The Swiss-American church historian, Philip Schaff, said that “creeds will live as long as faith survives, with the duty to confess our faith before men.” The Church throughout the centuries has celebrated the mystery of Christ through creedal formulations. As an Anglican, I note that we have also expressed our faith in the creeds of the ancient church.
The Book of Common Prayer, in fact, contains three “ecumenical” creeds – The Apostles’, the Nicene and the Athanasian. These three creeds are accepted by many, if not most, denominations of Western Christendom, such as the Lutheran churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and certain Reformed churches. (In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Apostles’ Creed is not used as the Nicene Creed is considered normative – being approved by an ecumenical council – in regard to being a statement of faith and for liturgical use.)
A creed (from the Latin credo, “I believe”) is simply a confession, for public or liturgical use, of the faith that one holds. A creed seeks to give a concise formulation of the faith and to express it in an understandable way. Surprisingly to some, Christian creeds actually have their origin in the New Testament writings themselves. In fact, Christ promised eternal rewards for those who would “confess [Him] before men” (Matt. 10:32), and Paul appears to associate a confession of faith with salvation: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus [Jesus is Lord] and shalt believe in thine heart… thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Certainly we may speak of the baptismal formula and the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper as proto-creeds of the early Church. In the New Testament, creedal formulas arise out of God’s initiative in Christ’s own words or in the response of the disciples to that revelation. These confessions of faith could be as simple as “Jesus is Lord” or “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). Yet, even in the pages of the New Testament more complex creeds are alluded to in certain passages. For instance: “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (I Cor. 8:6). Such passages contain a structure highly suggestive of a creedal formula.
Yet, what is the purpose of a creed?
Historically there have been three essential purposes; recently there has been added yet another purpose. The first purpose is demarcation. The initial use of the creeds (for instance, in the New Testament and the early Christian community) was to identify the Church as an entity separate from both Judaism and the pagan world. A second purpose is celebration. The creeds have always had a liturgical function in the Church. This is especially true in regard to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the rite of baptism and the confirmation of the newly baptized. A third function is preservation. In the age of the Church councils (325-787) creeds were employed to distinguish the Church from heretical groups, as well as to instruct the laity concerning the decisions of the councils. A fourth, more recent purpose, is identification. Since the time of the Reformation, creeds, or confessions of faith, or statements of faith, have been used to point out the particular doctrinal stances of certain denominations within the Christian family, without, however, ecumenical or universal sanction. Such formulations may be seen in the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles, the Lutheran Book of Concord, the Reformed Westminster Confession, or even the Our Beliefs page of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa or the Statement of Faith of the new non-denominational church plant down the street.
Nevertheless, the main purpose of any Christian creed is, of course, to confess Christ. Although each of the creeds that we will examine in this series is trinitarian in structure, the main article and emphasis in each concern the person and work of Jesus Christ. These creeds were, first and foremost, given by the Church as safeguards to protect the integrity of the believers’ faith in Christ as individuals and as a community.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Martin Luther said of this creed, “Christian truth could not possibly be put into a shorter or clearer statement”. The Apostle’s Creed, insofar as its present form, is not the work of the twelve apostles, as was once popularly believed. It is, however, a summation of apostolic teaching and preaching. The present form is based upon what is called the Old Roman Creed of the fourth century. (It was augmented for use in all the western churches and was put into its present form in the sixth or seventh century.) The Old Roman Creed, in turn, had been based upon earlier rules of faith that had become popular in the second and thirds centuries and that are mentioned by a number of church fathers, such as Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose and Augustine. The rules of faith that these writers refer to most likely began as baptismal confessions in which candidates for baptism would be asked, “Do you believe in God the Father… God the Son… God the Holy Spirit…?” to which they would reply, “I believe…” (Credo). These original rules of faith were regarded in the early Church as a portion of the “mysteries” or the secret discipline of the faith to which only the fully initiated had access.
