Have you ever heard of the Apostles’ Creed? Whether it’s new to you or you grew up saying it during worship, there is always more to learn about this historic confession of faith.
Why do Lutherans say the Apostles’ Creed?
My name is Prof. Ted Hopkins, and I teach courses in doctrinal theology, in which we understand the Christian faith through the Bible as well as creeds. In my own life, I memorized the Apostles’ Creed as a kid, and now I love confessing the Creed with my brothers and sisters in Christ across time and space in the unity of faith.
To talk about the Apostles’ Creed, we probably should start with creeds themselves. Creeds are kind of a weird thing for people to say today. My students often express that they feel strange when the screen or bulletin in church directs them to speak the same words as everyone else. It feels wrong to them, almost like a cult, to echo with others around them the same words. That, however, is exactly what Christians do when they confess the Apostles’ Creed in worship.
Creeds are a simple way to summarize what the Bible teaches.
Not every Christian group confesses creeds in worship like Lutherans, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians do, to name a few. Whether a Christian publicly confesses creeds or not, every Christian has fundamental beliefs that summarize what the Bible teaches. The Bible is just too big and says far too many things, so the creed serves to cover the basic beliefs for when Christians want to state what they believe.
A creed is a summary of what I believe with my family of faith. The Latin “credo” means “I believe” as the root of our English word “creed.” We express this together with others as the faith that Christians hold in common with those present, with those in the past, and with Christians still to come. Creeds, thus, teach me the summary of the faith, and they help me to express it faithfully according to the Scriptures and with the rest of the Christian church.
Why do we express this as a Creed?
…why not just say how we feel?
We certainly can say how we feel about God. But, that’s not the point of a creed. Again, a creed is a statement of belief that teaches us how to speak faithfully about God.
We need creeds.
We need creeds because, first, we need to have words to express our faith. This may sound harsh, but Jesus doesn’t really give us any wiggle room on this. “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 10:32-33 ESV). There are lots of other reasons to confess our faith too—we want to talk about this one that we love; we want to share Jesus with others around us who need him; we simply confess that which believe through the Spirit (Rom. 10:10)—but Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 get right to an essential point. Confession is not optional for Christians; we need to speak our faith. The Apostles’ Creed gives us the central outline of the Christian faith so that we can learn to confess our faith for others and before God.
Christianity doesn’t belong to just me.
Secondly, the Christian faith doesn’t belong to any of us as individuals. I trust in Jesus myself, but the one I believe in doesn’t belong to me. When I express who Jesus is, I do so with the prophets and the apostles who also confessed their faith in the Lord. I declare my Christian faith with my fellow believers around me now, with believers and saints who have already died, and with those who are still to come. This is not a different faith, but is the same faith that trusts in Jesus as Savior and confesses him to be the Son of God come into the flesh to die and rise again for the salvation of all. Having the same words in a creed, like the Apostles’ Creed, helps to keep that commonality across time and space.
Want to know more about the Apostles’ Creed?
If you’re interested in learning more about the Apostles’ Creed, you can click here to read Part 2 of this two-part series.
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