This sermon is based on 2 Corinthians 13:14, entitled “What or Who is God?” It was peached at the Central Schwenkfelder Church, Worccester, PA on April 18, 2010
No one knows for sure who penned the words to our opening hymn: “Come, Thou Almighty King,” though many assume it was Charles Wesley, the brother of John Wesley who founded the Methodist Church. Most assume that it was written sometime before 1757, which was when the words appeared in George Whitefield’s Collection of Hymns for Social Worship.
In the days of the American Revolution a congregation of patriotic colonists was worshiping in their church on Long Island when the service was interrupted by the arrival of a company of Hessian troops. The captain stalked up the aisle and commanded the people to sing “God Save the King.” The organist started the tune that we call “America”; but the people, true to the cause of the American colonies and to their God, sang this hymn. The words remind us of the Trinity.
Come Thou Almighty King,
Help us Thy Name to sing, help us to praise!
Father all glorious, over all victorious,
Come and reign over us, Ancient of Days!
Come, Thou incarnate Word,
Gird on Thy mighty sword, our prayer attend!
Come, and Thy people bless, and give Thy Word success,
Spirit of holiness, on us descend!
Come, holy Comforter,
Thy sacred witness bear in this glad hour.
Thou Who almighty art, now rule in every heart,
And ne’er from us depart, Spirit of power!
To Thee, great One in Three,
Eternal praises be, hence, evermore.
Thy sovereign majesty may we in glory see,
And to eternity love and adore!
This hymn brings up the question “What or Who is God?” That’s an important question that we ought never to take for granted. Who God is defines who we are, as well. As His church, His people, we’re here because of God. We place a high importance upon knowing Him. So important is the subject of knowing God that one of our core values as His church is the Triune God. Church Council approved the following as one of our core values. We phrased it as: “…glorifying and worshiping the Father as Creator and King, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit as Sustainer and Empowerer. He is the center of all that we do, providing purpose for our time, talents, and treasure…to extend His Kingdom.” Core Values describe who we are and why we do what we do. They form the underlying principles that guide His church to help us in making decisions, determining priorities, setting goals, allocating resources, and carrying out programs.
What are the things already operating as valuable features to our faith community? It goes without saying that Central Schwenkfelder is committed to the following core essentials:
The Triune God, The Bible, Mission and Service, Christian Education and Unity in the Christian Essentials This morning, I’d like for us to concentrate on the first, the Triune God. What do we mean by this? Why is it important?
The Trinity is not just a theological concept, but a reality to our faith that determines how God relates to us and how we relate to Him. For a discovery of the importance of our understanding of God, we turn to Paul’s benediction found in 2 Corinthians 13:14. Here, apostle ends his letter with these words: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the (fellowship) communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” We repeat that benediction at times here at Central. We first learn that…
I. GRACE IS ASSOCIATED WITH GOD THE SON.
Paul saluted the congregation at Corinth with these words: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” Corinth was a complicated church. They had seen their share of internal problems. In 1 Corinthians, there is division, sexual sin, and arrogance among the membership. Here, grace is associated with the Lord Jesus. The Greek word for grace is charis meaning kindness, mercy, goodwill or a special manifestation of the divine presence, an expression of kindness, gift, blessing. Since this is a benediction, this may be considered as grace that is bestowed from the Lord Jesus by virtue of knowing Him. There are certain blessings associated with knowing Christ which are not available to the world at large. Grace from Jesus is one of those things.
Grace starts with Jesus. John wrote in his gospel in 1:14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. …For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. Here, in contrast to the law and Moses, grace comes through Christ. This reference to the law and Moses could be the source of man’s revelation about sin. We know what sin is because of the law. Paul wrote in Romans 7:7: “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.”’
How does this play out in our lives? In the law, we see our guilt in disobeying God. In Christ, we see God’s forgiveness, His provision for our sin problem. One is a picture of the moral perfection of God. The other is the picture of the kindness of God. As problematic as we are, God answered our need for grace in Christ. God’s gracious plan of salvation by grace through faith came as a result of that great mission of Christ, who left His throne and came and dwelt among us, showing us redemption. Jesus brought grace because He is full of grace. Secondly…
II. LOVE IS ASSOCIATED WITH GOD THE FATHER.
Love here is the Greek agape. This is a special type of love that denotes divine concern, interest. It was out of the Father’s concern for the world that He sent Jesus. We’ve heard many times before the words in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
God does nothing by which all three members of the Trinity are not used and glorified. Caspar Schwenckfeld, in his catechism, described the Trinity as this, that Jesus was,
“… condemned to death for the sake of our sins, and raised again from the dead for the sake of our righteousness, that is, to renew us, make us just, pious, and holy, so that through his grace we were justified and made inheritors of the hope of eternal life. God the almighty Father promised all these things in the Old Testament, after the Fall of Adam, and they came to pass through Christ in the fullness of time. These things are also proclaimed in the gospel and distributed by the Holy Spirit and established in all chosen believing hearts.”
To put it another way: God the Father constructed the plan of salvation, Jesus Christ was carried out the plan, and the Holy Spirit applies the plan to our lives.
III. FELLOWSHIP IS ASSOCIATED WITH GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Fellowship here is koinonia denotes a close mutual relationship; participation, sharing in; a sense of partnership. The church is never to be considered as a club, but there is a fraternal sense involved when one becomes a Christian.
The Holy Spirit is also given to us as a guide, friend and teacher. Jesus said in John 14:25 ” These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” From this we know that the Holy Spirit was given to us as our teacher. We need to be taught. We cannot know everything through study or experience. We need a guide. We need someone to work through our consciences. He is also our advocate, helper, ally and supporter (John 15:26-27; 16:7-15).
A certain harbor in Italy can be reached only by sailing up a narrow channel between dangerous rocks and shoals. Over the years, many ships have been wrecked, and navigation is hazardous. To guide the ships safely into port, three lights have been mounted on three huge poles in the harbor. When the three lights are perfectly lined up and seen as one, the ship can safely proceed upon the narrow channel. If the pilot sees two or three lights, he knows he’s off course and in danger. God has also provided three beacons to guide us. The same rules of navigation apply- the three lights must be lined up before it is safe for us to proceed. The three harbor lights of guidance are:
1. The Word of God: (objective standard)
2. The Holy Spirit (subjective witness)
3. Circumstances (divine providence)
Together they assure us that the directions we’ve received are from God and will lead us safely along his way.
Today, we installed some leaders in the church. These have answered the call to be submissive to the Holy Spirit, pledged to follow Christ above themselves or others’ wishes, and volunteered to lead the church. I would encourage you to pray for these individuals, and pray for me, too, as we lead the Central Schwenkfelder.
The great Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield put it like this: “When we have said these three things, then-that there is but one God, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each God, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each a distinct person- we have enunciated the doctrine of the Trinity in its completeness.” So our church, this congregation, is called to glorify and worship the Father as Creator and King, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit as Sustainer and Empowerer. He is the center of all that we do, providing purpose for our time, talents, and treasure…to extend His Kingdom.”
 Caspar Schwenckfeld, Eight Writings on Christian Beliefs (Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2006), 35.
 The New Geneva Study Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1102.