The Apostles’ Creed (with the slight variations of differing denominations) focuses on the person of Christ as its main subject. It teaches that although the Church, like the Jews, worships a transcendent God who is almighty, yet the Church believes that God has shown Himself in the man Jesus Christ. Perhaps the most telling phrase in the creed is that this Jesus was “crucified” and “suffered under Pontius Pilate”, thus placing the eternal Deity in the realm of history and reconciling the absolute God with the particular person of Jesus of Nazareth. This incarnational emphasis was to place the Church on a doctrinal tightrope for the first four centuries of its existence, but, please note, it was there from the very beginning of the Christian community. It was a mystery so divine, that humankind could scarce believe it. It was so incomprehensible to the minds of men and women that many people found it difficult to accept the reality of the Incarnation in all of its glory and majesty, much less its extensive theological implications. Yet, following a precedent found in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 15ff), the Church would gather in council in the ensuing centuries to assure, in particular, that the fullness of this mystery of the Incarnation would be preserved intact for the future, recognizing that all Christian theology must flow from this source. That God became man and dwelt among us is not only the heart of the creeds, it is the heart of our faith.
I know this is an issue that is near and dear to Michael’s heart and has brought him much consternation and despair over the years. Let it be known that these are my own thoughts and words that I have written only at my own initiative, and any adverse thoughts or reaction should be directed at and placed upon me.
There is so much information and misinformation out there right now that it is hard for the common person to get a full and accurate grasp and understanding of what all is currently going on and has happened in the past with the family separations at our southern border. More so than anything else, some of those on the political left and in mainstream media seem overly desirous of pinning all blame on President Trump and his administration and to make him/them appear in the worst possible light, whether through real facts or fabrications or misrepresentations, while also harboring other political motives. More so than anything else, some of those on the political right and in conservative media seem overly concerned with protecting President Trump and his administration and shielding him/them from any blame and also highly esteeming his/their actions, whether through real facts or fabrications or misrepresentations, while also harboring other political motives.
What is without question is that the practice of separating children from their parents on our southern border has risen sharply within the past couple months due to actions taken by this current administration. And also what should be without question is that this practice and its rapid expansion are not good things. For those who choose to delve into this issue, this is where I believe our major focus should be at this moment. How do we put a stop to such an anguishing and traumatic practice while also maintaining some measure of law and order? As with ostensibly many immigration issues, there are not simple and easy solutions. However, we must find a way to do better. Until very recently, our government found ways to employ the use of this practice to much lower levels and I would contend in no way was its lesser use resulting in a catastrophic effect upon our country, or anything close to it. I am not versed nearly well enough on the subject to give expert opinion on the technicalities of how to do so, but at the very least, if we want to more strictly enforce our borders, let’s at least first find a way to do it more humanely.
Yes, there are cases of people getting into our country that shouldn’t under any circumstance – drug traffickers, child sex traffickers, and other serious criminals. Even with the sudden and drastic “zero tolerance” policy in effect, many of these types will still get through as they know the strategic avenues of how to do so. Most of those being caught are the “commoner” families and individuals who don’t know the strategic ways to get in covertly, or who even in many cases, are purposely giving themselves up to authorities once they cross. It takes much more than this “zero tolerance” policy to capture the majority of those who truly are coming to cause harm. And when the dangerous criminals do get caught, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, including having any children taken away from them.
Beyond that, there seemingly have been others who have been taking advantage of the situation by bringing children with them, sometimes children who are not even their own and/or for which they are not main guardians, to increase their chances of receiving favorable treatment. Others have been claiming asylum when they may not have any real claim of fleeing terrible situations. There are definitely cases that are fraudulent. Our government uses their intelligence and capabilities to sort through and identify such cases, yet surely, there are some who end up getting through and receive better treatment than they should.
Nonetheless, above all as a Christian, I must view this through a “God lens” first, and not a nationalistic or political one. And I see much in Scripture exhorting us to be especially mindful and compassionate towards the poor and needy and sojourner and the “least of these”. Many of these families that are being separated are not out to cause harm. They are fleeing dire and calamitous circumstances for the protection and betterment of their loved ones. In many cases, they are claiming asylum once they cross, which is an allowable and legal thing to do. Often times they aren’t crossing at the approved ports of entry due to some combination of not knowing where they are supposed to cross, or being scared off by organized crime on the Mexican side of the border, or in many cases, being confusingly told at the approved ports of entry that they can’t come through. If I chose to place my main view of focus to see and treat people in circumstances like these as “criminals”, then I believe I am miserably failing how God calls me to see and love people. Even if it causes me to end up viewing some people better than what they “deserve”.
