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How to Know God the Son as Lord of Redemption

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 Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 3, you’ll learn how to know and worship God the Son as Lord of Redemption in his humiliation.

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 for Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 3 below!


Knowing the Son as Redeemer in His Humiliation

By John Frame and Steve Childers

To know God means to know who God is and what God does as Triune Lord – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the last chapter our focus was on knowing God the Father as Lord in his work of creation. In this chapter our focus is on knowing God the Son as Lord in his work of redemption. The second and largest section of the Creed presents the person and work of Jesus Christ.

And I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the dead, On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

The Person of the Son
A Christian is someone who repents of their sin and believes in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. This requires understanding the meaning of the names and titles: Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, and our Lord.

Jesus Christ
Jesus is the proper name of an historic person who lived in the early first century in Jewish Palestine when it was part of the Roman Empire. The four Gospels tell us his parents were Joseph and Mary from Nazareth in Galilee where he worked as a carpenter. He was a rural rabbi for three years before being put to death by Roman authorities around AD 33.

Jesus’ Greek name Iesous (Ἰησοῦς) is derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua (ישע), meaning “to deliver; to rescue; to save.” Before his birth, an angel told Jesus’ parents to name him Jesus because “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

Christ is not Jesus’ family surname. It is a title taken from the ancient Jewish Scriptures that refers to God’s promised Anointed One, the Messiah, the one through whom God promised to deliver his people, Israel. Christ is from the Greek Χριστός (Christos) meaning Anointed One, a Greek translation of the Hebrew title Messiah mashiah (מָשִׁיחַ).

Through the Old Testament prophets, God made a New Covenant with Israel in which he promised that he would forgive them, give them new hearts by his Spirit, and establish his universal kingdom on earth through his Messiah, the Christ.

God’s Only Son
Jesus, who is the Christ, the Messiah, is also described in the Bible as God’s only Son. Throughout the Old Testament, the term “son of God” refers to people who have a special relationship with God, including the first human, Adam (Luke 3:38), the nation of Israel (called God’s “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22, Hos. 11:1)), and the kings of Israel.

But when the New Testament refers to Jesus as the “Son of God,” it’s referring to a unique sonship that is only shared by the one eternal second person of the Trinity. When the Creed calls Jesus God’s only Son, it’s echoing Scriptures like “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). Jesus’ title as God’s only Son affirms his deity and equality with God the Father – that he is as truly and fully God as the Father is God. 

The Scriptures present Jesus as the eternal, preexistent Son of the Father who shares the same essence and being as the Father. This means that the Son and the Father are One God. Paul teaches that Jesus was God’s Son before his incarnation in the first century (Rom. 1:3-4, 8:3). He is the eternal Son through whom God created all things (Heb. 1:2, John 1:1-3). 

The Bible teaches that God’s only Son, the second person of the Trinity with a fully divine nature, took on a human nature in his incarnation and now has both natures. As the God-man, Jesus Christ will have both natures for eternity. 

Therefore, he is one person who possesses two natures: a divine nature and a human nature. Each nature is inseparably united in his one person, but each nature also keeps its unique properties so his divine and human natures are never fused or blended in any way.

According to his eternal, divine nature, Jesus Christ is always all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present everywhere – like the Father and the Spirit. However, according to his human nature, he also experiences the fullness of his humanity, including not knowing everything and experiencing weakness and temptation. (Luke 2:52, Mark 12:32, Heb. 2:17-18, 4:14-16)

The Nicene Creed was written in response to many theological controversies regarding how best to understand this mysterious biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is both divine and human. Heresies emerged contending that if Jesus Christ is fully God, he cannot also be fully human. And if Jesus Christ is fully human, he cannot also be fully God. To help clarify a biblical view of Jesus divine and human nature, the Nicene Creed includes these carefully chosen words: 

And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, 
begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. 
Through him all things were made.

After centuries of doctrinal controversy regarding the biblical teaching on Jesus’ person and natures, in 451 AD, the historic ecumenical Council of Chalcedon issued the Chalcedonian Definition stating that Jesus is “perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man.”

