Aymer has a message for churches doing all they can to make worship relevant and contemporary. Only a narrow stream of death separates us from the saints now in heaven—and God spans that. He has studied, pastored churches, and taught throughout the Caribbean and the Eastern United States. He often worships in Presbyterian and Lutheran churches. Aymer explains that including historic creeds in worship adds theological depth and integrity to services. Creeds give biblical authority to worship because the creeds are based on the Bible. Reciting biblical words aloud together, whether in prayers, creeds, or liturgies, often helps worshipers move from doubt to belief.
Calling people to mercy. Calling a nation to responsibility to how it uses its resources and how it spends the lives of its young people. That's the role of the prophet. Now, admittedly, the Apostles' Creed does not specifically mention the word "Trinity," or spell out its details. But remember that the creed was intended to be a summary of beliefs, not a comprehensive statement of faith. And when it was used in the church's liturgy, everyone in the church knew that to mention these three persons of God in this way was to imply the concept of the Trinity. Now, not every Christian understands the full meaning of the word Trinity, so we should pause to explain it.
The Apostles’ Creed: Its History and Origins
The Trinity is commonly stated this way:. By the term person, we mean a distinct, self-aware personality. And by the term essence, we are referring to God's fundamental nature or the substance of which he consists. Of course, the concept of the Trinity is very difficult for human beings to grasp. God's existence and nature are so far beyond the realm of our experience that it is difficult for us to conceive of him.
Even so, the Trinity is one of the most important distinctive beliefs of Christianity. But how did such a complex doctrine become such an important cornerstone in Christian theology? So, when we say that God consists of one essence, we are defending the biblical truth that there is only one God. And we are trying to explain how three separate persons can all be that one God.
We use the term essence to refer to that thing that each of these three persons shares entirely in common with the others, to the stuff or being that belongs as much to the Father as it does to the Son, and as it does to the Holy Spirit. And when we say that God exists in three persons, we are defending the biblical truth that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct from one another.
They are separate individuals who converse with one another, interact with one another, engage in relationships with one another. In many ways, the concept of the Trinity is a great mystery. But it is also an accurate summary of the Bible's many teachings on the nature of our extraordinary God. The idea of the Trinity is critical to Christian theology for many reasons. For example, it defends our belief that Jesus is God, and that Jesus is not simply the Father in disguise.
It also explains why we affirm monotheism, worshiping only one God, even though we worship and pray to three persons: Beyond this, it helps us to give proper honor to all God's persons. And it comforts us with the knowledge that the presence and help of any of God's persons is the presence and help of God himself.
In fact, belief in the Trinity is so foundational to so many other Christian ideas that it is hard to imagine historic Christianity without it. Having looked at the doctrine of God in the Apostles' Creed in terms of the Trinity, we are ready to consider the statements it makes about the different persons of God in distinction from each other.
With regard to the Father, the creed ascribes to him the attribute of being almighty, and mentions the historical fact that he is the maker of heaven and earth. Now, certainly God has far more attributes than his infinite power and sovereignty, and he has performed more astounding acts than making the world. And in some important senses, the creed's description of the Father doesn't even distinguish Christianity from other religions that might also express belief in a sovereign, divine creator. But the early church felt that these statements were sufficient to demonstrate that a person's beliefs about the Father were compatible with Christianity.
And they relied on other statements in the creed to distinguish Christianity from the religions around it. For instance, the creed has much more to say about the Son, Jesus Christ. Although it does not describe any of his attributes, it mentions several details of his earthly life and ministry - details that would be denied by those outside the church.
The creed mentions Jesus' incarnation, his coming to earth as a human baby, and living a genuinely human life. And it speaks of his suffering, death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven. Scripture tells us that unbelievers have denied these basic facts since they took place. Even today, many liberal historians and theologians deny these facts, as do many Christian cults and false religions.
For example, Islam affirms that Jesus was a true prophet of God. But it insists that he was never crucified or resurrected, and it denies his divinity. Finally, the creed mentions Jesus' role as the one who will judge all humanity on the last day, condemning the wicked, but granting believers eternal, blessed life. Other than that, it merely affirms his existence as a distinct person of God. Implicitly, however, the creed associates the Holy Spirit with the church, and with our experience of salvation both now and in the future.
We will say much more about each of the persons of God in future lessons. So for now we will simply point out that the creed is concerned not only to affirm Trinitarianism, but also to speak of each person of the Trinity in ways that are central to the Christian faith. While its statements are not extensive, the creed says enough about God and his persons to distinguish those who affirm the historic Christian faith from those who do not. Now that we have mentioned the doctrinal statements that refer to God himself, we are ready to point out the way the Apostles' Creed speaks of the church.
The Apostles' Creed describes the church in two different phrases. First, the church is called the holy catholic church. Second, the church is described as the communion of saints. These phrases have been interpreted in many different ways, and we will deal with them greater detail in a future lesson.
For now, we will simply point out that the phrase the holy catholic church does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church but to the church in all its parts throughout the world. Even so, it may seem strange to many Protestants to think about believing in the church in any form. Rather, it means that we affirm the belief that the church is both holy, or sanctified, and catholic, meaning universal. And we affirm our belief that there is a communion of saints, that is, a fellowship of believers. It is in these senses that historic Christianity has insisted on the importance of the church.
In this lesson, we will focus on just two aspects of the church that were central to the articles of faith in the Apostles' Creed. On the one hand, we will look at participation in the church. And on the other hand, we will consider doctrinal preservation by the church. Let's begin with participation in the church. Of course, in the history of the Christian church, there have been many people who wanted to have God as their Father, Jesus as their Lord, and the Holy Spirit as their advocate, but who did not want to be part of the visible church, the gathered people of God.
As we read in Hebrews chapter 10 verse Even in the first century, some professing believers wanted to avoid the gathered church as a place for worship, teaching and fellowship. But Scripture teaches that the church is important and necessary for Christians. Of course, those who originally used the Apostles' Creed were not like this.
The Apostles' Creed: The Articles of Faith
On the contrary, the creed was used particularly in church services. And it was affirmed by those who came to the church for baptism. They came to be joined to its numbers, to be included in its gatherings. This is the model that the creed puts forth for us to follow. Even so, in the modern world we still encounter Christians who avoid the church. Perhaps it is because they dislike organized religion.
Or maybe they have been mistreated by other Christians. Or perhaps they think that it is sufficient to read Christian books, watch Christian television, and use Christian websites. But the Bible teaches Christians to form an actual, physical community, and it insists that this community is extremely important to every believer.
It is not to be limited to spiritual fellowship, although it is true that Christians have spiritual communion with each other through Christ and his Spirit. Rather, our community is to be like a family or neighborhood. It is to consist of people who interact with each other face to face.
With the importance of participation in the church in mind, we should move to doctrinal preservation by and within the church. As we mentioned when we spoke of rules of faith, the church is not infallible. And the Apostles' Creed is not encouraging us to believe whatever our local church teaches.
What do you believe?
Rather, it is simply affirming the fact that Christ appointed his church in part to protect and to proclaim the gospel and other truths. Listen to the way Jude, the brother of Jesus, wrote about the church's mission in verses 3 and 4 of his epistle:. According to Jude, part of the church's job is to contend for the faith, to protect the truths and beliefs that have been entrusted to it against those who promote false teachings and practices. Now, it should be obvious to most of us that there are many false teachings in various parts of the church today.
And there are many sinful practices as well. Nevertheless, God has never withdrawn the church's assignment, or declared that any other group or individual should take over the job of protecting true doctrine. It is still the job of the church to protect the truth. And the church is still trying to do its job. Sometimes we do it better than others.
Some of our theology is faithful to Scripture, but other parts of it need to be improved, or even changed altogether. And this will always be the case. But for our purposes in this lesson, the point we want to make is this: We can't give up. We have to keep trying to preserve doctrine in the church. And if we abandon this call, we are denying a central article of the historic Christian faith: I believe in the church. Now that we have looked at the articles of faith related to God and the church, we are ready to turn to our third category: The last three articles of faith in the creed deal with aspects of salvation.
Specifically, they mention the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. In traditional systematic theology, resurrection and everlasting life are also treated under the heading of eschatology, the doctrine of last things. But for the sake of simplicity, we will only address them under the heading of salvation. All Christians believe in the forgiveness of sins through the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
We believe that if we confess and repent of our sins, God will not punish us in hell for them.
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And as the Apostles' Creed indicates, this has been the belief of the church from its earliest days. And we all know Scriptures that teach us that all those who are forgiven are blessed with eternal life through Jesus Christ. For instance, John chapter 3 verses 16 through 18 encourages us with these words:. Eternal life belongs to every believer. In some respects, it begins the moment we come to faith, since our souls are given new life and will never die.
But the nature of the eternal life affirmed by the creed sometimes surprises modern Christians. Specifically, the creed speaks about the resurrection of the body. Sometimes, Christians make the mistake of thinking that the creed is referring to the resurrection of Jesus.
But it is not. Jesus' resurrection is mentioned earlier in the creed, in the words "The third day he rose from the dead.
Rather, when the creed speaks of the resurrection of the dead, it is referring to the biblical teaching that all people will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment, and that they will go to their eternal fates, not as disembodied spirits, but as physical, bodily creatures. This is the consistent teaching of Scripture, and it has been an article of faith in the church for thousands of years.
The creed's statements about salvation are taught clearly in Scripture and have always been embraced by biblical churches. Even so, many modern people who claim to follow Christ reject these basic, fundamental teachings. There are some who deny that God holds us accountable for our sin, and who insist that forgiveness is unnecessary. There are unbelievers in our churches who teach that this life is all there is, and that any so-called "eternal" life we possess is limited to our time on earth in our physical bodies.
And there are many who wrongly believe that we will spend eternity as disembodied spirits in heaven. For reasons like these, the articles of faith in the Apostles' Creed are just as important and relevant for the church today as they were in the early centuries. In summary, the Apostles' Creed focuses on doctrines related to God, the church, and salvation. In other lessons in this series, we will explore each of these concepts in much greater depth.
But for now, we simply want to make sure that we understand the big picture: So far in our discussion of the Apostles' Creed as the articles of faith, we have spoken of the history of the creed, and offered an overview of its theology. We are ready to move to our third major topic: We will mention three aspects of the importance of the doctrinal statements in the Apostles' Creed. First, we will explain that these teachings are foundational to the rest of Christian theology.
Second, we'll talk about the universal affirmation of these teachings throughout the church. And third, we'll speak of the unifying nature of these articles of faith. Let's begin by exploring the foundational qualities of the doctrines in the Apostles' Creed. Most people are familiar with the idea that large buildings need solid foundations. The foundation is the base on which the rest of the building is created. It is the anchor that holds the building firmly in place, and that provides strength and stability for the entire structure.
In Ephesians chapter 2 verses 19 through 21, Paul spoke of the church as a building founded on the apostles and prophets. Listen to his words there:. And in a similar way, Christian theology must be founded on true doctrines and principles if it is to honor God and be useful to his people. Just as Jesus is the cornerstone of the church, his teachings are the cornerstone of theology.
And just as the apostles and prophets became the church's foundation by introducing Christ to the world, the Apostles' Creed is foundational to theology because it introduces us to the teachings of the apostles recorded in Scripture. We will consider the foundational nature of the Apostles' Creed in two parts.
First, we will look at how it provides a standard against which other doctrines can be judged. And second, we will speak of the way that it serves as the logical basis on which other true doctrines are built. Let's begin with the Apostles' Creed as a theological standard. The Apostles' Creed functions as a doctrinal standard because it presents several of the biggest, most important ideas of Christianity. These ideas are taught so clearly in Scripture that they should be recognized and embraced by everyone. As we said earlier in this lesson, these teachings are essential to Christianity.
As a result, every other doctrine that we embrace must be compatible with these teachings.
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We cannot accept any idea that contradicts these essential teachings. Have you ever seen a ventriloquist? A ventriloquist is a performer who can speak in way that makes it look like he is not speaking. Ventriloquists often perform with puppets, making it look like the puppet is carrying on a conversation with the ventriloquist. A skilled performer can make the puppet seem almost as if it were alive. But no matter how convincing the performance is, we know that it is really the ventriloquist who is speaking and not the puppet.
Well, the answer is simple. We know that puppets aren't alive, and that they can't really talk. So, when we observe a puppet that appears to talk, we judge our experience by the standard of what we know to be true. No matter how much it looks like the puppet is talking, our standard tells us that the appearance is deceptive. And so we refuse to believe it. We may not be able to explain how the puppet can appear to be alive and to speak its mind.
But we know that there must be a logical explanation that is consistent with our standard. In a similar way, the Apostles' Creed summarizes those central beliefs that we hold so strongly that we will never change them. We believe that the Bible is so clear on these points, and that they are so important, that we cannot compromise on them.
So, no matter what other perspectives people present to us, we refuse to believe anything that conflicts with these central teachings of Scripture. Using the creed as a standard helps us remain faithful to Scripture when convincing false teachers present us with bad theology. Many of us have met people who are so good with their arguments, and who are so compelling as individuals, that we are inclined to believe most things they say - even when they are mistaken or lying.
So, it helps to have a short list of essential beliefs that can anchor us to the teachings of Scripture. And the Apostles' Creed provides such an anchor. For example, there were several major heresies that the church responded to in the early centuries of its life. And one of these was Gnosticism. Among other things, Gnosticism taught that our physical bodies are evil, and that salvation involves freeing our souls from their imprisonment in our bodies. Now, not every Christian in the early church knew how to refute this error. But those who had been trained in the doctrines of the Apostles' Creed could confidently reject this heresy on the basis that Scripture teaches the resurrection of the body.
