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Introducing A Theology of Faith: A Biblical Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

By Dr. John M. Frame

Introducing the Applied Theology Series

In this series, 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.

Introducing the soon-to-be-released book and course: 

Theology of Faith: A Biblical Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

You’ll learn how to develop a strong faith rooted in the rich, historic, biblical truths found in the Apostles’ Creed that will help you apply God’s Word to all areas of your life. You’ll be equipped to:

  • Understand the purpose and value of creeds
  • Worship God the Father as Creator of all things
  • Know God the Son as Redeemer in his humiliation
  • Honor God the Son as Redeemer in his exaltation
  • Experience God the Spirit as Restorer today
  • Desire God the Spirit as Restorer in age to come

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 New Introduction by Dr. John Frame below!


Introduction to a Theology of Faith

Dr. John M. Frame

We are summarizing the theology of the Bible in three categories, faith, hope, and love. These have been called “theological virtues,” and in 1 Cor. 13:13, the Apostle Paul describes them as the things that “remain,” when our childhood ignorance passes into complete, godly knowledge. 

Following the Enchiridion of St. Augustine, our plan is to examine faith by way of the Apostles’ Creed, hope by way of the Lord’s Prayer, and love by way of the Ten Commandments. In the present volume we begin this threefold series by looking at faith—the Christian faith as an object of our belief and trust—summarized by the Apostles’ Creed. 

The Apostles’ Creed is not found in the Bible itself. Some might question how a central focus on an extra-biblical creed agrees with the principle of sola Scriptura, the principle that the Bible alone is the final authority for faith. People have sometimes described my own theological writings as more Bible-centered than Creed-centered. 

Some have used that description as a criticism, but I cannot deny that the description is true. In general, I think that Christians in my own Reformed theological community have been preoccupied too much with the History of Doctrine, including Creeds and Confessions, and not enough with the texts of Scripture itself. 

Yet here in Applied Theology I have happily agreed with my friend Steve Childers that we ought to focus, in this volume, on the Apostles’ Creed.  Why? The answer is that literally everyone who names the name of Christ agrees that the teaching of the Apostles’ Creed is the teaching of Scripture. 

I am not aware of any church or theological movement that denies this. Indeed, there is more agreement among Christians about the Apostles’ Creed than there is about any other piece of biblical interpretation. We will, of course, look closely at many texts from the Bible itself in this book. But even though we attempt to focus on simpler matters in Scripture, it is certainly possible that some reader somewhere will find some fault with the very best of our Childers-Frame interpretations. 

But I cannot imagine any Christian reader finding fault with the Apostles’ Creed. So, ironically, a focus on the Apostles’ Creed reinforces, rather than detracts, from our adherence to sola Scriptura. By expounding the creed, we are expounding the most respected biblical interpretation that there is, more respected than anything Frame and Childers could produce on their own. 

Nevertheless, we urge you to read Scripture for yourself. In fact, we hope this book will motivate you to do that more and more. We hope you will be like the noble Bereans, who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts. 17:11). 

The Creed is not a substitute for the Scriptures. Rather, it is a means of encouraging you to examine that book in which the doctrines of the Creed are presented at far greater length, with more background, argument, application, illustration, encouragement, and authority. So we will be expounding many biblical texts in this volume, and we hope you will look them up and examine them prayerfully. 

I want to stress also the centrality of the Gospel in this volume. The Gospel is the good news of Christ. It is the central message of Scripture; indeed, it is the reason why God gave us Scripture. Everything in Scripture aims at communicating the Gospel to the hearts of its hearers and readers. 

Our motive in publishing this book, indeed the whole Applied Theology series, is to help church planters, pastors, and evangelists throughout the world—those who have been called to preach the Gospel. We are not seeking to impress academics or theological theoreticians, but to bring people of every background to saving faith in Jesus Christ as they hear the good news.

Alas, we live in a time in which some people, even learned people, seriously ask “what is the Gospel, after all?” as if it were something hidden somewhere, something scholars need to dig up. 