Our Lord 
Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, is also given the title Lord in Scripture. Lord is the personal, covenant name of God that tells us that God speaks with supreme authority, he is in sovereign control of all things, and his transforming love and presence is always with us as his covenant people. Perhaps the most fundamental affirmation of Christian belief in the New Testament is the statement “Jesus is Lord.” (Rom. 10:9, 1 Cor. 12:3) 

Similar to his title as God’s only Son, his title Lord is another strong affirmation of Jesus’ deity. The good news Peter proclaims at Pentecost is that because of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension, God made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

The Humiliation of the Son
The first phrase, I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, describes who Jesus Christ is, his person. The remaining affirmation describes his work, what Jesus Christ did for us and for our salvation.

And I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
 who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the dead, On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

The work of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord can be described as his humiliation and his exaltation. His humiliation includes his birth, life, and death. His exaltation includes his resurrection, ascension, and coming return. 

His birth
The next phrase in the Creed describes the Son of God’s first act of humiliation: “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.”  In the first century, the eternal Son of God entered this world in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and by an act of supernatural power called the virgin birth. (Isa. 7:14)

Something miraculous happened in the first century. The eternal Son of God entered the world he created and took on the fullness of humanity by assuming both a human body and a human soul. Now the resurrected and ascended Christ is at the right hand of God the Father as the God-man with two natures and one body forever.
His virgin birth confirms that Jesus, though not less than human, was more than human – he was also divine. It also affirms that Jesus, as God’s only Son, did not inherit the original sin of Adam, so he was completely free from all sin.

His life
So far in the Apostles’ Creed, there has been no mention of original sin or the Fall of man that resulted in a corrupt humanity and world that is ruled by Satan and hostile to God. (John 12:31, 14:30, 2 Cor. 4:4, 1 Jn. 5:19) But now we read the words: He suffered under Pontius Pilate.

Under Roman occupation, the Jewish authorities could not execute Jesus. So after they condemned him for confessing that he was the Christ, God’s anointed Savior-King, they passed him on to their governor, Pilate, to carry out his execution. 

Although the apex of Jesus’ suffering was when he was put to death on a cross under Pontius Pilate, the Scriptures teach that Jesus suffered for us throughout his whole life.

Paul presents Jesus as the second man and the last Adam. (1 Cor 15: 45-47) When the first man, Adam, was tempted in the garden, he failed to obey God, resulting in eternal death for humanity. (Rom. 5:12-14) But when the second man, Jesus, was similarly tempted throughout his life (see especially Matt. 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13) he perfectly obeyed God resulting in eternal life for humanity. (Rom 5:18-19)

Jesus did battle with every spiritual enemy that defeated us and held us captive. He faced every kind of temptation known to humanity from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But unlike us he never sinned, so that through his suffering to obey, he could earn a perfect righteousness for us before God, completely obeying all of God’s commands in thought, word, and deed.

His death
When describing Jesus’ death, the Creed says, He was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. This affirmation echoes Paul’s teaching that seems to be a standard summary of the good news in the first century: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [and] that he was buried” (1 Cor. 15:3-4a).

Paul includes the death and resurrection of Christ as being “of first importance” in understanding the heart of the Christian gospel. Jesus’ crucifixion was the means of his death and Jesus’ burial was its proof. The central message regarding Jesus death is that it is “for our sins,” meaning that Jesus died as our substitute, in our place.

Paul adds to his phrase “Christ died for our sins” the phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures” referring to God’s promises revealed to Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures to rescue his people and the world after Adam and Eve sinned. Through the prophet, Isaiah, God promised a Suffering Servant who would rescue his people. (Isaiah 53:6-11)

As God’s promised Suffering Servant, Jesus willingly offered himself up to God for us as not only our substitute in his life, but also in his death. (Acts 2:22-23, Rom. 5:9, Gal. 3:13, Phil 2:8, Heb. 9:11-12) When Jesus died on the cross, he did not simply experience the pain of physical suffering and death. He also suffered God’s curse for us, the full wrath and punishment of God that we deserve because of our sin. (2 Cor. 5:21)

