Summary: The Apostles’ Creed begins with an affirmation of faith in God. This sermon shows that faith in God comprises knowledge of God, acknowledgement of God, and dependence upon God.
As we continue our series in The Apostles’ Creed I would like to examine today what it means to believe in God. 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.
What do we mean when we say, “I believe in God”?
A few years ago a research team studying American lifestyles met a captivating young nurse named Sheila Larson. “I believe in God,” Sheila told her interviewer. “I am not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to my church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice. It’s just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other.”
Well, what do you and I mean when we say, “I believe in God”? Are we at this point allying ourselves with Jews, Muslims, and other monotheist religions against atheists and declaring that there is some God as distinct from none? No. We are doing far more than this. When we say, “I believe in God,” we are declaring our faith in the God who is revealed in Holy Scripture and that he is our God and Savior.
So, let’s look at what this faith in God comprises when we say, “I believe in God.”
I. Faith in God Comprises Knowledge of God
First, faith in God comprises knowledge of God.
Faith in God comprises knowledge of God as he is revealed in Scripture. We must be very careful at this point. Many today would see the great divide between those who believe in God and those who do not believe in God—that is, between theism and atheism. However, this is not how the Bible presents the great divide. In the Bible the great divide is between those whose God is the God of the Bible and those whose god is an idol—that is, whose god does not square with the self-disclosure of the Biblical God.
Millions of people go wrong here. They think that because they believe in a higher power, whom they call “God,” that they are on the right track. But, I tell you, their fate will be the same as those of whom Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. . .” (Matthew 7:21a). Why? Because God said, in the very first and second of the Ten Commandments, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:2-4).
I remember a preacher once saying, “On the sixth day of creation, God created man in his image. Today, man has returned the favor by creating God in man’s image!” Friends, faith in any other God than the God revealed in the Bible is idolatry and is condemned by God as such!
Donald Demary wrote, “The essence of idolatry is the attempt to make God manageable.” People want a god they can manage; they don’t want a God who manages them.
“Well,” you ask, “how has God revealed himself in the Bible?”
God revealed his name in a very important encounter with Moses. You remember the story. Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.