The basics of Christian faith have remained the same for centuries. Affirmed by the church around the world since its earliest years, these truths are summarized in documents known as creeds. Among these, the Apostles' Creed is one of the most important. During this series we explored not only what the Creed meant in the early centuries but also its ongoing importance and relevance for Christian faith and practice today.
THE APOSTLE'S CREED
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead. The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
I Believe | John 20v1–18
We learned that faith is impossible to conjure up on our own and only the result of the intervention of God. Faith is mystical, and yet faith is also rational. It is the result of thinking things through. You can’t be passive. You must read what the Bible says about Jesus, surround yourself with other believers, ask difficult questions, and think things through.
Culture says it does not matter what you believe as long as you believe with all your heart. But the Bible says it does not matter whether you believe with all the heart as long as youʼre believing the truth. The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty. The true essence of faith is a child jumping into his father’s arms knowing that she is going to be ok.
God the Father, Almighty | John 18v1–14
We tend to believe either God is almighty and sovereign or he is a tender, loving father but he can not be both. We choose a loving God who’s not really holy or we choose a holy God who’s not really loving, and therefore, we don’t see all of the glory of God. But in the end there was only one way for God to be absolutely holy and absolutely just. The cross is the place where both the love and the justice of God perfectly, brilliantly coincide and shine forth.
“No place in the history of the world was the holiness of God more brilliantly manifested than when we saw his holiness and justice had to be satisfied, even at the cost of his own Son... but at no place else in the history of the world was the love of God more brilliantly manifested than when we saw he has to save and love and rescue and forgive us, even if it costs his own Son. At the same moment.” - Tim Keller
Creator of Heaven and Earth | John 1v1–11
We live in a culture where your psychology class will teach that your problem is a lack of self-esteem, but your philosophy and biology classes will teach you that you are nothing. You are just the result of a cosmic accident. However, the doctrine of creation shows that the universe is not an accident and that every single human being has inherent value because they are made in the image of God.
Those who truly believe the Christian doctrine of creation will be able to truly enjoy creation and also work to rebuild it.
“Confronted with cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, “If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God.” The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’ For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world… but it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.” - CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
Some of his readers and his listeners were kind of offended he is giving this Christian talk, and he used the word damned in the middle of it. But Lewis says he did it on purpose. Because if you believe in the doctrine of creation you get mad when you see cancer or a slum.
God is so committed to creation that he sent his Son.
God is so committed to creation that he would suffer.
God is so committed to creation that he would enter into it.
God wants to rehabilitate creation and he wants us to get on board.
Conceived of the Holy Spirit | 1 John 1v1–4
The Christian doctrine of the incarnation says the eternal God has entered into time.
The invisible, has become visible.
The divine has taken up a human nature.
The absolute has become particular.
The ideal has become real.
God has become human.
God is no longer just a remote idea or even just a force we cower before, but I can know him personally. He has become graspable. He has become someone I can know personally. There was an infinite chasm between us and Him, and He bridged it. Now we can be the friends of God, and now we can be friends with each other.
The incarnation changes everything. It changes our relationship with God, which is primary, but it also changes our relationships with other people.
Our Lord | John 6v16–24
At Christmastime, the notion that God sent his only son, a little baby born in a manger, is sweet. It warms our hearts. But it will never change your heart unless you see who actually came.
Jesus as a baby in a manger is heart warming but Jesus as Lord is astounding!
In fact, it’s life-transforming to think the Lord of heaven and earth - a figure of terrifying power, frightening holiness, overwhelming magnificence - became a little baby, lived among us, died in our place, resurrected victoriously, ascended to heaven, poured out his Holy Spirt, and will return again to judge the living and the dead, and to rule and reign over all creation for eternity.
That idea will transform your heart.
Forgiveness of Sins | John 1v9–14
The essence of sin is not so much a broken rule, but a broken relationship.
Sin is the failure to live as God created us to live - in peaceful harmony with him, others, and the world. Therefore “omissions” (against God’s call to love and contentment) are as wrong as “commissions” (against God’s prohibition of lying, stealing, etc.)
We tend think mainly of sins of commission rather than of our more profound failures to live lives of love, generosity, justice, contentment, and peace. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught that each one of God’s commands was not only a prohibition but an invitation.
The command “thou shalt not kill” is only fulfilled if you are living a life of love.
The command “thou shalt not steal” is only fulfilled if you are living a life of generosity.
This understanding of sin prevents us from being self-righteous and legalistic, since everyone falls short of God’s will for how we should be relating to him, to others, and to the world. In other words, if you have a view of sin that makes you feel better than other people, you have a non-Christian, a non-biblical view of sin.
Crucified, Died, and was Buried | John 19v16–30
That Jesus "was crucified" is the most astonishing admission of the entire Creed.... What the Creed actually affirms is that the Lord whom Christians follow even in preference to the emperor - died like a common criminal under Roman law. Such a declaration of faith would have been not only scandalous and even ridiculous but also subversive. What Christians were actually saying in reciting this Creed was that Roman law had erred in crucifying Jesus. The empire killed him as a seditious man claiming to be "King of the Jews," but it had actually crucified the king of the universe! - Justo L. González
In John 19v30 Jesus cries out on the cross, “It is finished.” This is a famous English rendering of a single Greek word John tells us Jesus spoke on the cross: tetelestai.
