This is something that I think all of us can remember in one way or another. It’s 2 A.M. and a mother is sleeping soundly in bed after a long exhausting day. Suddenly her sleep is interrupted by a small crying voice that says, “Mommy? I had a really bad dream! Can I sleep with you?” She knows what that means. It means that if she takes her daughter into bed with her, her sleep is pretty much shot for the night. But she also knows how important it is for her daughter to be comforted and to have her mommy with her. So she either lets her daughter crawl into bed with her or she goes to her bed and lies down with her daughter until she falls asleep. Children instinctively know that when they are scared they want to be with the one whom they know will protect them and care for them.
The same thing is true in our relationship with God. In times of difficulty we too want God to be with us. The beautiful thing that we see this morning is that God is in fact with us in a powerful and beautiful way; and in fact, in a way that far exceeds what we can imagine. This morning we begin a series of sermons looking at the Heidelberg Catechism’s teaching on God the Father and God the Son. We not only have our Father or the Lord Jesus with us, we have all three persons of the Trinity with us. Let’s read 2 Corinthians 13:1-14.
I. What is Paul’s view of the Trinity as seen here?
It’s easy to view the Trinity as some abstract theological concept. Look at the way the Heidelberg Catechism describes the Trinity in Lord’s Day 8. Question 24: “How are these articles divided? Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.” Question 25: “Since there is but one God, why do you speak of three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Because that is how God has revealed himself in His Word: these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.” It sounds like this is saying the Bible says it and so there! Accept it and move on. But Paul uses the teaching of the Trinity in a very loving and pastoral way.
That is made clear from the background of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Paul had stayed in Corinth the longest of all the places on his missionary trips. He had grown close to these people and had helped them with many problems. The result is that 2 Corinthians is one of the most personal letters that Paul wrote. At the conclusion of the letter, Paul gives a brief strong reminder of the things that he had helped them with. They are to “aim for perfection.” Immorality was a big problem that Paul had to help them with and so they must live as God wants them to live in their sexual lives but also in all areas of life. They had raised questions about his authority and so he says, “Listen to my appeal.” Paul says they should listen to him because he speaks as one from God Himself. There had been divisions within the church and so they are to “be of one mind.” They should work together for the gospel and focus on the things that unite them. Finally, they are to “live in peace.” As a result of the unity that they have, they will be able to live in love and peace. Then Paul concludes with the familiar words: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
These are words that come from the heart of a man who deeply loves this church. Paul is wishing for God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit – to continue to powerfully be with them to help them. He leaves them this parting blessing with the hope that this is what they remember above all. Every night when we put our then small children to bed we would sing “Jesus Loves Me” and then a song that said, “Good night, good night. Jesus gives his children rest. All who trust in him are blest.” It was a phrase that we wanted them to remember through the night but also throughout their lives. I suspect they still remember that song. Paul leaves the Corinthians with a memorable phrase that they would hopefully remember for years to come and help them in a very practical way.
Paul’s benediction begins with by referencing “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” “Grace” is the key word that describes what Jesus Christ did to take away our sins. “Grace” is Jesus leaving heaven, suffering, dying and enduring the pain of hell because of the sins you and I have done. Grace is what we get even though we are rotten miserable sinners who don’t have any right to expect it; it is completely unconditional. In his book What Was I Thinking, Steve Brown says, “Alcoholics Anonymous teaches that only a drunk can help a drunk.” They’re right. That’s why drunks get help from AA. Only people who truly understand that they’re a lot worse than they thought they were can help people who are learning the same thing about themselves. Only sinners can help sinners. People – you and I – are really a lot worse than we think we are. But as the late Jack Miller of World Harvest Mission, said, ‘God’s grace is a lot bigger than we think it is.’” And now Paul says: “May you always be aware of that tremendous gift of grace.” This grace gives us the motivation to live our lives in thanksgiving. It gives us the confidence that we have peace with God. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ gives us forgiveness, freedom and security so that we can enjoy life with God as we serve Him.
Finally, Paul gives his third request: “The fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with them all.” “Fellowship” means that you share something with another person. Thus, we call church meals a time of fellowship because we share together the love of Christ and we share that time together as fellow believers in Christ. “Fellowship” of the Holy Spirit then means that we share something from the Spirit. We share in the benefits of Christ’s work of grace. We share in the Holy Spirit’s powerful ongoing activity which cleanses us. But fellowship with the Spirit also enables us to have fellowship with others as well. We share with others the love and grace that the Spirit brings to us. We share and benefit from the fruit of the Spirit in our lives so that not only as individuals but as a community we share in joy, peace and love.
III. God’s presence with us today
Paul’s desire for the Corinthian Christians was not only to know about the Triune God but that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with them all; that is, to experience it. In fact, he wishes that these things from God may “be with” them. He hopes that the blessings and comforts of our God will stay and remain with his readers always.
- “We took a ride on the bike path around our town. Just off the path was a drainage tunnel which ran under the interstate highway. We decided to explore it. We parked our bikes and began to walk through the tunnel. It was made of concrete, wide enough for us to walk side by side, but not high enough for me to stand up straight. We walked for a distance and then the tunnel took a sharp turn and suddenly it became dark. A hand reached out and took mine. Neither of us said anything about it, but we continued, hand in hand, until we came to another turn and we could see the light. Then the hand let go.”
It should be our desire as well to experience the Triune God in this way. Does the grace of Jesus Christ powerfully shape every part of our lives? Jesus died for us in His grace and that is something that should never be put back into the back parts of our minds. When we realize all that Jesus has done so that we may have salvation, it should move us to live in grateful obedience. Do we know and realize how much the love of God the Father is every day? Do we realize how much our Father has invested in us so that we might be saved? Do we realize how carefully God is watching over our every step, guiding, directing us and beautifully providing for us as He showers us with His love? Do we realize that we have the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit with us? We have the power to do great things for Christ’s kingdom because of the gifts God has given us through the Spirit. We have the ability to share with each other and help each other in life. We have the powerful presence of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So what is the problem? So often, we like to pretend that we can do things on our own just fine. We don’t really need to have God’s presence with us every day. We just need it once in a while when there are problems. Then God has become like the firemen down the street. They are there when we need them but otherwise they play no role in our lives. If we miss the ongoing presence of God in our lives, we are missing a great deal. Let’s make Paul’s prayer our own prayer. Let’s not only wish that God will help us when we are in need. Let’s pray that Christ’s grace, the Father’s love and the powerful fellowship of the Holy Spirit may shape, encourage and help us every da