WCF 2.3

The Westminster Confession of Faith

3. In the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. (WCF 2.3)

For the past few weeks we have been looking at the glorious and wonderful nature of our God. Admittedly we haven’t really even scratched the surface, that’s because even if we had the rest of our lives, using every waking moment, using every resource available to study the nature of our God, we wouldn’t even come close to comprehending how awesome our God really is. It’s as Job once reflected, “Can thou by searching find out God? Can thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job 11:7). The answer - even for one who met God personally - is simply no. And this paragraph in our confession is just as mind bending and boggling. Though in saying that, this is a doctrine that God wants us to know and to understand so that we might be a people that worship Him in knowledge and truth (Hos 4:6a, Jn 4:23, 17:17). And so WCF 2.3 - while taking into account the whole council of scripture and building on the confessions of the ancient church - sum up one of the most complex, beautiful and intriguing doctrines ever revealed to humanity: the doctrine of the Trinity in one small paragraph.

The Bible has a lot to say on there being only one God (Ex 20:3, Deut 4:35, Ps 86:10, Isa 43:10) and that is without doubt true; there is only one God (that is certainly something upheld in the New Testament; 1 Cor 8:4, Eph 4:6, 1 Tim 2:5, even the devil gets that (Jam 2:19)) however the incredible fact of the matter is that in the unity of the Godhead, there are ‘three persons’ being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Matt 3:16-17, 28:19 *1 Jn 5:7). Now before you start to try and think of analogies to nail down exactly what this relationship looks like, it’s best to not try and compare our triune God with anything on this earth (no three leaf clovers, H2o in different forms or the sun with it’s rays come close) - that’s because the union within the Godhead is like nothing on this earth. That’s what the divines are attempting to show us in as few words as possible, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, nor is the Spirit either; God is three in one and one in three, not three gods, but one eternal God of the same substance in three persons; Father, Son and Spirit (Jn 14:26, 15:26, 2 Cor 13:14).

However, the confession wants to take things a step further than just telling us what God is (ontological trinitarianism) to informing us what God does (economic trinitarianism). It begins by looking at the role of God the Father. We are told He is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding (Jn 1:14,18 c.f. 1 Cor 8:6, Eph 4:6). What does that mean? Well that He does not come from nor has been sent from anyone else. He is - you might imagine - the fountainhead to which the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. Now notice it, this doesn’t mean that Jesus was created by the Father, no He is God but He is in someway eternally The Son to The Father (Jn 1:1-3, 3:16-17, 14:21, 20:17). That in no way diminishes the Son, or makes him a lesser being or demigod, no this language helps to aid us to understand the inner workings of God’s awesome nature and person’s roles. We have to remember that it was Jesus himself who said, “I and my father are one" (Jn 10:30), which is to say that the Father and the Son share the same nature. What about the Holy Spirit? Well He too is God (Acts 5:3-4) yet somehow eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son, which is to say His person is different from both the Father and the Son in that He proceeds from their relationship to execute the will of God in this world (Rom 8:12-17, 1 Cor 2:10-16 c.f. Acts 13:2).

Augustine once said, if you deny the Trinity you deny salvation, but if you understand the Trinity, you deny sanity. And so, although this subject is incredibly important and central to our Christian faith, we must never presume on what has been shown, but treat God’s revelation with the upmost awe and respect. That’s because the doctrine of the Trinity has implications for all of life, as the unity that God has in himself is what we strive for in and amongst ourselves as His children by the power of His Spirit (Eph 4:4-6).

Published: March 26, 2024

Updated: March 26, 2024