Final Doctrinal Statement on God

Recently, I posted a few blog posts on a synthetic definition of God that included a doctrinal belief on the trinity, God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Spirit (Holy Spirit). After posting that, I realized there was a couple of items that were left out that I wanted to include. Instead of posting very similar posts all over again, I thought it best just to publish the whole doctrinal statement (aka synthetic definition) on God. The changes are minimal but will hopefully add a little more definition and clarity on the different Persons of the Trinity.

DOCTRINAL STATEMENT OF GOD

I believe in the Holy Trinity. I believe in one true God, that eternally exists as three Persons –Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and that these three are one God.[1] I believe that God is one in essence, three in Person each fully God and equally God each equal in nature, attributes and glory, and worthy of worship and obedience.[2] I believe the three Persons of the Trinity to be God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.[3] I believe that none is greater or less than the other but all equal and united.[4] I believe that the primary names[5] of God are Adonai[6], Elohim[7] and Yahweh[8] as revealed in the inspired Scriptures for His creation to call Him.[9] I believe that the Triune God is perfect[10], immutable[11], eternal[12], omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.[13] In God being very God, He is true, holy, just, good, faithful, loving, merciful and gracious.[14] God is beyond all human comprehension.[15]

I believe in one God, the Father[16], the all-powerful Lord and Master, the Glorious and Majestic God of all. I believe that God is the Creator and Maker of heaven and earth, and all that is seen and unseen.[17] He is the only God, the Creator and Sustainer, the Most High One, the Lord.[18] The Father is completely self-existent, self-sufficient and free.[19] I believe the Father is the Divine Source[20], Sovereign Ruler[21], Lord Chief Justice[22], Compassionate Reconciler[23], Him to Whom All Things Return[24], and the Father of the Son.[25]

I believe in the One and Only Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, eternally begotten of God the Father, being God from God and of the same Being as the Father, not created.[26] I believe that through Him all things were created and are sustained.[27] I believe that Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, became incarnate[28] and received a sinless human nature.[29] I believe that He was at the same time truly God[30] and truly man[31], being at once in two natures fully human and fully God with the essences of each being preserved.[32] I believe that the eternal Son of God came into this world fulfilling Scriptures that He might manifest God and redeem fallen humanity as a ransom for all.[33] I believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Sacrificial Lamb that atoned the sin of the world saving all those who believe in Him from the righteous judgments that God must execute to satisfy His wrath.[34] I believe Jesus was crucified, dead and buried and on third day rose from the grave in accordance with Scripture; He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father.[35] I believe that He is the Christians’ Mediator to God and will come again to judge all mankind.[36]

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, and that He is of God the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.[37] I believe that He is to be worshiped and glorified just as the Father and Son.[38] I believe that He is the promised Counselor indwelling every believer according to the divine promise and by His baptism unites all to Christ in one body.[39] I believe the Holy Spirit is a divine Person evidenced by His intelligence, volition, and emotions;[40] yet functions as the personal presence of God in the world.[41] He spoke through the prophets to produce the inspired Scriptures.[42] I believe the Spirit is active in the world today helping unbelievers come to know Christ, empowering the church, and leading believers into holiness to exemplify Christ.[43] I believe that that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an unforgiveable sin.[44]

[1] J.I. Packer, Knowing God, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 20. “…[S]ince ‘God is spirit,’ ‘Holy Spirit’ can be predicated of the whole Trinity; the Father and Son both being ‘spirit,’ and both ‘holy’… But the Holy Spirit, as a proper name in the Trinity, is relative to the Father and the Son, since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son.” – Augustine, De Trinitate 5.12, in Henry Bettenson, ed., The Later Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Cyril of Jerusalem to St. Leo the Great, trans. H. Bettenson (London: Oxford Univ. 1970) 231. Deut 6:4-5; Matt 28:18-19; Mark 12:29; John 14:6-17; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor 13:14; Col 1:13-19.

