INSIGHTS FROM CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS

 

A.THE TRINITY IN HISTORIC CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS

The Apostles’ Creed [an early creed, date unknown]

‘I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Creator of heaven and earth,
    and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
    born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
    and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
    whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and life everlasting.’

 

The Nicene Creed [AD 325]

‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. ‘

 

The Definition of Chalcedon 451AD

‘Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.’

 

The Athanasian Creed [5th century AD]

 

  1. ‘Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
  2. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
  3. Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance
  4. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.
  5. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
  6. Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit.
  7. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Spirit uncreate.
  8. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
  9. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
  10. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
  11. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
  12. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;
  13. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
  14. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
  15. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
  16. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
  17. And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
  18. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord;
  19. so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say: There are three Gods or three Lords.
  20. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
  21. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
  22. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
  23. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
  24. And in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.
  25. But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal.
  26. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
  27. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
  28. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  29. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
  30. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and made of the substance of His mother, born in the world.
  31. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
  32. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
  33. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
  34. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.
  35. One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
  36. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
  37. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
  38. He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty;
  39. From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
  40. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
  41. And shall give account of their own works.
  42. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
  43. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved. ‘

 

The Augsburg Confession [1530]

‘Article I: Of God.

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term "person" they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil- also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that "Word" signifies a spoken word, and "Spirit" signifies motion created in things.’

 

The Belgic Confession [1618]

Article 8: The Trinity

In keeping with this truth and Word of God we believe in one God, who is one single essence, in whom there are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties-- namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and source of all things, visible as well as invisible.

The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father.

The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics-- yet in such a way that these three persons are only one God.

It is evident then that the Father is not the Son and that the Son is not the Father, and that likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.

Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither divided nor fused or mixed together.

For the Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Spirit, but only the Son.

The Father was never without his Son, nor without his Holy Spirit, since all these are equal from eternity, in one and the same essence.

There is neither a first nor a last, for all three are one in truth and power, in goodness and mercy.

 

The Westminster Confession [1646]

CHAPTER II. Of God, and of the Holy Trinity.

I. There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his won glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal most just and terrible in his judgments; hating all sin; and who will by no means clear the guilty.

II. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

III. In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

 

B. GOD THE CREATOR IN HISTORIC CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS

The Apostles’ Creed

‘I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
    the Creator of heaven and earth’

The Nicene Creed

‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.’

 

The Second Helvetic Confession [1564]

‘God created all things. This good and almighty God created all things, both visible and invisible, by his co-eternal Word, and preserves them by his co-eternal Spirit, as David testified when he said: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps. 33:6). And, as Scripture says, everything that God had made was very good, and was made for the profit and use of man. … Therefore we condemn the Manichaeans and Marcionites who impiously imagined two substances and natures, one good, the other evil; also two beginnings and two gods contrary to each other, a good and an evil one.’

 

The Thirty-Nine Articles [1571]

‘There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of the Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.’

 

The Belgic Confession [1618]

‘We believe that the Father created heaven and earth and all other creatures from nothing, when it seemed good to him, by his Word-- that is to say, by his Son. He has given all creatures their being, form, and appearance, and their various functions for serving their Creator.‘

 

The Westminster Confession of Faith [1646]

‘It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.’

 

The Baptist Confession of Faith [1689]

‘In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.’

 

C. GOD AS JUDGE IN HISTORIC CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS

The Apostles’ Creed

‘He ascended into heaven
    and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
    whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.’

The Nicene Creed

‘ … and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.’

The Athanasian Creed

‘He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty;

From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

And shall give account of their own works.

And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.’

The Augsburg Confession

‘Article XVII: Of Christ's Return to Judgment.

Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end. …’

 

The Canons of Dordt

Article 1: God's Right to Condemn All People

Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the entire human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them on account of their sin. As the apostle says: The whole world is liable to the condemnation of God (Rom. 3:19), All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).*

 

The Belgic Confession

‘Article 37: The Last Judgment

Finally we believe, according to God's Word, that when the time appointed by the Lord is come (which is unknown to all creatures) and the number of the elect is complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty, to declare himself the judge of the living and the dead. He will burn this old world, in fire and flame, in order to cleanse it.

Then all human creatures will appear in person before the great judge-- men, women, and children, who have lived from the beginning until the end of the world.’

 

The Westminster Confession of Faith

CHAPTER XXXIII: Of the Last Judgment.

I. God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged; but likewise all persons, that have lived upon earth, shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.

II. The end of God's appointing this day, is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord: but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.

III. As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity: so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.