Introduction to the Apostles’ Creed

Text: various                                                                     6/1/08 p.m.

Thesis: There have been and still are benefits to knowing the Apostles’ Creed.

 

Intro: Concerning the Apostles’ Creed Philip Schaff writes, “[The Creed] is not a logical statement of abstract doctrines, but a profession of living facts and saving truths.

It is a liturgical poem and an act of worship. Like the Lord’s Prayer, it loses none of its charm and effect by frequent use, although, by vain and thoughtless repetition, it may be made a martyr and an empty form of words.

It is intelligible and edifying to a child, and fresh and rich to the profoundest Christian scholar, who, as he advances in age delights to go back to primitive foundations and first principles.

It has the fragrance of antiquity and the inestimable weight of universal consent. It is a bond of union between all ages and sections of Christendom. It can never be superseded for popular use in church and school (vol I. pg 15).

By way of introduction, tonight I want to give you a brief history of the Apostles’ Creed, point out some of the benefits of the Creed, and do a brief overview as a conclusion.

 

I) History of the Apostles’ Creed

a)      The Apostles’ Creed was not written by the Apostles

i)        The nice, neat, but not true story goes like this: The Apostles were sitting around and Peter started a conversation with this phrase, “I believe in God the Father Almighty.”

ii)      Andrew or possibly John added “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,”

iii)    James the elder went on, “Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,” then on and on it went (James Orr).

iv)    That sounds really good but it’s just simply not true.

b)      Originally the Creed was a baptismal confession

i)        Due to a particular culture’s way of expressing thought and dealing with it’s own context there are a number of slight variations but only 2 different substantially different forms of the Creed.

ii)      There is the Old Roman Creed and the Received Creed. We will be following the Received Creed because its expanded form is the product of answering heresies throughout church history.

iii)    The Received Form guards us against the mistakes of the past. The Received Form is really an explanation and fleshing out of the Old Roman Creed.

iv)    They agree completely in content and only differ in length.

v)      In its earliest form the Creed was a discipleship tool.

vi)    The content would be explained to baptismal candidates and then the Creed was confessed by those candidates at their baptism.

vii)  This is similar to my request of each candidate when I ask them if they are trusting in Christ alone for their salvation and then baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

viii)            As early as late 2nd century this practice of explaining the core beliefs of Christianity and ensuring a persons’ agreement to those believes was happening.

ix)    So bear in mind the early form of the Apostles’ Creed functioned as a guide for starting disciples on the road to obeying all that Jesus commanded.

x)      That such a process existed is affirmed by Scripture. I’m not saying they were using the Apostles’ Creed but a believer was expected to affirm his/her belief in the content of the gospel.

xi)    Romans 6:16 says, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” There is a standard.

xii)  1 Timothy 6:12 says, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witness.”

xiii)            Romans 10:9 says, “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.”

xiv)            Throughout church history and even in our day it is necessary for a person to explain what he/she means by the words ‘Jesus is Lord’ and to what extent Jesus was raised from the dead.

xv)  So the Apostles’ Creed has historically been used to affirm a baptismal candidate’s understanding and affirmation of biblical truth.

xvi)            As the years progressed and controversies arose the Creed took on its standard form.

c)      The ante-Nicene Fathers called the Creed ‘the rule of faith, ‘the rule of truth,’ or the regula fide

i)        The Nicean Creed was written in AD 325 and dealt specifically with controversy surrounding the eternal nature of God the Son.

ii)      That is another introduction for another day but to get some categories in your head you can think of the Apostles’ Creed as taking its shape to combat the spread of Gnosticism and the Nicean Creed took its shape to combat the spread of Arius’ teaching.

iii)    Arius claimed that God the Son is not co-eternal with God the Father.

iv)    So the ante-Nicean Fathers, those faithful men who lived after the time of the Apostles’ and before the 4th century gave considerable shape to the current Apostles’ Creed.

v)      As I mentioned, the main reason the Creed began to receive greater use in the church was the encroachment of Gnosticism.

vi)    Gnosticism is a very old heresy that holds to many weird and wrong teachings with one of the big ones being the belief that the material world is and has been evil since its creation.

vii)  The material world was not created good and there is therefore nothing good about it.

viii)             Since Jesus was created he is a much lesser being than God. But Jesus is still a pretty important guy nevertheless.

ix)    For the Gnostic, salvation does not come through the redemption of the whole person body and soul by justification through faith in Christ.

x)      Salvation comes by escaping the corruption of this material world through knowledge.

xi)    There are little hidden pieces of knowledge that must be found and followed in order for a person to be freed from the evils of creation.

xii)  Gnosticism was growing in popularity in the 2nd century and the early form of the Creed was used to refute what the Gnostics were trying to do.

xiii)            And the Apostles’ Creed was used to differentiate clearly those who believed what the bible taught from those who denied what the bible taught while still trying to call themselves “Christians.”

