Have you ever seen one of those pictures where at first it makes no sense until you take a step back and take it in all at once? Perhaps you have played a game like this where you have to attempt to identify something by only looking at a small piece of it. My wife and I were doing a fun quiz like this a couple of weeks ago where we had to try and identify a Disney character by only their eyes. Let me tell you it is harder than you think. Another example of making things harder is when we see something large and think we will never get through it. Have you ever come home to an absolute mess? Perhaps your children lovingly decided to make you dinner and in the process used every dish and utensil in the kitchen. You are overwhelmed by seeing the whole picture and thinking about how long it is going to take to clean up. Both of these examples, only seeing part of the picture and seeing something that has lots of parts, demonstrate how our minds crave structure. We need things to be small enough to tackle at once but not so small that we lose sight of what we are doing.
The Articles of Our Faith
Last week we talked about what is necessary for Christians to believe and how what is necessary is contained neatly in the 12 points of the Apostle's creed. When looking at all 12 of the points at once we can feel a little overwhelmed and intimidated by the length, but at the same time when we look at just one of the articles, we can lose sight of the whole idea. The writers of the Heidelberg Catechism understood this and give us the question "How are these articles divided?" (Q. 24) to help us understand. The answer is "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 Ghost, and our sanctification." This three-fold division of the creed helps to narrow the focus without losing sight of the whole. It helps us to understand that the whole picture is a trinitarian picture. It is a confession of God, who He is, and what he has done and is doing. So we have a section that focuses on the Father, a section on the Son, and a section on the Spirit. These smaller divisions help us to better understand the flow and overall structure.
Seeing the Beauty in the Structure
The way that the creed is set up is beautiful because it shows us the gospel message and how the Triune God interacts in every part of it. The Father is the unbegotten, maker of heaven and earth. He sends his only begotten Son as a propitiation for the sins of the bride. The Son takes on flesh and lives the perfect life that no other human is capable of. And yet he suffered and died. Not just any death but the death of a thief and murderer. And as a result of this, the Holy Spirit is sent by both the Father and the Son to apply this work to those who believe, the holy church. Salvation is not the work of Jesus alone but is the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit together. It is the outworking of the covenant made between the members of the Godhead before time began. We rightly give praise to the work of Christ on the cross, but we are mistaken if we forget that the Father and Spirit are also involved in the salvation of the bride. We see this beautiful structure laid out in the creed. The Father Makes, the Son sacrifices, and the Spirit applies. Salvation is a trinitarian work from beginning to end. It is a united work. The Son is not arguing against the Father but is acting out the Father's plan.
Sometimes looking at the whole picture can help, and sometimes looking at the parts can be useful, but understanding how the parts fit together into the whole is infinitely more helpful. Looking at a piece of a car engine can be very useful, and looking at the engine as a whole can be useful, but if you are trying to understand the engine, you need to see how the pieces fit into the whole. The creed shows us that the gospel is Triune. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one being and three in person. I hope that you see how the three parts of the creed give beauty to the whole and help us to understand the parts. I pray that you will be blessed by the creed that Christians have confessed in unity for hundreds and thousands of years.
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: I believe in the Holy Ghost: I believe a holy catholic church: the communion of saints: The forgiveness of sins: The resurrection of the body: And the life everlasting.
Soli Deo Gloria