Summary: This sermon introduces the Apostles’ Creed further, giving additional background to the origin and organization of the Apostles’ Creed.
Today, I would like to continue with our new series of sermons on The Apostles¡¦ Creed. The Apostles¡¦ Creed is a statement of belief, and today I would like to explore some of the background to this creed. Please listen as I recite the Apostles¡¦ Creed:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
When I was a student at the University of Cape Town, I would often go hiking for several days in the mountains near Cape Town with a group of friends. My favorite area was the Cedarberg Mountains. In order to get from start to finish we would use two maps. One was a large-scale relief map, which marked all the paths, bogs, crags, and so on in detail. This map gave us the fullest information about the area where we were hiking. The second map we used was a small-scale map, which left out the detailed geography and just showed us the trails and roads leading most directly from one place to another. We found that having both maps gave us the best help in successfully navigating the terrain.
If life is like a hike in the mountains, then the million-word long Bible is the large-scale map with everything in it, and the hundred-and-fifteen-word Apostles¡¦ Creed is the simplified small-scale map, ignoring much but enabling us to see at a glance the main contours of Christian belief. The Apostles¡¦ Creed, quite simply, is a summary of Biblical truth.
Before I proceed with today¡¦s lesson, let me briefly review what I covered last week.
First, the word creed comes from the Latin word credo, which literally means ¡§I believe,¡¨ and was the first word used in the Latin version of the Apostles¡¦ Creed. So a creed is simply a statement of what I believe.
Second, creeds were originally designed to be a statement of faith for a person who was about to be baptized. Over the course of time these baptismal creeds were incorporated into the worship service for recitation by the entire congregation as an expression of their common faith. And then, even later, creeds were used by a communion of churches to express their common understanding of the Christian faith.
Third, confessions differ from creeds in that they are much longer and much more detailed. They are much too long to be used in their entirety in a worship service.
And finally, creeds¡Xand confessions too¡Xare designed to define our faith, defend the faithful, and declare to the world the faith that we believe.
Because the Apostles¡¦ Creed is a summary of Biblical truth, we should study it and be edified by the Biblical truths it contains and conveys. Let¡¦s approach our subject today by asking several questions: Who wrote the Apostles¡¦ Creed? How is the Apostles¡¦ Creed divided? What is the content of the Apostles¡¦ Creed? And, what is affirmed in the Apostles¡¦ Creed?
I. Who Wrote the Apostles¡¦ Creed?
First, who wrote the Apostles¡¦ Creed?
There was a time when some believed that the Apostles¡¦ Creed was written by the apostles themselves.
Stuart Briscoe, pastor of the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, WI gives an example from a sermon that probably dates back to the eighth century. The sermon was an explanation of the Apostles¡¦ Creed, and this is what the preacher said:
"On the tenth day after the Ascension, the apostles composed the creed. Peter said, ¡§I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.¡¨
And Andrew said, ’and in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord.’
"James added, ’suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, dead, and buried.’
"And Thomas said, ’He descended into hell and on the third day rose again from the dead.’
"And James said, ’And he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father Almighty.’
"And Philip added, ’Thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.’
"Bartholomew said, ’I believe in the Holy Spirit.’
"And Matthew added, ’the holy catholic church, the communion of saints.’
"And Simon said, ’the remission of sins.’
"And Thaddeus, ’the resurrection of the flesh.’
"And Matthias concluded, ’with the life everlasting. Amen.’¡¨
However, this is not what happened, and this view is fast losing popularity today. Even the Roman Catholic Church, which once argued that the Apostles¡¦ Creed was written by the apostles, has moved away from that position in their 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church.