Summary: The entire bible is meant to be believed and confessed. These are just a few of the passages which have the qualities of creeds, in that they specify what it is that is being taught and believed.
Church History: Examining the Creeds and Confessions of the Church Through the Ages and Why They Matter.
Lesson 2: Creeds and Confessions within the Bible
Last week, we began our study of Church History by taking a brief glance at the major events of the past 2,000 years.
I said from the beginning that this course was going to focus on the major creeds and confessions which have helped shape the church.
I believe it is within these creeds and confessions that we can see what the major issues were for the church in specific time periods and help us develop a fuller understanding of church history and why it matters.
As we begin our study, I want to take a moment and define our terms.
The word creed comes from the Latin word “Credo” which means “I believe”.
In other words, a creed is simply a summary statement of what someone believes about something.
There is really no difference between a “Creed” and a “Confession”.
They are both attempts to summarize the teachings of the Bible in regard to specific doctrines.
NOTE: When I mention the words “Creed” and “Confession” I do so realizing that there are some who believe them to be negative artifacts of church history, rather than positive ones.
In fact, there is an entire movement within christendom which was began on the foundation of repudiating the use of creeds and confessions.
The Restoration Movement, which began under the influential leadership of Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell, held to the belief that demoninational names, creeds and ecclesiastical traditions divided the church, and thus should be renounced.
One of the slogans which arose out of that movement was this: “No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no law but love, no name but the divine.”
The irony of this is that it, in itself, is a creed of sorts; in their statement that they have “no creed”, they have created one.
Secondly, this is a meaningless creed because it fails to make any definitions for its terms.
Which Christ? The Christ of the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses, the Oneness Pentecostals?
What Bible? The Bible of the Catholics which contains the apocryphal writings, the one of the JW’s that has been intentionally manipulated to remove the deity of Christ?
What love? The squishy love of the liberal which has no holy standard upon which it rests?
What divine name? Allah? Ba’al? Jehovah? (Which is actually a mistranslation of the tetragrammaton).
You see, apart from meaningful definitions this creed is meaningless.
The purpose of establishing appropriate creeds and confessions is that they allow us to define our terms and solidify our positions on what the Bible teaches.
The Bible does not use the word Trinity, but the teaching is there.
The creeds which are intended to solidify the doctrine of the Trinity, and all doctrines, are attempts to clearly define the Bible’s teachings.
It is important to realize also that no creed supersedes the Bible.
All creeds and confessions are capable of erring.
In fact, during this course we will be examining some of the errors.
So we must understand that the creeds - all creeds and confessions - are subservient to Scripture.
They are to help us understand Scripture, and where they deviate from Scripture we must deviate from them.
Tonight, we are going to examine the creeds which actually come from the Bible itself.
It could be argued that the entire Bible is a creed, as it is all meant to be believed and applied.
However, there are obvious passages which are intended to relay a specific set of beliefs about a given doctrine or set of doctrines.
Within the Old Testament Scripture
The Shema of Israel.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
The Decalogue of the Torah
Exodus 20:1-17 “And God spoke all these words, saying,
Ex. 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Ex. 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
Ex. 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Ex. 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.