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Heidelberg Catechism LD 7-8: The Catholic and Undoubted Christian Faith (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Romans 10:9-13)

A. TRUE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS BELIEVED AND CONFESSED

Romans 10:9-10 (v. 8 cited from Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Paul is not talking about an “order of conversion” here, whether believing in the heart goes first or second (see v. 10, reverse order). Rather, he shows two realities about the Christian faith:

  1. Believing in the heart (not just intellectual knowledge)
  2. Confessing with the mouth

[CLARIFY/QUALIFY]

  • Justification is not by merely verbalizing your faith in Christ
  • Possession of faith differs from mere profession of faith
  • But true Christian faith cannot be void of the two. It is impossible for someone to have faith and yet not speak of it. (Further evidence of salvation)

Hence, there must be a particular “profession” that distinguishes someone who has faith in Christ, in the Christian gospel.

How then do we distinguish ourselves as Christians, and let others know it? Read the entire Bible or Gospels to them?

THE PLACE AND IMPORTANCE OF CREEDS

“Creed” or Symbol

  • Credo “I believe”
    • Many people who only say “No Creeds, but the Bible”
    • Every Christian or church always has a creed
  • Symbolum Signifies a sign or mark by which one person or thing is distinguished from another (like a military sign that differentiates allies from enemies). Or it signifies a collation or bringing together (pag-sasama-sama)
    • In this sense, a creed signifies a brief and summary form of Christian faith that distinguishes a Christian and a church from all others. This is what makes us undoubtedly Christian.

This statement of belief that we accept as the our distinguishing mark as a Christian church is the Apostles’ Creed. (Not written by the apostles themselves. *Explain also why HC only uses Apostles’ Creed but not Nicene and other creeds)

  • Apostolic – Because it contains the substance of the doctrine God taught through the Apostles
  • Catholic – Universally embraced as the one faith of all Christians.

This is where we see the significance of creeds and confessions, compared with just having individual Statements of Faith. (*They are not empty ritualistic words we say)

  • It proclaims our faith to the public
  • It safeguards us from heresies
  • It keeps us united with the rest of the church.*

“One body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith…” (Ephesians 4-5). One faith that was “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

Although churches may differ in some aspects of faith, the core doctrines that we believe about God and salvation is the same and should be the same.

Even the apostles and the early church used creedal expressions of their faith (1 Timothy 3:16). If even the apostles deemed it appropriate to have creeds, we need them even more. Hence, let us use them.

Our confessional standards and creeds are not on par (equal) with the Bible. They are not infallible and unchangeable. But we accept them as the truth of God until they are proven to be in error and unbiblical.

Now what then does the Apostles’ Creed state?

Q. 24 – “How are these articles divided?”

Into three parts: The first is of God the Father, and our creation; the second, of God the Son, and our redemption; the third, of God the Holy Spirit, and our sanctification.

This creed is our biblical faith in our Triune God. And the doctrine of the Trinity is really the doctrine that distinguishes us from other religions and philosophies (i.e., Atheists, polytheists, Judaism, cults)

[TRANSITION] What then is the Trinity? Why do we believe the Trinity?

B. TRUE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS BELIEVING OUR TRIUNE GOD AND HIS WORK OF REDEMPTION

Why do we believe the Trinity? It’s simple—because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word (Q&A 25)

And this is also how we affirm the authority of Scriptures. Even if human reason may say that such things are “impossible” or not scientifically probable—we believe it.

BIBLICAL BASIS

Hints to the Trinity in the Old Testament

  • Deuteronomy 6:4 – The Great Shema. There is only one true God.
  • Genesis 1:1-2
    • God (single) created everything; 
    • The Spirit hovering (v. 2)
    • Let “us” make man in “our” image (v. 26) (“us” is not together with angels)

What was obscure in the OT was made clearer in the New Testament

  • John 1:1 (Contrasted with God, but also identified as God)
    • (v. 14) Distinguished as the Son from the Father
    • (v. 18) Same as verse 1
  • John 10:31 (“I and the Father are one”)
  • Matthew 28:19 (“name” [not “names”] of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit)(not polytheism)
  • Mark 1:9-11 (The three Persons all in the same scene at the same time)(not Modalism)

Scripture is clear that while there is one God, there is this “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” While it would be enough to end the matter here, it is necessary for us to have a proper explanation of this truth—otherwise, it will lead to heresies such as what happened throughout history.

