"This synthesis of faith was not made to accord with human opinions,
but rather what was of the greatest importance was gathered
from all the Scriptures, to present the one teaching of the faith
in its entirety. And just as the mustard seed contains a great number
of branches in a tiny grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed
in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained
in the Old and New Testaments."

St. Cyril of Jerusalem d.386AD

"There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal
of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and
within all."
Ephesians 4:4-6

We believe in One God
Through the centuries in so many peoples and nations and in so many cultures and languages, the Church has constantly confessed this one faith, which was received from one Lord, transmitted by one Baptism through the Holy Spirit, and given by the grace of one God. St. Irenaeus (177-202AD, Bishop of Lyons, France) writing about this one faith professed in one God wrote:

"Indeed, the Church, though scattered throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the apostles and their disciples..... guards this preaching and faith with care, as dwelling in but a single house, and similarly believes as if having but one soul and a single heart, and preaches, teaches, and hands on this faith with a unanimous voice, as if possessing only one mouth......For though languages differ throughout the world, the content of the Tradition is one and the same. The Churches established in Germany have no other faith or Tradition, nor do those of the Iberians, nor those of the Celts, nor those of the East, of Egypt, of Libya, nor those established at the center of the world...(the message of the Church) is true and solid, in which one and the same way of salvation appears throughout the whole world."

The profession of belief in God is the fundamental basis of our faith. Not belief in "a" God but in THE GOD. The whole creed speaks of God, and when it speaks of creation and man it does so in relation to God. The Nicene Creed clarifies the first statement of faith from the Apostles' Creed by a confession of God's oneness, a revelation made to us in the Old Covenant:

"Hear O Israel: Yahweh our God is one Yahweh; and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."
Deut. 6:4-5

"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other..."
Isaiah 45:22

God is unique; there is only One God. Jesus himself affirms that God is "the one Lord" whom you must love "..with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Mark 12:29-30

At the same time Jesus gives us to understand that he himself is "the Lord."
Mark 12:35-37 "While teaching in the Temple, Jesus said, How can the scribes maintain that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, moved by the Holy Spirit, said: The Lord declared to my Lord, take your seat at my right hand till I have made your enemies your footstool (Psalms 110:1). David himself calls him Lord, in what way then can he be his son?"

Look up: John 10:30; John 8:58; John 5:16-18
To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. This is not contrary to belief in the One God. Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as "Lord and giver of life" introduce any division into the One God. Also look up 2 Cor. 13:14.

In defense of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in 1215 the Church proclaimed:
"We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal, infinite, and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple." Lateran Council IV

This is the doctrine of the mystery of the Trinity of God.

"Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you." Matthew 28:18-19

Question: What do you notice in Jesus' statement that refers to the oneness of God?

The dogma of the Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and the dogma that, above all others, makes the Christian faith unique among world religions. There are 3 crucial elements that make up the dogma of the Trinity:

Question: Most Catholics tend to ignore the differentiation's within the godhead, either by treating only the Father or the Father and the Son as God and ignoring the Holy Spirit altogether, or by treating the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as though they were God in identically the same way. How do you respond to the Holy Trinity?

The Hierarchy/Patriarchy of the Trinity

"For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you."
John 16:7b

When we respond to the 3 persons of the godhead as though the 3 persons are God in identically the same way, we are failing to appreciate the hierarchical character of the Trinity. Hierarchy has two meanings. The first comes from two Greek words hieros and archein. Hieros means sacred and archein meaning to rule or order. Hierarchy in this first sense means a sacred rule or order. The Trinity is a hierarchy or sacred order for three reasons:

