Matthew 28:16-20 (The Holy Trinity—Series A)
“In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
June 11, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel Lesson for Holy Trinity Sunday:
16Now the eleven disciples traveled to Galilee to the mountain which Jesus designated for them, 17and when they saw Him, the worshiped Him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came to them and spoke to them saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19Therefore, as you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And, behold, I myself am with you always until the end of the age.”
The hymn writer penned, “Jesus! Name of priceless worth To the fallen of the earth For the promise that it gave, ‘Jesus shall His people save’” (LSB 900:3). The name Jesus means, “Yahweh saves.” The big question, what is it that the Lord needs to save people from?
I ran across an informal poll on Yahoo that asked this very question. Some of the answers included that people need to be saved from fear or from themselves. How would you answer the question, what is it that the Lord needs to save people from?
One person has summarized the answer this way, “To be saved, as everyone well knows, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, to enter Christ’s kingdom, and to live with him forever” (LC IV.25). Of course, the person who wrote this was Martin Luther and he wrote it in the Large Catechism. He does a wonderful job of stating what the Bible tells us about our need to be saved. You and I and all people need to be saved from sin, death, and the devil.
Because of Adam’s fall into sin, all humanity, the entire human race, lived under the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil. The devil led Adam and Eve into rebellion by sowing in them the seeds of doubt with the desire to become like God. We have all inherited Adam and Eve’s addiction to sin and the resulting punishment. David wrote by the power of the Holy Spirit in Psalm 51:5 about the inheritance of sin, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5 ESV). Jesus preached, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (Jn. 8:34 ESV).
Before God, we were bound in our sins and trespasses. We had no freedom to better ourselves in God’s eyes. We were held fast in the chains of our sin, bound in slavery to our evil inclinations, and under the curse of God’s Law which condemns us all, all humanity, to death. Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12 ESV). Physical death and eternal damnation are what we justly deserve from God because, as we rightly confess, we are by nature sinful and unclean. The devil constantly prowls around tempting us to sin. We actually do sin in thought, desire, word, and action against God and our neighbor. As a result, we deserve death, physical and eternal.
This is what we, and the whole human race, need to be saved from—the work of the devil against us, our sins and our sinful condition, and the death and damnation we have merited by our sinfulness. From God’s own Word we can truly see and know and understand our need to be saved. From the same Word, we also understand, know, and see our complete inability to do anything about remedying our need to be saved.
You and I, as sinful humans, were dead in trespasses and sins. We were unable to save ourselves from our sinful condition. That is why God chose, as an act of His grace alone, to have compassion on the whole human race. God planned, even before the creation of the world, to save people from their sins. He would do this, not by ignoring sin and pretending that sin is okay. (God hates sin and cannot tolerate sin. He has to punish the sinner with death.) Rather, God the Son would be given to humanity to be the Savior. God the Son would take on human flesh and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, become incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, being made fully human. As we will confess in the Athanasian Creed, Jesus is “perfect God and perfect man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father with respect to His divinity, less than the Father with respect to His humanity, Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ. . . . who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again on the third day from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty.”
In His living, Jesus bound Himself to a life of obedience and service. Jesus was born under the Law so that we might have the full rights of children in the house of God the Father. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5 ESV). In His dying, He bound Himself to the sins of the world. He became a slave to sin so that we might become free. He died on a cross the death that humanity deserves so that we might live forever with God in a new creation. Jesus became cursed for us, bearing our sins, so that we might be blessed (Gal. 3:13 ESV).1
On the cross, Jesus shed His blood as our substitute, dying for us so we might see God no longer as angry and wrathful, but as loving and kind. Our guilt has been atoned for and so God’s wrath against our sins has been turned away from us and the whole human race because of Jesus’ sacrifice. As a result, God now favors all creation with His love and forgiveness because He is fully satisfied with the work of Christ’s life and sacrificial death.2 And so the power of sin to enslave you is destroyed. The Son has set you free from sin! You are free indeed! (John 8:36). Now you live in the forgiveness of sins. Now you walk in a new life gifted to you by grace through faith in Jesus who has saved His people from their sin (Matt. 1:21).
