Thursday, February 8, 2007

“The Bible Is My Creed”

Why do we have creeds? Isn’t the Bible enough? Are we placing creeds over the Bible when we subscribe to them?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is how the Bible begins—stating that God created the universe. God not only is the creator of history, He works in history. The work of His salvation concerns historical events. Further, the fact that we have that statement in written form shows us something about the God who created everything—He works with words. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” That is how John begins his Gospel account. God is not only the God of words, but He became flesh and that flesh dwelt among us. God in the flesh is Jesus Christ and John tells us that He is the Word. Words matter to God.

The Bible is the Word of God. It is therefore the truth. In that sense it is a statement of what we believe. But how do you take the truth of God’s Word and present it in a form where you can succinctly say what it is we believe, i.e. what God has given us to believe in His Word? That’s where creeds come in.

Creeds are for Confessing
Christians confess. Confession is “saying the same thing”. Homologeo comes from the word “homologos”, of one mind. The word “homologeo”, to confess, literally means “to say the same word”. When we confess we are saying the same word as God; saying back to God what He has said to us.

In what ways do we do this?
Confession of sins—1 John 1:8-9.
Confession of faith—Matthew 10:32-33.

Our confession (of sins and of faith) comes from, is based on, and flows from the Word of God.

How did Creeds come About?
The people of God have always been a confessing people: always needing to confess their sins; always called upon by their Lord to confess the faith they hold. Jesus Himself gave confession to the faith He authored and engenders in us: John 18:33-37; 1 Timothy 6:13. When He Himself confessed boldly in the face of persecution, how much more will we, the people of God, confess our faith in Him to the world, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” [1 Peter 3:15]?

Scriptural Examples of Confessing the Faith
Deuteronomy 6:4
1 Kings 18:39
Deuteronomy 26:5-9
Matthew 16:15-17
John 6:66-69
Romans 10:8-10
1 Corinthians 12:3
1 Corinthians 15:3-7
1 Timothy 3:16
Romans 1:1-4
Philippians 2:6-11
1 Corinthians 8:6
2 Corinthians 13:14
1 John 4:2-3, 15; 2 John 1:7

The Nature and Purpose of Creeds
The Early Church used creeds in their life as the Christian community. Creeds primarily have their place in the worship service. Creeds are confessed not just by individuals, but by the community as a whole. This also guards against false doctrine being taught or promoted.

Creeds were also used to catechize. In preparing people for Baptism creeds would be used to teach them the faith. Their confessing the creed then would be the act of making that confession their own confession of faith.

There are always different voices in the Church. False teachers rise up. False doctrines creep in. This forces the Church to state clearly what it believes. It draws the line in the sand, so to speak. Error must be combated with the truth. Creeds give clear and universal declaration to the truth and condemnation of error.

Credal Developments in the Early Church Fathers
Ignatius of Antioch [c. A.D. 107]
Stop your ears, therefore, when any one speaks to you at variance with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was descended from David, and was also of Mary; who was truly begotten of God and of the Virgin, but not after the same manner. For indeed God and man are not the same. He truly assumed a body; for "the Word was made flesh," and lived upon earth without sin. For says He, "Which of you convicteth me of sin?" He did in reality both eat and drink. He was crucified and died under Pontius Pilate. He really, and not merely in appearance, was crucified, and died, in the sight of beings in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth. By those in heaven I mean such as are possessed of incorporeal natures; by those on earth, the Jews and Romans, and such persons as were present at that time when the Lord was crucified; and by those under the earth, the multitude that arose along with the Lord. For says the Scripture, "Many bodies of the saints that slept arose," their graves being opened. He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a multitude; and rent asunder that means of separation which had existed from the beginning of the world, and cast down its partition-wall.

He also rose again in three days, the Father raising Him up; and after spending forty days with the apostles, He was received up to the Father, and "sat down at His right hand, expecting till His enemies are placed under His feet." On the day of the preparation, then, at the third hour, He received the sentence from Pilate, the Father permitting that to happen; at the sixth hour He was crucified; at the ninth hour He gave up the ghost; and before sunset He was buried. During the Sabbath He continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathaea had laid Him. At the dawning of the Lord's day He arose from the dead, according to what was spoken by Himself, "As Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of man also be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." The day of the preparation, then, comprises the passion; the Sabbath embraces the burial; the Lord's Day contains the resurrection.