To be sure, there are many levels of deep mystery in the Gospel: why would a perfectly holy God reach down to redeem sinners, people who hated him? But there is no mystery in the content of the Gospel, the fact that God did in fact reach down to redeem, to save, to justify and sanctify those sinners. 

That content has been known clearly since the first century (and, in one sense, even before then—see Isa. 52:7). Every part of Scripture serves the Gospel—by defining it, showing its historical background, expounding it, illustrating it, applying it. The Gospel was the life of the early church. And when the church needed a simple formulation to present to the pagans of its day and to teach new believers, they developed—the Apostles’ Creed! 

Everything in the Apostles’ Creed, like everything in Scripture, is Gospel. It begins by presenting the source of the good news—”God, the Father Almighty.” God the Father is the one who made all things, and when human beings sinned against him, he was the fountain of love, who drew believers back to himself. 

How did he do this? Through “Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son,” who was born of the virgin Mary, suffered, died, and was raised from the dead. How can we know this wonderful Son of God?

Through the Holy Spirit, who unites us into a holy universal church in deep fellowship with one another, experiencing and reciprocating God’s forgiveness of sins, a Spirit who raises us from the dead to eternal life forever with God and one another. 

All of that is good news, Gospel. In the modern period, being in a hurry, some have tried to make it more concise: we have sinned, we need to believe in Christ, then we can go to heaven. Nothing wrong with that, as far as it goes. 

But it misses the richness of the Father’s love which is the fount of blessing, the Trinitarian doctrine of God which has always been at the heart of the church’s confession, and the blessing of fellowship in the church by the Spirit. 

That Trinitarianism deserves much more emphasis today. There has been, to be sure, a recent outpouring of academic theology on the subject, and much of that is good. But we need to be reminded again of the theological coherence between sola Scriptura, Gospel, and Trinity. Each of these presupposes the others. Scripture is the Gospel word of the Triune God; the Gospel is the authoritative Scripture of the Triune God; and the Trinity is the author of the biblical word and the substance of the good news. 

In this volume, we will consider the Gospel-work of the Triune God, as set forth in the Scriptures and summarized in the Apostles’ Creed. In the Gospel, Scripture represents the Triune God as the Triune Lord. The message of the Old Testament is, “God is Lord” (Ex. 3:15). The message of the New Testament is “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Rom. 10:9). That Gospel Lordship, appropriately, is itself threefold: 

1) The Father’s Supreme Authority as Lord Creator.
2) The Son’s sovereign Control as Lord Redeemer.
3) The Spirit’s transforming presences as Lord Restorer.

I trust we shall see in this volume how the doctrine of the Trinity is not an obscure philosophical concept, but summarizes and illumines the whole meaning of Scripture as Gospel. What good news it is, to know that nobody less than the Triune God has seen our guilt and suffering, has dealt with it in Jesus, and told us about it in the sure, clear word of Scripture. 

John M. Frame
Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy
Reformed Theological Seminary


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Discover Spirituality of Faith, Hope, and Love

Toward the end of Augustine’s life, he received a special request from a man who was seeking biblical answers to life’s ancient questions such as “What is to be sought in life above everything else?”

Augustine tells the man that he will find the answers to his many questions about life in the answers to these three basic questions: 1) What should be believed?, 2) What should be hoped for?, and 3) What should be loved?

In this sixth lesson, you’ll learn three ancient ways to deepen your faith, hope, and love.

About the Applied Theology Project
In this new book and course by Drs. Frame and Childers, you’ll explore an ancient, Trinitarian approach to the study of theology and spirituality found in the great theological works of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. These thinkers have outlined for us a transformational way of doing theology that is eminently Scriptural and involves our whole being – not only our minds, but also our hearts and lives.

CHOOSE YOUR LEARNING PATHWAY:


Toward a Theology of Faith, Hope, and Love

By John Frame and Steve Childers

We learned earlier that toward the end of Augustine’s life, he received a special request from a man named Laurentius, who was seeking biblical answers to life’s ancient questions such as “What is to be sought in life above everything else?” Laurentius knew that Augustine was a great theologian and famous philosopher who had written many long books. But he mustered up the courage to ask Augustine to help him with his questions by writing a small, easy-to-understand handbook on the essence of Christianity.

