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SALVATION THROUGH THE TRINITY –
A CHRISTMAS SERMON

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, December 15, 2013

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (II Corinthians 13:14).


Last Tuesday night I went to my gym to work out and swim. By the time I got in the pool it was already dark. Then I saw a man I know coming to the jacuzzi. He was looking straight ahead and didn’t notice me. After a few minutes I left the pool and got in the jacuzzi with him. There were just two of us there because it was a cool night. As we spoke I had a profound sense of his loneliness. He is retired and has a lot of money in the bank. He is in his sixties and has never married. He came here decades ago from the East Coast, so he has no family here. He doesn’t have any friends either. I could see the pain on his face as he told me he will be alone at Christmas. He desperately tries to fill up his time by taking college classes. He’s working on a Master’s degree, which he certainly doesn’t need. He left his church over forty years ago. He’s very bitter and angry against Christianity. He is utterly alone in the world – without grace, without love, without communion – with God, or with any other human being. As I listened to him, he told me that he didn’t know who he would leave all his money to when he died. I felt sorrow for him. I have invited him to our church many times, and he actually came, once, to my son’s wedding. But he bolted away soon after the wedding was over. I haven’t been able to get him to come back. What a cold, frightening way to live – especially at Christmas!

That’s where every life ends in our rigidly autonomous culture. Every life that is not centered in Christ and the church ends in hopeless misery. That is because the alternative to Christ and the church is only emptiness. It may not seem so at the beginning of life, but it will always be so at the end. I’ve been thinking about this for more than fifty years. I know by observation that it’s true.

One of my uncles worked for Chrysler, assembling cars. He saved a lot of money and bought a house in San Clemente, an expensive suburb on the coast, near San Diego. He died alone in a bedroom of that house. They didn’t find his body for a week – until a neighbor saw that his mailbox was overflowing and smelled the foul stench of rotting flesh. Another uncle, whose wife had passed away, had a stroke in his bedroom and lay there paralyzed for a week before a man at his Masonic lodge noticed that he missed a meeting he usually attended. They had to break down the door to his bedroom, because it was locked from the inside. There he was in a pile of urine and excrement with a pistol in his hand – because he was afraid of burglars. A nearby neighbor woman had a daughter that told them at the hospital to stop feeding her mother and let her die. The story goes on and on. Everyone whose life is focused on this world lives and dies without hope and without God!

Don’t tell me about Scrooge. That never happens. No one ever changes like Scrooge in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” No one ever changes like that apart from Christ and the church. No one!

I remember seeing a movie, about sixty years ago, where a man sank slowly into a pit of quicksand. The more he struggled the more the mushy mass of oatmeal-like wet sand sucked him down. He screamed and yelled, but no one came. At last only his head stuck out of the goop. He took one more gasp. Then it pulled him under. I was just a kid when I saw that movie. It made my heart pound. I clutched my throat. My hands sweat as I thought about drowning in a pit of quicksand!

Will you be sucked under, and drown, in a hopeless life? Or will you escape? As I often say, almost no one escapes after the age of thirty – almost no one! My mother escaped at the age of 80 – but that is so unusual that it is tantamount to the parting of the Red Sea – or some other totally impossible miracle!

If you do escape from life’s quicksand there is only one possible way. Mark what I say! There is only one way to escape from the quicksand of life – only one way! And no other! Here it is –

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (II Corinthians 13:14).

The church in Corinth was in bad shape. There was a major church split, fights and divisions, false doctrine, sexual sin, and many lost church members (13:5, 6). Paul gave this wonderful benediction to all of them, for the text ends, “with you all.” This was his prayer for all of them because he knew that nothing else could pull them out of the quicksand of a hopeless life. This is what you need as well.

I. First, you need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ…be with you all”
       (II Corinthians 13:14).

He is talking about the Trinity here. He is talking about Jesus Christ, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. And he is praying that “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” would be with them all. That is the first thing the Apostle prays for, because that is the first thing we need. This is a prayer for salvation through the Trinity.