EXPLANATION OF DOCTRINE

  • Essence – a being or thing existing by itself. The essence of God refers to the very existence and being of God—the eternal and only Deity. 
  • Person – Denotes a separate rational and self-conscious individual, conscious of his identity. But in the divine persons, there are no three individuals “existing” separately from each other. We use the term “subsistence,” in which the 3 persons subsists in one divine essence. Hence, they are still one being/essence.

We harmonize this by using two formulations concerning the Trinity

  1. Ontological Trinity

The divine essence is not divided among the 3 persons. There is no superiority between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No is greater to the other or first than the other.

The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. But they are not 3 gods. Etc. 

Rather, they (persons) are one God (essence). Three persons subsisting in one Godhead.

  1. Economic Trinity

While they are co-equal in the divine essence, we identify the three persons as distinct from each other—not in their divinity but in their peculiar properties and functions.

  • Father — the Creator, the source of all things 
  • Son — the Redeemer and Mediator between mankind
  • Holy Spirit — the Comforter and sanctifier of believers

This is not to say that each of the work of creation or of redemption is restricted to one person only:

  • E.g., only the Father is involved in Creation. (See John 1:2; Colossians 1:15-16)
  • E.g., the Father is not involved in the redemption, only the Son). See John 3:16 and John 5:17: “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 

In the entire work of creation and redemption, there are functions that are peculiar (unique) to each of the persons. See 1 Peter 1:2. Election is attributed primarily to the Father, the fulfillment of that plan of salvation is attributed to the Son, and the application of that salvation is attributed to the Spirit.

It is not the Father who became flesh and atoned for our sins, the Son did. It is not the Son in the flesh who indwells us, the Spirit is.

Justification is by faith in Christ, not because there’s no need to believe in the Father and the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is only because Christ is the representative and mediator the Father provided. And we put our faith in him so that his righteousness as a perfect man will become ours (not to say that there is no righteousness in the Father or Holy Spirit).

That’s why one can be saved by believing in Jesus Christ as his/her Savior and Lord, without understanding the Trinity. But as God allows us to continue in this life, understanding the Trinity helps us understand the Gospel and our salvation more—leading to a deeper faith and greater assurance.

So this is how we maintain the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. We believe and worship God in unity, but unity in Trinity. God is one, but in three persons.

IMPLICATIONS & APPLICATION:

Studying the doctrine of the Trinity is not just a mere intellectual exercise. Again, understanding the Trinity leads to a more mature faith and greater assurance.

  1. Paano nangyari yun—3 persons in 1 being? We cannot fully comprehend everything about God, exhaustively, 100%. We limit ourselves to the what Scripture reveal about God.
    1. But this should sense of awe and reverence to God (cf. Psalm 139:6: “Such knowledge is too wonderful…”)
    2. Humility and desire to know more about God
    3. Before he died, William Twisse said, “At last, I shall have leisure to continue my studies to all eternity.”
  2. Salvation is complete! God planned our salvation, the Son fulfilled, and the Spirit applies to us Christ’s benefits.
    1. At the same time, it gives us comfort and hope for those we long to be saved. We trust not in our efforts (to our disappointments), but we trust in the powerful work of God to save our loved ones just as he saves us.
    2. Of course, knowing the complete work of our Triune God is not a license for Christian slackness. See Philippians 2:12-13
      1. One reason we don’t mature is because we are not “working.” (e.g, we’re not mortifying our sins)
      2. But our comfort and encouragement to do so comes from the fact that God is working in us as well. (*Not that our work and God’s work are equal).
      3. One faulty illustration of a believer “striving” to follow Christ in all ups and downs as if it is by his/her own strength, without any emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s work causing the believer to follow Christ and the Father causing “all things to work together for the good” of his people.

        Without God’s work, life as a Christian will be impossible, exhausting, and frustrating. The work of redemptive by the Triune God provides us great comfort and assurance.
      4. We believe and obey because of God; we continue to believe and obey because of God. Hence, because God is faithful and will complete his work in us, let us continue to run the race with our eyes fixed upon this hope.

To our one and only Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—be the glory, praises and adoration. Amen.

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