Charles Spurgeon (the 19th century London “Prince of Preachers”) once said to his students: “You are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound the Scripture without the assistance from the works of divine and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition . . . It seems odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves should think so little of what he has revealed to others.” In other words, we can learn much from the men John Piper calls “Dead Saints.”
This is certainly true when it comes to the creeds of the church. A creed is a statement of beliefs that summarizes core doctrines of the Scriptures. Creeds were formulated by church councils to respond to particular heresies and situations that troubled the church over early centuries. They are not Scripture. But by them we can publicly confess what we believe as a church over against false ideas that seep in and mislead us. This is particularly important these days when “beliefs” are often little more than groundless personal opinions and when our ties to the historic Christian church are lost by our ignorance.
Here, then, are two popular creeds. Other creeds and confessions can be found at . . .
The Apostles’ Creed. It was not written by the apostles, but its doctrines are consistent with teaching from the apostolic period. Its earliest written form is dated somewhere around 215 A.D.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, 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 sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick (living) and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic (universal) Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Nicene Creed. In 325 A.D. Roman Emperor Constantine (who had made Christianity the empire’s official religion) convened a council to settle a dispute about the deity of Jesus Christ. This creed proclaims the council’s decision. The creed was revised and expanded into its present form in 381 B.C.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic (universal) and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
This I Believe (The Creed)–Hillsong. For those more into music, Hillsong has obliged with this contemporary creed-song. Sing along and confess! www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=Onj5fHdX4wku=/watch%3Fv%3DuuDIsk2nJU%26list%3DPLtHOZdL35EaE24yFfC3VGrTUip6Ys7B0v%26feature%3Dem-share_video_in_list_user
Confessing. “Confessing” doesn’t mean “admitting what you did wrong”. It means “professing what you believe”. But when we “say” a creed in the gathered church, that’s what we usually do–“say” it, trying to keep pace with all the other “sayers.” We recite, but it’s hard to think deeply. We read, but it’s hard to consider it a robust profession of what we really believe. The same is too often true of singing our worship songs.
Do we really believe what we confess in the creeds? Do we really believe what we sing in our worship songs? Then let’s sing our worship as if our Lord were sitting up front listening! Let’s confess our creeds as if a radical extremist was holding a knife to our throat demanding, “What do you believe?”!
Even if we never face that test, let’s confess and sing from our hearts with affection and conviction . . .
- so that others around us are encouraged in the faith
- so that “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10) know where we stand
- and so that in a world that believes everything (and consequently nothing), the one true livingGod (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is glorified by the steadfast words of our mouth and the uncompromising meditations of our hearts!
(Special thanks to Meridith Clark for sending me this song!)