That is, it teaches that Jesus came to redeem us as whole persons, including not only our souls, but also our bodies. Many of us have been confused by a clever argument, or misled by mistaken or misrepresented data. Now, we can't always explain what is wrong with these arguments and findings. But even so, we can confidently reject those things that contradict the Apostles' Creed , because we know that the creed is faithful to Scripture. Of course, we never want to raise the Apostles' Creed or any other statement of faith to the level of Scripture.
The Bible alone is absolutely unquestionable. And even the articles of faith in the Apostles' Creed should be rejected if they can be shown to contradict Scripture. But the Apostles' Creed has stood the test of time since the earliest centuries of the church. It has been shown repeatedly to be an accurate representation of the Bible. So, we should feel confident using it as a standard for judging the many doctrines we encounter in the modern world. Having considered the way the Apostle's Creed can serve as a useful doctrinal standard, we are ready to talk about another of its foundational aspects: The logical relationship between ideas is similar to the relationship between a river and its headwater or source.
Logically basic ideas are like the river's headwater. They are the source of other ideas. And logically dependent ideas are like the river that naturally flows from that headwater. So, when we say that one idea serves as the logical basis for another, we mean that we can create a reasonable argument that moves from the logically basic idea to the establishment of other ideas that are logically dependent.
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For instance, the Apostles' Creed says very few things explicitly about God the Father. All it says is:. But these doctrines form the logical basis for many other things we believe about the Father. For instance, on the basis that God is the maker of heaven and earth, we also rightly believe that he has authority over heaven and earth, and that the original creation was good, and that we can learn things about God by looking at the natural world. We can illustrate the value of logically basic doctrines by looking at a tree. We might think of the ground itself as Scripture, with the tree of theology growing out of it.
The trunk of the tree, and its major branches, represent the most basic doctrines. These are based on and dependent on Scripture alone. But as the major branches divide into more and smaller branches, they move to beliefs that logically flow from the larger branches. And as we look at the leaves on the tree, we are looking at ideas that depend on the smaller branches. When we picture it this way, the value of beginning with the Apostles' Creed becomes clear. We need to learn the big doctrines first, to get the shape of the tree in place, and firmly rooted in Scripture.
This does two things for us. First, it helps us see the relationship between the various different beliefs in our theological systems. And second, it helps us think about doctrines that are more remote from Scripture in ways that harmonize these less central ideas with our fundamental beliefs. They most often define the foundational beliefs that provide the guiding principles for the group's existence.
The Case for Reciting Creeds in Worship
In the Christian Church, creeds are an attempt to summarize in formal statements the basic or essential beliefs which are regarded as truth. The first creeds of the Christian Church are called ecumenical creeds because they were decided upon in church councils that represented the entire church at the time before the church permanently spilt into Eastern Orthodox and Western Roman factions in AD Creeds are most often used in services of worship in which the entire congregation recites the creed as a confession of the Faith.
Today, most Christian churches accept the ecumenical creeds and use them in worship to varying degrees. Some churches recite at least one of the creeds every Sunday, while some traditions make little use of them in regular services of worship. A creed is a confession of faith for public use, a form of words which Christians have found helpful in expressing Christian belief or doctrine. Creeds are never of equal authority with the Bible, however it is clear that over the centuries the Church has had to try to understand what the Bible means.
The creeds bear witness to how Christians over time have understood the Bible. Of course some creedal words are actually used in the Bible itself, which shows us that the very first Christians found it necessary to have firm statements of what they believed. Our creeds are still developing. The reason for this is because there is no need to think of the Holy Spirit as solely masculine. Feminist theologians have been active in suggesting that the word for Spirit can equally be regarded as feminine.
Perhaps this may be an example of the Spirit leading us into truth and enabling to grow in understanding. The Apostles were concerned that the important truths which they believed were clearly stated and maintained and there is evidence in the New Testament that there were creedal statements current during the life-time of the Apostles.
There were brief statements of faith in Christ as the Son of God and in the incarnation Rom. The apostle Paul emphasises the importance of "holding the pattern of sound words," and teaches that the Church is the "pillar and ground of the truth. I have suggested a passage from 1 Timothy for bible study, afterwards, if you have time, there are also some other creedal statements which you can look at in the New Testament. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance and for this we labour and strive , that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Here are some more Creedal statements found in the New Testament The following scripture passages are considered by many to be creeds or declarations of faith.
These are very early statements of what the church just after Jesus believed. See if you can spot the important message which was being declared. You are the King of Israel! Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God. And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, 'See, here is water!
What is to prevent my being baptized? Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.