The Rev. William Klock: “Life in the Holy Trinity”
From the Rev. William Klock of Living Word REC in British Columbia, here is a most appropriate sermon that was given for Trinity Sunday, titled Life in the Holy Trinity. Fr. Bill, in this message, begins by quoting the Athanasian Creed, and then notes:
Pretty extreme, eh? The Creed begins: “Whosever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic Faith. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” And the Creed ends similarly: “This is the catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.” Our pluralistic and post-modern culture gets its hackles up at that sort of exclusivity. Even Christians are sometimes taken aback by that kind of language. And that’s interesting if we consider the words we heard Jesus say in today’s Gospel. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And then a moment later: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). Most Christians don’t have any trouble with the exclusivity of Jesus. After all, we take him at his word when he says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And yet we read the words of the Creed and I’m sure that more than a few of us found their exclusivity at least a little troubling. The Apostles’ Creed is simple; the Nicene Creed is a little more specific; but the Athanasian Creed is very specific and very detailed about precisely who and what the Holy Trinity is, very precise about the person and nature of Jesus and the Incarnation, and very precise about the fact that our salvation depends on affirming these very specific truths about God. That kind of precision isn’t fashionable today. Certainly not in our culture, but it’s also not fashionable in many parts the Church today either—even in “evangelical” circles where even the simpler Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are no longer recited and, increasingly, no longer even known. And the end result is that church leaders, out of ignorance, end up dredging up old heresies that the creeds were drafted to guard against and laypeople, because they have no grounding in creedal orthodoxy either, accept and believe these old heresies and in doing so endanger their faith.
This is why the creeds are so important. They define what the Bible teaches us about the object of our faith—about the Triune God in whom we believe and in Incarnate Word in whom we trust for our redemption. Many of you were here a few years ago when I illustrated this problem very dramatically by sitting on an empty cardboard box that collapsed under my weight. My point was to illustrate the fact that we are not saved by our faith or by the sincerity of our beliefs; we are saved by the object of our faith. I can believe all I want that an empty cardboard box will support my weight, but all the faith in the world won’t make it so. Just so, all the faith in the world that a false God or a false Jesus can save won’t give a false God or a false Jesus the ability to save me. Our faith must be in the Triune God who reveals himself in the God-Man, Jesus Christ. The creeds make sure that we put our faith in this God.
Correct doctrine is important, and if you will read the rest of this sermon, Fr. Bill goes on to give us some excellent insight into how the work of the Holy Trinity brings us into fellowship with that Triune God.