But to translate it “It is finished” isn’t quite right. It is too passive. It is “finished” in English means it’s over, but when Jesus Christ says tetelestai he is not just saying something has just happened to me.
Telos is the Greek word for design or plan. Jesus is talking about something He has accomplished.
In other words, here is Jesus, stretched out, on the cross. His hands are nailed. His feet are nailed. He can’t even scratch his nose. He seems absolutely powerless, totally defeated, helpless in every way and yet his last words, properly translated, were, “I’ve done it. I have accomplished it.”
Jesus’ last words to us on the cross were, “I have traversed the infinite distance between you and God. There is not an inch left. I have done everything necessary to bring you into the Father’s arms. There’s not one thing left for you to do. I’ve done it completely. It is absolutely and utterly finished. There’s nothing else for you to do at all. Period.”
If you could summarize Christianity into one word, it would be tetelestai.
When Buddha died, his last words, according to tradition, were, “Strive without ceasing.” But the last words of Jesus are, “Don’t you dare strive; I have done all the striving necessary.”
Religion says, “finish the work”, but the gospel says, “receive the finished work!”
Religion says, “If you finish the work, someday God might give you acceptance and love and blessing.” The gospel says, “Receive the finished work of Jesus Christ, and you get love and acceptance and all that blessing now, immediately, fully, completely, totally.”
Arose Again | John 20v16–23
Before the resurrection the disciples had a general belief and subscription to Jesus' teachings and practices but they hadn’t had a life-changing, heart-changing, regeneration. But after the resurrection Jesus breathes on them and says “receive the Holy Spirit”. The Creator of life who breathed life into the first man is renewing His Creation. He is giving life to a new humanity, his disciples, the Church. The resurrection changes everything! It doesn’t just give us additional things to do, it changes the entire course of our lives.
The way the human heart normally operates is centripetal apart from Christ. Centripetal means it’s sucking in.There is a hole in the center.
We don’t know our own significance and so we’re trying desperately to use everybody else. We use other people to feel significant. We use other people to try to get their approval or to try to get power over them. We’re sucking in. Everything revolves on us. What will enhance my image? What will enhance my reputation? What will make me feel good about myself? So we do a little arithmetic all the time. In every relational transaction we wonder is this going to help me? Is this going to profit me? Are these the kind of people I want to be around? Everything is centripetal. We’re always looking inward.
Martin Luther defines sin as homo incurvatus in se, which means humanity curved in, focused inward on itself. But when you encounter the risen savior that all begins to change! When you feel the breath of life fill your soul it completely changes the whole direction of your life. Your life is filled with truth and meaning and therefore the direction of your soul is now outward. You have a whole new purpose.
Every person who experiences the grace of God has become a person on mission. God has not come into your life to help you with your agenda, you’ve been lifted up into his agenda.
Jesus Christ came back the first time to break the power of sin and death and he’s going to come back a second time to destroy even the existence of death.
He’s wiping out suffering.
He’s wiping out oppression and injustice.
He’s going to wipe out disease and death.
He wants to recreate the world.
And if you’re a Christian, you become part of it!
He will come again to Judge the Living and the Dead | John 12v37-50
"When God sees innocent people being bombed because of someone’s political agenda, if God doesn’t hate it, he isn’t a loving God. When God sees people lying and cheating and abusing one another, exploiting and grafting and preying on one another, if God were to say, ‘never mind, I love you all anyway’, he is neither good nor loving. The Bible doesn’t speak of a God of generalized benevolence. It speaks of the God who made the world and loves it so passionately that he must and does hate everything that distorts and defaces the world and particularly his human creatures.” - NT Wright
This is not at all a popular concept in our modern day society. The idea that there is no judge, no judgment day, is initially liberating, but have we really thought through the implications of this idea? We all work so hard to prove that our lives matter. That we are significant. To justify our existence to ourselves and others. But if there is no judge - why do we do it? Without a judgement day it is all meaningless in the end.
At the end of the day, everyone has some standard of right and wrong. Everybody has some knowledge of the truth. Francis Schaeffer says there is an invisible tape recorder around everybody’s neck recording anytime you ever say to somebody else, “You ought.” On the final day, God will just simply take that tape recorder off, and he’ll just say, “Look, I’m not going to judge you by the gospel if you never heard it. I’m not going to judge you by the Ten Commandments if you never heard them. I’m only going to judge you by what you knew. I’m only going to ask whether you’ve done what you knew,” and he is going to begin to play back the recording.
The gospel is that Jesus Christ is the one and only judge who says, “I’m not going to stay above you; I’m going to get below you.” How does receiving this truth into your life change the way you feel about yourself? Your weight? Your income? Your career? Others expectations of you?
