The first is about God the Father and our creation;
The second about God the Son and our redemption;
The third about God the Holy Spirit
And our sanctification.
Q. Since there is only one God,
Why do you speak of three persons,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Because God has so revealed himself in his Word
that these three distinct persons
are the one, true, eternal God.
There is no simpler definition of the Apostles’ Creed. Christians have differed on issues down through church history, but what ties them together is this statement of faith. To depart from it is to depart from the faith and to enter something else. Why? It’s because Christianity is rooted in something outside of us. We do not have faith in what we think of God. We worship God as he has revealed himself to us. This is not the buffet table at a church fellowship meal where we can load our plate with the dishes that we like and leave the things that don’t appeal to our tastes. Christianity is an all or nothing faith. This is something that cannot be stressed enough: to deny the faith summarized in the Apostles’ Creed is apostasy. Christians have had many disagreements over the centuries that have resulted in multiple, distinct traditions, but on this we cannot disagree. This is the fence that separates the pasture of the Church from the wilderness of the heretics and apostates. Jump this fence and you are no longer apart of the Church catholic. Jump this fence and you repudiate the faith. Jump this fence and…well, you get it.
This is serious, life and death, heaven and hell business. Theology matters.
Got it? Okay. Let’s continue.
The articles of the Christian faith are divided into three sections:
God the Father and Creation.
God the Son and our redemption.
God the Spirit and our sanctification.
Notice something? The Christian faith reflects the Triune God. This is the very first thing that the Christian needs to know: Who is God? Why do we speak of God as Father, Son, and Spirit since there is only one God? The short answer is because this is how God has revealed himself to us in his Word. The Bible teaches that there is one being that we call God and this one being exists as three coequal and coeternal persons. Please note these terms being and person. It is vitally important that we understand what we are talking about since a misunderstanding of the Trinity is usually at the heart of various religions and cults that deny the Trinity.
Please note, Christianity does not teach that there are three separate beings or three beings that exist as one being or three persons who are one person. We are talking about one being and three persons: one what and three whos. The what is the being or essence of God and the three whos are the Father, Son, and Spirit. We must not confuse these–to do so is to depart from the catholic, once delivered faith and into idolatry.
Notice something else here about how these articles are divided. Each person of the Trinity is attached to something in history of redemption. The Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Spirit sanctifies. This is the practical teaching of the Trinity. Each person has a role. The Father creates time and space and everything in it. The Father also elects and gathers a people for the Son to redeem. The Son enters into time and space and accomplishes the work of the Father. The Spirit applies the finished work of the Son and sanctifies the people that the Father elected and gathered for the Son.
Over the next several Lord’s Day, we will be walking through the Apostles’ Creed, phrase by phrase, and its practical implications in the Christian life. Eventually, we will arrive at this question: What does it comfort you to believe all this? Short answer: It is comforting. It is beneficial. And it is what the Christian is obligated to believe.
Calvinist Coulson -Phil is a confessing member in the United Reformed Churches of North America (URCNA) and holds a Bachelor of Theology. He and his wife are quietly saving the world while shepherding their three children. Follow him on Twitter at @XpCoulson.