This has nothing to do with needing to find something to be “outraged” about or needing to be a “social justice warrior” or needing something new about which to be “anti-Trump.” The hazarded pejoratives may come in attempt to diminish or belittle my stance or those of others with similar postures. But they will not stick as this is about trying to see and have people treated as I believe God would have us to do so, and nothing else.
Just as I would with other issues, I implore my government to act more justly and righteously on this issue, most specifically in regards to the practice of separating parents and children who have crossed the border. I would implore other Christians who choose to engage in this issue to do the same. And may God have mercy on the poor souls who are seeking some kind of earthly relief from atrocious conditions for themselves and their families.
“You can gauge the power of an institution by the number of people lined up to beg for mercy at its door. The longer the line, the more powerful the institution, the more powerful the institution, the more preoccupied it becomes with self-preservation. Laws, traditions, and litmus tests proliferate. These can shield from very real threats, but they are also used to insulate against change, the different, the low and deserving. The world’s great religions and countries have always guarded their thresholds against the people pressing into them seeking their portion of grace.”
Big thanks to EricL for the link help…support him at top right…
1. The use of terms like “leftist”, “law breakers”, “Trumpster”, etc, is not for identification purposes, but for dehumanization purposes. We’re quickly reaching the next stage of societal deterioration, which is no longer seeing the “other” as a human being, but an enemy to be defeated…or even destroyed. We are denying each other both personhood and the imago dei and history writes in bold and bloody script the results of such thinking…
2. Sometimes the will of the people is for Barabbas…
3. The latest intramural war among Christians over the ReVoice conference is being framed as political (as is everything else in life these days). In reality, the question is theological…to what degree does the Gospel transform people? Does the new birth change the whole nature of the person or simply change the spiritual standing in heaven? I’m not sure there’s a clear answer…
4. The idea that apologetics can “prove” the veracity of the faith is silly. Faith cannot be empirically proven…or even made reasonable. We believe a dead man got up and walked and because he did, we will too…good luck with “proving” that…it’s still true…
5. Just once…I wish Greg Laurie would promise the crusade goers suffering…because Jesus does…
6. We could start actually solving some problems if our preferred label for each other was “neighbor”…
7. “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people,but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”” (Matthew 19:13–14 ESV) Maybe…Jesus is trying to save us all those “mission trips” by bringing the children to us to bring them to Him…no, that can’t be…
8. Were the prophets of the Older Testament “social justice warriors”? Asking for a friend…
9. The Bible “clearly teaches” that life comes through death, “winning” through weakness…Paul boasted of his infirmities…we don’t…
10. If you think this list is a mess, you ought to see my mind…
7 but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
- Here we see the fulfillment of Ezekiel 3. The 7th trumpet is God’s fulfillment. This verse shows that the sounding of the 7th trumpet is the last day as promised … just a the 7th seal also was the culmination of all things … and as the 7th bowl will be.
- As the angel is prepared to blow that 7th trumpet, we see that we are living in those last days just as John’s hearers were living in these same last days, as all people since the days of Jesus have been living in the last days.
- Remember, the last days began when? No, not 1948 – they began with the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus and will continue until he returns in glory.
- What of this mystery of God? Well first let us say that it too is being fulfilled in these last days.
- Eph 3 Paul says “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”
- Col 1 says “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.”
- So when the 7th trumpet sounds, the mystery of God will be accomplished – Jesus wins and delivers salvation not only for Jews but for Gentiles.
- Has this mystery been revealed / fulfilled? If so are we not at the blowing of the 7th trumpet?
- So let’s restate the mystery – the gospel is Jesus died for you, Jesus rose for you, your sins are forgiven, and you are saved in Christ Jesus.
- This is the mystery – this is great news for a people who live in the midst of a world that appears to be going to hell in a hand basket. A people whose whole life is out of control, in a world that is out of control – and yet the mystery;
- God has it all safe and secure in Jesus. He has reconciled all things to himself in Jesus. This is the purpose for this interlude right here in the middle of Revelation.
- We will see in chapter 11 the church – the new Israel, made of Jews and Gentiles – being described as hunted down and killed as the world celebrates.
