The Apostles' Creed Explained

The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
And will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* (global) church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Creed comes from the Latin word “Credo” which means “I believe.” Now some independent and denominational churches will say they do not believe in creeds, yet they have “By-Laws of faith and Christian doctrine” printed for their members saying specifically what they believe about the Christian faith. Thus, they are creedal. They just don’t recite the creeds in worship. Where did the Apostles' Creed come from? Heresy and false teaching began to creep into the Christian community as early as 70, 80, and 90 A.D. Dr. Arthur Wainwright, a professor of New Testament at Emory University, taught that the Gospel of John originated due to a popular heresy called “Gnosticism” which taught that the body was inherently evil so Jesus could have never inhabited a human body since He was holy. Thus, Jesus would have never died a physical death on the cross, nor would Jesus have physically been resurrected from the dead by the power of God. The belief was Jesus was a spirit or ghost for all practical purposes. This is why John’s Gospel in 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of truth and grace, and we beheld His glory, as the glory of the only begotten son of the Father.” Thus, false teaching had to be addressed, and when early Christians were being discipled it was imperative for them to be asked core questions before they were baptized. Hippolytus was a major leader in the late first and early second century who wrote several volumes addressing heresy in the early church that has been preserved in the work: Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. For example, the bishop or pastor would ask, “Dost thou believe in God the Father Almighty?” Tradition has suggested that The Apostles' Creed came from the early Apostles of Jesus. However, it originated around 200 A.D. to address the heresies mentioned and to prepare candidates for baptism into the Christian Faith.

The Apostles' Creed contains the “core of Christian beliefs,” what Scripture and Orthodox faith believes concerning God, Jesus (the Virgin Birth, crucifixion, resurrection), the Holy Spirit, the second coming of Jesus, and the “holy catholic (global) church.” (Holy catholic church is not confessing belief in the Roman Catholic Church. It is confessing belief that there is one large fellowship of Christians throughout the world called the body of Christ. Revelation 7 speaks to this.)

The early church confronted the false teaching of their day by summarizing the core elements of the Christian Faith. These foundational beliefs of Christianity are what gave them life and are that for which they would be willing to die. Many did give their lives for these core beliefs of the Christian faith. They would not deny the divinity and humanity of Jesus. They would not say that Caesar is Lord. They confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. So when you and I say the Apostles' Creed we are joining the voices of millions, and now over 2 billion, Christians for centuries who have said, “I believe….”

For more practical information about the Apostles' and Nicene Creed see Dr. Timothy Tennent’s writing…

By President Timothy C. Tennent of Asbury Theological Seminary
The corporate recitation of ecumenical creeds (Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed) has been a standard practice in churches around the world for hundreds of years. These are rich treasures for us as followers of Jesus Christ.

First, it is an important link with the global church, both around the world, as well as back through time. There are many aspects of our modern worship services which would be unrecognizable to Christians from previous periods in history, but the creeds represent a rare place of unity and we should celebrate that. We often focus on what makes our churches different; whether it be forms of church government, or speaking in tongues, or how we baptize, and so forth. There is a place for all of that. But it is comforting to know that there are certain truths which are foundational to Christian identity whether you are a Roman Catholic, an Eastern Orthodox, a Pentecostal, an Anglican, or any number of the myriad of Protestant or independent churches around the world. The creeds spell out for us how we are mystically linked to Christ and to Christians throughout the world and back through time.

Second, the creeds remind us of our common confession as Christians. The creeds do not represent all that the church embodies in the world, but they do spell out the doctrinal core, the absolute essentials of Christian identity. They remember our Trinitarian faith. They recall that God is the creator of “heaven and earth.” They rehearse for us the great redemptive acts in Jesus Christ. They remind us of the work of the Holy Spirit. They recall for us the key elements of the gospel: the gathered church, the power of forgiveness, the anticipation of our bodily resurrection, and our eternal destiny. In short, there is no greater summary, or more condensed statement of distinctively Christian statements than that which is found in the ecumenical creeds.
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