The Scriptures also present Jesus as our Victor through his death for us on the cross. Soon after the Fall of humanity into sin, God promised that he would send the “seed of the woman” (Christ) to deliver a fatal blow to Satan and his rule over humanity and the world. (Gen. 3:15) Through his death on the cross, Jesus crushed Satan under his feet accomplishing for us a great victory over all the powers that held us in bondage: Satan, sin, and death. (Matt. 4, Luke 10:19, Rom. 16:20, 1 Cor. 15:51-56, Eph. 6:10-17, 2 Cor. 2:14, Col. 2:11-15, 1 John 2:13-14)


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How to Know God the Father as Lord of Creation

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 Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 2, you’ll learn how to know and worship God the Father as Lord of Creation.

About the Applied Theology ProjectThe 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 for Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 2 below!


Knowing the Father as Creator

By John Frame and Steve Childers

To know God means to know who God is and what God does as Triune Lord – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This requires us to know God’s attributes and acts. In this chapter our focus is on knowing God the Father as Lord of Creation. The Apostles’ Creed is divided into three major sections representing the person and work of the three members of the Trinity. The first affirmation is the most brief:

I believe in God, 
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

To understand God the Father, requires understanding God the Son and God the Spirit and the Father’s relationship with them. This is why the creeds and confessions written after the Apostles’ Creed amplified the Apostles’ Creed’s three major affirmations about the Trinity to show the oneness of God and the equality of the one Triune God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

For example, the Nicene Creed (381 AD) amplifies the Apostles’ Creed’s three major affirmations about the Trinity by presenting the equality of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit as one God and one Lord:

We believe in one God,    
the Father Almighty …
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, 
the only Son of God

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, 
the Lord, the giver of life …

The Nicene Creed also amplifies the first affirmation of the Apostles’ Creed by adding that the Father’s creation of heaven and earth includes all things visible and invisible. To help us better understand and apply this first affirmation, we’ll examine three biblical truths: 1) the Father’s name, 2) the Father’s nature, and 3) the Father’s work as Almighty Creator.

The Father’s Name
The Bible presents the unfolding mission of the Triune God as Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer of all things lost in humanity and creation because of the Fall. The Triune God’s mission is presented as accomplishing the Father’s will. The Scriptures tell the story of the Triune God’s accomplishment of the Father’s will like this:

•  God the Father establishes his good and perfect will by creating all things
•  God the Son accomplishes the Father’s will by redeeming all things lost in the Fall
•  God the Spirit applies the Father’s will by restoring all things lost in the Fall

It is the Father, not the Son or Spirit, whose knowledge establishes God’s plan for the world and authorizes the tasks that the Son and the Spirit will carry out in his plan. By the supreme authority of his word, God the Father, as Lord of creation, establishes his plan and will for everything he creates, visible and invisible.

Most of the Old Testament references to God’s fatherhood refer to the entire Trinity, and not just the person of the Father (Deut. 32:6, Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Acts 17:24-29). There are hints of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament, such as in the creation account: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26a), but the doctrine of the Trinity is not clearly revealed until the New Testament.

In the New Testament, the name “Father” becomes the regular name for the first person of the Trinity, the person who sent Jesus into the world. Jesus adds the personal name, Father, to God’s previously revealed personal name – LORD (Yahweh). The Apostles use “Father” in reference to a person of the Trinity that is distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit. (John 1:14, 18; John 5:17-26; John 14:16-17, Galatians 4:6; 2 Peter 1:17, 2 John 9)

The name Father also reveals God’s inner life to us as Triune God. Within the eternal Trinity is a family relationship between the Father and the Son. On earth God the Son called the person he came to love, serve and honor, “my Father.” (John 14:31) Jesus said, “He (the Father) who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29).

The Scriptures teach that the Father loves and honors the Son by entrusting him to accomplish his will to redeem and restore fallen humanity and creation (John 5:20-30; 10:17ff.; 17:23-26).

