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May 26, 2024

The Triune God Is Beyond Our Understanding

Passage: Romans 11:33-36

In the year that King Uzziah died, this is what the prophet Isaiah saw: the Lord sat upon a throne, high and lifted up with the train (end) of His robe filling the temple! Meanwhile, God was also being served by creatures far more powerful than man, angels called seraphim. They, with their six wings, flew to the lofty height of God’s holiness, yet even they, the angels, covered their face and feet, knowing that they cannot compare to their master, the Lord. God’s holiness far exceeds understanding. Not even the mighty seraphim can look. With foot and face hidden, all they do is simply speak of God in the truest, simplest way they can. All they say is: HOLY HOLY HOLY! That’s what the angels say, and what does it mean? Holy means ‘set apart.’ God is set apart from sinful man’s understanding, unable to be grasped by intelligent minds. The Triune God, Father-Son-Holy Spirit, is set apart! God is perfect in love, power, and purity. He has attributes, a countless list of them, that mankind cannot even come close to comprehending. The Triune God is beyond our understanding. Yes, that is our theme today. And we will see how this fact both humbles us and comforts us.

(We pray…)

The Triune God is beyond our understanding, first to humble us. The apostle Paul, who explodes in his glorious hymn in Romans 11, says, “How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” In his hymn he speaks in a way that humbles mankind, just like God did with His servant Job. He says, “"For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" 35 "Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?" Who has known the mind of the Lord? Can you read the mind of God? Is he an open book? Is He easy to read? Who has become His counselor? Who advises God about what He should do? Is He some ignoramus king that a wise advisor can manipulate? Who has given to God and expects be repaid? What debt does God owe mankind?

Sinful man by their actions essentially say yes to Paul’s rhetorical questions. Therefore, to curb our sinful flesh and reveal our flaws, let us see how God’s glory outshines and humbles us all. First, let’s begin with the maker of Heaven and Earth. Based upon the teaching of Scripture, we ascribe the work of creation and preservation to God the Father, the one who made the earth and keeps it still. And so, with the one who made the mountains, spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies, have you known his mind? Some think they do. “Oh, God used evolution and billions of years to make the earth? That evening and the morning in Genesis chapter one is just symbolic for millions of years?” Or they might reason, “God the Father made me the way I am; therefore I am not sinning here.” Yet, that is not the mind of God in creation.

How much of mankind tries to counsel God and usurp Him? Like those at the tower of Babel who boasted about their tower to Heaven, boasting in vain accomplishment, so it is with the Babel of technology going on today. Man develops a unique invention and boasts in his result and academia as if he were a god who could advise God Himself. Little does he know that God maintains the world, and that this man is a simple tool in the preserving of the world. Or the another in counseling God the Father says that marriage is just a piece of paper, or that male headship in a home and in a church is outdated, or that marriage should belong to more than just a man and a woman. Do any of these people who, in their attempts to counsel God and speak for Him even though they have His Word wrong,  truly think they are right in their unwarranted advisory role as if the Father’s Words were faulty?

And how much of mankind thinks that the father owes them? “God, I worked so hard, where is my power, my money, my accolades?” or “I can’t catch a break, therefore there must be no God!” That’s another way of saying, “Pay up God. I deserve pity and mercy, so pay up.” God the Father is above your thinking. His ways are higher than yours. You don’t know His mind completely. You can’t tell Him what to do. He doesn’t owe you anything.

Now how about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Do we know His mind completely? Some think they do and assume that Jesus is angry judge that you need to make happy. Others think of Him as a simple human guru, like buddha and Confucius, who offers His sermon on the mount like a glorified life coach. Others would say of Jesus, thinking they know his mind, “Jesus would never condemn anyone? Love is acceptance,” and say this as if Jesus came to blow up the ten commandments, even though He clearly says that He came to fulfill them.

Others try to act as counselor to Jesus and try to speak for Him even though they utterly fail. “Well, Jesus’ death was just a symbol.” “Jesus’ death only covers some of your sins.” “Jesus’ resurrection isn’t actually real.”