xiv)            So, you had a bare bones Creed during this day which is often referred to as the Old Roman Form.

xv)  The Creed has never and should never carry more weight or authority than Scripture itself. What the Creed is meant to do is support Scripture and protect Scripture from those people who would pervert the real meaning of Scripture.

xvi)            James Orr writes, “It was employed as a check on those who sought to allegorize away the Christian faith.”

xvii)          The oldest written copies of the Roman Creed come from the 4th century.

xviii)        A guy named Rufinius wrote his copy in Latin around AD 390 while Marcellus wrote his copy in Greek somewhere in the time frame of AD 336-341.

xix)            The Received Form that we have today came into general use in the seventh or eighth century (Schaff, vol I, 21).

xx)  So clearly this Creed has stood the test of time.

II) The benefits of the Apostles’ Creed

a)      Some would argue, shouldn’t we just study the bible?

i)        My answer to that is we are going to study the bible. I’m going to use the individual phrases of the creed as a very broad guide to the sermon for that evening.

ii)      Am I preaching the Apostles’ Creed? No. Am I going to preach the bible using the phrases of the Apostles’ Creed as titles? Yes.

iii)    Again to quote Schaff, “All the facts and doctrines which [the Apostles’ Creed] contains, are in entire agreement with the New Testament…The rationalistic opposition to the Apostles’ Creed and its use in the churches is therefore an indirect attack upon the New Testament itself (vol I, 20).

iv)    As far as any statement accurately reflects biblical content then that statement is a useful tool.

v)      But the tool should never take precedence over Scripture.

vi)    The first benefit is that the Creed is biblically based.

b)      The second benefit of studying the Apostles’ Creed is it grounds us in the rich heritage of the church.

i)        Creedo means I believe. That’s why the Apostles’ Creed begins with the words “I believe” it’s a clear and bold statement concerning what a person believes to be true.

ii)      For some reason there are veins in the church, some are denominations and some are groups inside of denominations, that have convinced themselves that they are the only ones who ever got it right.

iii)    Take Landmark Baptists for example. They struggle to find a trail of Baptists that can be traced all the way back to the Apostles.

iv)    They want a Baptist in every generation thus accrediting themselves and discrediting all others.

v)      There is no reason to do that and I believe it’s an impossible task.

vi)    What the Apostles’ Creed does is give us a connection with the past. We believe nothing new. We have found no new doctrine. We are not the smartest or the holiest.

vii)  We are a part of the church throughout the ages that believes what is true about the Father, Son, and Spirit.

viii)            In a day when so many people want to believe only what is hip, cool, and new. The Apostles’ Creed serves as a standard to what has always been believed.

c)      The third benefit of studying the Apostles’ Creed is its rich theological content.

i)        The statements that make up this Creed are simple to grasp but near impossible to exhaust.

ii)      A sermon series through statements of the Creed will encourage you and stretch you at the same time.

iii)    We will be looking at what the bible teaches concerning God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

iv)    That means this Creed is Trinitarian in structure. All three persons of the Trinity are found inside.

v)      The majority of the Creed focuses on who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he will do.

vi)    But also included in the Creed is the resurrection, forgiveness of sins, the catholic (or universal) church, and eternal life.

vii)  I hope each sermon will take you deeper into the mind and will of God causing you to worship him and serve him more faithfully every day.

d)     The third benefit of the Creed is that it’s short.

i)        I don’t want to wear you out with long exhaustive sermon series.

ii)      I know you can handle it and benefit from the long and exhaustive but at times its helpful to get the big picture.

iii)    The Apostles’ Creed will help define in our minds the big picture of Christianity.

iv)    Let’s close with

III) A brief overview of the Apostles’ Creed

Get out your bulletin and let’s look at it together

a)      I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

i)        God is the author of life, the sovereign super power, and the creator of everything.

b)      And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary,

i)        This statement defines who Jesus has always been as the Son and who Jesus is as our savior.

ii)      He is God; conceived by the Holy Ghost. And He is man; born of the virgin Mary.

c)      suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead;

i)        These phrases deal with the atoning work of Christ for us and his victory over sin and death.

ii)      There’s a little controversy here and will deal with that too.

d)     he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

i)        Jesus is the best and he’s coming back some day to prove to everyone that he is supreme over everything.

e)      I believe in the Holy Ghost;

i)        A necessary statement even today in our anti-supernatural natural science-dominated world.

ii)      Then the concluding compilation of summary statements

f)       The holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen

i)        This reference to catholic carries the idea of universal or Christian church. It’s not an affirmation of the Roman Catholic church.

ii)      All that being said I hope you are as excited as I am about this sermon series.

iii)    What I would like to do at some point in each service that will focus on the Apostles’ Creed is for us to read it together out loud.

iv)    So tonight the Apostles’ Creed will serve as our conclusion.

v)      Let’s stand together and read together the Apostles’ Creed.

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