The biblical analogy of Father conveys the astonishing kind of love that God has for all who are in Christ by faith – the same love the Father has for eternity for his one and only Son. The Apostle John writes, “To all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Through faith in Christ, we’re adopted into the life of God’s family. God the Father becomes our Father, and God the Son, becomes our brother. 

As followers of Christ, we belong to God’s family. Knowing God as our Father includes seeing God as our creator, sustainer,  authority, protector, and our tender, loving caregiver. J.I. Packer, writes:

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.

We who were once enemies and strangers to God are now in the high position of being his own beloved children. To be right with God the Judge is wonderful, but to be adopted, loved and cared for by God the Father is even greater. 

The Father’s Nature – Almighty
God the Father is described in the creed as Almighty, meaning that he has all power. God’s almighty power is referred to as his omnipotence, from the root omni, meaning all, and the word potency, meaning power. The Bible teaches that God’s power is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. 

He has unlimited strength and ability to accomplish whatever he chooses. The Father’s almighty power is being constantly exerted over every area of the universe, holding everything together, from the smallest atom to the largest planet and bringing about every event. 

The term Almighty points to the biblical concept that God the Father is Lord, the sovereign King, the all-powerful one who reigns over all things visible and invisible.

This is the good news that the Almighty King, who sovereignly creates and rules over all things, is also our Heavenly Father. Therefore, when we experience suffering, we trust in our Almighty King who loves us like a Father and promises always to protect us and provide for us.

To help his followers know and trust in God as their Almighty Father just as he did, Jesus instructed them to pray to “Our Father in heaven.” Throughout Scripture, the image of heaven is God’s throne room where he sits and rules as king. So Jesus means for us to pray to God as our Royal Father who is also our Divine King, enthroned in heaven sovereignly ruling over all things. 

In his Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus teaches his followers about the life and values of all who trust in God as their Father in heaven, he refers to God as Father seventeen times.

The Father’s Work – Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth 
Since the second century, Christian creeds and confessions include the affirmation of belief in “God the Father Almighty” in his capacity as “creator of heaven and earth.” The Apostles’ Creed states:

I believe in God the Father Almighty,      
Creator of heaven and earth.

The Scriptures teach that God created the world out of nothing, and then he rested. But God’s work in creation did not stop at the beginning. Instead, as soon as God rested from his original work of creation, he immediately continued his work by sustaining and ruling over everything he had created. This is called God’s providence. (Prov 15:3, Ps 104:24)

When the Father created the world, he designed the way it’s supposed to operate. So God’s creation includes not only the natural laws which govern the physical and biological world, but also a creative order of laws and norms for the way things are supposed to be. The Father sustains and rules over all creation not only directly as Almighty King, but also indirectly through his image bearers, as they cultivate and develop his creation on the earth. 

God’s plan was for Adam and Eve to keep developing his creation by multiplying and subduing it according to God’s creative order. As Adam and Eve learned how to apply these laws in all their spheres of life, God’s plan was to establish his kingdom on earth through their application of them, developing the whole domain of human relationships and societal organizations for his glory.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they were cursed – along with all creation. But God did not abandon his mission to establish his kingdom on earth. Nothing could thwart God’s original plan to make his kingdom come and will be done on earth through his image bearers. 

When we affirm our belief in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, we’re not only affirming our belief that the Father created all things in the beginning by his power. We’re also affirming our belief that, by that same power, the Father is now sustaining and ruling over all things in his creation to accomplish his original mission to establish his kingdom on earth.

The Father’s supreme authority extends to all creation – every person, sphere, and detail of life. There is no created thing or person that is not under his authority. Because God created everything for his purposes, no aspect of creation, visible or invisible, can be morally neutral. 

So, everything either functions as God intends it to, and is therefore good, or functions apart from God’s intention, and is evil. This means that the Father’s supreme authority, now revealed in the Scriptures, includes his authority over not only religious or “sacred” matters, but also over “secular” matters like politics, education, and work.

