June 16, 2019

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Epistle Lesson; Romans 5:1-5

Gospel Lesson; John 13:31-35                            

Sermon Text; Proverbs 8:22-31


Today is an interesting day.  Today is Holy Trinity Sunday.  What that means is this.  We get to say The Athanasian Creed.  Are you guys as excited as I am today?  We will get to The Athanasian Creed, in a moment.

Just as a diamond has many facets to it, there are a few facets I want to look at this morning. 

-I want to talk about The Trinity. 

-I want to talk about the creeds we confess. 

-And then, I want to look at our portion of scripture from Proverbs, chapter eight.  In the second half of my message, I will be referring to Proverbs chapter eight.

Let's look at that first facet.  That is the word 'trinity', or the word 'Triune'.  You will never find that word in The Bible, because it is not listed there.  The word 'Triune' means 'three in one'.  In keeping with what scripture says, we believe three persons are one.  The three Persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God.

If you look at this picture, it may help just a little bit in the understanding of The Trinity. You see the three circles that are interconnected and a symbol in each of those circles, representing each Person of our one, Triune God. 

-You see the hand of God the Father.  That is the symbol of His creating work.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  He created you.

-You also see the symbol for the second Person of The Trinity, Jesus.  You see the fish with a cross inside of it.  The fish was a combination of letters that made up the Greek word, 'ichthus'.  In English it would come across this way.  “Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior.”  Sometimes, as you are driving your car down the road, you will see the symbol of a fish on the back of somebody's car.  What they are telling you is just that.  They believe in Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

-You will also see the third Person of The Trinity there.  That is the symbol which makes use of the dove.  It is a reminder that the Holy Spirit was at Jesus' baptism.  Now the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying us, or bringing us to faith in Jesus, as our Savior, is through Baptism, through The Lord's Supper and through God's Word.

Another facet I want to look at this morning are the creeds we confess.  The oldest creed is The Apostle's Creed.  It is the shortest creed.  It was written about 160 A.D.  Oftentimes, it is referred to as The Baptismal Creed, because we use it during the sacrament of holy Baptism.

But, some years after that in the fourth century, so I am talking the early 300's, there was a controversy that sprung up.  The controversy was at the hands of a man by the name of Arius.  Here is what Arius taught.  He said, “Jesus is not eternal”.  He said, “Jesus is not God”.  He taught, “Jesus was created by God”. 

Well, that is not in keeping with what scripture says.  So, there were many councils that took place.  But, the most famous of those councils was one by which you know the name of.  The Council of Nicaea.  Nicaea is in modern day Turkey.  At The Council of Nicaea a new creed was written, The Nicene Creed.  In The Nicene Creed, a detailed statement about Jesus being true God, was brought in to the creed, so that this error of Arius would be done away with. 

Now, we are not reciting The Nicene Creed today, but here are those few lines from The Nicene Creed, that again, are very detailed that Jesus is divine.  Jesus is true God.  Here is what The Nicene Creed says:

We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only Son of God,

eternally  begotten of the Father. 

God from God, Light from Light,

true God from true God,

begotten, not made,

of one being with the Father.

It is especially that last line, “of one being with the Father” that was included, because Arius could not agree with that statement.  Arius would say, “Jesus is of a similar substance with the Father, but He is not of the same substance with the Father”.

So, they thought they had done away with this error of Arius. 

Time went by, and in the next hundred or so years, other controversies came up in which people were wondering about The Trinity, especially with the Holy Spirit, and with Jesus, as the Son of God.  And so, an even more detailed creed was written that gets very specific in to The Triune God - who the Father is, who the Son is, and who the Holy Spirit is.  Guess what?  Today we have the privilege of saying The Athanasian Creed.  Notice the name Athanasian Creed.  Athanasius did not write it, but his name was given to that creed, because of the stance he had taken over a hundred years before that.  He was a (I will say), proponent, he had a strong declaration on The Trinity, so they named that creed after him.

