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Lessons in the Lutheran Confessions
“Proceeds”

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John 15:26–27

From the Confessions: The Nicene Creed

“Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son...”

Pulling It Together

The so-called procession of the Son from the Father, and the Spirit from the Father and the Son, has nothing to do with hierarchy within the Trinity. Confessing that the persons of the Trinity proceed from each other is in part simply saying that they are one. The Holy Spirit has equal share in glory with the Son, as well as the Father. Together, they are one God. Each is deity; and they are together one divinity, for they come from each other.

We are also confessing what the Scripture states clearly. Jesus said, “For I proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:42, KJV). So we understand that the Son proceeds from the Father. Later, John writes, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26, KJV). The Spirit proceeds from the Father and is sent by the Son. We do not bicker over the words “proceeds” and “sent.” Instead, “We maintain...that there is a plurality in God characterized by an undivided essence and an inseparable unity” (Luther’s Works, vol 2, p 227). The Spirit was not birthed, but proceeds from the Father and the Son in eternity, even as Jesus comes from the Father in eternity. Though one proceeds from another, they are undivided in their essence; they are inseparably one. In Luther's words again: “The Son is from the Father, the Holy Spirit is from both, and nevertheless it is one God” (“Sermon for the Sunday in Christmastide”). This we believe and confess.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for sending your Spirit to help us in this earthly life. Amen.

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The Power of Lent is a series of lenten dramas pairing two characters each week from the story of Jesus' Passion; bearing witness to what they saw, heard, and felt. Each pair of biblical characters reflects upon a similar theme for the week, showing how the same events brought about very different reactions to Jesus and his identity.

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2 Comments

1

Katherine Harms

Posted February 4, 2015 at 5:26am

Failure to understand this teaching was central to Mohammed's rejection of Christianity. We all need to understand it well enough to do what you have done--speak of a complex matter in a few simple words. Great post!
2

Mark Ryman

Posted February 4, 2015 at 7:35am

Well, thank you, Katherine. The Eastern and Western churches also had/have some difficulties/differences—with filioque in particular. I admit that I struggled to write this devotion. So, it is heartening to know somebody out there understood me!

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