The following excerpt is from the book, I Believe: A Study of the three universal or ecumenical creeds by Bjarne W. Teigen.
The Third Article of the Nicene Creed is quite similar to the Apostles’ Creed except it adds the confession of one baptism for the remission of sins. The Early Church accepted the fact of monotheism (one God) and the revelation Christ had given before His Ascension of Baptism into the Name of the Triune God, and that yet there were not three Gods, but One God. They recognized the Father as God, the Son as God, and the Holy Spirit as God, yet there were not three Gods but only One God. This is a deep mystery beyond human comprehension. Arius believed the Holy Spirit was also a created being, an energy of some kind from God, an impersonal force.
Athanasius took the lead in arguing that the Holy Spirit is also one essence with the Father and the Son. The one Godhead exists simultaneously in there Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Paul called the Spirit Lord (II Cor. 3:17-18; and the Spirit of Life (Rom. 8:2; II Cor. 3:6). The phrase who proceedeth from the Father and the Son is also Biblical (Jn. 15:26; I Cor. 2:12). The expression and the Son (the filoque) was confessed only in the Western Church, added in 589 at the Synod of Toledo in Spain. The Spirit proceeds from the Father (Mt. 10:20) and is sent by the Son (Jn. 20:22) and is to be worshipped and glorified together with them.
Who spake by the prophets: recalls the words of Peter in II Pet. 1:21. The Nicene Fathers confessed the doctrine of Verbal Inspiration that holy men of God wrote only that which the Holy Ghost communicated to them by inspiration. Because the Scriptures were true they could confess in the Second Article rose again according to the Scriptures. The Nicene Creed is accepted by the Christian World as a true statement of orthodox doctrine.
The Athanasian Creed: Historical Background: I doubt whether the New Testament Church has a more important document since the Apostolic Age (Luther). We don’t really know if Athanasius was the actual author of this Confession. The Western Church believed he wrote it while in exile in the West. In view of this tradition this Creed was formally accepted into the Lutheran Book of Concord in 1580. If Athanasius did not write this Creed we don’t know who did.
The first manuscript of the Athanasian Creed appeared in Latin among the sermons of Caesarius, the Bishop of Arles a city in Southern France from 502-542. There is no proof that Caesarius was the author. It was a popular Creed for instructional purposes especially after Charlemagne (724-814) decreed that all churchmen had to learn it. The clergy were required to memorize it, grasp its meaning and be able to expound upon it. The Roman Church ordered it recited on certain Sundays in the year, in particular Trinity Sunday. Let’s look at the structure of the Creed.
One of the striking differences between this Creed and the others are the damnatory clauses that explicitly draw a line between true and false doctrine. The word Faith is used in the sense of the doctrine delivered by the inspired apostolic teachers, in contrast to its usual meaning, faith in Jesus Christ (Jude 3). Negative statements such as he shall perish everlastingly is called the damnatory clauses. (Gal. 1:8-9). The Greek word for accursed or be damned is Anathema. Therefore clauses which reject false teaching are called Anathemas. Such clauses are also found in the Book of Concord.
Many theologians and laymen take exception to these clauses for fear of offending someone, but they overlook the fact that the revealed doctrine of Christ is exclusive (Acts 4:12). The Athanasian Creed deals with fundamental Christian truths, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and His Redeeming work. Our eternal salvation is at stake because without these truths, saving faith is impossible.
Sentences 1-6: This catholic or universal faith consists first of all in worshiping one God in Trinity and in Unity. This Creed begins by setting forth the Trinity as a unit (I Cor. 8:4) and yet describe to three, namely the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). When we accept the Athanasian Creed we are confessing that these truths have come directly from God’s Holy Scriptures, His direct revelation, and in this God alone can man truly worship the one and only God.
One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity with the warning not to confound the Persons nor to divide the Substance. The word Person meant that which subsists of itself and is not part or a quality of another (AC 1,4). The term essence or substance was used to signify the one undivided essence or reality common to the three Persons of the Deity. Only one such essence belongs to each person of the Godhead, wholly without division therefore each must have exactly the same glory and majesty as the other two.
Sentences 7-14 the Creed analyzes the attributes of the Godhead and finds each to be uncreated, infinite, eternal and omnipotent yet we are warned against concluding that there are three infinites, eternals, etc.
Sentences 15-20 warns against tritheism (that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate distinct Gods). Each of the Three Persons is God and Lord because each one of them is the one Godhead and yet there are not three Gods or Three Lords. Scripture ascribes the entire Godhead not only to the Father but also to the Son (Col. 2:9) and to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:4). They differ only in the relation they bear to one another.
Sentences 21-23 spell out this relationship. In eternity the Son is begotten as a distinct person from the Father (Ps 2:7) and the Holy proceeds from the Father and the Son but He remains in the Father and the Son and they remain in the Spirit’s essence. The Spirit is both of the Father (Mt. 10:20) and of the Son (Gal. 4:6).
Sentences 24-28 make the point that none of the Three is greater or lesser than another, but all Three are co-equal and co-eternal. Orthodoxy worships the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity and we cannot go any further than this because the Triune God has not revealed any more to us.
Sentences 29-37 assert that in the Incarnation Christ is at once fully God and fully Man. He had a twofold generation before time from the Father and in time from the Virgin Mary. Jesus revealed that He existed before He was born of the Virgin Mary (Jn. 8:58; 17:5). He took on human nature from the Virgin Mary in the fullness of time (Jn. 1:14; Rom. 9:5; I Tim. 3:16) becoming a complete man with body and soul with no division in His being.
Sentences 38-43 briefly explains what this Divine Human Christ has done, still does, and will do for our salvation. Here is it quite similar to the Second Article of the other two Ecumenical Creeds. Sentence 44 brings us back to the beginning on the absolute necessity of keeping this Faith pure or eternal perdition will follow.
The Son of God assumed human nature so that men might not be destroyed by death and to restore us to fellowship with God. The human nature alone would not have been an adequate ransom for sin. Only the Son of God suffering and dying in His own flesh could be the propitiation for the sins of the world. It is a work of divine power that the Son gathers His eternal Church from the human race, converts, justifies, sanctifies, saves, governs, and preserves it and bestows the Holy Ghost upon it, raises all men from the dead and leads the elect into eternal life (Chemnitz: The Two Natures in Christ).
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the Beginning, is now, and ever shall be; World without end. Amen.