Which gets us to the third facet I want to talk about today.  That is looking at Proverbs, chapter eight.  'A proverb' is taken from the Hebrew word 'mashal'.  It is simply 'an instruction in which the writer is taking things that are of comparison, or similar, or parallel, and he is sharing them with other people for instruction'. 

A lot of the book of Proverbs is talking about wisdom, and folly.  When we get to Proverbs, chapter eight, it is not talking about wisdom anymore, especially when we get to the verses we are talking about today.  It is talking about Jesus.  Here is where Arius and Athanasius looked at this portion of scripture differently.  Arius looked at these verses, and said, “Jesus was created”.  Athanasius looked at these verses, and said, “Jesus is begotten, not made”. 

And so, here is what we are going to do, as we get into Proverbs, chapter eight.  We are going to see this.  Oftentimes, as we look at The Old Testament, and The New Testament, we may hear this said. 

The Old Testament is revealed in The New Testament. 

And, the New Testament is concealed in The Old Testament. 

So, in other words, what I am trying to say is sometimes when we look at something in The Old Testament, we may not fully understand what it says.  But, when we look at it in light of what The New Testament says, it reveals to us what it is really saying. 

Here is what we are going to find out today.  As we look at these verses from The Old Testament, Proverbs, chapter eight, and we look at it through the eyes of The New Testament, you can't help but see Jesus.  You can't help but see Jesus, as we look at our verses from Proverbs, chapter eight. 

I am going to be taking these in little groupings, just to walk through what the author here, from the book of Proverbs, is talking about.  You can't help but see Jesus in His helping with God the Father at creation.

Go to verses twenty two and twenty three. 

“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His work,

the first of His acts of old. 

Ages ago I was set up, at the first,

before the beginning of the earth.”

It is particularly with this first verse that Arius and Athanasius looked at this section of scripture differently.  Here it is translated, and correctly so, “The Lord possessed me...”  That is how Athanasius took it.  He took it to mean that before the creation of the world, Jesus was there, and God used Jesus, or God possessed Jesus, to do His work. 

But, Arius changed the definition of this word to created, thinking back to Genesis one, one, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...” 

The word create there means to make out of nothing.  So, he changed the Hebrew word 'kanani', to the Hebrew word 'bara'.  In doing so, he completely changed the definition of this portion of scripture. 

Athanasius and his followers had it right. 

“The Lord possessed me...”  

God the Father used the Son in His work of creation.

Also in these first couple of verses you can't help but see the first three days of creation.  Here in these verses it says God created the earth.  In Genesis one, one, which is the first day of creation, what does scripture say? 

“In the beginning

God created the heavens and the earth...” 

There it is talking about the first day of creation.

Go to verse twenty four.

“When there were no depths I was brought forth,

when there were no springs abounding with water.”

Here the author of the book of Proverbs says, “I was brought forth...” 

On the one hand, it is talking about Jesus being eternal, that Jesus is divine, that He is true God, but also that He “was brought forth”.  It is referring to Jesus also being true Man.  Jesus was begotten of the Father.  And so, scripture says (in the most well-known passage in all of scripture),

“God so loved the world that He

(did what?)

God so loved the world

that He gave His one and only Son,

that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,

but have everlasting life.” 

You also see the word “water” there. 

“When there were no depths I was brought forth,

when there were no springs abounding with water.”

On the second day of creation, what did God create?  He created the water.  He created the skies.  And, the skies separated the water above the sky from the waters below the sky.  This verse is in reference to the second day of creation.

Go to verses twenty five, and twenty six.  You are going to see the word 'before' three times, here.  Before.  Before.  Before.

“Before the mountains had been shaped,

before the hills,

I was brought forth,

before He had made the earth with its fields,

or the first of the dust of the world.”

