Welcome to We Believe — a resource that assists adults and older teens in studying the core beliefs of our Christian faith. We Believe is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and expressive of GCI’s statement of beliefs and incarnational Trinitarian theology. We Believe draws on similar documents from other Christian denominations and utilizes key statements from the historic Nicene Creed (referred to in We Believe as “the Creed”). Here is the text of the Creed, adapted from the translation in The Book of Common Prayer (1979):
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy, all-embracing and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Following the trinitarian structure of the Creed, We Believe begins by addressing the triune God, answering the question, Who is the God Christians worship? That section is then followed by ones addressing each of the three Persons of the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Following those sections are ones addressing the kingdom of God, humanity, the Holy Scriptures, the sacraments, the Church, the Christian, the gospel, God’s grace, sin, faith-salvation-repentance, the Christian life, and last things.
In each section of We Believe, you will find bold face questions followed by answers in regular type. Following the answers are relevant references to verses in the Bible given as links that you can click on to take you to the referenced Scriptures online.
It is our prayer that you will be richly blessed by your study in We Believe.
Thank you for your commitment to using We Believe in teaching the core beliefs of our Christian faith to adults and/or older teens (a separate edition of We Believe is available for teaching children).
As you present the questions and answers provided here, further questions will likely arise. The Teaching Notes that follow the Q&A sections in the Teacher Edition are provided to assist you, the teacher, in answering these questions.
We Believe is a teaching tool designed to be used by pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth ministers, parents and others in instructing adults and older teens in the core beliefs of the historic, orthodox Christian faith. It utilizes a Q&A format to encourage dialogue among participants in baptism and confirmation classes, classes for new believers and new members, Sunday school and discipleship classes, small groups, workshops for preachers and teachers, and instruction within families.
There are multiple ways to use We Believe in teaching your students — you may adapt its use to your preferred teaching style, the needs of your students, and the setting of your class. However, in making these adaptations, we ask that you present the questions and answers as they are written. The language used is carefully crafted to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures, to be in harmony with Grace Communion International’s doctrine (summarized in The GCI Statement of Beliefs) and in harmony with GCI’s incarnational Trinitarian theology (summarized in The God Revealed in Jesus Christ). We encourage you to become familiar with these two booklets before teaching We Believe classes. Note that the text of The GCI Statement of Beliefs is reproduced in the Appendix of this document, and relevant sections are quoted in the Teaching Notes for ease of reference.
With this background in mind, let’s now proceed with the 16 sections that make up the main body of We Believe. Please know that we are lifting you up in prayer:
Father, in the name of Jesus, we pray that those you have called and equipped to teach the core beliefs of our Christian faith using We Believe, will be led by the Holy Spirit to teach with faithfulness and accuracy the truth that you have given to the Church for all times. We pray that these teachers will experience Jesus’ joy in their teaching, and that their students will be edified and encouraged, all to the glory of your holy name. Amen.
QUIZ … ON THE TRINITY
TRUE or FALSE …
1. God is one ___.
2. God is three ___.
3. There is one God.
4. There are three Gods.
5. God is one Being.
6. God is three Beings.
7. God is one Person.
8. God is three Persons.
9. The Father is God.
10. The Son is God.
11. The Father is the Son
Bonus Question … How can 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 ?
Section 1: The Triune God
1.1 Who is the God Christians worship?
- In accordance with the testimony of the Holy Scriptures, the God we worship is one divine Being in three eternal, co-essential, yet distinct Persons — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
- (Mark 12:29; Matt. 28:19; Acts 20:28; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 10:29; 1 Pet 1:2)
1.2 What does being triune tell us about God’s nature?
- That God is the eternal communion of holy love shared by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- (John 14:9; 1 John 4:8; Rom. 5:8; Titus 2:11; Heb. 1:2-3; 1 Pet. 1:2; Gal. 3:26)
1.3 Does that mean there are three Gods?
- The triune God is one God who exists eternally as three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
- The triune God is one in being and three in Persons.
1.4 How can God be both one in being and three in Persons?
- Though we cannot know exactly how God’s being functions since we are mere creatures, we can say that, unlike human persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are related to each other in such an absolutely unique and profound way that they are one in being.
- The oneness of God’s being is a tri-unity.
1.5 Are the three Persons of the Trinity three different ways God acts towards his creation, or
three roles the one God plays?
- No, in the being of God there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who know, love and glorify each other for all eternity.
- There never was a time when God was not triune.
