The Apostles’ Creed: The Confession of Our Faith
I believe and am convinced of the validity of the Apostles’ Creed which exhibits the essence of the Christian faith from its historical context. I have made the Apostles’ Creed the confession of my faith when I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life. I believe that it bears the truth about God, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. I have touched upon every element found in the Creed in the messages I have preached and taught over the years. My goal in this essay is to summarize my understanding and what my convictions are as they relate to the Apostles’ Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed is a statement, compiled by later Christians, that defines the foundation of Christianity as testified by those who were eye witnesses of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and by those who once adhered and lived under the governing authority of the Torah. Though the Apostles did not write the Creed themselves, they were the forebears of the testimony of Jesus Christ. Their statement and witness was recorded by other Christians who knew of the Apostles’ life firsthand and who established the writings of the four gospels as recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Furthermore, many of the epistles were written while the Apostles were still living. So, the testimony of Jesus and all the events and teachings that revolved around his life was already widely in circulation in the province of Palestine by the Apostles, and throughout Asia Minor and around the Mediterranean basin by way of the Apostle Paul’s missionary work.
Though the Apostles’ Creed was not finalized until many years later, it was the people of the early church, but not the Apostles themselves, who transcribed the various statements of the testimony of the Apostles on papyruses and parchments. It was from these writings, that we find in our New Testament books and epistles, where the confession of the Apostles’ Creed was extracted to exhibit and promulgate the essence of the Christian faith to the churches around the Mediterranean Sea. My own faith is predicated on this background history and documentation of the testimony of those who were first witnesses of Jesus’ life and teachings. In other words, the Apostles’ Creed is a direct reflection of what the scripture teaches, and I have accepted by faith the validity of these scriptures as God’s inspired Word which bears the truth of the testimony of these first Apostles of Jesus Christ.
The Creed speaks of God, the Father, of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It makes a cursory notation of the Virgin Mary who gave birth to Jesus, and of Pontius Pilate who consummated the role of putting Jesus to death. It unfolds the fate and destiny of Jesus’ life. It speaks of Judgment of the living and the dead. It refers to the Church as a living entity and the state of its condition: Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of Sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Each phrase in its term carries tremendous theological weight and implication that could lead us writing volumes of commentary.
Here is the complete quotation of the Apostles’ Creed as a statement of faith which I divided into three sections. Each section is followed by a brief commentary from my own perception and understanding:
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
This first sentence reveals something about God, the Father Almighty. He is the creator of heaven and earth as the Old Testament scripture in Genesis chapter 1 affirms and testifies to His creation activity. The term God Almighty is prevalent throughout the Old Testament Writings. But, it is only in the New Testament where God is ascribed to as “Father” by Jesus Christ as used in his prayers and teachings. This has opened to me an understanding of our relationship to God and God’s relationship to us. He is Father. He cares, He loves, and He provides for our need.
“I believe 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, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
In this second paragraph of the Creed the subject is Jesus Christ. It is his story line of what happened to his life from his conception to his ascension to the Father, and his second coming as a judge. Notice that some crucial elements are not mentioned, but are implied, in terms of why all of this was necessary for Jesus to go through. Our references in scripture reveal that Jesus came to reconcile the human race back to God, to redeem lost humanity, to pay a ransom for those who had the sentence of the penalty of death on their life because of sin. This condition of sin includes all of humanity. Sin is the violation of God’s will and command for our life. As you will discover in the next paragraph of the Creed, the word “sin” is used, and it is this sin that carries the sentence of death. Biblically, sin is the cause of our separation from God. The only answer God provided to resolve our human dilemma was the death of His Son Jesus Christ. It was the shedding of Jesus’ blood as the price to redeem humanity from the penalty of death. Through Jesus we are granted grace, salvation, forgiveness of sin, and eternal life – the goodness of God toward humanity.
When I observe how Jesus is written in the creed, the sense of the Almightiness of God can clearly be seen in his life. There is a close connection of the work of the Holy Spirit in this life of Jesus that defies understanding. The Holy Spirit was able to consummate the birth of Jesus in the womb of a woman without the aid of a man. So, he (Jesus) was literally born of the Holy Spirit and of human flesh. I believe the Virgin Mary’s birth of Jesus is true. And, that it was necessary that his birth came by way of the Holy Spirit and not by a human male. This made his relationship with God distinctively unique from all other persons that were every born on earth. Perhaps this is why he tells Nicodemus in the Gospel of John that “you must be born of the Spirit,” because he (Jesus) was born of the Spirit.
“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.”
This final paragraph shows something of the result of Jesus’ life. We recognize the person of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit plays a significant role in the life of the Church. He is the empowerment of the Church. In the language of theology, the Holy Spirit is recognized as the third person of the Trinity of the God head (God the Father, God the Son (who is Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit). In the New Testament scripture the Holy Spirit is referred to as Comforter, Teacher, Counselor, the Power of God, and the Holy Ghost. He was sent to dwell and to remain with the Church, and to help the Church fulfill the calling of God of the ministry of reconciliation.
The Holy Catholic Church is Christians everywhere; the meaning of the word catholic is not the same usages as the term when it is used to describe the Catholic denomination. The word catholic in the Apostle’s Creed, is catholic with a small “c”, as it relates to Christians universally. So, the Holy Catholic Church means that there is only one Church and Jesus Christ is its head or authority.
The communion of saints is the state of our relationship to the Christian community and to God. We are considered the family of God, and we are called sisters and brothers in Christ. Communion has much to do with how we are encouraged to live together as Christians – by loving one another as the Lord Jesus commanded his disciples.
The forgiveness of sins is not only something that God does for us as a human race, but it is expected of every Christian to practice forgiveness of sins of others including brothers and sisters in Christ. Even as God forgives sins so must we.
The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting is the gift of our salvation in Christ. This means death has no power over him/her whom God has set free from death’s penalty – life is forever and ever. We have no scientific way of explaining these miraculous phenomenon that is clearly of God’s work and power, but we are blessed with them.
I have disclosed in this essay a summary of my conviction and understanding of the Apostles’ Creed. I presented a brief history of the development of the Creed’s content that was found in the writings of the early Christians. The First Apostles of Jesus and other followers of Christ were eye witnesses to Jesus’ life and teachings, and these events and sayings of Jesus were recorded by these early Christians. The materials found in the Gospels were extracted by later Christians who composed what we have today, the Apostles’ Creed. In the light of what I have shared in the disclosure of this essay, I conclude that the Apostles’ Creed is the essence of my faith.
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