THE APOSTLES' CREED
I BELIEVE IN GOD, THE FATHER: THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH;
I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, OUR LORD;
WHO WAS CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND BORN OF THE VIRGIN MARY,
WHO WAS CRUCIFIED UNDER PONTIUS PILATE, DEAD, AND BURIED;
WHO DESCENDED INTO SHEOL, BUT ROSE FROM THE DEAD THE THIRD DAY;
WHO ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN, AND WHO SITS AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, THE FATHER,
WHO SHALL COME TO JUDGE THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.
I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT; WHO IS THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE HOLY CHURCH;
WHO BLESSES THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SAINTS;
WHO LEADS SINNERS TO THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS;
WHO WILL EFFECT THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY;
AND WHO ACTUATES THE LIFE EVERLASTING.
The legend of the source of the creed says that the dictation of the creed was at the direction of the twelve (Matthias replacing Judas Ischariot) apostles. It is said that each apostle contributed a part of the whole.
Thus, Peter, it is alleged, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, began: "I believe in God the Father."
Andrew (some say John) continued: "And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord."
James the son of Zebedee contributed: "Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit."
The Apostles' Creed was referred to by Paul with the mention of the "form of teaching".
"But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you."
Paul later reminded Timothy of the "good confession" that he had made in the sight of "many witnesses."
I Timothy 6:12
"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses."
The 'Apostles' Creed' is therefore the oldest creed, and is the basis of most other creeds in Christianity. Its roots are within the apostolic times, and it embodies the dominant teachings of the apostles.
For many years, it was referred to as the "Rule of Faith" (regula fidei), terminology that later came to refer to all of Scripture. Yet, this creed was a summary of the major and vital doctrines of Scripture. Those who could trust and profess this creed were thereby approving of the doctrines of the faith.
All through the years, the creed has been attacked. It was written by the apostles to counter the early cults and heresies of the early church period. To state this creed, and to believe its tenets, required the forsaking of some false doctrines the "tares" and false prophets of the early church period were propagating.
Traces of the contents of the original creed are given to us from the early church period from Ireneas, Tertullian, Origen, etc. but though they show a great unity with a certain freedom of form in expression, no full rendering of the creed exists from the first several centuries. So although references to this creed date to the early church period, yet a full reading of the creed is not found together until 341 A.D. from Marcellus of Ancyra. It was stated as thus:
"I believe in God the Father Almighty. And in Jesus Christ His only (begotten) Son our Lord, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary; crucified under Pontius Pilate, and buried; the third day, He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. And in the Holy Spirit; the holy church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; the life everlasting."
The accuracy of this creed, since it was a copy several hundred years after the original was written, is oft a debated controversy. Later that century more changes were made in this form. By 650 A.D., the 'Received Form' of the creed read:
"I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ His only (begotten) Son our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into sheol; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven; and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic church; the communion of the saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen."
Various corruptions were made of the true text. One of the heresies of the early church, was the gnostic heresy. This creed was to counter was that of the gnostic. The gnostics came up with their own creed, a perverted version of the real creed. A second century copy of the gnostic creed has been reconstructed from Hippolytus. It read: "We believe, that Christ descended from the Power above, from the Good; that He is the Son of the Good; that He was not born of a virgin, and that when He did appear He was not devoid of flesh. That He formed His body by taking portions of it from the substance of the universe, i.e. hot and cold, moist and dry; That He received cosmical powers in the Body, and lived for the time He did in the world; That He was crucified by the Jews and died; That being raised again after three days, He appeared to His disciples; That He showed them the prints of the nails and (the wound) in His side, being desirous of persuading them that He was no phantom, but was present in the flesh; That after He had shown them His flesh, He restored it to earth; That after He had once more loosed the chains of His body He gave back heat to what is hot, cold to what is cold, moisture to what moist, and dryness to what is dry; That in this condition He departed to the Good Father, leaving the Seed of Life in the world for those who though His disciples should believe in Him."
Various attacks on the doctrines of the Apostles' Creed are still continuing today. There are teachings amidst the false prophets of our day still concerning the virgin birth, the incarnation of deity into a human body, the resurrection of the dead, the three person Godhead, etc. There are additions that some want to add as indispensable to faith, which the creed does not include as indispensable tenets of the faith. Like the attacks of the Ebionites and of the gnostic heresy, the attacks of our day are still silenced by the true apostolic creed.
The creed was employed to check the validity of those claiming to be teachers of the faith. The creed had originated from the early oral teaching of the apostles, hence it was a witness to the common faith. It was not to supersede Scripture, but to corroborate Scripture. It was used to hinder the spread of heresies and false doctrines that would pervert true doctrine and truth.