[2] Athanasian Creed lines 3-20. The Creed speaks to the Father, the Son and the Spirit each uncreated, incomprehensible, eternal, almighty; yet they are not three “almighties,” “eternals,” “uncreateds” and “incomprehensibles” but one. Each is God and Lord. “It is most important that we think of God as Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.” – cf A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, (New York: HarperOne, 1961), 20. “Within God’s one, undivided being is an ‘unfolding’ into three personal distinctions. These personal distinctions are modes of existence within the divine being, but are not divisions of the divine being.” – cf Matt Perman, “What is the Doctrine of the Trinity,” http://www.desiringgod.org, Jan 23, 2006 (accessed Oct 8, 2014). Also see Dallas Theological Seminary Article II from Doctrinal Statements, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement. John 1:14; 2 Cor 13:14; Heb 1:1-3; Rev 1:4-6.

[3] Athanasian Creed lines 3-20.  Matt 28:19; John 15:26; 1 Cor 8:6.

[4] Athanasian Creed lines 25, 27. “The Persons of the Godhead… have one will. They work always together…. Every act of God is accomplished by the Trinity in Unity…. It is a real if understandable error to conceive of the… [Trinity] as conferring with one another and reaching agreement by interchange of though as humans do.” – cf A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, 22. “When we speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together we are not speaking of any greater being than when we speak of the Father alone, the Son alone, or the Holy Spirit alone.” And “the being of each Person is equal to the whole being of God.” – cf Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 255.

[5] God is called by many names but these are the most predominant names that are found in Scripture. Other names include: ALL POWERFUL (2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17); ANCIENT OF DAYS (Dan 7:9); FATHER (Rom 1:7; 8:15; Gal 4:6; James 1:27; 1 Pet 1:3); HOLY ONE, MOST HOLY (Isa 1:4; 6:3, Rev 16:5); JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH (Gen 18:25); MASTER, LORD, SOVEREIGN LORD (Luke 2:29; Jude 1:4); KING/MY KING (Ps 5:2; 44:4; 1Tim 6:15); MY LORD, MY HUSBAND (Hos 2:16); ROCK OF ISRAEL (Gen 49:24); SHEPHERD, MY SHEPHERD (Gen 48:15; Ps 23:1).

[6] Adonai literally means “my lords, or master, lord, Lord.” It is found 425 times and is used exclusively of the true God, often together with Yahweh (310 times, 2 Sam 7:18). – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, Chapter 1 God’s Names and Attributes, ST102 unpublished class notes, DTS, 2. Gen 15:2; 18:3; Ps 35:23; 110:1.

[7] Elohim literally means “powerful ones or God, gods or most high ones.” It is found 2,602 times in the OT and describes God as Creator-Sustainer of the universe, usually translated as “God” in the NT. Typically, it stands in direct relation to Yahweh and Adonai (Deut 10:7) – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, Chapter 1 God’s Names and Attributes, ST102 unpublished class notes, DTS, 1. Gen 1:1; Ex 20:2-3.

[8] Yahweh (or YHWH) means “LORD, I AM; Jehovah.” It is probably from the verb “to be,” and found 6,828 times in the Old Testament. Generally it is God’s personal name in covenant with His creation (Gen 2:4) and His people, especially Israel (Ex 3:13-15). In the New Testament, it is typically translated Lord, related to “I AM” in Ex 3:13-15, see John 8:58 – cf cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, Chapter 1 God’s Names and Attributes, ST102 unpublished class notes, DTS, 2. Gen 9:26; 12:8; 15:2,8; Ex 3:14; Is 16:4.

[9] Ex 3:13-15; Jdg 13:17-18; Gen 2:4. Other sources for the doctrine of the Trinity include acts of God in history such as the resurrection, the apostolic and Christian tradition such as the Nicene Creed, and the threefold experience of the Christian God. While God has progressively revealed Himself to creation, the Bible is the foundational source for the doctrine of the Trinity and God’s revelation about Himself. The importance of God’s name is: they reveal His Person (Ex 3:13-15; Jdg 13:17-18), represent Him (Ps 8:1; 75:1) and are therefore sacred (Ex 20:7; Matt 6:9).

[10] God is the definition of the measure or standard of all that is right, excellent, worthy and complete. Deut 32:4, Hab 1:13; Ps 18:30; Matt 5:48; 1 Tim 4:4.

[11] God never differs from Himself. “God cannot change for the better. Since He is perfectly holy, He has never been less holy than He is now and can never be holier than He is and has always been. Neither can God change for the worse. Any deterioration within the unspeakably holy nature of God is impossible…. All that God is He has always been, and all that He has been and is He will ever be.” Any attempt to think of God as changing, that object is no longer God and becomes something less than He is. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 49-50. Ps 102:27; Mal 3:6.

