24 Q. How are these articles divided?
A. Into three parts:
God the Father and our creation;
God the Son and our deliverance;
and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.
25 Q. Since there is only one divine being,^1
why do you speak of three:
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A. Because that is how
God has revealed himself in his Word:^2
these three distinct persons
are one, true, eternal God.
^1 Deut. 6:4
^2 Isa. 61:1; Ps. 110:1; Matt. 3:16-17; Matt. 28:19; 1 John 5:7[-8]
Lord’s Day 8 (Q/A 24-25)
“1 Act, 3 Scenes”
Two lessons in marriage, parenting, and the dynamic of presence-absence.
Andrew (my youngest son): Mom, can you buy me the new Pokemon cards?
Grace (my wife): No, you already have a whole stack that you got on your birthday.
(Andrew leaves saddened. Goes to next room where I am working)
Andrew: My handsome, cool dad, how are you? Can you buy me the new Pokemon cards?
Me: What did your mom say?
Andrew: She said “No” I couldn’t get some because I just got some from my birthday.
Me: So, why did you come and ask me. Your mom and I don’t contradict each other. She and I spoke about this already and we thought about it. You should know that what she says and what I say are the same.
Daniel (my eldest son): Thanks mom for buying me a new pair of shoes. I really like them.
Grace: You’re welcome, son. Don’t forget to thank dad.
Daniel: Why? He wasn’t with us.
Grace: His money is my money; my money is his money. It’s both of our money. So, whether I go with you to buy your shoes, or he went with you last week to buy ice cream, we both are there doing things for you even though we may not be there physically.
These two scenarios were based on several actual events in our family over the last couple years. While Grace and I express our own way of relating to Daniel and Andrew, our own distinctive approach and degree of nurture and discipline, we seek to communicate to our sons that triangulating will not work, seeking a court of appeals with the absentee parent will not work either (even when that parent is in the other room), and that the role of the other parent is not at all diminished by their mere physical absence. We have found that it allows our boys to know that Grace and I have given thorough consideration, discussion, thought, and prayer over particular decisions. It teaches them that more than meets than eye, what you see is not exactly what is happening. The mere absence of one parent doesn’t mean the non-participation of the other; in fact, quite the opposite – a lot of thought has gone into things. What this means is that Grace and I are in close and constant communication with each other; and it means being in close and constant communication with our sons, knowing them as best as we can, guiding them in their own decisions, and navigating them to know and understand the consequences of certain choices and decisions (e.g. using part of your birthday money for Pokemon cards means you won’t be able to buy popcorn at the movies).
Last week, we saw how the Gospel, as summarized by the Apostles’ Creed, is at the core a person. The Gospel is a good news message; but it’s more than that — it is a person; more specifically, The Person revealed as Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. God Himself is that message. While our testimony is about God, God Himself is that Good News.
Eberhard Busch insightfully observes that God did not give a gift that was greater than the giver; nor did God give a gift that was less than the giver. The former would mean that the gift is God, being greater than the giver (God) – two competing divinities. The latter would mean that God gave less than himself. With the giver and gift being one and the same, God gave himself, His full self; God did not withhold himself, but freely and fully gave Himself for the life and freedom of the world.
Lyle Bierma helpfully points out that here in Q/A 24, Ursinus follows Martin Luther’s Shorter and Larger Catechism’s pattern and content, in specifying the works of each of the persons of the Trinitarian Godhead, which was a departure from pre-Reformation tradition that discussed the Creed in 12 articles, or in other Reformation creeds where there was the trinitarian division (or in some, a fourth division devoted to the Church and the Spirit), but not specifying the works of each of the persons of the triune God. Here in the Heidelberg Catechism, there is that linkage and specification.
Q/A 24-25 expresses for us God’s initiative, God’s movement toward us, God’s self-disclosure, God’s self-giving. The implications of this? We are not alone, we are not left alone, we are not abandoned. The fullness of the holy God is wholly for you, for us. The resounding message: God has our backs through and through, in every respect, in every aspect – from our beginning, to our freedom from misery, to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as the Spirit leads us and teaches us in all ways of holiness and righteousness. This is an extension of what was stated in Q/A 1 of the overriding and overarching care and concern that God has for us – that not even a hair can fall from our head without God knowing about it. This wards against any sense of self-pity when we feel that God has abandoned or forgotten about us, or the opposite, when we feel that we can be free from God and act and live in any way we feel like. For the former, God brought you into this world, delivers you from sin and misery, and draws you deeper into His heart; for the latter, God pokes the prideful head – giving us a healthy dose of true reality – God is your God, you are not your own.
Q/A 25 establishes for us the premise of knowing, believing, and trusting this personal Gospel – this Gospel as the living person of the triune God. Q/A 25 doesn’t present evidentiary proof, or philosophical arguments of why God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and, consequently, why we confess it. What section 25 does say is simply: “Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word.”
That’s it. Because God has revealed Himself in His Word. Period. And in His Word God has spoken, and God has shown through the testimony of Scripture again and again what God is about.
To know, to believe, to trust, and to stake your life, your past-present-future, who you are, what you are not, what you hope to be, what you hope the world would be – to put all of that and yourself on the line in the hands and heart of this God whom you cannot see takes an act of God and a series of acts and words of God.
And that’s precisely the point. God moves. God acts upon us. And only by God acting upon us, in us, through us, and for us will we be able to live for God, and live in a way that delights in God, that loves and lives freely in the freedom of God. It takes God giving and revealing His personality, His character, His life, and His love to us.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – one God in Three, Three in One. The totality of God for the totality of you and all that God has created.