Holy Trinity Sunday: From the Top Down

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Watch the livestream beginning at 9 a.m. on Sunday. After the livestream is finished, the video will be available to watch at any time.

First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 (NIV)
Second Reading: Romans 8:12-17 (NIV)
Gospel: John 3:1-17 (NIV)


  • Hymn: CW 483 “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty”
  • Hymn: CW 482 “Triune God, O Be Our Stay”
  • Hymn: CW 586 “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest”
  • Hymn: CW 480 “Sing Praise to Our Creator”
  • Hymn: CW 617 “Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow”

Holy Trinity Sunday                   May 26, 2024
Romans 8:12-17                          Pastor Wolfe

We are Children of a Heavenly Father!
1. We are sons by the Spirit
2. We are heirs with Christ

It’s part of human nature to want to solve puzzles and solve mysteries. I think that’s part of the reason true crime podcasts and CSI-type TV shows are so popular. Books from Harry Potter to Jack Ryan to Lord of the Rings are hits in part because of the hunt to “figure it out” the solution before the author reveals it. Some people enjoy Rubik’s Cubes or jigsaw puzzles for the same reason. It’s just in our nature to want to figure things out. To understand things better.

That’s maybe why we take one Sunday a year and look at something we can’t figure out. A mystery that’s impossible for us to unravel and a puzzle that we can’t even begin to put together. Today is Trinity Sunday, a day that Christians confess that we believe something impossible. One God – three persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But while we’ll never understand the nature of our Triune God, we can understand what our Triune God does. These verses from Romans give us some insight into each person of the Trinity. Here we see how the work of all three changes our situation both now and for all eternity. We are Children of a Heavenly Father. Made to be Sons by the Spirit, and Heirs with Christ.

I’ve made no secret of my love for Paul’s letter to the Romans. In the first seven chapters, God explains the situation between God and man. He reminds us of our sinfulness and his wrath against sin. He makes it clear we can’t save ourselves, but that he did. He reminds us that he has declared us righteous, or holy, for Christ’s sake even though in reality we know we aren’t. But in grace God chooses to see Christ’s life over us when he looks at us. So we are divided people, sinners in action, but saints in grace. That means that even though we still have a sinful nature, now by God’s grace we have the ability to fight it. This is the context of these verses. Paul starts by urging us to live differently now because we are different people than we were without faith. Verses 12-14“Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live. For those led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

Here’s where we begin to see the mystery of the Trinity and how God works in each believer. It is the Spirit himself who makes us sons of God. As Paul wrote to Titus, “[God] saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Through the Word, either alone or connected with water in baptism, the Holy Spirit created life and faith in you as a believer. And he continues to strengthen that faith and give us encouragement through that same word as we hear his promises.

But Christians, be warned. The world hates us for this. The world hates us because we are not like the world anymore. The spirit within us that the Holy Spirit created in us is different than the spirit of the world. The people of the world live in fear of a judging and jealous God. Every person knows they are not perfect, and deep down all people know that God will punish sin. That’s why people believe in Karma. It’s why every man-made religion focuses on sacrifice and submission. The spirit of the world is a spirit of fear over what will happen if people don’t do enough, or meditate enough, or give enough, or sacrifice enough. Those who try to save themselves are being led by the flesh, by the spirit of the world.

But we are led by a different Spirit. A Holy Spirit. Verse 15 says, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.” This is a verse loaded with good news for God’s people. We are not slaves, but sons. The word the NIV translates as sonship was the legal term in Greek for an adopted child. A term that spoke to the legal status and rights of those who have been adopted. In the eyes of the authorities a child who had “sonship” was a full, legal dependent of his adoptive parents. He was due the exact same rights as natural children, and the exact same inheritance and privileges as natural children.