And others think that Jesus’ owes them. They mock Him because they didn’t get their sign and miracle just like king Herod. “I’ll believe in Him if He does something. I haven’t seen a miracle yet.” Some even treat Jesus’ name even like its worth mud, as if He didn’t pay up on some supposed debt, and they do so by taking His name in vain when they stub their poor little toe, get cut off in traffic, or hear a funny joke.

Jesus Christ is above you too. His ways are higher than yours. You don’t know His mind completely. You can’t tell Him what to do. He doesn’t owe you anything.

And finally, what of the Holy Spirit. Do we know His mind, do we advise him, and make demands of Him? Some equate lack of impulse control with the Holy Spirit, like a couple who goes to get married without first counting the cost, communicating, and developing their relationship. They say that their poorly calculated risk brought on by love at first sight is the “Holy Spirit” even though one of the Holy Spirit’s gifts is self-control. Or some think that they know the mind of the Spirit by saying that so and so must not have faith because they aren’t doing this good deed enough or exhibiting this good behavior enough.

Do people advise and try to speak for the Holy Spirit? Yes. “Oh, He can come at any moment. You never know when.” And in this waiting for their own personal Pentecost, they don’t go to the one place where the Spirit is found: the Word and Sacraments. Or maybe people counsel and mock the Spirit by saying that His tools: baptism and the Lord’s Supper, don’t do anything. Or maybe they think the word and sacrament, the Spirit’s means of operating, are too boring and need to be entertaining. Or maybe they say, and God forbid, that not all the teachings of Scripture are important, but only some of them.

Or maybe people make demands of the Holy Spirit? “I tried over and over to get people to church, and I tried with the Word. It must not work then.” “They came to church and didn’t like it, it must not work then.” “Spirit, I don’t feel saved, and so it’s not working.”  This is all foolishness. The Spirit is above you. His ways are higher than yours. You don’t know His mind completely. You can’t tell Him what to do. He doesn’t owe you anything.


Now many of these examples may have been extremes, but does that mean you are off the hook? No. You and I are not blameless in doing this. In our lives there have been countless times where we thought we had our God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost figured out. We thought we knew them fully, as if they were some gullible friend. We thought we could advise them, thinking we represent their cause but truly we are representing our own. We thought they owed us something, forgetting the very meaning of the words grace and mercy. Our God is above us… to humble us. You don’t know His judgments, His ways, His mind. You can’t be His counselor. He doesn’t owe you anything.


So, humbled Christian, what else does Paul tell us about our Triune God? “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” So, let us ponder how our Triune God with all the depth of His riches of both wisdom and knowledge is above us to comfort us. And so, we return to Paul’s questions in a more comforting light. First, we, by God’s Word, know His mind in part His mind. We know the part He reveals, and we leave the part we don’t know to His gracious hands. Next, we don’t counsel Him, but He counsels us. And finally, He doesn’t owe us anything. In fact, we owe Him and failed to pay, but He graciously forgave our debt and freely gives us what we need.

First, God the Father. We, by His grace, know His mind in part. We have been shown that He created the world in six days. He shows us that He preserves the world, sending rain upon both good and evil so that all may have the time of grace to hear God’s word and believe. He has blessed us with our mind and senses. He has blessed us with our gifts. He has given us His Law to show what is good and pleasing in His sight. He has given us marriage and the family unit for order and all of His other ordinances to give us order. He created and still preserves it. And none of these gifts are even the greatest example of His love. That title belongs to the giving of His Son.

He also counsels you. God the Father may allow hardship to come into your life, and this is meant to steer you to Him and His Word of comfort. He teaches you that He is the source of truth and comfort through all struggles. He counsels you to come to Him in prayer and approach Him so as a loving Father that He may offer you whatever you need from the storehouses of His grace. He also blesses you with many gifts, and furthermore through His word He teaches you to offer praise and thanksgiving for these many gifts.

