The Apostles’ Creed was not the only creed to come into existence in the period of the early church, However, it is one of the oldest and simplest creeds of the church stemming from the statement, “Jesus is Lord”. All Christian traditions recognize its authority and its importance as a standard of doctrine. To study the Apostles’ Creed is to investigate a central element of our common Christian heritage. It is an affirmation of the basic beliefs that unite Christians throughout the world and across the centuries beginning with the words “I believe”.
The Christian creeds had their origins as a profession or confession of faith made by converts at their baptism. Since then, they have served other purposes—for example, as a test of orthodoxy for Christian leaders or as an act of praise in Christian worship. In our day and age the creeds serve three main purposes.
First, a creed provides a brief summary of the Christian faith. You do not become a Christian by reciting a creed; rather, the creed provides a useful summary of the main points of your faith. Certain Christian teachings are not dealt with in the creed. For example, in the Apostles’ Creed there is no section that states “I believe in Scripture”. The importance of the Bible is assumed throughout. Most of the creed consists of direct quotations from Scripture.
Second, a creed allows us to recognize and avoid inadequate or incomplete versions of Christianity. By providing a balanced and biblical approach to the Christian faith, tried and tested by believers down through the centuries, the creed allows us to recognize deficient versions of the gospel.
Third, a creed emphasizes that to believe is to belong. To become a Christian is to enter a community of faith whose existence stretches back to the upper room in which Jesus met with his disciples. By putting your faith in Jesus Christ, you have become a member of his body, the church, which uses this creed to express its faith.
Many people have found their faith strengthened and clarified by being forced to think through areas of the gospel that you might otherwise overlook. See the creed as an invitation to explore and discover areas of the gospel that otherwise you might miss or overlook.
Want to know more? You are invited to join us on Sunday mornings beginning May 15 at 9:15 a.m. in Hollis Hall as together we explore The Apostles Creed.
– Jean Strain, Director of Christian Education