Apostle’s Creed

Book Approval-9Apostles Creed and Today

The Apostles Creed is a developed set of beliefs which were born out of the Scriptures and the early Christian community’s witness of Christ. The Bible is the inspired word of God and creeds are brief statements of what the Scriptures teach. These statements are not new. Take for instance the Jewish Shema which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” This statement (along with verses 5-9) is confessed, prayed, and memorized by the Jewish community even to this day.

The New Testament also includes statements of belief that were handed on through the centuries. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is a statement of belief dated from one to three years after Christ died[1]. A brief portion reads “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

In the second century after the Apostles had died, other confessions were written up. One of them was written by the early church father Irenaeus and was called the Rule of Faith[2].By the third century the church leader Hippolytus was using a baptismal formula which contains the majority of what we know today as the Apostles Creed[3]. This brings us right to the Apostles Creed which the majority of Christian believers profess still to this day.

The Apostle Creed is a developed set of Scriptural beliefs which came into its current form in the first 700 hundred years of the church[4]. Christians of all stripes would and should agree with the truths as found in the creed, except perhaps one phrase. The phrase “and he descended into hell” was a phrase whose first reference came in the 4th century[5]. The phrase was not used in more than one creed prior to 650 A.D[6]. In its first inception the phrase was taken to mean that he “descended to the dead” which many Christians utilize in their creedal confessions and is what we will be following in the future.[7]

The “descended to hell” is difficult to understand in English, and descended to the dead communicates the idea better. If we were to take “descended to hell” literally we would have little to no Scriptural support for the idea. Lastly, we want to hold what is common to early Christianity and this part was not. As much as were are going to make this slight change, I am sure many still wonder if we should say the creed at all.

Should we say the Creed?

There are certainly many churches today that never say the Apostles Creed. As attractive of a solution as this is sometimes, as well as its ability to avoid misunderstanding from outsiders, there are many good reasons to be a creedal confessing church, even if it is not absolutely necessary.

  1. Unity: With so much disunity in our church world today, it is a way of affirming that we stand on the age old and tested truths of the Scriptures.
  2. Continuity: Having a statement of belief that is much older than one’s own local congregation aids in Christian continuity through the ages for it establishes what is being passed on through the generations. This is much better than having a mish mash of beliefs from one Christian to another and no one ever really know exactly what the other believes.
  3. Reflection: Saying the Apostles Creed aids in the collective and individual memories of Christians. Instead of a person just affirming their favorite Bible verses, this affirms the central points of the entire Scriptures. It is wonderful to find that Christians who have been trained in the creed are often able to retain it even through Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  4. Particular Spirituality: “Spirituality” is such a buzz word these days and has many problems. It is not that we Christians are not “spiritual” but that we Christians are particularly spiritual. Not all spiritual things are good spiritual things, and affirming the main truths of the Gospel is affirming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit along with being joined to the universal Church through the ages.
  5. Fundamentally Focused: Keeping the main things the main things are helpful to forward progress in Christianity. Focusing on the rich fundamentals of the faith will aid Christians is seeing how they can communicate across the denominational lines. It certainly helps one not make mountains out of mole hills.

In conclusion:

I am glad to be a part of a creedal confessing community here at First Congregational. I am also glad to make sure we are in line with the truths of Scripture and are properly understanding what we are confessing. If you have questions write our church email at hillsfch@gmail.com and I will be glad to address any thought are concerns.



[1] Francis Beckwith, William Craig, and J.P. Moreland, To everyone an answer, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 184.

[2] Various, Creeds of the church, (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1997).

[3] Various, Creeds of the church, (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1997).

[4] Wayne Grudem, Bible doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), p. 258.

[5] Norman Geisler, and Ron Rhodes , Conviction without compromise, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), p. 14.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Bible doctrine, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), p. 258.

[7] Alister McGrath, I believe; understanding and applying the apostles creed, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991).

 

 

  • Sharon

    Wonderful comments regarding creed. I remember as a very young child hearing all the voices in unison ringing together. I was able to memorize it before I could read, as I’m sure others did also. It sets a foundation of reverence within the service and gives one the feeling of ‘community of faith’, ‘the body of Christ.’ When children are present, they learn of God through the example of others in this environment. It’s a beautiful thing.

    • Isaac Fleming

      Thanks for commenting Sharon. You have a very telling comment as you said, “I was able to memorize it before I could read.” That is very true and the same was true for me. Great Comment!

  • Diamond Gill
  • Diamond Gill

    hi