[12] God exists infinitely before when time began, everlasting (in time) but also stands outside of time.

[13] Incommunicable attributes of God. “God is at once far off and near, and that in Him men move and live and have their being….There is no limit to His presence…He surrounds the finite creation and contains it. There is no place beyond Him for anything to be.” – cf A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 74. God is both transcendent (beyond and outside of creation; 1 Kings 8:27; Isa 40:12-28) and immanent (God is everywhere sustaining creation but is not creation itself; Jer 23:23; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:3).

[14] Communicable attributes of God. True: Job 9:4; Ps 33:10-11; John 17:3; Rom 11:33. Holy: Lev 19:2, 21:8; Ps 24:3, 99:3. Good: Ps 25:8, 34:8. Faithful: Deut 7:9; Ps 25:10. Loving: John 17:24; Rom 5:8; 1 John 4:8, Merciful: 2 Sam 24:14; Ps 86:16; Luke 1:78. Gracious: Ex 34:6; Ps 103:8; Eph 2:4-5.

[15] Athanasian Creed, line 9. “The intellect knoweth that it is ignorant of Thee because it knoweth Thou canst not be known, unless the unknowable could be known, and the invisible beheld and the inaccessible attained.” – cf Nicholas of Cusa, The Vision of God (New York: E.P. Dutton & Sons, 1928) 60. Job 36:26; Ps 139:6; Rom 11:33.

[16] Deut 32:6; 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 68:5; Jn 6:27, Rom 1:7, Eph 4:6. “[T]he term God or theos generally denotes the person of the Father, with only a few important exceptions.” Dr. J. Scott Horrell, Chapter 3 God the Father who Draws Near, ST102 class notes, DTS, 7. “Everything that Christ taught… is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. ‘Father’ is the Christian name for God.” J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 224.

[17] Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

[18] God reveals His name most frequently as Yahweh (LORD, I AM), Elohim (powerful ones or God, gods), and Adonai (Lord, master).

[19] God does not originate from or depend on anything outside of Himself. He sustains all things and is necessarily self-existent. Job 41:11; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:35-36.

[20] Acts 17:24-25, 28; Eph 1:11, 4:6; Rev 4:11.

[21] Deut 10:14, 17; 1 Chron 29:11-12; Matt 11:25; 1 Tim 6:15.

[22] Gen 18:25; Ex 12:12; Lev 18:4; Luke 23:34; John 8:15-16.

[23] John 3:16; Acts 14:15-17; 1 John 4:8, 16; 2 Cor 5:18-19.

[24] 1 Cor 15:24-28; Col 1:20; Rev 1:8, 21:22, 22:13.

[25] To explain the doctrine of the Trinity more fully, a distinction between essence and persons is helpful. It is helpful to remember that each member of the Trinity is present in every act of God, either in a primary or a secondary role. The one divine essence includes attributes that are equally shared by each member of the Godhead, but these six roles are predominantly ascribed to the Father. Other roles and activities of the Father include: God as husband and Judah/Israel as wife (Hos 2:2-16; Jer 3:1-14); the potter with human beings as the clay (Isa 45:9-10; Rom 9:21-24); the good Shepherd of the sheep (Ps 23; John 10:11-16); and the Vinedresser, with Jesus as the vine, and the believers the branches (John 15:1-8) – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, Chapter 3 God the Father who Draws Near, ST102 class notes, DTS, 13. In reference to God as the Father of the Son, see: Luke 23:24; John 3:16, 8:15-16, 17:5, 24.

[26] Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, John 1:1-18; John 10:30. Jesus states that He has every right to the claim of oneness with the God because the Father has sent him into the world (10:36) and “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (10:38). Also, “If the Word [Jesus] were a created being, then he would have had to create himself for any and all creation came into existence through him: ‘without him was not any thing made that was made’ (1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2)” – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, Chapter 4: God Made Flesh, ST102OL Class Notes, DTS, 11.

[27] One role of Jesus Christ was His involvement in creation. Col 1:16-17 summarizes that Christ is the creator, sustainer, and the purpose of all created existence. John 1:3, “Through him all things were made.” “He was the Father’s agent in every act of making that the Father has ever performed.” – cf J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 56. “In him was life…” (John 1:4) speaks of Jesus animating, that is all things exist in and through Him, or are sustained in him.

