The Great Commission in Matt 28 and preaching on the Trinity video discussion

The Sunday gospel lectionary reading for Trinity Sunday in Year A is Matthew 28.16–20, the so-called Great Commission which concludes the gospel. It has been picked for this week because it contains the triadic/Trinitarian formula ‘baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’

Apart from the fascinating details of this passage, it also raises the question: Should we be preaching on the Trinity on Trinity Sunday? Or is there a better approach?

Join James and Ian as they work through the passage—and also address the question of what we should be preaching on.

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38 thoughts on “The Great Commission in Matt 28 and preaching on the Trinity video discussion”

  1. Not yet listenned to it, but from the short written intro, what is rare at any time in preaching/ teaching of the Names of God.
    Early in my adult Christian life Trinity Sunday seemed to draw teaching on Holy Spirit, as a much neglected Person of the Trinity, while Father and Son were assumed as mainsteam Christian worship.
    But teaching on the
    Trinity, if not on Trinity Sunday, when? Especially for those following the Church liturgical year?
    Even while there is more than ample opportunity in services of Holy Communion with the recital of the Creed.

  2. It is amazing what you remember from years ago! I heard Howard Peskett ( then on home leave from OMF Singapore) speaking on this passage st St Luke’s Brighton when Ian Barclay was there (1975/6). He spoke about the B.O.R.E. of mission/
    Based on Christ’s Authority
    Obedient to Christ’s Command
    Relying on Christs Resources
    Expecting Christ’s Return.

    May be a useful outline for some preaching on this on Sunday?

    Thank you for your helpful insights.

  3. Thank you Ian. The whole video is thoughtful and draws on your scholarship and knowledge of the text.

    On the Trinity, I personally do find it helpful to consider the three ‘persons’ of the Trinity as an eternal community, as I think that offers us a sense of how we too are being called and drawn into the eternal household of God, both in the ‘future’, and now today as we in turn try to live in community. I find the model useful, even bearing in mind your valid point that our human exploration of community may (for all we know) strikingly diverge from that community of God. But community is so fundamental and important.

    As we try to build community here on earth, I find it encouraging to reflect that ‘community’ (and sharing of intention, values, thinking) may reflect and incline us in some ways towards that eternal community of three Persons, one consciousness. The sharing of consciousness is of course very constrained here on Earth (though I suggest there can be collective experiences) but contemplative practice can sometimes open people’s minds to God’s shared consciousness, hard as that is to comprehend except in part. Sharing and giving to each other in community or family may well reflect an eternal (and far deeper) sharing and giving within the community of God, that goes on relationally in all eternity, being part of God’s very nature.

    Whether, as you question, thoughts on the Trinity are more productive than a focus on the lectionary reading as a whole, is a good point. But I do think there is value in sometimes affirming and reflecting on the Trinity, not only as implicit Christian doctrine, but as something profound and instructive about the very nature of God. And if so, Trinity Sunday would be an understandable occasion in the Church Year when it might be done.

    But once again, thank you – I loved the preceding 20+ minutes and its detailed attention to text. That section in itself is packed with helpful detail, and would offer valuable material for Sunday’s sermon on its own.

    • Dear Susannah;

      Thanks for your interesting thoughts.

      I agree with you that the ‘Trinity’ is a “model” (or, theory) of God’s nature, which is an “implicit Christian doctrine” (by which I assume you mean implicit [at best] in the New Testament).

      How do feel about James’ comment (if I heard him correctly) that people shouldn’t really use the term ‘persons’ in relation to the nature of God? I was reading yesterday, one Trinitarian apologist who defined the ‘Trinity’ as being “One God, but having three centres of consciousness”. In your comments, you mentioned God being a “community of three persons” but with “one consciousness.” Would you say that there is a lot of variation in the way Anglicans express the concept of the ‘Trinity’ ?

      God bless you, Susannah.

      • If he was saying ” three centres of consciousness” he hasn’t realised that the word Person ( Latin persona) has changed its meaning from the term as used in classical Trinitarian doctrine.

        • Thanks for that, Perry.

          So how would you personally have a go, if asked, at explaining the ‘Trinity’ to someone ?

          • Well St Patrick used the shamrock. In sermons I have used Fred.
            To his friends and family he is Fred
            To his parents he is Son
            To his daughter he is father.
            But he is still the one and same Fred
            Ok rather the economic than the essential Trinity. Karl Barth could no doubt do it better.

