LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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THE APOSTLES’ CREED

 

 

Every person professing to be a Christian should be able to tell another person what he believes concerning the Christian faith. In reality, these beliefs are not just a set of doctrines dreamed up by some preachers a long time ago which no longer matter or have no real substance. The Christian faith is set in facts that are true and essential. A person cannot be a Christians without believing these facts. It is also true that just reciting these facts does not make one a Christian; these facts must lead one to a life-changing encounter with God, which results in the forgiveness of sins and the ability to live a holy life before God. To say one believes in Jesus or that the Bible is his creed does not do this on its own; reciting a creed or agreeing with a doctrinal statement does not do it either; one must believe and obey in faith what the facts teach in order to experience salvation from sin: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13).

Why, then, would we want to recite in our church services a creed or a statement of the facts we believe essential to be a Christian? If we should do such a thing it must have a purpose just as singing, testifying, praying and preaching have purposes in our church services. It is a sad fact that in modern America we have a condition similar to what the Early Church faced: People are ignorant of the things of God! Non-Christians and many professed Christians have no idea what Christianity is about. The secular media obfuscate and misrepresent Christianity; religious broadcasting sends out contradictory and confusing messages about Christianity; no wonder modern Americans have no real understanding of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His church. While it is advisable for churches to teach these essential facts in their entirety for a firm foundation of the faith of their people, it is almost for certain that the casual visitor will not stick around to hear out such in-depth teaching. To recite a creed during a church service in a worshipful attitude can give that visitor a general idea of what Christians believe and that what we believe are facts, not just doctrines or esoteric rules. Their hearing a creed recited will not necessarily cause them to become Christians, but they will be made aware of the basic facts of what it means to be a Christian.

 

Which Creed?

 

The Roman Catholic Church and traditional Protestant denominations have their own liturgies in which reciting a creed is an integral part. If not the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed, the creedal statement may have been developed by the denominational leadership or inherited from an earlier generation in the denominational genealogy.

A congregation may want to write a creedal statement of its own, reflecting its distinctiveness or unique approach to what it believes are the essential teachings of Christianity. Many congregations have a doctrinal statement in print or on their websites. This is a good thing to do, but a complete doctrinal statement may be too long and involved to function as a brief creedal statement. Ask someone from a congregation if he believes his church’s doctrinal statement, and he may answer “yes;” but ask him to recite the entire doctrinal statement and he will be able to give you only a brief outline of what that statement says—in other words, a credere. His brief outline would serve well to inform a non-Christian visitor as to what the church believes.

Creeds have existed for centuries and it may not be necessary to reinvent the wheel. The Ecumenical Creeds were introduced in a previous chapter, and any one of these may serve well as a brief statement of faith that can be recited during a church service. Most Evangelicals balk at the word “ecumenical” as if it were a curse word. The word simply means universal; these creeds were devised to express in concise statements the facts essential to the Christian faith. They remain, today, reasonable statements of what all Christians believe without going into denominational or theological distinctions. But which of these Creeds serves worship needs the best?

The simplest of the Ecumenical Creeds is the Apostles’ Creed. While it is simple, one must be aware that there are several versions of this creed in existence, some of which have statements that may need clarification to give the correct meaning. For example, some versions have Christ descending into hell, meaning the grave; but, to the unlearned mind it may come across that Jesus actually went to the devil’s hell, which is not a fact. Some versions use the expression “holy catholic church” instead of “holy church.” Again, this is technically correct, the word catholic meaning universal, but to the unlearned mind it may suggest the Roman Catholic Church. And then, there are some minor differences in phrasing between the different versions of the Creed.

The least complicated version of the Apostles’ Creed is the Old Roman Form of 390 a.d. as published in The Creeds of Christendom by Philip Schaff. It is brief and accurate and it avoids some of the linguistic pitfalls of other versions of the creed. It is subject to criticism as some people feel it does not say enough on some of the topics of the Creed.

 

The Biblical Foundation of the Apostles’ Creed.

 

The Apostles’ Creed is not a jumble of random facts thrown together. It is presented in the Biblical order of revelation and each statement in the Creed is based on Scriptural fact. Reading through the Creed is a brief walk through the New Testament. Below is each statement in the Creed with a relevant New Testament text. Again, this is not to be considered an exhaustive systematic theological presentation; also, there are many more texts that could be presented for each statement but these are sufficient for us to comprehend the Biblical foundation of the Creed.

 

I believe in God the Father Almighty.

Matthew 11:25 Jesus said, I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth . . .

And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .

Who was born by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.

Luke 1:27, 35 [the angel came to] a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. . . And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

Was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried.

John 19:13, 15–16, 38–42 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. . . . But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus and led Him away. . . . After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

The third day rose from the dead.

Matthew 28:1, 5–6  Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. . . . But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

He ascended into heaven; and sitteth on the right hand of the Father.

Acts 1:9, 11; 2:32–33 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. . . . “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” . . . This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

Acts 1:11 This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

And in the Holy Ghost.

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

The Holy Church.

Matthew 16:18 On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

The forgiveness of sins.

Mark 2:5, 10–11 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” . . . But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

The resurrection of the body.

John 11:23–24 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”