[28] Incarnate means to become flesh. This is God himself becoming human as Jesus entered physically into the world and became human like us. It is only God who could pay for our sins, therefore God the Son became man to provide atonement for mankind’s sins. “He [Jesus] had not ceased to be God; he was no less God than before; but he had begun to be man. He was not now God minus some elements of his deity, but God plus all that he had made his own by taking manhood to himself” J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 57. Heb 2:17; John 1:1, 14; 1 Pet 2:24.

[29] Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, Luke 1:30-35; Luke 2:40; John 1:18; Phil 2:5-8.

[30] Phil 2:6-7: “who though he was in the form of God… made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Italics mine). Of special note is the term “form” (morphē) which “denotes outward appearance that reveals an inward reality…. The ‘morphē of God’ denotes the heavenly glory… that reveals Christ’s innate deity.” – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, Chapter 4: God Made Flesh, ST102OL Class Notes, 17. Douglas McCready states, the only one who can enjoy the status of God is God Himself.” – cf Douglas McCready, He Came Down from Heaven: The Preexistence of Christ and the Christian Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 77.

[31] A major argument is also found in Phil 2:7 over the term “emptied” (himself), which the theological term kenosis (the “self-emptying” of Christ) is derived. Some have argued that because Christ “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” then He could not have been God. Instead this shows the example of Jesus that because He was “in the form of God” and already existed as God, He “made himself nothing,” becoming a humble human. Kenosis says that “in order to be fully human, the Son had to renounce some of his divine qualities, otherwise he could not have shared the experience of being limited in space, time, knowledge and consciousness which is essential to truly human life.” J.I. Packer, Knowing God, 59. Packer argues why this theory is wrong by showing that when Paul spoke of the Son having emptied himself and became poor, it was not about Jesus laying aside his divine powers and attributes but of his divine glory and dignity citing John 17:5, “the glory I had with you before the world began.” Packer states that there “is no Scripture support for the idea of the Son’s shedding any aspects of his deity” (60). Regarding the controversial text of Mark 13:32 where Jesus says He does not know the time of His return, Packer insists that Jesus lived not as an independently divine person, but as a dependent one. While Jesus was on earth it was not a new relationship with the Father occasioned by the Incarnation, “but the continuation in time of the eternal relationship between the Son and Father in heaven…. The Son was utterly dependent on the Father’s will…. His knowing, like the rest of his activity, was bounded by his Father’s will. And therefore the reason why he was ignorant of (for instance) the date of his return was not that he had given up the power to know all things at the Incarnation, but that the Father had not willed that he should have this particular piece of knowledge while on earth, prior to his passion” (62). Matt 28:18, 20; John 21:17; Eph 4:10.

[32] Chalcedonian Definition states, “the Same perfect in Godhead, the Same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the Same [consisting] of a rational soul and a body; one essence [homoousios] with the Father as to his Godhead, and one essence [homoousios] with us as to his manhood; in all things like unto us, sin only excepted…. One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, made known in two natures [which exist] without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the difference of the natures having been in no wise taken away by reason of the union, but rather the properties of each being preserved, and [both] concurring into one Person (prosopon) and one hypostasis— not parted or divided into two Persons (prosopa), but one and the same Son and Only-begotten….” The hypostatic (meaning personal) union is the personal union of Jesus’ two natures. This doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches that these two natures are united in one person. Jesus is not two persons, but one. It is the joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus. This means that Jesus is not half God and half man. He is fully and completely God and man. He never lost His divinity. Athanasian Creed formulates it as, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man… perfect God, and perfect man…who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.” Col 2:9; Heb 1:3. For more on hypostatic union see J.I. Packer, Knowing God; Matt Perman, “How can Jesus be God and Man,”desiringgod.org, October 5, 2006 (accessed October 8, 2014).

[33] John 3:16; Phil 3:20-21.

[34] John 1:29; Rom 3:25-26; 2 Cor 5:14; 1 Pet 3:18

[35] Acts 2:22-24; 1 Tim 2:6; John 20:20.

[36] Athanasian Creed, line 40. Apostles Creed, line 7. Jesus as Mediator: 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 9:15.