          • The Trinity is God as Christians understand Him.But persona ( Latin) or hyperstasis ( Greek) isn’t the same as a modern person seen as a centre of self-conscious activity and initiative.
            Three persons doesn’t mean three personalities
            Alister McGrath has written a good little book for the layperson

      • Dear Pellegrino, I do not really wish to extend my comment further, but put it this way: I believe that (in human terms) you can have individuality within a shared community, but still share a common life and – in a sense – a common consciousness, of devotion, and shared work in service. God is obviously different, but my tentative experience of contemplative state suggests to me that individual personality is not erased… our eternal souls are deeply precious to God… and yet there is also the opening to the great expanse of the consciousness of God. If we are made in the image of God… to live in union with God… then who God is might also be said to have individualities within the One great divine consciousness. But that’s all I’m saying on this page.

        Grace of God be with you, Pellegrino.

          • Modalism, well yes. Though my sermon has rather more in it to balance. But all analogies are imperfect. What is your best sermon illustration then Ian. The pulpit isn’t the parish study group.

          • But if the only illustrations we use are heretical, best to drop them, eh?

            The best illustration for me comes from Mike Higton’s one syllable sermon: ‘God is the one to whom we pray; God is the one who prays with us; God is the one who prays in and through us.’

          • All analogies are imperfect. Yes modalism but my sermon has other bits in it!! And sermon illustrations are different from what you say in a study group.
            As I said Karl Barth could do better. So what illustration would you use Ian to a relatively oordinary country congregation?

  4. I think James is absolutely right in saying that the ‘Trinity’ belief should not be preached from the pulpit, and that our focus should be upon Jesus, and the explicit Word of God.

    Matthew’s Gospel makes it perfectly clear that the Father’s divine revelation to Peter, was that Jesus was “The Messiah, the Son of the Living God”. ( Matt. 16:15-17) This Living God, according to Unitarian, monotheistic Jews, was always the Father (John 8:54; Mark 12:28-34; Deut. 6:4; Exodus 3:15 = Isa. 63:16; 64:8 – see the ‘New Jerusalem Bible’, ‘The Emphasized Bible; the ‘Lexham English Bible’, et al). Jesus too, believed that the Father was ‘the Only True God’, and told us that the Father was His God, and our God. (John 17:3; John 20:17; Rev. 3:2; 3:12). This is why Paul tells us that there is only one God, who is the Father, and there is only one Messianic lord, Jesus (1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:4-6). One didn’t need to become a sophisticated Greek philosopher in the First century CE, in order to become a Christian.

    • Dear Pellegrino,

      You cite John, but John also wrote:

      “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

      This of course a conscious echo of the original ‘bereshit bara’ in Genesis where the Elohim spoke creation into being, so that John is deliberately identifying Jesus with that divine action, not to mention in Genesis we also have the Spirit brooding over the waters.

      Trinity is inherent and present from the beginning, but this recognition has to be teased out of first Christian believers – Jesus making repeat attributions to himself which could only rightly be attributions for God, and pressing the question of who He really was, until Thomas finally voiced it: “My Lord and my God.”

      But as John stated plainly: the Word was God.

      good wishes,


      • Dear Susannah;

        Thanks for your interesting comments (as usual).

        I haven’t forgotten you, and I’ll be making a start soon, at addressing the interesting issues you raised. (Deo volente).

        Stay tuned. Have a good day. God bless. 🙂

      • Dear Susannah;

        John 1:1 does NOT say :

        ” In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was God”.

        This is what British Evangelical Theologian Dr. Colin Brown (Former Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, and the General Editor of the ‘New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology’) says :

        “It is a common but patent misreading of the opening of John’s Gospel to read it as if it said, ‘ In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was God.’ What has happened here is the substitution of ‘Son’ for Word (Gk. logos) and thereby the Son is made a member of the Godhead which existed from the beginning'”.

        ‘Trinity and Incarnation : Towards a Contemporary Orthodoxy’, Ex Auditu, 7, 1991, p. 89.

        The ‘Word’ in John 1:1 is probably a personification of Yahweh Father God’s ‘Creative Utterance’, as mentioned in Genesis : thus, ‘God said …and it was’.

        By His Word, Yahweh Father God (Who is the ONLY true God; Deut. 6:4; John 17:3; Mark 12:29; Rev. 1:8) expresses Himself. Father God’s ultimate expression of Himself was eventually realized in a human being (mentioned at John 1:14). Until then, the ‘Word’ in John 1, is just a personification (as too, is Father God’s ‘Wisdom’, in Proverbs chapter 8). Thomas’ words in John 20:28 have to be understood against the crucial background of Thomas and Philip’s conversation with Jesus, in John 14:4-11. Our Father God spiritually indwelt Jesus to such an extent, that to see Jesus, was to spiritually ‘see’, the Father (Who is the ONLY true God). Thus, when Thomas eventually came to full faith, he saw in Jesus the Father, Who is the ONLY true God. This is why Jesus tells us that OUR GOD, and HIS GOD, is THE FATHER (see John 20:17), because THE FATHER IS THE ONLY TRUE GOD ( John 17:3; Rev. 1:8).