1.6 Is one of the Persons of the Trinity the origin of the others, and thus superior?
- No, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equally eternal and divine and share the same authority and power, and have the same mind, will and purpose in all things.
1.7 Does the equality of the three divine Persons mean that they are interchangeable with each other?
- No, the divine Persons are not interchangeable “parts” of God. Each has a unique relationship of holy love to the other two, and each has an eternal name that reveals their real personal distinction.
1.8 What are the unique relationships in the being of the triune God that are not interchangeable?
- The Father eternally begets the Son, the Son is eternally begotten by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and through the Son.
1.9 Do the three divine Persons act independently of each other towards creation?
- No, all the works of the triune God toward his creation are indivisible since God is one in being and of one mind, will, authority and holy love.
1.10 Is there no difference, then, in how the three divine Persons relate to creation?
- There is a difference, for though the acts of the divine Persons are undivided, each contributes uniquely to the perfectly united works of the one triune God.
1.11 How can we speak of the unique contributions of the three divine Persons without
separating their works?
- We could say that one of the Persons initiates, or takes the lead, in one or another of the distinct and gracious acts towards the triune God’s creation, while the others perfectly follow in complete harmony with each other.
1.12 What are the primary acts of the triune God towards creation?
- The Father is most associated with creation, the Son with redemption, and the Holy Spirit with bringing all things to perfection.
- However, all three of the divine Persons are involved in all the works of the one triune God.
1.13 Why did the triune God create?
- Because the triune God is a living, loving and generative God who creates for the sake of communion and holy love with his creation.
1.14 Why did the triune God redeem creation?
- From the beginning, God’s human creatures, in distrusting God, have alienated themselves and sought to live autonomously from their good, faithful and life-giving Creator.
- But because the triune God is a faithful and loving God who does not give up on his creatures, God himself made a way for them to be reconciled to him and thus return to fullness of communion with him as their Lord and Savior.
1.15 Why does the triune God now work to perfect the creation?
- Because the triune God is a communion of perfect holy love who created us to share in the triune God’s love and life for all eternity and in that way give glory to God.
1.16 How can we finite creatures know, love and trust the triune God?
- The triune God has the desire, will and ability to make himself known to his human creatures who do not have the desire, the will, or the ability to know God on their own.
- That revelation, which culminated in the Father’s personal self-revelation in Jesus Christ, has, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, been preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures.
1.17 What do the Holy Scriptures say about the triune God?
- The Bible records Jesus’ teaching concerning the eternal names of the divine Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the relationships in the eternal being of God — most specifically knowing, loving and glorifying one another. Coming from the eternal communion of the Trinity, Jesus is the only one who can tell us surely and authoritatively that God, from eternity, is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only the Father knows the Son, and only the Son knows the Father and those to whom the Son has chosen to reveal him.
- (Luke 10:22; Matt. 11:27; John 1:18; 17:25; Matt.28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14)
1.18 What do Christians understand from the Holy Scriptures about the character of the triune God revealed by Jesus Christ?
- We learn that the character, mind, purpose, will and heart of the triune God is identical to what we see and hear in Jesus Christ, demonstrated by what he accomplished in his earthly ministry.
- Those who have met and seen the Son have indeed met in him the Father.
- We know the Father by knowing the Son. They are united in such a way that they have the same nature, character, heart, mind, will, authority, power and purpose.
- (John 10:30; 14:9; 17:11, 21-22; 1 John 2:23)
Teaching Notes: The Triune God
As you have seen in the part 1 Q&A, We Believe begins with the doctrine of the triune God (also called the doctrine of the Trinity). Why? Because what we believe about God is our most important belief. In accord with GCI’s incarnational Trinitarian theology, the doctrine of the Trinity, rather than being just one of several doctrines, is the primary doctrine of our Christian faith, which gives shape to all the others.
Some people object to the doctrine of the Trinity, noting that the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. That concern is addressed in GCI’s article, Is the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible?
Other common questions and concerns related to the doctrine of the Trinity are addressed in the following GCI articles (click on the titles to read them online):
• The Trinity: Just a Doctrine?
• Does the Doctrine of the Trinity Teach Three Gods?
• The Trinity: 1 + 1 + 1 = 1?
• How Many Gods Does God Say There Are?
• What Does Deuteronomy 6:4 Mean?
• Only One God
Having begun with the triune God (the doctrine of the Trinity), We Believe now proceeds to address each of the three Persons of the triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.