Christianity teaches that because of Christ our judgement is in the past. We are completely accepted because he took what we deserved. Yet at the same time we know there is a final judgment ahead of us (the last day) and therefore God really wants people to live godly, holy lives. So a Christian is always looking to say, “I really want to live the life I should, but I’m not at all afraid of failure.”
The Holy Spirit | John 16
In John 13 - 17, Jesus is speaking to his disciples the night before he dies. He’s about to leave them. In his last words to his disciples, he’s mapping out for them the kind of life he wants them to live. It’s an unbelievable picture!
He talks about love for each other, and he talks about courage and perseverance in the face of suffering, and he talks about joy and peace in daily life.
Then in 16v6, Jesus looks at them and says, “But now I have said I am going, and you are filled with grief.”
What he means is he has given them all this information about how to live the Christian life and what a Christian life should be like but he sees them just sinking. He has given them all this information and they, like a lot of us, are overwhelmed. I don’t think I can do this!
But notice Jesus says, “I am not just giving you a blueprint; I am sending you a counselor.” The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of empowerment and truth. The manifest presence of the God come in to the center of your life. In other words, the thing we most need is a counselor who can take the beliefs and doctrines of Christianity and make them real to your heart.
Most people tend think that we either need new circumstances (a new job, a better spouse, etc.) or we think there is some trick we are missing (a book, a seminar, etc.). We think we need new circumstances or new information, but Jesus says, “No, your whole problem is the information you have is not real to you.”
If the love of God you believe in was real to you, there would be no discouragement. If heaven was real to you, you’d be living lives of abandonment and self-sacrifice and generosity. If the wisdom of God was real to you, you wouldn’t be afraid. All of your problems come because the things you know aren’t real.
The Universal Church | John 21v1–22
The church is a community on mission.
The church is not just an collection of individuals; we are a new community! This means that we don’t just together for meetings, we are supposed to be an alternate city. A city set on a hill (Matthew 4v14).
Jesus says, “I want you to show the world a miniature version of what a city would look like where money wasn’t an idol. What a city would look like where looks and beauty wasn’t an idol. What a city would look like where men and women treated each other as people instead of as toys or objects. What a would city look like if Jesus was truly Lord instead of money or instead of status or instead of race or instead of culture.”
The church is a colony. An outpost. An island of one culture in the middle of another. A place where the values of home are reiterated and passed on to the young; a place where the distinctive life-style of the kingdom is lovingly nurtured and reinforced. For the Christian, then, friendship is not accidental. Christians can only survive by supporting one another through the countless small acts through which we tell one another we are not alone. God is with us.
We are to be fishers of men (Matthew 4v19). Fishing is kingdom language. Jesus is saying “I don’t just want you to bring people into a personal relationship with me, I want you to bring them from one realm into another realm.” For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1v13).
Jesus exhorts us to “feed my lambs”, not the most attractive or grateful animals. So we must ask ourselves do I go to the people who are unattractive to me? The weak? The poor? The difficult? Different classes and races and political views?
Life Everlasting | Revelation 21v1–6; 22v1–5
The creed ends with a powerfully unique hope - the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. This hope is absolutely vital, not only for the end times, but for our day-to-day lives right now. If you’re going to have the kind of hope that really helps you face your life, it has to be a hope that is optimistic and yet a hope that is realistic. How you handle your present circumstances is completely determined by what you believe your future to be.
The Christian hope is Already-But-Not-Yet. When you bring your heart under the lordship of Jesus Christ there will be healing. It begins now. There will be newness. Instead of disintegration, there’ll be integration. Instead of hostility within your heart and relationships, there will be peace. Instead of striving and straining and worrying and fear, there will be rest. Instead of physical, emotional, psychological breakdown, there will be healing!
It begins now but it won’t come to completion until later.
This keeps us balanced. Somebody who says, “Well, nothing good can ever happen in this world. You might as well not pray for anybody’s healing. You might as well not work against poverty. You might as well not do anything about injustice because this world is just a terrible place.” No! It might not be fully here yet, but renewal is already coming. The kingdom of God is already breaking in.
But as soon as you get too utopian the Christian hope pulls you back. Someone who says, “If I’m ever sick, I’ll just pray because Jesus always wants me well. If I’m every poor, I just conjure up some for faith, because Jesus wants me rich. If you just give yourself to Christ, all your problems will be over!” No! Our hope pulls us back to reality. Back to the not-yet.
The Christian hope is more optimistic than the greatest human optimism and yet more realistic than the greatest human pessimism, at the same time.
Christians seek to live consciously between the resurrection of Jesus in the past and the making of God’s new world in the future. Because Jesus rose from the dead, God’s new world has already broken in to the present and Christian work for renewal is anticipating the eventual time when God will be all in all, even though we all agree things won’t be complete until then.
The gospel is not about how to escape the world; the gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world. That his death and resurrection transformed the world, and that transformation can happen inside of us and we, in turn, can be part of his transforming work.
We are committed to joining God in the renewal of all things.