Trinity Sunday C

Trinity and trinitarian heresies have the chance to meet the central role of faith in the life of Christians. Throughout time God has worked to give faith through the Spirit--faith that is the center of the relationship God establishes with us.

Psalm 8

Verses 2 and 8 are cited through editorial insert in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 8: Person of Christ (SD 8.27) along with several other citations showing that the rising and ascended Jesus worked outside of time and place through the prophets and apostles as testified by the signs made possible through Jesus.

Romans 5:1-5

Verse 1 is cited in several places. First, verse 1 is quoted in Augsburg Confession, Article 20: Faith (AC 20.16) as a reminder that works will not comfort a troubled conscious. Only faith in God's grace can comfort. 

Next, verse 1 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.91) in a series of several Pauline quotes noting that righteousness is imparted through faith, not works. Verse 1 is also quoted later in the same article (AP 4.179, quarto) reiterating the AC 20.16 argument.

Verse 1 is quoted still later in the Apology, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.36) to expand on what faith does: "uplift, sustain, and gives life to the contrite... receives the forgiveness of sins... justifies before God" (AP 12.36).

Even later on in the Apology, Article 24: The Mass (AP 24.12), verse 1 is quoted to connect the efficacy of communion with faith--that communion does not forgive sins on its own. Instead, faith makes communion efficacious. Later in the same article (AP 24.60), verse 1 is quoted to reiterate the argument. Finally, verse 1 is quoted, again in the same article (AP 24.89) applying the arguments above against the idea of a mass for the dead.

Verse 2 is also cited in several places, but uses the footnoted translation from the Vulgate as the NRSV notes. First, verse 2 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.81) to make the argument that "we are reconciled to the Father and we receive the forgiveness of sins when we are comforted by a confidence in the mercy promised on account of Christ" (AP 4.81). Verse 2 comes up again later in the same article (AP 4.179, quarto 162-3) to drive home the point that the Son is our mediator with the Father. Again, later in the same article (AP 4.252, quarto 254-57 reworked) with several other scriptural quotes responding to scriptural quotes from the Confutation that seek to emphasize the efficacy of works and keeping the law by showing that good works and keeping the law are not possible without faith.

Later in the Apology, verse 2 is quoted in Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.37) to show that love for God and desire to follow God's law follows faith and contrition. Later in the same article (AP 12.63), verse 2 is quoted with a passage from Romans 3 to emphasize "that the forgiveness of sins can be received in no other way than by faith alone" (AP 12.63).

Finally, verse 2 is quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 4: Good Works (SD 4.34) to argue that faith is not simply the start of the Christian life which then is lead by works, but instead that faith continues through the life of the Christian as "the basis for our standing in grace" (SD 4.34).

John 16:12-15

This entire reading is cited in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.65) through an editorial insert to show that "the entire Holy Trinity, God the Father, Sone, and Holy Spirit, directs all people to Christ as the Book of Life" (SD 11.65).

Verses 12 and 13 are quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 28: Bishops/The Church's Power (AC 28.31) as part of an argument that bishops have authority to create new rituals or rules, an argument the reformers rejected when the bishops created new rituals or rules that are "contrary to the gospel" (AC 28.34).

Verse 14 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.132, quarto 2nd ed) showing the role of the Spirit in the life of the individual Christian--first to reveal Jesus, then to pour out other gifts of faith.

Verse 15 is cited through editorial insert right after the verse 14 quote (AP 4.132) to clearly state that "we cannot truly keep the law until we have received the Holy Spirit through faith."


With all the possible heresies that can be preached on Trinity Sunday, it's probably a good idea to focus on the central claim of the Lutheran approach to Christianity--that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Jesus by the will of the Father. Oh, look, the Trinity!

  • How do we preach so that the role of works is clear but we do not deny good works?
  • How can you present the Trinity so that God's will is good news and is still coming to fruition?