Statement of Faith: Article 1 (God)

Jesse Neustadter   -  

Article 1: “We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.”

The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy contains a key verse that resonates throughout the entire Bible.  It’s called the Shema, which is the Hebrew verb meaning “to hear.”  It’s a verse that I was required to memorize in the original language when I was a college student because it is so fundamental to everything that we know, not just about the Bible, but about reality and life itself.  The verse simply says, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4).  With this verse, the Bible sets apart the God of the Israelites as distinct, uniquely different from the gods of the surrounding cultures.  In an ancient world, filled with hundreds of competing deities, the Bible was claiming that there is only one God.  The next verse is just as important, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5).  Since there is only one God, He alone is worthy of our love, our devotion, our worship.

In Psalm 115, the psalmist contrasts the One true God with the gods that are made out of silver and gold.  The psalmist says that God is in heaven and He does whatever he pleases.  In contrast, the gods made of silver and gold, also called idols, are lifeless and helpless.  They have eyes, but cannot see; ears, but they cannot hear.  The One true God is self existent, in need of nothing and no person.  Idols need us to create them, to give them significance, because otherwise they do not exist.  Then the psalmist says something that is so perceptive about the gods we create.  He writes, “Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:8).  If idols are helpless and lifeless, those who set them up as objects of worship will become like them.  Essentially, we begin to bear the image of what we worship and love.

We were created to know and to love the One true God.  We have the ability to set up gods in His place.  The gods we create probably aren’t images made out of silver or gold.  The gods we create might be relationships with other people, our careers, our finances, our possessions, or any other number of things.  When we create these gods in our lives, we might believe that they serve us.  But they will inevitably begin to shape us into their image and, when they do, we will be left empty. 

While we affirm that He is One God, we believe that He exists in three persons.  This belief that God is three in One is called the doctrine of the Trinity.  The word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, but is inferred from the biblical account.  When the first ecumenical (meaning “universal”) councils of the early church convened in Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon in the 4th and 5th centuries, they met together to reconcile what the New Testament books say about the deity of Jesus with the view that God is One.  They did a remarkable job of rejecting incorrect views while landing on the truths affirmed in Scripture about the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The brilliance of the statements and creeds that were born out of the councils is found in what is left unsaid.  They did not try to explain the Trinity through metaphor or philosophy.  They simply let Scripture shape their doctrine, allowing the Trinity to remain shrouded in mystery.  But on page after page of the New Testament, as well as allusions found in the Old Testament, we see the reality of One God, appearing as three distinct, yet equal, persons.  

The doctrine of the Trinity is not some dry truth that we simply nod to in agreement.  The book Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, contains a chapter entitled “The Three Personal God.”  Lewis writes, “An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers.  He is trying to get in touch with God.  But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him.  But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God – that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him… the whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in the ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers.”  Do you see why understanding God as three in One is so important?  He is three in One, that is who He is.  And this reality has implications for every part of our relationship with Him.

At SVC, let’s push forward to know this great God in all of His complexity.  Only He is worthy of our worship.  Let’s not set up gods in His place, but let’s worship Him.  And as we worship Him, may we become more and more like Him in the process.