We’re in a series of articles exploring the councils and creeds of the Christian church. Why? Because when it comes to faithfully and diligently working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) we miss a great deal when we simply try to construct our own “real Christianity” with nothing more than a bible. To take heed from those who have gone before us is to benefit from the wealth found in the most important theological declarations of the Christian tradition.
Today we begin the series with a look at the Apostles’ Creed.
Over the years, Christians have appealed to a variety of voices as sources for authority. While Scripture is clearly the ultimate and final source of authority on all matters to which it speaks, much of our theology was articulated and defined in the first 500 years of the Christian church. Often expressed in the form of a confession or creed, the Apostles’ Creed is perhaps the most well-recognised. So named because it is acknowledged to be a summary of apostolic teaching (i.e. taught by Jesus’ Apostles) many churches still recite it today as a reminder of the essentials of Christianity.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Why it Matters
While within the creed there are plenty of key doctrines that need further ‘fleshing out’, if you knew nothing else about Christianity but what was contained here, you would have something that Orthodox Christians of every kind could hang their faith on. The Apostles’ Creed speaks of God as Creator; the incarnation of God the Son; the gospel (Jesus died and rose again); forgiveness of sins, the gathering of the church by the Holy Spirit, and the hope of eternal life.
The Apostles’ Creed represents a set of uncompromising core beliefs for Christians. Much like the opening chapter of J. I. Packer’s Knowing God where he prompts the reader to stop and make sure they agree on and believe certain foundational truths before they continue into the deep waters of his book, the Christian must be able to affirm each sentence, stanza, and summary statement contained in the creed in order to grasp what Christianity through the ages believed and continues to believe.
The Apostles’ Creed reminds us that our faith is not mythological, nor is the work of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit disconnected from our daily lives as disciples of this seeking, saving, three-in-one God. The Apostles’ Creed reminds us of this reality in clear, simply terms.