8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
- The scroll = the word of God. This is a pivotal point to understanding any part of biblical scriptures – these words did not originate from John (or any of the authors) – they come from the outside.
9 So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.”
- An eating of God’s word? One of our collect prayers for the word is that we might ‘inwardly digest the word of God for the sake of then proclaiming it.”
- Bitter and sweet = law and gospel. When you go to church each week, God, through your pastor and the liturgy is there killing the sinner and resurrecting the new man – again, a part of the mystery.
- This goes on among us today. This is how Paul can say for some who hear God’s word it is the aroma of death – they won’t repent, they won’t believe. To others it is the sweet smell of life, resurrection and great joy. 2 Cor 2:14-17
10 And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.
- This bitter / sweet experience in Revelation is an expansion of what happened to the prophet Ezekiel when he was called to preach. He ate the scroll which was as sweet as honey in his mouth – Ezekiel 2 & 3.
- He then hints that being the spokesperson for God is a bittersweet experience as the scroll included lamentations, mourning and woe.
11 And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
- This is what you receive when you go to the Divine Worship Service;
- A reading from the OT = hearing from the Prophets.
- A reading from the NT Epistles = hearing from the Apostles.
- A reading from the Gospels = hearing from God himself through the evangelists.
- Then the pastor comes up and will preach from one or all three of the texts – so even then what you hear will be the word of God.
- This is why the pastor will begin his sermon with “Grace, peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Savior Jesus Christ.” What should follow is a sermon that is to be faithful to the text you just heard.
- God at that point is actually delivering to all – Jew and Gentile alike, his grace, peace and mercy – the mystery we are all living in.
- So what happens with this preaching? To many, the message agitates them – you can see it in their eyes, their body language and hear it in their voice inflections as they tell you “get out of here and don’t come back.”
- This really is the story of the rich young man. “what can I do?” he asked. Jesus tells him ‘trust me and I will do it all’ – and this torments the man and he goes away bitter.
- But those who repent, the Bible tells us that the angels rejoice – Sweet!
- We will see this as we move on to chapter 11 and visit the church working in the world and the reception – or non reception – of God’s presence.
- Rev 11:10 “and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.”
The whole purpose of the appearance of the Mighty Angel and His scroll rings out loud and clear: John (and all pastors) must proclaim the message of God among all peoples on earth. That is the mission of the Church throughout the NT era.
The Church’s mission is to “make disciples of all nations by baptizing them and teaching them all that Christ commands” Matt 28:19-20. For this reason, it is vital that the Church truly understand her mission – that she be committed to “making disciples,” not filling the pews. The church must be committed not only to bringing people into the Church, but to seeing to it that those people are properly catechized into the faith. The church must realize that watering down the doctrine and practice will only result in “watered-down,” nominal Christians. The church must remain firm and steadfast in the Word it has been given to proclaim to the world. Then, and only then, is the church about the Lord’s business, fulfilling the mission He has given it to fulfill.
I’ll keep saying this until people listen…while I vigorously applaud groups doing events such as “For A Time Such As This”, until the issue of financial liability for the denomination (or non denominational denomination) is addressed there will be no teeth in any “resolutions” passed.
Some courts have already held state conventions in the SBC liable for the actions of member churches even with the loose affiliations of that group. The fact that no one has yet addressed the liability/accountability issue tells me that the reformers don’t understand the issue…trust me, the leadership does.
The newly elected SBC president is already apologizing for Vice President Pence’s appearance at the conference…“I know that sent a terribly mixed signal. We are grateful for civic leaders who want to speak to our Convention—but make no mistake about it, our identity is in the gospel and our unity is in the Great Commission. Commissioned missionaries, not political platforms, are what we do.” Partisan politics and the gay rights agenda are crippling the church…kudos to the SBC for ignoring the latter…
I wonder if Pence is going to affirm the excellent resolution on immigration that the SBC passed? Thank you, SBC…
The United States Catholic bishops are also convening this week…and they made a strong statement regarding immigration reform also…thank you to them as well.
For some of us this is as much of a moral issue as abortion…and thus should be addressed with the same vigor.
I’ve been meaning to get to this for a while now…what would you have said to this little boy?
Huge thanks to EricL for the link help…support him at top right…