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).
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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’
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.