Augustine’s Theology of Faith, Hope, and Love

In response, Augustine summarized all of Laurentius’s questions into one single question: “Perhaps this is exactly what you wish me to explain briefly and to sum up in a few words: how God is to be worshipped.” Augustine then answers his own question, regarding how God is to be worshiped and honored, by referring to the three virtues of faith, hope, and love found in 1 Corinthians 13:13. He writes:

You would have the answers to all these questions if you really understood what a man should believe, what he should hope for, and what he ought to love. For these are the chief things—indeed, the only things—to seek for in religion.

Augustine tells Laurentius that he will find the answers to his many questions about life in the answers to these three basic questions: 1) What should be believed?, 2) What should be hoped for?, and 3) What should be loved? Then he writes a small handbook showing that the essence of: 1) our faith is found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) our hope is found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) our love is found in the Ten Commandments.

Augustine’s brief “Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love” soon became the basis for the education of clergy in the Middle Ages. History professor Gerald Bray writes, “It (Enchiridion) played a major role in shaping the spiritual outlook of the Western church for over a thousand years.”

Luther’s Theology of Faith, Hope, and Love

Eleven centuries later a former Augustinian monk, Martin Luther, dedicated his life to continuing Augustine’s tradition of helping people cultivate the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love by using the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.

Like Augustine, Luther became well known in his lifetime as a great theologian and author. One day when he went to a barber shop to get a haircut, his barber, Peter, asked the famous Reformer how to pray. Luther responded graciously by writing a letter to Peter about prayer, a letter we know today as the short book “A Simple Way to Pray.” In this letter, he reflects Augustine’s teaching on the strong connection between prayer and the Bible, encouraging Peter to base his prayers on the Bible as a way to help increase his faith through prayer.

Luther identified with Peter’s struggles in prayer and shares with him a practical method he found helpful. He encouraged Peter to divide his prayers into “a garland of four strands” to help him pray through the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten commandments. For example, in praying through the Ten Commandments, Luther writes:

I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as
• first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly.
• Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving;
• third, a confession; and
• fourth, a prayer.

Luther encouraged Peter to use this same method to deepen his faith, hope, and love by praying through the twelve affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed, the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.

Calvin’s Theology of Faith, Hope, and Love

In 1535, when the fifty-two-year-old Luther wrote this letter to his barber in Germany, there was a young scholar in his twenties, living in Basel, Switzerland, named John Calvin, whose ministry was just beginning. His theology and life were being significantly shaped by Luther and Luther’s spiritual Father, Augustine.

Calvin’s heart was broken for the multitudes who didn’t know Christ, especially his “French countrymen” whom he saw as hungering and thirsting for Christ, but without even a “slight knowledge of him.” So he decides to follow the example of Augustine’s “handbook” and Luther’s letter to his barber, by writing his own brief summary of the essence of biblical Christianity in a way that could be easily understood. Calvin affectionately called it his “short” work and “little book.”

Following the historical Christian teaching and tradition modeled by Augustine, the catechisms of the middle ages, and Luther’s letters and catechisms, the nucleus of Calvin’s “little book” consists of three chapters that expound the meaning of: 1) the Apostles’ Creed, 2) the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) the Ten Commandments.

In response to the pressing issues of his day, Calvin subsequently added appendices that became three more chapters. In 1536, Calvin titled his “little book” The Institutes of the Christian Religion. During the next 23 years, in response to many more issues, he updated the book and published several new editions until it became four long books in its final edition in 1559.

Calvin’s Institutes became one of the most influential works in the history of Christianity. But Calvin never abandoned the original purpose of his “little book,” found in its subtitle as “the whole sum of godliness and whatever it is necessary to know about saving doctrine.” Instead, he saw his later editions as needed clarifications and applications of this “sum of godliness.”