Conclusion
Martin Luther beautifully summarizes the meaning of our belief in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth in these seven statements:

– I believe that God has created me and all that exists. 
– He has given me and still preserves my body and soul with all their powers. 
– He provides me with food and clothing, home and family, daily work, and all I need from day to day. 
– God also protects me in time of danger and guards me from every evil. 
– All this he does out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, though I do not deserve it. 
– Therefore I surely ought to thank and praise, serve and obey him. 
– This is most certainly true.


We help underserved church leaders develop churches that transform lives and communities

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Online
Give using your credit card or bank draft through our secure online form

Phone
Call us at 407-682-6942

Mail
Send a check:
Pathway Learning, P.O. Box 2062
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Matching Gift
Your employer may also be able to double your gift.

Give a Gift of Stock
You may give securities either by transfer of the certificate of ownership or through account transfer arranged by your broker. In each case, you avoid the tax on any potential gain and receive a deduction for the full fair market value of securities. To give a gift of stock, email us at staff@pathwaylearning.org, call us at 407-682-6942, or write us at P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790.

Understand the Purpose and Value of Creeds

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 Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 1, you’ll learn the purpose and value of Christian Creeds in the study of theology. 

About the Applied Theology ProjectThe 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 for Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 1 below!


Understanding the Christian Faith and Creeds

By John Frame and Steve Childers

The Apostles’ Creed is a brief summary of the essential biblical doctrines of the Christian faith believed by most professing Christians throughout history, including those among the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant traditions. 

The creed was not written by Jesus’ apostles, but it represents their apostolic faith rooted in the teachings of Jesus. Our ultimate goal in studying the Apostles’ Creed, and any creed or confession of faith, is to help us better understand the teachings of the Bible.

The Apostles’ Creed is not the earliest written summary of Christian beliefs, but the culmination of many rules of faith and similar creeds written in previous centuries. The earliest summaries of Christian beliefs are found in the Old and New Testaments, including: 

•    “God is LORD.” (Exod. 3:16, I Kings 18:39, Joel 2:32)
•    “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:29)
•    “There is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:5-6)
•    “Jesus is Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36, Rom. 10:9-13, 1 Cor. 12:3, Phil. 2: 6-11)
•    “Jesus is the Christ, Son of God, Son of David.” (Matt. 16:16, 1 Cor. 15:3-7, Rom. 1:3-4)
•    “Jesus Christ has come in flesh.” (1 John 4:2)

God gave these brief summaries in Scripture to help followers of Jesus learn and preserve their beliefs. When false prophets began teaching heresy in the early church, the Apostle John instructed followers of Jesus to use a brief summary of Christian beliefs, “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” to test whether their teaching was from God.

The writings of the early church Fathers contain similar rules of faith that were used as catechisms for converts in preparation for baptism and as a part of the baptism rite itself. In the first and second centuries, rules of faith varied from church to church. But soon the churches created collective summaries that took the form of creeds they all believed to be the essential doctrines of biblical truth. By the second century, the basic form of the Apostles’ Creed can be found in widely dispersed Christian communities. 

The Purpose of Creeds
In the first part of the third century, the early form of the Apostles’ Creed was used in Christian baptism as a holy pledge of allegiance to the Triune God. In The Apostolic Tradition, Hippolytus (170 – 235), a church leader in Rome, gives us an example of how these credal statements were used in baptisms.

Pastor: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? 
Convert: I believe

Pastor: Do you believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God who was born of the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was dead and buried, and rose again the third day, alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the quick and the dead? 
Convert: I believe

Pastor: Do you believe in Holy Spirit, and the holy church, and the resurrection of the flesh? 
Convert: I believe
The church used these early creeds, and the later Apostles’ Creed, not only for the preservation and teaching of their beliefs, but also as their holy pledge of allegiance to the Triune God of the gospel in worship and all of life. 

In the early 5th century, Augustine encouraged Christians to use the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as practical expressions of faith, hope, and love – the three virtues the Apostle Paul extols in 1 Corinthians 13:13. Even for those who cannot read, the creed, the prayer, and the commandments can be memorized and used to help them understand the Bible and aid them in worship, strengthening their faith, hope, and love for God and people.