  1. Each of the Persons is distinct and different from the other two persons and each person in a different way relates to the other two Persons and to divine substance itself. Each Person is unique and singular. The Father possesses the divine substance in himself, the Son as received from the Father, the Holy Spirit as received from the Father and the Son. Each of the Persons fully possesses the divine substance, but each does so in a different way. Each Person also enjoys a unique relationship with the other two Persons by virtue of the fact that each is defined by his specific relation. The relation of the Father is different from both the relation of the Son and the relation of the Holy Spirit. This means that the three Persons, though inseparable, are not interchangeable or identical. The Father can do only those things appropriate to Fatherhood, the Son those things appropriate to Sonship, and the Holy Spirit those things appropriate to spiration. The Father therefore cannot do anything specifically bound up Sonship or spiration, the Son cannot do anything specifically bound up with Fatherhood or spiration, and the Holy Spirit cannot do anything specifically bound up with Fatherhood or Sonship. For example; the Father always commands, sends, and gives to the Son. The Son always obeys, is sent, and receives from the Father. The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to teach and to guide.

  2. The three Persons of the Trinity are ordered to one another by virtue of their relationship to each other. The Father is the relation of paternity because He is ordered to the Son as Father. The Son is the relation of Filiation because he is ordered to the Father as Son. The Holy Spirit is the relation of passive spiration because he is spirated by the Father and the Son and ordered to them accordingly. The three Persons are defined as "Persons" by their relationship to one another, a relationship eternally rooted in the two - fold procession of the Son from the Father and the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son. They exist not only in distinction from one another but also within one another.

  3. The three Persons of the Trinity are totally dependent on one another. Although each possesses the fullness of the divine substance, each is not and cannot be God except in relationship to the other two. Each is incomplete without the other two. This means that while it is proper to say that the Father, for example is God, it is not proper to say that God is just the Father.

But in another sense the word archein formed from the root of the Greek word arche, means first or beginning, or priority. Therefore hierarchy also means "sacred origin."
Because the three Persons of the Trinity are coeternal, we cannot speak of the Trinity as having a temporal beginning. But we can speak of an ontological beginning or source of the Trinity. That source is the Father, who begets the Son and who, together with the Son, spirates the Holy Spirit, but who himself is unbegotten or ingenerate. We can speak of the Father as the source of everything, including the Trinity itself, for He is, as the Church Fathers pointed out, the "unoriginated origin." The Father therefore, enjoys priority within the Trinity, which is why He is always designated as the FIRST Person of the Trinity and which also enables us to understand why Jesus tells us that "the Father is greater than I" (John 14:28)

Summing Up:

  1. The Trinity is the ultimate reality of God
  2. God is a community of love: "God is love" (John 4:8, 16) God loves us and God is love in himself: The Father gives all he has to the Son, and the two of them in turn give all they have to the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Trinity is a revelation that personhood is bound up with relationship. To be a person in the Trinity is to be a relation ordered to another Person or relation. There is no aloneness, no individualism in the Trinity. Not even the Father can be known as a person in his own right, but only in the relation to the Son who makes him known.
  4. The Trinity is a revelation of the meaning and significance of hierarchy. The ultimate reality is a sacred order. However hierarchy does not mean inequality. The thee Persons of the Trinity are both hierarchical and coequal. The opposite of hierarchy is not equality; the opposite of hierarchy is anarchy, the absence of order. The hierarchical character of God is the guarantor of the hierarchical or ordered character of creation.
  5. Although God is eternal and unchanging, He is not static. God's inner life is comprised of those two processions by which the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit spriated. These processions are eternal and can only be expressed in the present tense because there is no before' or after' in God. God is unceasingly dynamic!
  6. The two processions within the Trinity are the source of the two Trinitarian "missions" made manifest in redemption. The Father's begetting the Son is the source for the Father's sending of the Son for our salvation. And the procession of the Holy Spirit by the Father and the Son is the source for the sending of the Holy Spirit by the Father and the Son to the Apostles and to the Church, in order that the grace and truth of Christ might be manifest throughout the world. By these two missions God continually renews the whole of creation.
  7. The two missions of the Trinity reveal that we do not simply have one relationship with God; we have a three-fold relationship with Him. Ephesians 1:10 "...that He would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth." By the power of the Holy Spirit, we share in the Sonship of Jesus Christ, and so have become sons and daughters of the Father, whose plan to bring all things in heaven and on earth into union with himself is revealed and initiated by the Son and brought to completion in the Holy Spirit.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2013 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

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