Summary: This sermon takes a look at the doctrine of God the Father.
This We Believe—The Apostle’s Creed
“I believe in God, the Father Almighty,…”
We are in the midst of vacation season, and many of you, if you haven’t already, will soon be packing up for summer vacation. My family and I plan a little get-away in a couple of weeks, and we will go through the routine of packing the suitcases and travel bags in an effort to take as much of home with us as we can. We like the convenience of having our stuff wherever we go, and we go and buy more stuff, and have to have bigger bags to get the stuff home.
My daughters have been to camp several times this summer. I don’t know whether to be amazed or confused by my daughters, though. I took Brittney, our oldest daughter, to camp on Monday. Due to other commitments she was only going to stay for three days, but she took three bags of stuff. I guess she needed one bag of stuff for each day. Everything she might conceivably need was stashed in those three bags, and they were heavy. I’m thinking to myself, “Three days!”
But on some trips, unnecessary baggage can be a burden, not a blessing. Airlines these days are limiting the amount of luggage passengers can take on board. Just one more result of 9/11. Show up at the ticket counter with too many bags, and you will see what a burden excess baggage can be. A church member from the church I served in Kentucky had a brother who hiked the Appalachian Trail. His brother said the key to a successful trek through the Trail was to have no unnecessary baggage. Take only what you will need for survival—only the essential provisions. Unnecessary baggage is cumbersome. It weights you down, and slows you down. The unnecessary baggage is a burden.
The Apostle’s Creed is the expression of our Christian faith with no excess baggage. The Creed contains only the essential, Biblical elements necessary for a strong Christian faith. Its brevity is its beauty. The Creed is not weighted down with confusing verbage. The Creed is historically rooted, and it is widely accepted across many denominations as the most concise expression of our historic faith. I want to spend the next six weeks un-packing the deep, yet simple truths contained in The Apostle’s Creed.
But where did the Apostle’s Creed come from? Did one or more of the apostles write it? The Creed dates from about 150 A. D. The author is unknown, but it is one of, if not the earliest confessions of the Christian Church. The creed was composed by acknowledged church leaders to counter false teaching that had invaded the second Century church. The leaders of the church felt they needed a statement that summarized the essential beliefs of the faith that were handed down by the apostles. Their creed, their declaration of faith, became the Apostle’s Creed. The Apostle’s Creed has withstood the test of time. It has weathered the storm’s of controversy and doubt, and it stands in simple beauty as a testimony of the faith once received. So we join our voices with the countless millions who have spoken its historic words, and we proclaim—“This we believe!”
From its very first word, the Creed is intensely personal. “I believe.” The Creed is my confession of faith. Though it be joined with a thousand other voices, it is still my faith that I claim. As a matter of fact, it is my faith joined with thousands of others that makes the Creed so powerful. But what it is I believe? And what does it mean to believe? Perhaps that is the best place to start because faith itself is such an abstract concept. The writer to the Hebrews says, “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1). When we speak of faith, of believing, we acknowledge that faith is a both/and proposition. It is both an intellectual assent and an active trust in God. Faith is more than blind following of something unknown. Faith is living our lives in such a manner to reflect the beliefs we hold in our hearts and minds. If I may use an illustration: We have faith in a dollar. We believe we can take one dollar to the store and exchange this dollar for goods or services equal in value to the dollar we possess. Because we believe that fact, we get up and go to the store and pick up an item, take it to the cash register, and exchange our dollar for the goods or services. We gave intellectual assent to the knowledge, but faith did not become faith until we acted on that knowledge and saw that it proved to be correct. In the same way, faith in God is both knowing and doing. To say, as the Creed does, “I believe,” means we have given consideration to the doctrines within, and have ordered our lives to reflect that fact. But we must remember that faith itself is the work of God. God is the source of our faith, and our faith rises in response to God’s self-revelation. We might say that faith is the echo of God’s own call in those who believe. But what exactly is it I believe?