During the years Calvin was writing and updating his Institutes, he was also writing and updating a catechism, called the Geneva Catechism, to help children also learn a brief and simple summary of the essence of biblical Christianity. Again, in the writing of his catechism, Calvin follows the examples of Augustine, Luther, the church in the middle ages, and his own Institutes, by structuring it around: 1) the Apostles’ Creed, 2) the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) the Ten Commandments.

Toward a Theology of Faith, Hope, and Love

In the first century, the Apostle Paul also summarizes the heart of biblical Christianity when he writes: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). So we seek a theology that encourages faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love for God and others. In Applied Theology we’re seeking to recapture for today the biblical, historical, and practical theology of faith, hope, and love, championed by the great theologians of the past.

Therefore, the goal of the Applied Theology series of books and courses is to help us develop our faith by renewing our minds in the biblical truths of the Apostle’s Creed, and our hope by renewing our affections as we pray the Lord’s Prayer. However, the ultimate goal of our faith and hope is to bring honor to the Triune God by our love for him and others as we obey his Ten Commandments.

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


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

WAYS TO GIVE

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
Winter Park, FL 32790

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.

The young John Frame teaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia

Dr. John M. Frame has distinguished himself as a prolific author and one of America’s foremost theologians and philosophers—significantly shaping the thought of Evangelicalism today. Many of today’s most influential Christian leaders and authors, like Tim Keller and John Piper, readily acknowledge the significant impact John Frame has had on them.

“I should like to think that tomorrow’s Reformed leaders will add John Frame’s name to that list; I believe they should.” – J. I. Packer

Commenting on the continuation of protestant reformation theology since the time of Martin Luther and John Calvin, J. I. Packer writes in his foreword to Frame’s Systematic Theology:

“Three parts of the world have since made major contributions to the Reformed heritage, each engendering its own conflicts and loyalties:

  • England saw the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Puritan development, from William Perkins to John Owen, exploring life in Christ in and through the Holy Spirit;
  • nineteenth-century Holland produced the Kuyperian theology of human and Christian culture within a Reformed frame; 
  • and the twentieth-century witnessed, within the conservative Presbyterian world, the ongoing quest for Reformed methodological authenticity, in which B. B, Warfield, Geerhardus Vos, J. Gresham Machen, and Cornelius Van Til are, by common consent, the leading names.

I should like to think that tomorrow’s Reformed leaders will add John Frame’s name to that list; I believe they should.”

After 49 years of distinguished service as a seminary professor at three seminaries, Dr. John Frame retired in 2017. But his influential writing ministry continues today. Although widely known and deeply respected in church leadership and academic circles for decades, his works are now, finally, becoming well known to the general public.

Framing John Frame: 4 Parts

With the goal of helping introduce Frame and his writings more widely to the general public, Childers wrote this four-part series below called “Framing John Frame,” that was later published as the foreword for the book, John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 1, by P&R Publishing. The goal of this series is to help more people begin mining the rich theological, philosophical, and practical gems that have for too long been mostly in the hands of academics and church leaders.


The Applied Theology Project

Since 2016, John Frame and Steve Childers have been collaboration on the Applied Theology Project. The mission of the Applied Theology Project is to provide accessible, affordable, seminary-level courses to underserved church leaders in their language and adapted to their culture wherever they live and serve.

The vision for the Applied Theology Project is to use the latest advances in educational technology to help bring all the loci of Systematic Theology to the millions of church leaders, especially in the developing world, who have no access or cannot afford high quality traditional seminary education. – John Frame

Childers and Frame have written 9 book manuscripts so far and published their first four online courses called Foundations of Theology, Essentials in Theology, Perspectives in Theology, and Applications in Theology – on the Pathway Learning online library of courses. Books and courses on Justification in Theology, Gospel in Theology, Theology of Faith: Apostles’ Creed, Theology of Hope: Lord’s Prayer, and Theology of Love: Ten Commandments coming soon.


We help under-served church leaders
develop churches that transform lives and communities.