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.
- All these things we know from the testimonies of Holy Scripture as well as from the effects of the persons, especially from those we feel within ourselves.The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us to believe in this Holy Trinity, are written in many places of the Old Testament, which need not be enumerated but only chosen with discretion.
In the book of Genesis God says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” So “God created man in his own image”– indeed, “male and female he created them.”^6 “Behold, man has become like one of us.”^7
It appears from this that there is a plurality of persons within the Deity, when he says, “Let us make man in our image”– and afterwards he indicates the unity when he says, “God created.”
It is true that he does not say here how many persons there are– but what is somewhat obscure to us in the Old Testament is very clear in the New.
For when our Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard saying, “This is my dear Son”;^8 the Son was seen in the water; and the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove.
So, in the baptism of all believers this form was prescribed by Christ: “Baptize all people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”^9
In the Gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel says to Mary, the mother of our Lord: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore that holy one to be born of you shall be called the Son of God.”^10
And in another place it says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.”^11
“There are three who bear witness in heaven– the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit– and these three are one.”^12
In all these passages we are fully taught that there are three persons in the one and only divine essence. And although this doctrine surpasses human understanding, we nevertheless believe it now, through the Word, waiting to know and enjoy it fully in heaven.
Furthermore, we must note the particular works and activities of these three persons in relation to us. The Father is called our Creator, by reason of his power. The Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by his blood. The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by his living in our hearts.
This doctrine of the holy Trinity has always been maintained in the true church, from the time of the apostles until the present, against Jews, Muslims, and certain false Christians and heretics, such as Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and others like them, who were rightly condemned by the holy fathers.
And so, in this matter we willingly accept the three ecumenical creeds– the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian– as well as what the ancient fathers decided in agreement with them.
^6 Gen. 1:26-27 ^7 Gen. 3:22 ^8 Matt. 3:17 ^9 Matt. 28:19 ^10 Luke 1:35 ^11 2 Cor. 13:14 ^12 1 John 5:7 (KJV)
- We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only Son of God– eternally begotten, not made nor created, for then he would be a creature.He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and the “reflection of his glory,”^13 being in all things like him.
He is the Son of God not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together.
Moses says that God “created the world”;^14 and John says that “all things were created by the Word,”^15 which he calls God. The apostle says that “God made the world by his Son.”^16 He also says that “God created all things by Jesus Christ.”^17
And so it must follow that he who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ already existed when all things were created by him.
Therefore the prophet Micah says that his origin is “from ancient times, from eternity.”^18 And the apostle says that he has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.”^19
So then, he is the true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.
^13 Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3 ^14 Gen. 1:1 ^15 John 1:3 ^16 Heb. 1:2 ^17 Col. 1:16 ^18 Mic. 5:2 ^19 Heb. 7:3
- We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son– neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but only proceeding from the two of them. In regard to order, he is the third person of the Trinity– of one and the same essence, and majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son.He is true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.