The Apostle’s Creed: Introduction

IMG_4991I confess (no pun intended) a real weakness among us Baptists. Though we are confessional on paper, we are often not confessional in practice. Our confidence in sola scriptura makes us leery of giving the impression of confessing anything over what is revealed in the Word of God. That is both good and, at the same time, weak.

The irony of this is that Scripture is loaded with confessions beginning in its first words. In Genesis 1:1 we encounter, not a narrative “once upon a time,” but a creedal, “In the beginning God.” In Scripture’s first verse we encounter a clear doctrine of creation and its Creator.

The same could be said in Genesis 2:24. After narrating the origin of Eve, Moses interrupts the story to give us the creed, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Make no mistake, this is a theological creed. It certainly is not narrative. This is evident in that neither Adam nor Eve had parents to leave. This single verse serves as the definition of marriage throughout Scripture and Christian history.

Countless other examples of creeds in Scripture are available. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is the Shema that was recited every a faithful Jew and includes the greatest commandment. Philippians 2:5-11 is an early Christian hymn which establishes the doctrine of the incarnation and crucifixion. 1 Corinthians 15:3ff appears to be an early creed that may date within a decade of the resurrection itself. Paul implies he passed it along to the Corinthians and perhaps he passed the same to other cities. Finally, 1 Timothy 3:16 is clearly confessional:

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

No wonder, then, that Christians have historically been confessional people. The Apostle’s Creed and the Nicean Creed remain the most ecumenical (the eastern church does not recognize the former). The 16th century brought with it volumes of confessions and creeds that sought to articulate the faith for Protestants throughout Europe. Baptists have been shaped by the Second London Confession, the New Hampshire Confession, the Philadelphia Confession, and the Baptist Faith and Message.

In other words, it is not un-Christian to be confessional.

In this post, we merely want to introduce the Apostle’s Creed before launching a study of it. To begin, the Apostle’s Creed was not penned by the apostle’s. One legend is that the Lord’s apostle’s wrote it a decade after he ascended into heaven, but this is legend and nothing else. More likely, it finds it origin in Rome around the 3rd century perhaps as a statement of faith for baptismal candidates (wait . . . they baptized believers?!) The final form and word was developed over the centuries.

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