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  • Writer's picturePastor Peggy

Digging Deeper into the Apostles Creed

In the weeks to come (with the exception of July 21 which will be a MIssions emphasis at Trinity) the Sunday sermons will be concentrating on different parts of the Apostles Creed. This past week was an introduction to this series. It is to be understood that what is posted here are my notes but when preached there are many "in-between" comments that happen as the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God and its presentation. This next Sunday we will be digging deeper into the character of God the Father Almighty and what He means to us through the beauty of the many names written under the anointing of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. But for now...here are the notes from July 7th.


I.  Introduction: 

1.     The Apostle’s Creed provides for us the Gospel in a very succinct way. It is a universal confession of faith to the church.

a.      It provides for us insight into the Trinity which is necessary for our faith to arrive at a place of fullness.

b.     It is basically divided into three parts:

                                                             i.      God the Father and our creation

                                                           ii.      God the Son and our redemption

                                                        iii.      God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification

c.      John Calvin separated it in four ways:

                                                             i.      The Knowledge of God the Creator

                                                           ii.      The Knowledge of God the Redeemer

                                                        iii.      The Way in Which We Receive the Grace of Christ

                                                         iv.      The External Means or Aids by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

 

2.     In the weeks to come we are going to study this creed to help provide for us a clearer focus on what we believe and why we believe it.

3.     Acts 17:11 talks about the Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

 

4.      I Peter 3: 15 says: (NIV) “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”  The Message Bible says it this way, “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.”

 

5.     In Hebrews 3 we are encouraged to hold firmly to the confidence we have in Christ.  The Message Bible puts it in more modern term. “So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.” (v12-14)

 

6.     2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

 

7.     It is vital in our Christian walks today that we have an understanding of what we believe. There are many voices out there saying one thing or another and those voices can often be very confusing. When we as individuals and as a church have a clear understanding of God’s Word it helps us day by day to live a life that is pleasing to God. It also assists us, as it said in I Peter, to be able to confidently speak to what we believe and why when questioned by others.


II. History of the Apostle’s Creed (History obtained from the Book of Confessions, pg. 196f)

1.     The creed was not written by the apostles as many believed down through church history, but it reflects the theological foundations of the first century church. Many theologians believe that the creed’s structure may be based on Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

2.     There was a time when many Christians were illiterate and oral repetitions of the Apostle’s Creed, along with the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments helped preserve and transmit the faith of the western churches.

 

3.     In the early church, Christians confessed that Jesus is Lord but did not always understand the biblical context of lordship.

a.      In the second century, a Christian named Marcion live in Rome and his viewpoints threatened the church’s understanding of Jesus as Lord.

b.     Marcion thought the God of the Old Testament was tyrannical and created a flawed world. For Marcion, Jesus revealed a good God of love and mercy. As a result, he proclaimed that Jesus was NOT the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets and went so far to say that the Old Testament was not Scripture.

 

4.     Around 180 A.D., Roman Christians developed an early form of the Apostle’s Creed to refute Marcion.

a.      Candidates at that time for church membership, after undergoing a time of doctrinal instruction, were asked at baptism to state what they believed. They responded in the words of the Apostle’s Creed.

 

5.     The Apostle’s Creed underwent further development.

a.      In response to the question of readmitting those who had denied the faith during the persecutions of the second and third centuries, the church added, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

b.     In the 4th and 5th centuries, North African Christians debated the question of whether the church was an exclusive sect composed of the heroic few or an inclusive church of all who confessed Jesus Christ, leading to the addition of, “holy” (belonging to God), and “catholic” (universal).

c.      In Gaul, in the 5th century, the phrase “he descended into hell” came into the creed.

d.     By the 8th century, the creed had attained its present form.


III. Living out Our Faith

1.      In the Reformed understanding, when we profess our faith by saying the Apostle’s Creed, we are living out our baptism. Baptism is something that shapes the whole of the Christian life from beginning to end. We belong to God and have a strong confession of our commitment to faithfully love and serve the Lord.

 

2.     It is important that each one of us be able to provide a clear understanding of what we believe and why. Gaining wisdom in what we believe assists us day by day in our walks of faith. When trouble comes our way, we understand that God is mighty and has created not only each of us but everything around us. When we need forgiveness, we understand more clearly the redemption and forgiveness that comes through Jesus. When we need help living our daily Christian life, we understand better the work of the Holy Spirit in teaching us and strengthening us each day to live for the glory of God.

 

The knowledge of God really comes in two different ways and we will be exploring these in more depth as we delve into the Trinity.


The first is natural revelation which is basically nature and all we see around us. We can get so used to what we enjoy every day that I think it is easy to miss the miracles of nature itself. Think about it today…the planets are set in place and since creation have maintained their positions in the universe. Nature itself changes seasons year after year after year. The earth is replenished by rain, snow…and even with the terrible forest fires we hear about all the time…when it is all said and done, the earth reinvents itself with fresh trees and flowers etc. that cover the scorched earth. How does that happen??? God set in place all of these things and we would benefit greatly by recognizing the beauty of it all.


The second way that we gain the knowledge of God is through what is called direct revelation or special revelation. This is specifically through the Word of God and the testimony of those who have been touched by Him such as the prophets that received direct revelation from the Holy Spirit to speak for God. This is also discovered by studying the actions of God toward His people--his grace, forgiveness, and patience with His children and so much more.


IV. Conclusion

1.      Throughout church history the Apostle’s Creed has been a strong foundation for teaching the basic elements of the Christian faith.

 

2.     “The Reformed tradition shares a common faith and a common tradition with all those who believe that the God who created the heavens and the earth has visited His people in a decisive and definitive way in Jesus Christ.” (Introduction to the Reformed Tradition by Leith, pg. 23)

 

3.     The Apostle’s Creed is one of the primary theological statements of this universal Christian tradition.

 

4.     The history of the church has a strong testimony of a clear understanding of the Gospel. It has been guided through the centuries with confessions such as the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. In every age the church has expressed its witness in words and deeds.

 

5.     My desire in the next few weeks is to continue the tradition of the church throughout the centuries to present teaching on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. We will use the Apostle’s Creed in hopes that in the end, each of our testimonies will bring a confidence in sharing our faith with those around us who need the truth of a sure Gospel that can not only change lives but that can bring hope to this life.

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