In addition, Jesus has also defeated death and the devil. We read in 1 John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” And so, with His cross and resurrection, He has. And He has put death to death by His own death and resurrection. 2 Timothy 1:10 tells us that our Savior Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:47). The victory of Jesus’ resurrection has overcome death. Death no longer can harm us. It is our portal into life eternal with Jesus in heavenly bliss and happiness in the presence of God Himself.3
We learn, then, from the Word that God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit has saved us because of His undeserved grace and favor. By means of Baptism and the teaching of the Gospel, you and I have been made Jesus’ disciples who live by faith in the Son of God as our Savior. “How pleasant it is to hear that you have so truly been accepted by God the eternal Father, because the benefits of the Son have been given to you, that God wants to rule you through [His] Holy Spirit, that He has rescued you from eternal death and from the chains of the devil!”4 “God the Father is present in Baptism in such a way that in it He establishes a covenant of a good conscience between Himself and us through Christ (1 Ptr 3:21). . . . Paul clearly affirms that [the Son of God is present in Baptism], saying in very beautiful words, . . . Christ gave Himself for the church, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water by the Word. Likewise, he says that we are baptized into the death of Christ (Ro 6:3) and into the resurrection of Christ (1 Ptr 3:21). In fact, in Baptism we put on Christ (Gl 3:27). . . . We are born again of water and the Spirit, that we might enter into the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5, Tts 3:5-7). . . . [In Baptism] the entire holy Trinity is present and deals with the poor sinner through that outward ministry, so that He cleanses him from sins, delivers [him] from death, Satan, and eternal damnation, and instead gives [him] righteousness and eternal salvation.”5
What, then, is our response to our Triune God who has given salvation to us? The Risen Jesus tell us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” In calling us to faith through Baptism and the Gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies people in this Christian faith, Jesus shares His authority with us, His Church. We have, as a gift from God the Holy Spirit, the power of the Gospel to energize our witness to the Gospel in our world. And we have, through the indwelling of the Spirit, Jesus’ Gospel presence to comfort us—to the end of time and to the remotest regions of the earth. So, the authority and the ability to live as Jesus’ disciples who make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching the Gospel is ours. We who have been given salvation by Baptism and the Gospel, are commissioned to share that gift of salvation with the whole human race, beginning right here.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, you have been saved from sin, death, and the devil. Your sins and guilt are forgiven. The devil can no longer accuse you or bad-mouth you before God. Death itself has no more power over you. You are baptized into Christ—into His death and resurrection—and you have been given a new life, a different life, a changed life. In your daily lives, you are authorized and empowered by God Himself who dwells in you through the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel that Jesus saves all people from sin, death, and the devil. Using God’s Word, you are able to tell them about their great need to be saved. Then there is the great joy in then telling them about God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who met their need for salvation with the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life!
By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, live out your calling as disciples of Jesus Christ who have been saved from sin, death, and the devil. Proclaim His salvation! Use the authority given to you by the Lord Jesus to make known His perfect life, death, and resurrection that saves “all nations” from sin and death. Exclude no one! Let them all hear the Gospel so that they, too, might see, know, and understand who God is, what He has done for the world in Jesus Christ, and by the working of the Spirit, confess along with us the holy, Christian faith unto life everlasting. Amen.
1 Jacob A. O. Preus, Just Words (St. Louis: Concordia, 2000), 90-91.
2 Ibid., 173.
3 Ibid., 54.
4 Philip Melanchthon, Loci Communes, trans. J.A.O. Preus (St. Louis: Concordia, 1992), 142.
5 Martin Chemnitz, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion, trans. Luther Poellot (St. Louis: Concordia, 1981), 113.