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This coming Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday in the church year. For those of us who have been in the Lutheran Church for a long time, Holy Trinity Sunday may elicit fond memories, though these memories may not have much to do with our thoughts on the Trinity. The Trinity is a part of our daily lives. We mark ourselves every day “In the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We remember our Baptism and what God has done for us. Our life is Trinitarian—we confess it in our worship, in our creeds, and in our doctrine.
For many people, Holy Trinity Sunday will bring fond thoughts of some of their favorite hymnody. For some, it is the Hymn of the Day: Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest.
For others, it may be Holy, Holy, Holy.
What comfort there is in these hymns. I’m always especially struck by the sixth stanza of Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest:
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And You, from both, as Three in One
That we Your name may ever bless
And in our lives the truth confess.
And while the hymnody is wonderful on Holy Trinity Sunday, we probably all remember it the most for the Athanasian Creed (LSB 319-320) that we confess on this day. For many of us, it is the one time a year that we read it. Maybe we remember it because of its length. It is my hope that we remember it more for its beauty, and because we take it upon ourselves to confess this creed with our families, in the home. There might not be a clearer text to describe the wonderful mystery of the Trinity.
As we prepare to confess this creed on Sunday, here are some tips for teaching about the creed to your children:
Hold the catholic faith?
It’s right there in the beginning:
Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith.
This might be confusing to your child (or maybe even you!). We are not professing that to be saved you must hold to the Roman Catholic faith. No, we are talking small c catholic here, meaning “universal”—you must hold the universal faith, the faith of the Christian Church. To be outside of this (what the Athanasian Creed confesses) understanding of God is to no longer be Christian. As you explain this to your family, this will more than likely springboard other questions, such as: Who doesn’t believe these things? Why don’t they believe these things? It is not the purpose of this post to answer all of those questions. When you encounter those questions, answer what you know, admit what you don’t know, and go with your child to your pastor and find out!
And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity…..
The majority of the Athanasian Creed is spent clearly outlining the relationship of the three persons of the Trinity. We see several statements of the three persons’ distinctiveness:
7 Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit:
9 the Father infinite, the Son, infinite, the Holy Spirit infinite;
13 In the same way, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty;
There is clear teaching about the three persons’ unity:
11 And yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal,
12 just as there are not three Uncreated or three Infinites, but one Uncreated and one Infinite.
16 and yet there are not three Gods, but one God.
We also find clear teaching about the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
20 The Father is not made nor created nor begotten by anyone.
21 The Son is neither made nor created, but begotten of the Father alone.
22 The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.
23 Thus, there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
24 And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another;
25 but the whole three persons are coeternal with each other and coequal, so that in all things, as has been stated above, the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity is to be worshiped.
There is a graphic organizer that has always helped me explain this to my Sunday School students in the past, and one that I use with my children to help teach about these statements. See below:
So you see that The Father is God, The Son is God, and The Holy Spirit is God. At the same time, you see that The Father is not the Son, The Son is not the Holy Spirit, and The Holy Spirit is not The Father.
And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.
At first glance, this is a terrifying statement! Your children may even ask you, “But Dad, I thought we weren’t saved by our works?” Don’t fret, you can confidently tell your children that this is true! We are not saved by our works. This is your opportunity to point them to Jesus, whose account they will give on the last day! First, turn to the book of Romans and affirm your children’s thoughts. Read Romans 7 with them to show them that we cannot earn anything:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Romans 7:14-19 ESV
Then, after you have read this to them, go back to Romans 6 and have them recall their Baptism, that moment that they were buried into death with Jesus, and raised anew with Him (Romans 6:4).
Take heart in what we hear at the end of chapter 6:For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Click To Tweet
So there you have it, three quick tips for teaching your family about the Athanasian Creed. What a blessing this creed is to us, and to God’s Church. I hope you consider adding this creed into your family’s devotional life.
God’s blessings as you teach the faith once for all, delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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