Three Marks of True Belief in God: A Biblical Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

Steve —  June 4, 2021 — Leave a comment

Three Marks of True Belief in God

By Drs. John Frame and Steve Childers

In the Applied Theology series of courses, you’ll learn a Trinitarian theology of faith, hope, and love by understanding and applying to your life what the Bible teaches about: 1) Faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) Hope found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Love found in the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn from God’s Word that:

A mind that is renewed by faith and a heart that is aflame with hope results in a life that honors God by loving him and others deeply and well.

In this conclusion to the Theology of Faith Course, we’ll explore the ancient question of humanity’s transcendent beliefs and learn what the Bible teaches is true faith.

About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.

Read the transcript below for Theology of Faith Course Conclusion: Three Marks of True Faith.

Theology of Faith: Conclusion

By John Frame and Steve Childers

I believe in God are the first words of the Apostles’ Creed.

Do you believe in God?

It seems like a simple question that requests a simple yes or no answer. Yet generation after generation, the ancient question of humanity’s transcendent belief surfaces, and the answers depend on what people mean by saying they believe in God.[1]

But when self-identified believers in God are asked to describe their understanding of God, they often do not believe in the God of the Bible. Their views of God range from a powerful deity who is not always loving, to a loving deity who is not always powerful. Tragically many people do not believe in the God of the Bible because they have misunderstood what the Bible really teaches about God.

The Nature of Belief
There are several kinds of beliefs that can be easily confused with what the Scriptures teach is true belief or true faith in God. There are three essential components in a biblical view of true faith. The first component is understanding. To believe in God we must first understand some things about God, such as he is personal and not merely a higher power. But merely understanding affirmations about God is not true faith.

Many people understand the biblical affirmations listed in the Apostles’ Creed, but they don’t really believe they’re true. True faith requires this second component that believes the biblical affirmations about God are true. But only understanding and believing what the bible teaches about God is still not true faith.

True faith in God also involves personal trust in him. True faith is not just understanding and believing a set of biblical affirmations about God. The Bible teaches that even the demons understand and believe what the bible teaches about Jesus.[2]

The Scriptures teach that true faith is a deeply personal and vibrant clinging to, relying on, and trusting in God the Father as your Creator, God the Son as your Redeemer, and God the Spirit as your Restorer to deliver you from all of sin’s consequences.[3] When someone comes to true personal faith in God, it’s a supernatural event when the Holy Spirit opens the unbeliever’s heart to respond to the gospel.

When Paul was preaching the gospel at Philippi, there was an unbelieving woman named Lydia listening to him. When she came to true faith in God, Luke describes how this happened:  “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (Acts 16:14). After her conversion and baptism, Lydia said to Paul and his companions, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord … come and stay at my house.” Luke writes, “And she persuaded us” (Acts 16:15).

The Problem of Unbelief
Although many say they don’t believe in God, the Apostle Paul teaches that God so clearly reveals himself in the created world that at some level everyone believes in God. Paul writes that everybody not only believes that God exists, they so “clearly perceive” God’s “eternal power and divine nature” that “they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:20)

According to Paul, everyone’s knowledge of God is not just a knowledge of facts about God; it’s a knowledge of God as a person; “they knew God.” (Rom. 1:21) So the problem of unbelief is not people’s ignorance of the truth about God, but their rebellious suppression of this truth (Rom. 1:18) and their refusal to honor him as God.

People who say they don’t believe in God, understand at some level that God exists, but they don’t have personal trust in him. Paul says this is because their hearts are darkened and their thinking is foolish (Rom. 1:22).

We should learn arguments and communicate well with those who say they don’t believe in God, but more than anything we should ask God to open their hearts to the gospel, love them well, listen to them, and proclaim the gospel to them with both our lives and our words. 

[1] Although many say they don’t believe in God, the Apostle Paul teaches that God so clearly reveals himself in the created world that at some level everyone believes in God. (Rom. 1:19-21) See Why and How Unbelievers Believe in the Appendix.

[2] When demons came into Jesus’ presence, they affirmed their belief in his deity when they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time? (Matt 8:29).”

[3] The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) describes how the Holy Spirit brings about this true faith in our hearts by leading us to believe in all that God promises us in the gospel that is summarized in the affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed. Q21: What is true faith? Answer: True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel. Q22: What, then, must a Christian believe? Answer: All that is promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic (universal) and undoubted Christian faith teach us in a summary. Q23: What are those articles? Answer: The twelve articles in the Apostles’ Creed are then listed. J. I. Packer writes, “It is not too much to say that the gospel, which tells of the Son coming to earth, dying to redeem us, sending the Spirit to us, and finally coming in judgment, all at the Father’s will, cannot be stated at all without speaking in an implicitly trinitarian way. “I believe in God the Father… and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord… and… in the Holy Ghost [Spirit]” gives the Creed a trinitarian shape for all its particular affirmations.” Packer, J. I. Affirming the Apostles’ Creed . Crossway. 

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