Notice that the Apostle gave “the grace” of Christ before “the love of God.” Notice also that Christ’s full title and name are given, “the Lord Jesus Christ.” It indicates His divine nature, for He is our Lord. It indicates His human nature, for He is Jesus. It points to His office, as the Christ, for He is the Messiah. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the grace of this divine and human person that we need. And it is this person, the Lord Jesus Christ, who provides grace to us. Everyone who is saved knows very well that he was saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Those who are lost see no need for the Lord Jesus Christ. They trample Him under foot (Hebrews 10:29). They despise and reject Him, and hide their faces from Him (Isaiah 53:3). They refuse to come to Him (John 5:40). They hate Him and abhor Him (Isaiah 49:7).

People speak well of Gandhi and John Kennedy, who were both adulterers. They speak well of Mohammed, who was a demon-possessed pedophile and murderer. They speak well of Che Guevara, who was a murderer and a thief. But when they come to Jesus, they detest Him. If you are in college you know that I am right. The college professors literally hate the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ!

They don’t ban skeletons and witches and black cats on October 31. They don’t ban the word “Halloween” from the stores or the schools. But they ban the word “Christmas” from every school in America, and from many stores, because it has the word “Christ” in it. They love the witches and skeletons on Halloween – but they hate the name of Christ. And they hate the name “Christmas.” This year I have seen the name “Christmas” only once. Only one time in all of downtown Los Angeles! It says, “Merry Christmas” on the side of “The Pantry,” an old restaurant owned by former Mayor Richard Riordan, one of the few public figures who still goes to church on Sunday. It used to be heartwarming to see the lighted windows on the Los Angeles City Hall formed into a cross at Christmas time. But no more. A tiny group of militant atheists tore it down, and no Christian had enough courage to stop them! Today the Lord Jesus Christ is despised, mocked, and hated – even at Christmas time! A large neon sign in Times Square in New York was paid for by “America’s Atheists.” It says, “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody!” They would be attacked if they put up, “Who needs Mohammed at Ramadan? Nobody!” They would be correctly labeled anti-Semites if they put up, “Who needs Israel at Hanukkah? Nobody!” But it’s OK for politically correct hypocrites to blast Christ on His birthday at Christmas! Bill O'Reilly, of Fox News, is right! There really is a "war on Christmas"!  There really is a war against Christianity! Man in sin hates Jesus Christ!

“Man of sorrows,” what a name
   For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
   Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
   In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood,
   Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
(“Hallelujah! What a Saviour!” by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).

Oh, what great sorrow I feel when I think that there are some young people, who attend our own church every Sunday, but do not love Jesus enough to trust Him! Oh, how can you ever experience the grace of God if you are on the Devil’s side? How can you ever be saved if you go on despising Jesus, if you do not love Him enough to trust Him! How can you ever experience the grace and favour of God if you go on rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ? Some day you will be like that old man in the jacuzzi – alone, and without hope, at Christmas.

Grace is exactly what every guilty, polluted, helpless sinner needs! And no one but Jesus has the grace you need. Go to Him now, before it is too late! Then you will be able to say with the Apostle Peter,

“We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved” (Acts 15:11).

II. Second, you need the love of God.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God... be with you all” (II Corinthians 13:14).

Dr. Charles Hodge, a great 19th century theologian, said, “In one view [one way to look at it] the love of God is the source of redemption. God manifested his love in giving his Son for us,

‘But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8).

But in another view [another way to look at it] the love of God to us is due to the grace and work of Christ. That is, the manifestation of that love in the pardon, sanctification and salvation of men, was conditional on the work of Christ. We are reconciled to God by the death of his Son. His death as a satisfaction for our sins was necessary in order to our being actually introduced to the fellowship of God and made partakers of his love. Therefore the Apostle puts the grace of Christ before the love of God, as, in the sense mentioned, the necessary condition of its manifestation” (Charles Hodge, Ph.D., 1 and 2 Corinthians, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000 reprint, p. 689; note on II Corinthians 13:14).