[37] Athanasian Creed. The Spirit is found active in creation, bring life to the universe (Gen 1:2; 2:7; Job 33:4; Ps 33:6, 104:30). The Holy Spirit has been referred to as such in Ps 51:11 and Isaiah 63:10-11. Similar to the Hebrew word ruah, pneuma in the Greek describes the Spirit as “the Spirit of God” or “Spirit of the Father,” or “Son.” – cf F.W. Horn, “Holy Spirit,” Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed David Noel Freedman, 6 vols, (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 3:265. The clearest evidence of the Holy Spirit’s divinity comes from the baptismal formula of Matt 28:19, “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Also see John 15:26 (“the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father” KJV); 2 Cor 3:17-18. Counselor: John 14:16, 16:7. Also called Advocate and Comforter (John 14:26).

[38] Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. All the divine attributes that God has, the Spirit has (Isa: 40:13,14; 1 Cor 2:10-13; Ps 139:7-9; Heb 10:29; 1 Pet 4:14); and likewise, the Spirit does what the Father and Son do but often times in a complementary role (Gen 1:2; Ps 33:6; Isa 40:12; John 16:8-11). The Holy Spirit may also be described as a divine Person in that He has His own intelligence (2 Cor 2:10-13), has affections and emotions (Acts 9:31; Rom 8:26; Eph 4:30), and in the same way the Son submitted to the Father, so the Spirit submits to the will of the Father and the Son. John 16:13-14; Acts 7:51, 15:28; 1 Cor 12:11.

[39] John 14:16-17; John 16:7-15; Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 6:9; Eph 2:22; Eph 4:3-6. “Virtually all the divine ministrations to Christians are accomplished by the Holy Spirit—regeneration, baptism, sealing, indwelling, anointing, etc. Even more directly, to resist (Acts 7:51), quench (1 Thess. 5:19), grieve (Eph. 4:30) or insult the Spirit (Heb. 10:29) is to do so to God.” – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, The Other Comforter, ST102OL Class Notes, DTS, 15.

[40] In general, a person is both a self-conscious entity and a relational being. “Should the Holy Spirit (already seen to be divine) evidence such characteristics [intelligence, volition, and emotion] in his relationship to the Father, Christ, and believers, then this Spirit should well be considered a person in the same sense as the Father and the Son.” Intelligence: “The Spirit demonstrates a divine intelligence which appears at once one with and yet distinct from the mind of God the Father.” See Isa 40:15-17; 1 Cor 2:10-14. Affection/Emotion: The Spirit sympathizes and supports the believer. The title Counselor suggests affective engagement of the Spirit with the believer and cares for and involves himself with each believer. See Acts 9:31; Rom 8:26; Heb 10:29. Volition: The will of the Spirit is manifested obliquely. It is the Spirit that leads the believer into a more Christlike nature. John intends for the reader to see as the Son submitted his will to the Father, in the same way the Spirit subjects His will to the Son and the Father. John 5:19, 30; 6:38; 8:50; Acts 5:9; 7:51; 13:2; 15:28; 1 Cor 12:11. – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, The Other Comforter, unpublished ST102OL Class Notes, DTS, 16-19.

[41] Stephen and Philip were chosen as those “known to be full of the Spirit” (Acts 6:3-5). When turning to trust in him and to receive God’s gift of salvation, the believer senses an infusion of the Lord’s presence into their innermost self – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, The Other Comforter, unpublished ST102OL Class Notes, DTS, 2 -3. Gen 41:38; Deut 34:9; Luke 4:18, Acts 4:8, 31.

[42] 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20-21.

[43] The Spirit “teaches us to pray, illumines us to the significance of Scripture for our lives, gives gifts to each believer for the building up of the church, and empowers our ministries with eternal consequences.” – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, The Other Comforter, ST102OL Class Notes, DTS, 21. 1 Cor 12:4, 8, 13:14

[44] “One of the most convincing arguments… of the Spirit’s deity is Matthew’s record of Jesus’ teaching on the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:30-32).” This provides another argument for the Holy Spirit’s divine personhood. – cf Dr. J. Scott Horrell, The Other Comforter, unpublished ST102OL Class Notes, DTS, 20-21.

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One thought on “Final Doctrinal Statement on God

  1. Pingback: Continuation of Terms Regarding Christ and the Spirit | Seeking Our God

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