The Witness of Justin Martyr [c. A.D. 165]
That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples.
The presbyters of Smyrna [c. A.D. 180]

We also know in truth one God, we know Christ, we know the Son, suffering as he suffered, dying as he died, and risen on the third day, and abiding at the right hand of the Father, and coming to judge the living and the dead. And in saying this we say what has been handed down to us.

Der Balyzeh Papyrus [c. A.D. 200 or later]
Confess the faith…
I believe in God the Father Almighty
And in his only begotten Son,
Our Lord, Jesus Christ,
And in the Holy Spirit,
And in the resurrection of the flesh
In the holy catholic Church.

The Interrogatory Creed of Hippolytus [c. A.D. 215]
Do you believe in God the Father All Governing?

Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, Who was begotten by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died (and was buried) and rose the third day living from the dead, and ascended into the heavens, and sat down on the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the living and the dead?

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, in the holy Church, and (in the resurrection of the dead)?

Creed of Marcellus of Ancyra [c. A.D. 340]
I believe in God, All Governing;

And in Christ Jesus His only begotten Son, our Lord, who was begotten of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried, who rose from the dead on the third day, ascending to the heavens and taking his seat at the Father's right hand, whence He shall come to judge both living and dead;

And in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, life everlasting.

Creed of Rufinus (Aquileia) [c. A.D. 404]
I believe in God the Father almighty, invisible and impassable;

And in Christ Jesus, His only Son, our Lord, who was born by the Holy Spirit from Mary the Virgin, crucified under Pontius Pilate and buried. He descended to hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead, He ascended to heaven, where He sits at the Father’s right hand and from whence He will come to judge both living and dead;

And [I believe] in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of this flesh.

[Creeds reprinted from John H. Leith, Creeds of the Churches (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982)

Irenaeus’ formulation of the Rule of Faith [c. A.D. 180]
To this order many nations of barbarians give assent . . . believing in one God, Maker of heaven and earth, and all that in them is, through Christ Jesus the Son of God; Who, for his astounding love towards his creatures, sustained the birth of the Virgin, himself uniting his manhood to God, and suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rose again, and was received in glory, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the judge of those who are judged; and sending into eternal fire the perverters of the truth and the despisers of his Father and his advent.

Tertullian’s first formulation of the Rule of Faith [c. A.D. 200]
The Rule of Faith is altogether one, sole, immovable, and irreformable-namely, to believe in one God Almighty, the Maker of the world; and His Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, on the third day raised again from the dead, received in the heavens, sitting now at the right hand of the Father, coming to judge the quick and the dead, also through the resurrection of the flesh.

[Rules of faith reprinted from Originally from Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Vol. II (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990 reprint)]

The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.

The Nicene Creed [as approved at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381]
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Creed of Chalcedon [A.D. 451]
Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul {meaning human soul} and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these "last days," for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.

We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten -- in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without con-trasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the "properties" of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one "person" and in one reality {hypostasis}. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word {Logos} of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers {the Nicene Creed} has handed down to us.

The Athanasian Creed [c. A.D. 500]
1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.
8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.
14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.
19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.
21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.
26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.
27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.
32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.
36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;
40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
42. and shall give account of their own works.
43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

The Question of Authority
The Bible alone is the authority for what we believe, teach, and confess. The creeds of the Christian Church give witness to the faith of the Word of God. The history of God’s people has been one of making declarative statements of faith in the God they put their trust in. The creeds are authoritative because they are faithful statements of the faith of the Bible. They meet the need for a community of believers that gathers in worship to receive the gifts of God and respond in thanksgiving and in confession of faith. They meet the need for a Church that must constantly make known what it is it believes, teaches, and confesses. They meet the need for the Christians that make up the Church who continually are learning and growing in the faith once delivered to the saints [Jude 3]. The faith is rooted in the historical events of God acting in Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. When the Christian Church confesses its creeds it is confessing nothing other than that which our Lord has given us in His Word. The Church will continue to confess the faith forever.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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