Before.  Before.  Before.  Jesus is eternal.  That is what the author here, is saying.  Jesus has always existed.  He is eternal, and He is equal with the Father.

On the third day of creation, what happened?  The water was separated, and dry ground appeared.  And so, here Solomon is talking about the third day of creation.

Go to verses twenty seven, to twenty nine.

“When He established the heavens,

I was there; 

(keep those three words in mind)

when He drew a circle on the face of the deep,

when He made firm the skies above,

when He established the fountains of the deep,

when He assigned to the sea its limit,

so that the waters might not transgress His command,

when He marked out the foundations of the earth...”

Jesus is saying, “I was there.”  He was there at creation, at the time, with the Father, doing this work of creation.  This is simply in keeping with what Scripture says.  Here is how John, the Apostle John starts his gospel.  Words that are familiar to you.  It sounds like Genesis to start here.  He says,

“In the beginning was The Word. 

The Word was with God

and the Word was God. 

He was with God in the beginning,

and through Him all things were made.”

Again, scripture taken as a whole shows that what Athanasius was teaching, and also his followers were teaching is true.  Jesus is eternal, and Jesus is God. 

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Why are we talking about this today?  That happened in the fourth century.  That happened in the early 300's.  That is such a long time ago.  Why in the world would we be focusing on that today?”

You know, the error of Arius is still living today.  There are still people who claim Jesus is not eternal.  There are still people who say Jesus is not the true God.  There are people today who say Jesus was created.  Primarily, that is what The Jehovah Witnesses teach.  What they teach continues to be an error of Arius.  In other minor ways The Latter Day Saints, or The Mormons, or the Unitarian Church fall into some of these errors of Arius, as well.

But, before we think it is just another group, and not ourselves, it is good to take time to pause, and think about our lives.  We are no better than Arius.  We are no better than Adam and Eve, after God created the world.  It was Satan who came to them, and said, “Did God really say, 'You should not eat from the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden?  Don't you know when you eat of it, you are going to be like God, knowing good and evil?'”

So, every time we disobey our parents, every time we disobey our children, we need to say, “We are no better than Arius.  We are no better than Adam and Eve in our lives of sin, as we sin against God, and others.”

Here is the good news.  The Good News is we see Jesus in our text for today from Proverbs, chapter eight. 

The Lutheran Study Bible is a wonderful tool in your reading of scripture, because there are wonderful notes in the Lutheran Study Bible.  When you get to Proverbs, chapter eight, they set aside one page to talk about this controversy between Arius and Athanasius.  If you have the Lutheran Study Bible, take the time to go, and read it.  Here is what it says, as it connects Jesus with our text for today. 

When we come face to face with the eternally begotten Son, and other mysteries concerning The Triune God, we are overwhelmed beyond human comprehension.  We can no more capture the eternal, omnipotent God within our minds, than we can hold the ocean in a bucket.  The wonder of it all is that the Almighty Creator has come to us to save us.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is our brother.  He has suffered for us.  He has died for us.  And, He has risen for us.

Some of you know I was on vacation last week.  Because of that, I wasn't here.  But I was able to enjoy a lot of God's creation.  It was awesome.  We got to see geese.  We got to see loons.  We got to see blue heron.  We got to see eagles.  We got to see deer.  We got to see fox.  We got to see the sun, the moon, and the stars.  It was awesome.

Our text for today closes by having us remember, and to remind ourselves, to enjoy the creation God has given to us.  As I conclude with the reading of verses thirty and thirty one, you can't help but see Jesus, as He speaks these words to God the Father.

“...then I was beside Him,

like a master workman,

and I was daily His delight,

rejoicing before Him always,

rejoicing in His inhabited world

and delighting in the children of man.”

Today is Trinity Sunday.  We are reminded our God is an awesome God.  He created you.  He saved you from your sin by His death on the cross.  He gives us the Holy Spirit not only to bring us to faith, but to strengthen us in our faith, in Jesus, as our Savior.