And finally, though you owed your father many things, and we, like the prodigal son, ran off and sinned in many ways. Though we deserve nothing but to be ostracized in darkness, He takes us back in. He forgave us our debt by sending His Son into the world. He sent forth Jesus, our dear redeemer. He forgave what you owed and has given you His grace, His undeserved love. He has adopted you through His Son’s blood payment. He has made you a child of God. He now sees you as reconciled to Him and will take care of you as His child. To God the Father be the glory.


Next, God the Son Jesus Christ has let us know His mind in part. In fact, Jesus came to make the Father known to us and then said He and the Father are one. He showed us what was in His mind. Jesus has shown us that He is not some angry judge that wants revenge for sending Him to the cross. On the contrary, He came into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. Jesus has revealed to us His mind moreover that He is more than just a guru. He is the way, the truth, and the life. He says that whoever abides in His Word are His disciples indeed, and they shall know the truth and the truth shall set them free. Jesus reveals to us His love in His life, death, and resurrection to show us that we are saved. Jesus does not get rid of the Law, letting people believe that sin is okay. No, Jesus died on the cross for a reason, and that reason was because of the sins of the world. Jesus does not give a license to sin. He rather shows us His mind: “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”


Jesus also counsels you. He counsels you to come to Him to receive rest. He counsels us by telling us that we have peace. He counsels us not by saying His death is just a symbol, but He says, “It is finished!” Our sins have been atoned for. He says, “It is finished,” counseling you to believe that all your sins have been atoned for, and not just some of them. He says concerning His resurrection, “Don’t be doubting, but believe!” He truly did rise from the dead to show you the victory you have in Him.


And finally, though you owed Jesus many things, though it should have been you on that cross. It should have been you trudging through the pains of holy week, Jesus takes that punishment for you. You have been absolved of sin and its punishment. Your court sentencing of eternity in hell has been removed by Him. And now He freely gives you all things. He removes guilt from you, forgiving you of the wrongs you have committed. He comforts you by showing you that you will rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven. He gives you the gift of prayer as He serves as go-between you and the Father. He sends preachers to you to point you to Him. He rules as king over you, guarding you and your soul from the evils of this world, the devil, and sin. To God the Son be the glory.


And finally, the Holy Spirit shows us His mind in part as well. He shows us that He is not some lack of impulse control, but He is a spirit of order. He shows us His mind by showing us what His fruits look like. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.” The Holy Spirit is of the mind to gift us with these things, and He does so with the Word of Jesus our Savior. The Holy Spirit also shows us His mind that His work is to create faith in the hearts of people through the word of God and then cause that faith to grow and produce fruit. He tells us that our place is not to judge the lack of fruit but encourage the Christian to grow in faith with God’s Word. His mind is a mind of order and love.

He also counsels us, for He is the Counselor and comforter after all. He counsels us not through feelings and signs, but through the Word of God. He tells us to seek God in His Word and come to Him in prayer. He counsels you by means. By other means He also counsels you with forgiveness, newness of life, and strengthening in faith. He does this by the sacraments. He counsels you not to think that these are just mere symbols, but that these sacraments, these visible actions used in connection with God’s Word—the real source of power—truly seal to you the forgiveness of sins. He also counsels you to hold fast to all that He tells you in His Word. If the word of God is how the Spirit speaks to you, then may we, by the Spirit’s grace, never disregard any Scriptural teaching that He brings to counsel your heart and mind, your soul.

And finally, though we owed the Spirit many things, we could not fulfill on this demand for we could not by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus or come to Him. We couldn’t pay what we owe Him, for we by nature resist Him! But what has the Holy Spirit done? He has brought us to faith in Jesus. He has revealed God the Father, Son, and Himself, the Holy Ghost, to us. He has enlightened us through the Word of truth. And now He freely gives us comfort in Jesus through faith which He grants. He pours upon gifts, growth in grace, and strengthening of faith. To God the Holy Spirit be the glory.

Yes, The Triune God is above us and beyond our understanding, and even though this humbles us, it gives us the greatest comfort that this God is our God, the God who loves you and provides for you; the God who has redeemed you from sin, death, and the power of the devil; and the God who keeps you in the true faith. And so, we close our message today with Paul’s last verse, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”