Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lent Course 2015 - Handout (2) - ARTICLE 1

Lent Course 2015 – The 39 Articles - ARTICLE 1 – (Handout 2)

I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in the unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost”

unity (one God) & Trinity (three Persons)

… but one God… - There is only one God - Dt 6:4-5; Is 41:4, 44:6; Mk 12:32; 1 Tim 2:5 – this is the only genuine real God – Dt 4:35

Further reading: Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God (Leicester, IVP, 1993)

living – in contrast to idols – Josh 3:10; Ps 42:2; Jer 10:10; Dan 6:26; Mt 16:16; Jn 6:57; Acts 14:15; Rm 9:26; 2 Cor 3:3; Heb 3:12; Rev 7:2 - God is uncreated and gets his life from himself, he is independent, The Aseity / Self-Sufficiency of God - Ex 3v14 – God is unique and defines himself

… true – the word here means true not truthful – the true God compared to false gods, real – 2 Chron 15:3; Jn 17:3; 1 Thess 1:9 – of course God is also true (Titus 1:2), faithful and truthful, trustworthy, reliable, consistent, promise-keeping, dependable

Some ways God is unlike a human being:

… everlasting – eternal (below) / timeless – Rm 1:20; 1 Tim 1:17 - God is not bound by time, he is the Lord of time – all time is always present to him - God always enjoys the fullness of his life, he’s not spread out through time – God is outside of time but is able to act in time – the immutability = unchangableness of God (Mal 3:6; James 1:17) – implied by God’s perfection

What God is not:

… without body - Spiritual, Jn 4:24 – no bodily weakness, does not grow old or get weary, Is 40:28 – God’s omnipresence, he is unlimited with respect to space, Lord of space, Ps 139, Prov 15:3, Acts 17:27 – comfort that God can always be with us – cf. Mt 28:20 - anthropomorphic metaphorical statements in Scripture, Ps 102:25, Job 40:9, Ps 34:15 – humanity made in the image of God – God as paradigm, human hands as pictures of God’s handiness?! - (The incomprehensibility of God and accommodation in revelation)

without passions – not that God is not passionate, compassionate, loving, wrathful etc. but cf. God and human emotions: God has no body, immutable, is not mastered by emotions - the impassibility of God, not that God is impassive and unfeeling but that he cannot be made to suffer – Jesus suffers and dies in his human nature; God cannot die – only the impassable God can save! – Saviour not just fellow-sufferer

Further reading: Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2000)

… without parts – The Simplicity of God – all God’s attributes are essential to him, part of his Godness – God could not lose anything about himself and still be God – all God’s attributes are always in perfect harmony e.g. his wrath is loving, his love includes wrath, his power is good, his goodness is powerful etc. – no inner conflict in God, he is entirely reliable

Further reading: Peter Sanlon, Simply God: Recovering the classical Trinity (Nottingham: IVP, 2014)

What God is:

… of infinite power – Omnipotence, all powerful, Almighty, Rev 1:8 - Could God make a stone so heavy he couldn’t lift it? – Could God make a square circle? - God can do anything he wants, Ps 135:6; Mt 19:26 – God would not violate the laws of logic / non-contradiction / his own laws or character – God cannot lie (Heb 6:18; Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; 2 Tim 2:13), sin, change, fail, die, break a promise - these are perfections, not limitations to his power – God’s power is governed by his own wisdom and goodness, not just brute force

… of infinite wisdom – Omniscience, all knowing, cf. eternality – Ps 139:2, 3, 6; Rm 16:27;  1 Tim 1:17; Mt 10:29-30; Heb 4:13

… of infinite goodness – God’s own character, not a law imposed on God from outside – holiness, Is 6:3, moral perfection, free from all sin – love, 1 Jn 4:8 esp. here kindness – Rm 2:4; Titus 3:4

… the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. – Gen 1:1; Ps 104; Is 42:5; Mt 6:25-30; Acts 17:26-28; Col 1:16-17 - God the Unrceated Creator – the Creator / Creature distinction – invisible stuff including angels and demons
And in the unity of this Godhead there be three Persons - The Doctrine of the Trinity – unity (1 Cor 8:4; Jam 2:19) but real distinctions - Persons, not 3 separate individuals so that there are 3 gods (Tri-theism), not 3 parts of God, not mere appearances, but a real 3ness and 1ness – see the creeds – the divinity of Christ and of the Spirit require this doctrine (see Articles 2, 5) – persons distinguished by their relations of begetting and proceeding – the Son is all that the Father is except Father etc.

Further reading: Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology and Worship (Phillipsburg, Presbyterian and Reformed, 2004)

… of one substance, power, and eternity; - substance / essence – the persons have an equality of being, all are equally God, although the Son voluntarily submits to the Father etc. A unity of love, fellowship and purpose but also of being  

… the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost

For discussion / further thinking:

Does it make sense to put this article first? What else might have come first?
What objections might be made to these doctrines and how might they be answered?
Do you find this article too “philosophical” and not sufficiently “biblical”?
What grounds for praise are there here? (What psalms, hymns, songs or prayers reflect these doctrines well?)
What are the practical applications of these doctrines? E.g. how do they aid our assurance?

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