This is what God has given us! As sons of God by the Spirit, we have the same rights and privileges as if we were God’s children by birth. Think about that for a moment. For believers, by the Spirit’s work, in God’s eyes, it is as if you never sinned. As if Adam and Eve never ate from the tree. We don’t approach God with fear as a judge, instead we call him Father. Paul says we call him “Abba” now. Did you know that was the word Jesus used for God the Father when he prayed in Gethsemane? The early church took that up in their prayers. We approach God the same way his true and actual Son came to him. We are children of the Heavenly Father!

That is a status that we never need to doubt. In verse 16 God reminds us why. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” This verse speaks of two spirits that testify to our place in God’s family: the Holy Spirit, and then the “spirit” that we have now as Christians. We show by our spirit, by our holy living that we are children of God. Our lives and our good works matter in showing who we are. But the Holy Spirit himself also testifies to our sonship. He does it every time he comes to us in the Gospel. Every time we read from Scripture and see again our status as forgiven children of God. Every time we see the Gospel in the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. The Spirit assures us of our salvation when we are in doubt and he comforts us when trial comes. Have you ever doubted whether or not you were a Christian? Perhaps at a really low time you found yourself questioning whether all this stuff is even true. Whether you actually believe it all. And as you’re tempted to spiral into despair and depression, what pulls you out? Not by looking more closely at yourself and your life. Not by examining how you feel or how much you do. NO! Those things only ultimately lead to disappointment and despair. No, the Spirit comes to us in the Word and shows us the truth again when Jesus tells us, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Or, “Be still, and know that I am God,” or in any of a thousand different passages that give us comfort.

You see, this side of heaven our sinful natures aren’t going away. Our new spirit will always fight against our sinful self. And if we don’t feed our new spirits with the strength of the Holy Spirit, we are fighting a losing battle. So brothers and sisters, come to the sacrament, read your Bibles, talk about your faith with your families and strengthen your children for the struggle as well. And in doing so, the Holy Spirit will testify to you that you are a Son of God. And you will be moved to a Christian life, a Christian spirit, that will show it to yourself and others as well.

Male or female, you are a Son of God. I think Paul’s choice to call us all sons was intentional. God chooses to call us Sons by the Spirit because the inheritance we receive from him is the greatest inheritance. The inheritance of the firstborn. The same inheritance that Christ himself received. The same victory, the same triumph over sin and death, the same resurrection, the same joy in heaven. Everything that Jesus won for us with his life and death and life is our inheritance. It’s a sure thing. And there’s great comfort in calling this an inheritance. What does a person have to do to receive his inheritance? Nothing. An inheritance is not earned. It is not something you have to get on your own merits. A person receives his inheritance because it is theirs by birthright. As adopted sons of God, the inheritance of heavenly victory is ours by right.

But there’s one more thing Paul adds, and so I must too. As co-heirs with Christ, there is one other thing we experience as he did, and God wants us not to be surprised by it. Suffering. Our text ends by reminding us, “we are heirs…if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Being a co-heir with Christ comes with a cost. We will suffer in this life sometimes. There will be times that things don’t go your way. Times when you suffer for doing the right thing and following God’s will. Times when it seems like you “miss out” because you’re a Christian. But recognize that this is all a part of our inheritance. Nobody wants to suffer, but Paul reminds us that suffering for the sake of Christ is a sign that we are still heirs of the coming glory with Christ. And that glory will be amazing indeed. The very next verse after our text says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Whatever struggles, whatever problems, we have in this life, we won’t even remember them when we receive our glory later. Suffering for a few years here is nothing compared to having glory in heaven forever.

So there you have it, the first impossibly good thing that God tells in this top-down faith that he blesses us with. Yes, we’ll never figure out the puzzle of a Triune God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. But he’s given us the pieces we need the most. God the Father makes us his children. He does it by sending his Spirit to declare us as Sons. And because of that, we are heirs of Christ. Heirs of suffering in this life, true, but heirs of glory in the next. Praise be to our Triune God. To his glory, Amen.

Recent Worship Services