“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”Romans 10:8–9, ESV
The earliest creed of the Church were the words of Christ in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is the core of the faith. Faith, as
Paul says is confession and belief. I would say that without belief, there is no possibility of confession. And, without confession, there is no assurance of belief. This is why I believe that it is unlikely a person can claim belief in their salvation apart from their membership and attendance in a church. In the first place, all people believe false things. Belief must be founded upon something, and there is no other foundation than the Word of God. Yes, Jesus is the Word. But he does not walk the earth today as he did in the years from his birth to his death and in his resurrection. So, not willing to leave his Church without his physical presence, he gave us the gift of his authoritative Word in the Scriptures, and nowhere else.
How do we know these things? Because he says so in the Bible: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV) Returning to Paul’s testimony in Romans 10, how can a person believe if he does not hear. Thus, secondly, our understanding of what the Church is and does comes down to hearing and believing. “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.” (Matthew 28:20, ESV) I conclude that one cannot believe what they do not know, and the way God has provided for this necessity is the preaching and teaching of the Word. Such is done in the Church and not alone. We give heed to the Holy Spirit as giving us understanding, but, this work is not done in a vacuum.
Third, confession is made by the mouth, i.e., speaking. This must be done in a public setting, for there is no profit in confessing to yourself. In the Church, we have been given a fantastic compilation of creeds and confessions that allow us to profess our faith. While it is true that various confessions are not equally helpful, they are, nonetheless, a systematic compendium of the things we are to observe. Being the creation of men, they are not infallible, and they may be altered if necessary. The key, though, is that creeds and confessions are not the work of one person but many. They have origin in the life and history of the church.
One such creed is the Apostles’ Creed. The evidence tells us that this creed was not authored by the Apostles. It is to me highly improbable that the Apostles wrote the creed and never recorded this in all of the New Testament writings. Certainly Luke would have included such an important event in The Acts of the Apostles. Nothing in that book even suggests such an event. Yet, over time, the Apostles’ Creed has been accepted as a brief statement of Apostolic teaching. Going back to Matthew 28, the first act of faith is baptism.
Christ requires baptism. Nowhere in Scripture is the sacrament of baptism with water defined as to how baptism is to be done, so all the disputes over this matter are frivolous wastes of time. Virtually all Christendom recognizes the symbolism of washing away our sins in baptism. And Christ said that baptism is a public profession of faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I would say, though the symbolism may be an assurance for the one being baptized, it is definitely a testimony to the Church that Christ washes away our sin. Every Christian needs this reminder often. Traditionally, prior to the baptism, confession is made of the faith. The most lasting confession for this has been the Apostles’ Creed.
The Creed is a confession that we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Church is trinitarian at the core. Failure to believe the Trinity is a failure of faith. Included in our faith are statements identifying each member of the Trinity and their work in salvation.
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And (I believe) in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary;
suffered under Pontius Pilate;
was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell;
the third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit;
I believe a holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Daniel R. Hyde, Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims, (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2010), 4.
I have not found a better account that includes the essentials of faith. The creed can be a starting place for the study of the Scriptures. There is a plethora of Biblical information teaching us each point.
In my next blog, I will begin to address the theology encapsulated in the Apostles’ Creed. However, I encourage every one to become a member in a Christian Church and participate in worship that includes, at least some times, the Confession of the Apostles’ Creed. It reminds us of our faith. It teaches our children about faith. And in the process, we will be transformed into more substantial, wiser Christians.