For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q6

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q4-6) is The Being, Attributes and Persons of the Godhead. (see Harmony Index)

Our study in the Shorter Catechism continues with the doctrine of the Trinity. May the truth of this teaching and its implications guide and strengthen our Christian walk in the Triune God, who has authored, performed, and applied a so great salvation to the beloved sheep of his pasture. Truly we are the recipients of great grace and tender mercies.
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WSC Q6. How many persons are there in the Godhead?
Answer:  There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost[a]; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory[b].
[a] Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; I Pet. 1:2
[b] Ps. 45:6; John 1:1, 17:5; Acts 5:3-4; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Jude 24-25

Question #6 asks how many persons are in the one God, and answers that there are three persons in the one God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that these three are one God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory.

Comments and considerations:
We have come upon a doctrine, an understanding, yes, a very word, that is uniquely Christian and cannot really be understood in any other context: “Trinity.” Were it not for the manifestation of the person of Christ, this word would probably not exist, at least not as it is here defined. There have been many attempts to use analogies from nature to describe the unique character and nature of the Godhead. Although some are helpful, they all fall short; ultimately, the infinite is incomprehensible to the finite.
The Trinity is a tri-unity, a three-in-one unity; it finds its sole definition in a Christian statement: It is the union of three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) in one Godhead, so that all the three are one God as to substance, but three persons as to individuality. From here the word finds its way into our vocabulary, to such an extent that the church belief in the Trinity is a test of orthodoxy. This doctrine has implications that govern every aspect of the church’s faith and practice.
The three-in-one nature of God is generally considered in two parts, the ontological and the economical or functional aspects of the Godhead. The ontology of God relates to the nature of his being, qualities, and attributes. Thus the catechism speaks to the unity, “these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.”  The economical or functional description deals with the three-part aspect of the persons, their order or relationship. 
Again, there are earthly analogies that can be used to show this tri-part existence of God. Over years of parenting and teaching, I’ve found endless examples of singular things made of three (or many) parts to show how this could work. A flower, the stem of a plant, or a single ray of light with its spectrum of colors can serve as an object lesson for the nature of the Trinity. Even our nation, held together (so far) by its form of civil government and a unique motto—E Pluribus Unum—provide an idea embedded in Western thought which is found nowhere else.
Even at the very beginning of time God gave us an analogy in the institution of marriage, so that we might see the unity of a man and women who are made “one,” yet who retain different functional responsibilities within their union. This picture is oft repeated in Scripture, and Paul uses it to describe the mystery of Christ and the Church, and our union in him, as many, yet one (Eph. 4). Again, all these earthly analogies are helpful, but they do not give us a complete picture of the infinite wonder of the Godhead as taught in Scripture. 
In the end, how are we to comprehend this vital teaching? The answer is simply, “By faith” (Deut. 29:29). We are Trinitarian, and that statement holds deep-seated implications. The one and the many, and which of those takes precedence, has been a problem for societies throughout the ages. But where Christ rules and every thought is brought captive to that inspired wisdom from above*, true unity prevails, founded on the commands of his Word.
*Note these Scriptures:
II Cor. 10:5 - …casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…
James 1:17 - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Eph. 4:3 - ...endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Prov. 3:5-7 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    Question 5 tells us that there is only one God. Yet from Scripture we know that the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. We must therefore understand that there is one God in three persons. What does Job 11:7-8 say about our ability to fully grasp this teaching? How does our finite understanding affect our ability to understand the infinite God?
2.    The Scriptures speak of one God, yet in three persons. In the plan of salvation—the work of redemption—what is the Father’s role? Read I John 4:14.
3.    Jesus is equally God, yet different in that He became a man (Col. 1:15-16). What is the Son’s role in the plan of salvation? Read Col. 1:19-20.
4.    The Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son. What is the Spirit’s role in the work of redemption? Read John 3:3-5 and Gal. 5:22-23.
5.    The Bible is clear that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “one in substance” even though they differ in “function.” One of the many ways they are described as being equal is that each and all deserve worship and praise. Read Eph. 4:6; John 4:23; Matt. 1:23; Ps. 2:10-12; II Cor. 3:17-18.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 6; WLC Q#’s 9, 10, & 11; WCF II.III. 
WSC Q6 How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A.  There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost[a]; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory[b].
[a] Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; I Pet. 1:2
[b] Ps. 45:6; John 1:1, 17:5; Acts 5:3-4; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Jude 24-25

WLC Q9 How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A.  There be three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory: although distinguished by their personal properties[a] .
 [a] I John 5:7; Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; John 10:30

WLC Q10 What are the personal properties of the three persons in the Godhead?
A.  It is proper to the Father to beget the Son[a], and to the Son to be begotten of the 
      Father[b], and to the Holy Ghost to proceed from the Father and the Son, from all eternity[c].
[a] Heb. 1:5-6, 8
[b] John 1:14, 18
[c] John 15:26; Gal. 4:6

WLC Q11 How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?
A.  The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names[a], attributes[b], works[c], and worship[d], as are proper to God only.
[a] Isa. 6:3, 5, 8; John 12:41; Acts 28:25; I John 5:20; Acts 5:3-4
[b] John 1:1; Isa. 9:6; John 2:24-25; I Cor. 2:10-11; Heb. 9:14
[c] Col. 1:16; Gen. 1:2; Psa. 104:30; John 1:3
[d] Matt. 28:19; II Cor. 13:14

THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER II
III.In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost[a]: the Father is of none, neither begotten, not proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father[b]; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son[c].
[a] Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18
[b] John 1:14, 18; Heb. 1:2-3; Col. 1:15
[c] John 15:26; Gal. 4:6

Questions for further study:
What consideration does the parallel Larger Catechism #9 add to the Shorter #8?
What is the key word that our Fathers used to instruct us as to the relational nature of the Trinity? (1)
What definitions of this word may be found to help understand this Confessional instruction? 


1- Properties

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