As William R. Newell put it,

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!
   Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!
   (“At Calvary” by William R. Newell, 1868-1956).

Isn’t that the way we experience the love of God? Dr. Lenski pointed out that “the order of the persons as well as the order of their gifts are significant.” First we receive the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and then we experience the love of God. We receive the grace of Christ first, then we know the love of God (R. C. H. Lenski, Ph.D., The Interpretation of St. Paul’s First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians, Augsburg Publishing House, 1969 edition, p. 1339; note on II Corinthians 13:14).

That was my own experience, and it is (or will be) yours as well. I was drawn to Jesus first. Only after I experienced the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, did I begin to know and understand the love of God. If you are still lost, you must come to Jesus first. After you come to Christ you will begin to know the love of God! Dr. Lenski said, “The love of God properly occupies the second place in this benediction” (ibid.). First, you must come to Christ. Then you will know the love of God! That is the way sinners are saved! Come to Jesus, and then you will begin to know how much God loves you!

I am thinking again of that old man at my gym. Years ago he walked away from Christ and his church – and now he is alone in the world at Christmas time – without the love of God! Don’t let that happen to you! Come to Christ now, and you will begin to experience the love of God!

III. Third, you need the communion of the Holy Spirit.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (II Corinthians 13:14).

The Greek word translated “communion” here is the warm and friendly word koinonia. It means “union with” or “fellowship.” I must quote Dr. Lenski here again, because he said it so beautifully and so well. He said,

The Holy Spirit stoops down to us and enfolds us in his communion in which are found all the grace and the love. Not from afar are these extended to us but in a union which is beyond our comprehension (ibid., p. 1341).

Elisha Hoffman spoke of communion or fellowship with the Holy Spirit as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” Listen,

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
   Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
   Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
   Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
(“Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” by Elisha A. Hoffman, 1839-1929).

My mother loved that old song. We sang it together many times after she was saved. That is the communion, that is the fellowship, we have with the Holy Spirit when we are saved by Jesus! What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms!

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (II Corinthians 13:14).

Dr. Hodge said, “This passage is a clear recognition of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is the fundamental doctrine of Christianity. For a Christian is one who seeks and enjoys the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost” (ibid., p. 690).

I felt very sorry for that old man at my gym when he got out of the jacuzzi and walked away in the darkness. He missed the joy of knowing the Blessed Trinity. The great preacher Dr. W. A. Criswell said it well.

When a man worships the true God, when he bows before the Lord Jesus Christ, when he accepts in his heart the testimony of the Holy Spirit who points to the saving grace of Jesus, the man is exalted, he is lifted up, he is edified. Everything that concerns his life is sanctified and made heavenly and holy. There is one God and His name is God our Father, and God our Saviour, and God in our souls – the moving grace and witness of the Holy Spirit. Amen. (W. A. Criswell, Ph.D., Great Doctrines of the Bible – Volume 2, Zondervan Publishing House, 1982, p. 77).

I pray that you will come to Jesus tonight. He will save you from a wasted life of selfishness and sin. He will cleanse you with the Blood He shed on the Cross. Come to Jesus and you will know the love of God, and the heartwarming fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

If you would like to speak with us about coming to Jesus, please leave your chair right now and walk to the back of the auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to another room where we can talk and pray. Dr. Chan, please come and pray for someone to trust Jesus tonight. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: II Corinthians 13:11-14.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“O Little Town of Bethlehem” (by Phillips Brooks, 1835-1893).


THE OUTLINE OF

SALVATION THROUGH THE TRINITY –
A CHRISTMAS SERMON

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (II Corinthians 13:14).

I.   First, you need the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
II Corinthians 13:14a; Hebrews 10:29; Isaiah 53:3;
John 5:40; Isaiah 49:7; Acts 15:11.

II.  Second, you need the love of God, II Corinthians 13:14b;
Romans 5:8.

III. Third, you need the communion of the Holy Spirit,
II Corinthians 13:14c.