God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit
“We believe in God…” That’s how the Apostles’ Creed begins. For a long time it has served as a unifying or ecumenical statement of faith for churches around the world. In fact, one of the largest predominantly black denominations in the United States, African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), has stated: “To find the basic foundations of the beliefs of the (AME) Church, you need look no further than The Apostles’ Creed.”
When we say, “We believe in God…” we mean the one true God, who is triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); who is sovereign, creator, and sustainer of all things. It is God’s revealed word that we have in the Bible. It is the revelation of his creative power that we witness in the world around us. He is holy and just, loving and righteous. He is consistent and self-satisfied, never changing or needful. He is the source of our salvation. He is revealed to us as the Father – our loving protector and provider. He is full of mercy and loving-kindness. Accordingly, he does all things well, including the redemption of his people through the life and death of Jesus Christ.
After affirming belief in God the Father, the creed states, “We believe in Jesus Christ…” At the heart of Christian orthodoxy is the person and work of Jesus Christ. No church can be taken seriously and no expression of Christianity can have any validity if it does not affirm the centricity of Christ. Therefore, the Apostles’ Creed, while beginning with God the Father, says most when it confesses the truth about Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Son of God, sharing both the divinity of God the Father, and the humanity of those whom he redeems. He has been described in the Nicene Creed as “God of very God” and yet the Bible also says, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men,” (). He is as much God as God is and as much human as you and I are. This makes it possible for him to redeem all those who come unto him.
No doubt, Jesus Christ is a polarizing figure. He does not suffer fence sitters () or those who see him simply as a good teacher or example and not as Lord (). Jesus demands total allegiance (). The allegiance is the result of an incomparable salvation, decreed by God the Father, accomplished by God the Son, and applied by God the Holy Spirit.
The creed’s concluding section begins, “We believe in the Holy Spirit.” Sometimes called the Forgotten God, or the Neglected God, the Holy Spirit is known as the third person of the Trinity. While we speak much of the person and work of God the Father and God the Son, we often neglect to focus our attention on God the Holy Spirit. Yet, the creed reminds us that belief in the Holy Spirit is just as important as is belief in the Father and the Son.
Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is divine. He is not only holy, but as God he is omnipresent and omniscient (; ). He speaks (). He teaches (). He intercedes (Rm. 8:26). He is agent of regeneration and inspiration (; ). He is the source of our comfort and strength as we live the faithful Christian life. He is indispensable to our faithfulness. In fact, John Owen said it well in his Discourse on the Holy Spirit:
“There is no good communicated to us from God but it is bestowed on us or wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. No gift, no grace, no mercy, no privilege, no consolation, do we receive, possess, or use, but it is wrought in us or manifested to us, by him alone. Nor is there any good in us towards God, any faith, love duty, obedience, but what is effectually wrought in us by him, by him alone.”
While the Apostles’ Creed doesn’t say everything about Christianity, what it does say it says it well. We believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. At the heart of our faith is the triune God, who is worthy of all our praise.
Being raised in a National Baptist Church, every Sunday we sang out of the burgundy National Baptist Hymnal. If you’re at all familiar with this hymnal you would know that the very first hymnal is a song in praise of our triune God. The song is Holy, Holy, Holy. Appropriately, as the first hymn in the hymnal, it sums up our devotion to the one true God when it begins:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (ESV)
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (ESV)
18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (ESV)
23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (ESV)
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence? (ESV)
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (ESV)
16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. (ESV)
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, (ESV)
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (ESV)
21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)