Summary: The Apostles’ Creed enables us to articulate our faith in Christ.
I invite you to turn in your Bibles with me to 2 Timothy, chapter one, and follow along as I read
v13. “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”
Amen. The Word of God. Thanks be to God.
For the past three Sabbaths, we have recited a modern version of the Apostle’s Creed. I have not said anything about it. We have just done it. I have been interested to hear your reaction to this version. Your reaction has been universally negative. I have not done a survey or anything like that, but as far as I can tell from just listening, no one likes the modern version.
Let me see a show of hands, does anyone prefer the modern version to the old version of the Apostles’ Creed?
Those that I have heard speak against the new version say something like this: “I have the old version pretty much memorized, I can just say it, the words just flow. With this new version I have to actually read what it says.” And I say, Good. And it would be better if you carried it a step further and thought about what it says. The Apostles’ Creed is not something to say mechanically. It is not something at the end of the service to get through as quickly as possible while we are thinking about Sunday dinner. It is a summary of almost 2000 years of Christian theology.
Actually our creed making precedes Christianity. Ancient Israel had a creed. The verses from Deuteronomy in our call to worship today are known as the Shema. They are the central creed of Judaism to this day. Almost every synagogue says the Shema in every worship service.
New Testament Christians also had creeds. We recited together Philippians 2:6-11. Most scholars believe that was a creed of the church in Paul’s time that Paul inserted into Philippians.
Our word “creed” comes from the Latin “credo,” which means “I believe.” A creed expresses what we believe. Because we have minds, because we think about our faith, we have the need to articulate our faith. Now we recognize that a creed never encloses God. No creed ever says all there is about God; rather, a creed is our attempt to say some things about our faith.
The Christian church in all its denominations and variations has many creeds and affirmations, but the Apostle’s Creed is the most widely used creed in the church. More Christians around the world say this creed than any other.
We are not exactly sure about the origins of the Apostle’s Creed. The evidence seems to indicate that it originated in the sixth or seventh century in southwestern France. The earliest actual copy we have of the Apostle’s creed dates from around A.D. 710-724. However, we know that the Apostle’s Creed was based on earlier baptismal creeds of the Roman church. In the early church, when parents brought their children for baptism, or when an adult came for baptism, they were asked to publicly affirm what they believed. What they affirmed was a version of the Apostle’s Creed. It was in question and answer form, but they affirmed most of the same elements that we affirm in the creed. So we can easily trace the creed back to the early third century church.
Now that bothers some folks. They ask, “Isn’t the Apostle’s Creed in the Bible?” No it is not. Every element in the creed is found in the Bible, but the actual creed is not in the Bible.
Or they ask, “Didn’t the Apostles write the Apostle’s Creed? No, they did not. The creed contains what the Apostles believed, but they did not write it. We do not know who wrote it. But we still say the creed because it is an excellent summary of basic Christianity.
Let’s do some comparison between the modern version and the old version of the creed.
The old version says, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. The new version says the same except it substitutes the word “creator” for “maker”
We should say here that a creed generally reflects the hot issues of its time. For example, the Nicene Creed, drawn up in the fourth century, is emphatic in affirming the Deity of Christ, because it was directed against the Arians, who denied that Christ was fully God. The Apostle’s Creed originated in the second and third century. The hot issue in that time was Gnosticism.
The Gnostics taught that the God of the Old Testament made the world, and he is evil—in effect, he is Satan—therefore, the world is evil. God the Father whom Jesus taught us about did not make the world. Rather he sent Jesus to save us from the world.