        As Anglican scholars like Geoffrey H. Lampe, Maurice Wiles, and James D.G. Dunn have stated, the ‘Spirit of Yahweh’ God is not an independent hypostasis to Yahweh God himself – otherwise, the holy Spirit would be the one who was ‘really’ Jesus’ Father. The holy Spirit in the Bible is never sung to, never prayed to, never worshipped, and never sends greetings in Paul’s epistles. The holy Spirit is the power of Yahweh God, and or the personal presence of Yahweh God, which is conveyed to us, via His power. After His resurrection, the presence of Jesus is also conveyed to us, via the holy Spirit. The holy Spirit in the New Testament is therefore, the spiritual operational presence of either God (the Father), and/or, Jesus. In John 14, the ‘Parakletos’ is Jesus Himself, coming back to us, in spiritual form (cf. John 16:25, where Jesus explained that His discourses on the ‘Parakletos’ were expressed in an allegorical or figurative, manner).

        There is only one true God, who is the Father (Deut. 6:4; John 17:3; Rev. 1:8)

        There is only One Messianic lord (‘adoni’ in Psalm 110:1, which is a non-Deity title) Who is Jesus (1 Cor. 8:6).

        As Anglican Canon, Anthony E. Harvey has noted, the New Testament never breaks the bounds of Jewish monotheism. (cf. John 20:31).

        May the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor.1:3; Eph. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3) bless you, dear Susannah.

  5. From Professor George Beasley-Murray’s standard work on baptism – “Baptism in the New Testament” (Eerdmans; 1962), p. 83 – regarding our ‘longer ending’ to Matthew 28:10 (as opposed to the shorter ‘Eusebian’ ending, which includes : “make disciples in my [i.e. Jesus’] name”) :

    ” A whole group of exegetes and critics have recognized that the opening declaration of Matthew 28:18 demands a Christological statement to follow it : “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” leads us to expect as a consequence, “Go and make disciples unto Me amongst all nations, baptizing them in My name, teaching them to observe all things I commanded you.” In fact, the first and third clauses have that significance : It looks as though the second clause has been modified from a Christological to a Trinitarian formula in the interests of the [later] liturgical tradition.”

    David A. Hagner in ‘The World Bible Commentary’ (1995) “Matthew 14-28”, p. 887-88 concurs with Beasley-Murray, that the original shorter ending to Matthew 28:19 has been modified. Unfortunately, our oldest biblical manuscript evidence for Matt. 28:19 only goes back to the late fourth century CE.

      • In my wrestling and in my doubts
        In my failures You won’t walk out
        Your great love will lead me through
        You are the peace in my troubled sea, oh o
        My lighthouse…

          • Steve – before you go, how do you get your emoji’s up ? I’ve been trying to use some emoji’s via Microsoft Edge, but they don’t print out.

    • Steve –

      That’s Great ! ; but are suggesting that Bing AI’s artistic capabilities are not too far short of your own ? I hope not, otherwise AI may soon be taking over the world.

      • Well, I had to imagine The image of Jesus in Revelation, gold sash, face like the sun etc and then combine it with the Trinity lighthouse authority to make a pun. The AI did the boring bit. I did another standing on a rock in a stormy sea. Jesus the Lighthouse.
        Ps you’ve never head of Trinity House , London I suppose?

  6. Re Matthias and Acts 2:14. ‘Peter, standing with the eleven.’ The eleven includes Matthias, making 12 in total.

    ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ (Matt 28:19) is not a name, let alone one name. The name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is Jesus. The significance of a name (in any language or culture) is that it is by a person’s name that a person is known. Ian appositely refers to Phil 2:10. God the Father has made himself known in the person of Jesus, and is personally known through the Holy Spirit.

    Even more apposite is Acts 2:38, where Peter is talking about baptism, picking up on Jesus’s closing commission in Matthew. He doesn’t say, “Be baptised in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” but “Be baptised in the name of Jesus”. Same in Acts 19:5. The gift of the Holy Spirit follows.

  7. In perusing the perigrinations of this thread might I recomend an email exchange between Frank W. Nelte and Sir Anthony Buzzard
    a well known Unitarian, in 2010 here:-

    OR article directory
    Unitarianism Correspondence with Wade Cox regarding
    Unitarianism: An Answer to Sir Anthony Buzzard

    Very interesting in defining the two polar position oft debated on Ian’s threads, ad nauseum.

    • Thank you, Alan.

      Good research.

      Hopefully the material you have supplied represents a perfectly fair and balanced presentation of the all the relevant facts, discussed in a Christ-like spirit, and with a concern that truth should prevail.

      If people are supplied fairly with all the facts, then they can make up their own minds.

      God bless you, Alan; and have a good day 🙂


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