John Winebrenner (1797-1860) was ordained on September 28, 1820, as a minister of the German Reformed Church, a Calvinist body. He was given charge of four congregations in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area. Winebrenner labored extensively in revival meetings, but some of the members opposed what they considered “unusual efforts for the conversion of sinners.” In 1828 the General Synod of the German Reformed Church dropped him from its roster of ministers, in response to such complaints. In July 1830, Winebrenner was rebaptized by immersion by Jacob Erb. That year, he and co-laborers sympathetic with his efforts met and organized the General Eldership of the Church of God. Representatives from various denominations were present, and the new organization reflected that diversity.
In the early years of the Church of God, its members were popularly called Winebrennerians, after their founder. The official name was changed to the General Eldership of the Churches of God in North America in 1845, and to its present title in 1975.
God is eternal. God is the beginning of all that is (Genesis 1:1).
God is living and the only source of life and existence. To Mostes, when asked what to call Him, God replied, “I AM, that I AM” (Exodus 3:14), indicating God’s existence is beyond our own, all that exists has been created by him. God is sovereign – meaning he has complete authority of all creation.
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God is not a physical being. He is not human and is neither male nor female. We address God using terms he himself revealed (e.g. father, son, spirit, rock, shield, lord, arm of the Lord, hand of God, etc.) Pictures familiar to our experience are often used in Scripture in order to help us understand God, but it is impossible for us to have an exhaustive description of God. Since God revealed his character and nature to us, we use the masculine pronouns he chose to address himself with, as we describe what we believe (e.g. Genesis 3:11; John 1:1-2; John 15:1-2, 16:5-11).
God is unchanging (Malachi 3:6-7). What God has promised, what we has set as standards for life and goodness, are not open to being rewritten or changed (Matthew 5:18; Luke 16:17). This is not only a further reflection of God’s own identity as “I AM” – transcendent of our reality – but also a benefit to us that God is not impulsive or variable with his judgements (Romans 2:1-13).
We believe God is three persons but one God.
This is also known as the doctrine of the Godhead, or the Tri-unity of God (sometimes called “Trinity”).
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This passage indicates that God is singularly God – totally undivided. This means God alone is God and the only one that his people should listen to, and that he exists in completeness and unity within himself.
We believe that God has revealed himself as three persons, with complete identities and personalities, but wholly submitted to one another and indivisibly unified. Those three persons are:
The Father – creator/founder, (Genesis 1:1-2; Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 9:6) by whom all creation was conceived and finds its purpose.
Son (Jesus) – the Word. Creation was formed by the Word the Father spoke. The Son (Word) brings the Father’s plans into material creation, (Genesis 1:3; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-3, 10:30; Hebrews 1:1-3). Through him all things came to be, and by him the plans of God are fulfilled.
Holy Spirit – the mysterious presence of God, often called “the Holy Ghost” or the “Spirit of God.” Genesis 1:2 gives a picture that describes the Spirit moving in and through creation, assempling and empowering the created parts. This role is depicted throughout Scripture as we see the Spirit interweaving the will/purpose of God in creation and revealing who Jesus Christ is (Genesis 1:1-2; John 14:26, 16:7-13; Romans 8:9; Galatians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 12). The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Christ because of the co-equal nature of the persons of the Godhead. Through the Spirit we receive God’s comfort, counsel, power, special gifting to build up the Church, and are led into all Truth.
In Matthew 3:16-17 we see all three persons of God together at Jesus’ baptism which was done to fulfill righteousness – aligning the work God was going to do through Jesus to the same pattern God set for the rest of humanity.
Yet there is only one God (1 Corinthians 8:4b-6). God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). The Father is God. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God (Ephesians 4:3-6).