The Value of Creeds
The greatest value of studying the Apostles’ Creed, or any creed or confession of faith, is to help us better understand the Bible. The doctrine of sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) affirms that the Bible clearly teaches, either explicitly or implicitly, all God’s truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life. Because the Bible is God’s inspired Word, which includes an understandable and consistent set of truths, we can understand it on our own – through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Nevertheless, God also gives his Church pastors and teachers to help us better understand and obey the teachings of the Bible, so we will mature spiritually in ways we could not without them. (Eph. 4:11-13, Heb. 5:12-14). Since the first century, church leaders have been faithful to preserve and protect written summaries of what the church believes to be essential biblical doctrines of the Christian faith in creeds and confessions of faith.

But we must be on guard against the danger of placing more value on the confessions and creeds from church councils than on the Bible. History has proven that creeds and confessions sometimes fail to represent the teachings of Scripture faithfully. 

The infallible Scriptures must be our sole authority (sola Scriptura) in all issues of faith and practice. And we must test the teachings of all church leaders, creeds and confessions against the clear teachings of God’s Word. Martin Luther reflects this in his famous statement: 

Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. 

Even though the Bible alone is sufficient to help us understand all the essential beliefs of the Christian faith, we are in need of summaries to help us better understand and apply these beliefs to our lives. The historic Christian creeds and confessions, including the Apostles’ Creed, give us just these kinds of helpful summaries.

The Nature of Creeds
Since the Apostles’ Creed was often used in the early church as part of worship, it’s very brief – only about one hundred words. So people could easily memorize it and have a brief summary of what they believe about God in their minds and hearts.

But the brevity of the creed means it is missing more detailed explanations of essential Christian beliefs, including the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and everlasting life. So when unbiblical beliefs began spreading throughout the churches, the result was much division and controversy.

To help resolve these controversies, the first two historic ecumenical councils of church leaders met in the fourth century. As a result, prominent heresies were condemned and the historic Christian beliefs in the Apostles’ Creed were affirmed and clarified by the creation and adoption of what is known today as the Nicene Creed. In subsequent generations, the church saw more challenges to historic Christian doctrine, resulting in more church councils and creeds to help followers of Jesus clarify biblical beliefs about God.  

By the end of the sixth century, the various major branches of Christianity began to move in different doctrinal directions, adding affirmations that originated from their different traditions. That doctrinal divergence continues to the present day. But the early church’s Apostles’ Creed, as amplified and explained by the Nicene Creed, is the only authoritative, ecumenical statement of the Christian faith that is widely accepted by most Christian traditions throughout history. 

Therefore, our primary focus in this study is on explaining the foundational beliefs affirmed in the Apostles’ Creed in the light of its subsequent affirmations and clarifications in the Nicene Creed and other great historic Christian creeds and confessions of faith.

The Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed present us with much more than doctrinal truths to believe. They also give us a summary of the Triune God’s unified unfolding story of salvation in history.  

This is the gospel – the good news that the Father’s creation, ruined by the Fall, is being redeemed by Christ and restored by his Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God on earth. Here we see a vision of God’s Triune lordship over the whole universe he has made from the beginning in creation until life everlasting. This is the gospel we believe and profess, not only at our baptism, but throughout our lives.

The Apostles’ Creed consists of three long sentences that contain twelve affirmations, revealing the Bible’s teaching on the nature and work of the Triune God. The Trinitarian structure of the creed is based on the biblical structure of the Triune God’s unfolding story in history.

The Bible presents all individual doctrinal affirmations as vital parts of the bigger biblical story of who God is and what God does as Triune Lord: beginning with the Father’s creation in Genesis 1:1, reaching its apex in the Son’s redemption revealed in the New Testament, and ending with the Spirit’s restoration of all things in Revelation 22:21. 

Therefore, the first sentence of the creed reveals God the Father as Creator, the second sentence reveals God the Son as Redeemer, and the third sentence reveals God the Spirit as Restorer: 

FATHER AS CREATOR
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

SON AS REDEEMER
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

SPIRIT AS RESTORER
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.

In subsequent chapters we’ll examine each of these sentences and their affirmations in detail.


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