith back to Rome itself.

St. Paul opened the main portion of the letter with a new form of the customary salutation in Greek letters: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Greek letters often opened by wishing “grace” to the recipient of the letter, but St. Paul added “peace” to his salutation. St. Paul reminded the Romans both of the grace they received through their salvation and the peace with God that their confession in Christ had brought.

I believe these verses remind us today of the Trinity’s work in our own salvation.

First, we must remember that when we confess Jesus as Lord, we must live according to His expectations and commandments. We cease our service to self and sin and begin serving our new Lord, who calls us to proclaim His resurrection to the world. The gospel consists of the good news that while all humanity suffers from our sins, Jesus has paid the penalty and conquered both sin and death through His crucifixion and resurrection.

We should also find encouragement in the prophecies regarding Jesus’ coming. These prophecies remind us that God the Father, in His omniscience, knows what we faced in life and what we will face in the future. He has already prepared for what we will face later today and for the rest of our lives. This fact should lead us to trust Him even more in our lives. If we can trust God for our salvation from sin, we can also trust Him to provide for us and guide us in life.

The Holy Spirit Himself (remember that the Holy Spirit is God, not an emotion!) also works in us. He helps us to live godly lives as a witness to His work in us. He also works in unbelievers to draw them to Jesus, pointing them to the only true source of salvation: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The God we serve — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — cares deeply about you. Everyone who confesses the Son as Lord finds peace with the Father and experiences the calming presence of the Spirit. The joy of our faith revolves around the love of God for us, a love that extends beyond the love of the Persons for one another to encompass us as well. You’ll find no stronger love than the love of the Trinity for one another and for all believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.