“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3
The Nicene Creed has a definite beginning point beginning at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. and completed in Constantinople in 381. But the beginnings of the Apostles Creed are a little harder to establish because, well, it has just always been there or something quite like it. From the earliest Christian documents, the baptismal liturgy included questions based on the person and work of each person of the Trinity, to which the candidate would respond, “I believe.” Early second century church fathers Irenaeus and Tertullian both wrote of a Rule of Faith that was similar in language and form to the baptismal confession of faith. Throughout the early church, there were statements of faith that were very similar, especially, the Old Roman Creed. But there was not a date or a council at which churches from the East and West voted on the creed. Such a type of confession simply was always there and understood to be based on the express preaching, teaching, writings, and witness of the apostles themselves and their own disciples. Tertullian writes of the Rule of Faith that it “has come down from the beginning of the Gospel.” Some theologians and historians even argue that the lack of specific adoption reinforces the understanding of its apostolic origins. In fact, that is what we confess in the creed when we say, “I believe in one, holy Christian and apostolic church,” namely that the doctrine of the church is the doctrine handed down by the blessed apostles.
The Apostles Creed is ultimately about the person and work of each person of the Trinity – God the Father, who created all things, God the Son, who redeemed us by His suffering, death, and resurrection, and God the Holy Spirit, who is at work through the Church, where the saints of God gather together to receive the forgiveness of sins and promise of everlasting life. The Apostles Creed is first and foremost about who God is and what God has done for us.
But one of the key reasons that the creed has been preserved through the years is to preserve the Church of Christ from error. We live in a day when many claim that all gods are ultimately one and the same. We live in a day when the divinity and resurrection of Christ are questioned. We live in a time when the doctrine of the Trinity is denied and Christian churches worship with groups such as Mormons who deny this central doctrine. Our children go off to college and are confronted with the idea that God is simply a mythical character and the Scriptures merely man-made fables. These are just a few of the reasons that we are a creedal church and confess the faith once delivered to the saints. Our prayer is that this dogma (teaching of the Church) would live loudly in the saints today as we confess the faith that has been delivered to us and that it would be preserved for generations to come.
Prayer – Merciful God, we humbly implore You to cast the bright beams of Your light upon Your Church that we, being instructed by the doctrine of the blessed apostles, may walk in the light of Your truth and finally attain the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan