Creeds and the Christian Church

Last Sunday, Joel Smith preached the sermon: “Live from the Approval of God,” from 2 Corinthians 10:12-18 and exhorted us to live from the approval of God, not for the approval of man. To do this, we must: 1. Repent from prideful comparison. 2. Receive the grace of God and our God-assigned area of influence. 3. Boast in the Lord and live.

Read: 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

This Sunday, Pastor Jeremy Chasteen will preach from 2 Corinthians 11:1-15 and will teach us to avoid deception by defending, displaying, and discerning the truth. Also, we will be reciting the Apostles’ Creed together this Sunday. As you prepare your heart for our corporate gathering, consider this article written by Pastor Jason Finley. Here, Jason informs us about the nature of creeds and their place in Christian worship while highlighting the Apostles’ Creed.

Reflect: “Creeds and the Christian Church”

In his second letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes, “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).

Here, Paul was afraid, not for his own safety or well-being, but that like Eve, the church at Corinth would be deceived and led away from the gospel of truth.

We like to think we would respond differently than Eve did in the garden, that Crosspoint Church would respond differently in the face of such obvious truth-twisting and deceit. Surely if Satan came to you, me, or the body of believers at Crosspoint Church, we would respond with great boldness and faith without the slightest bit of deceit or doubt. Right?

If you’re like me, maybe not.

The truth is we are all susceptible to being “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” — both as individuals and the corporate body of Christ.

Our early church fathers knew this too. In fact, the church has always had to carefully guard its confession of faith against error — no matter how slight. Just like Satan’s temptation of Eve in the garden, it’s often the enemy’s ever-so-small twisting of the Word that causes the most confusion, distraction, and division.

To help the church combat such errors and contend for the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), confessional statements called creeds have served as doctrinal guardrails for the church and the Christian.

What is a creed?

A creed is a brief statement of faith that lists important truths which clarify doctrinal points and distinguish truth from error. The word creed originates from the Latin word credo, meaning, “I believe.” In the case of the church, “We believe.”

It’s important to note creeds hold no authority and are not divinely inspired — Scripture alone is the inspired Word of God and the church’s sole authority (2 Tim. 3:14-17).

However, we can find creedal-type confessions in the Word of God. One example is Philippians 2:6-11, where Paul, in just six verses, summarizes the work of Christ:

Of Jesus, Paul writes, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Paul’s pattern of reminder and repetition continued throughout his ministry. He charged his disciples to follow:

  • His teaching (Romans 6:17; 2 Timothy 3:10)
  • The gospel “as was delivered” (1 Corinthians 11:23; 15:3)
  • The “tradition” or rule of faith (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6)

It’s the apostles’ very pattern upon which many of our creeds are modeled.

Creeds and evangelism

As the gospel spread to pagan cultures, the church faced the challenge of evangelizing and teaching those with no understanding of the God of the Bible. Whereas the Jews knew God from the Old Testament and were awaiting the coming redeemer in the person of Christ, pagan Gentiles had no previous knowledge or belief. In such circumstances, creeds proved helpful for evangelizing non-believers and training believers in the faith’s basic tenets.

Creeds and corporate worship

Today, as throughout Christian history, local churches use creeds as a part of a corporate worship gathering, often before the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

As the church recites creeds in unison, we are reminded of the church universal and the great privilege of joining faithful believers across time throughout the world confessing our common faith to the glory of God.

What is the Apostles’ Creed?

The Apostles’ Creed is perhaps the most well-known of the Christian creeds.

It first appeared in the fourth century and has been memorized and recited in Christian worship ever since. The Apostles’ Creed is an accurate summary of Christian doctrine affirmed by generations of Christians through the history of the church.

This concise statement of the faith is a narrative of God’s glorious redemption of sinners through Christ. While we believe more than this, the Apostles’ Creed depicts essentials of the Christian faith, which have been affirmed by saints across the ages in all places. We shouldn’t believe less than this.

As you’re able, read it aloud to yourself.

The Apostles’ Creed

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 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 sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From there he shall 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.

*Affirms Jesus physically died and was in the realm of the dead known as Hades. He experienced the fullness of death for sinners.

**Not the Roman Catholic Church but the church universal — the redeemed of the Lord across all time and all places.

Highlights of the Apostles’ Creed

Observe with me the following doctrinal highlights found in the Apostles’ Creed:

  • Faith: Above all, the Christian hope of salvation is not based on what we have done but on the work God has done for us through Christ. Confessing “I believe” at the outset of the Apostles’ Creed re-affirms faith in Jesus as our only hope of salvation (John 3:16; 20:31).
  • Trinity: The Apostles’ Creed explicitly affirms God’s triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20).
  • Creation: Throughout human history, people have speculated and theorized on the origins of life. The Apostles’ Creed affirms, in no uncertain terms, God the Father is the sovereign creator of all. Therefore, His creation and all people are wonderfully subject to His righteous rule.
  • Redemption through Christ: The centerpiece of the Apostles’ Creed is the narrative of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the God-man. Jesus suffered and experienced the fullness of death in our place. Jesus rose triumphantly from the grave and ascended to heaven, where he sits in glory (Acts 2:27-31). Against many counterfeit claims, the creed exclaims, “This is who Jesus is and what he came to do!”
  • Future Hope: Knowing that Jesus experienced death before us and rose from the dead, Christians know with certainty that he will surely see us through when we die. The Apostles’ Creed affirms that Christians will experience the forgiveness of sins leading to eternal life in resurrected bodies. Death does not have the final word.


Creeds and the church today

Fortified by the Word of God and bolstered by confessional statements like the Apostles’ Creed, Christians are better equipped to guard against being led astray as Paul once feared for the church at Corinth.

As he said in 2 Corinthians 11:4, we must all be ready to discern truth from error when anyone proclaims a message contrary to the Bible — creeds help the church and the individual believer do just that.

“Creeds and the Christian Church,” by Jason Finley, Lead Pastor for Equipping.

Sing: Song List for Sunday

1. “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Arr. Matt Boswell
2. “In Christ Alone,” Arr. Passion
3. “O Great God,” by Sovereign Grace Music

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