The creed was used originally as a baptismal confession, to authenticate and verify that one about to be baptized was truly a convert to the true faith. The use of the Apostles' Creed in the early church has long been overlooked. Many saints have become aware of the creed only in a recitation given in church with little conscious thought being given to what they were saying. Many other saints have never read the creed. It is vitally important, and the Scriptures confirm this.
Christian baptism is an ordinance of the church age. It was appointed by our Lord Jesus, He commanded us to baptize converts. It was meant to be a means (until Jesus returns) to admit converts to discipleship.
"All power (authority) is given unto Me... Go ye therefore and teach (literally = make disciples) of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age."
This shows a three-fold plan of the Lord for disciples to do during this church age. He tells the disciples: to take His "authority" and "make disciples"... and to teach them to observe all" that had been commanded of the Lord to be taught. The "Apostles' Creed" was a summary of the vital truths to be so taught. The Apostles' Creed would test their conversion of the truth.
to baptize those who believed such truths. This was symbolic of a washing away of the former religious beliefs, former loyalties, and usually meant the community would turn on such a convert. Baptism testified to the spiritual change that had already happened to the person.
The Lord then promises to step into the situation and work in an even greater way with these new disciples. He promises to be with them "alway".
The command to baptize says: "go... make disciples... teaching them... baptizing"
Discipleship was confirmed upon new converts by "teaching" and by "baptizing". All real disciples are to be informed of Jesus' teaching, and then to be baptized.
Baptism, by its very name, indicates the use of water. Denominations argue over whether it should be done by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling. While denominations have argued over that and over whether the baptism effected regeneration, or was a symbolic representation of a regeneration already achieved, they have forgotten the more important feature, that there is another element necessary in baptism. The other element is the "Word".
"...the washing of the water with the Word."
The Word must be added to the water. The early church knew this, but the dark ages erased it from most dogmas.
(Martin Luther said:
"Without the Word of God, the water is simple water, and no baptism."
Without teaching of the Word, without full belief in the vital doctrines of the Lord, without the acceptance of discipleship which baptism initiated, water baptism in no better than a bath. We need to first teach truth to converts, and be sure they truly believe what we know to be true.
Baptism is an external washing, symbolic of what repentance and acceptance of the truth has already done internally to the convert.
"...He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit."
The taking of the Word and the believing of the Word is the washing part, and the baptism is the external symbol of what has already happened.
Baptism demonstrated to the world to what the one baptized had committed their life.
During the early church age, and even today in some countries, baptism is considered a public pronouncement of repudiation of the former religion and lifestyle. When such a person is baptized, family, friends, and co-workers turn against the one baptized.
It was Jesus Who ordered baptism to be a practice of the church age. It was to be done "alway" (literally = "all days"). It was to be done "even unto the end of the age". Thus, until the second coming, converts are to choose to enter into a relationship of discipleship by acknowledging the true teaching of Christ, and then being baptized. The Apostolic Creed is thereby vitally important to water baptism.
Jesus promised to be with us while teaching and making such disciples. When baptism occurs, the Lord steps into an even more active role with the new disciple.
The baptized convert can therefore expect:
to be more thoroughly trained by the Spirit...
to be more used by the Lord in discipleship ministry...
and to be required to make more disciples.
This was the plan of the Lord, for the making of new disciples. Baptism has too long been simply an meaningless and harmless ordinance. It has great impact on a convert's life, if done properly, for the baptized person comes into the same relationship with the Lord Jesus, as did Peter, James, John and the rest of the 12 disciples.
The formula of water baptism is shown to us to be: "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
This shows that the relationship with the whole of the Trinity is expanded at water baptism.
The Apostles' Creed also emphasizes the Trinity.
The most ancient forms of the creed show:
the Father as the originator of the discipleship relationship...
the Son as the Mediator of the discipleship relationship...
and the Holy Spirit as the realization of discipleship relationship.
Water baptism in the church age is a replacement for circumcision of the former covenant. When a man wanted to enter into the Jewish faith, circumcision was the event that symbolized his acceptance of the creed and rules of that faith. Water baptism makes one a disciple in the Christian faith.
"if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing... every man that is circumcised... is a debtor to do the whole law."
"...the circumcision of Christ; buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith."
In I Corinthians 10:1-2, Paul says that the Israelites "were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea."
The passing under the cloud, following that same cloud was symbolic of the acceptance of the Lord Who was leading them. The passing though the sea was symbolic of the deliverance from the old life, and the voluntary leaving behind of the old way of life in Egypt. This baptism was "unto Moses", which indicates that Moses was the teacher who showed them the way. In the new covenant, the Word and the water baptism are taught with the mediator and teacher of this new relationship.
I Peter 3:21 shows Peter called baptism to be a type ("figure") of the flood of Noah. The water separated Noah and his family from the sins of the earth. The ark was the instrument of salvation. In the same way, the Word and the belief in such, saves the person, but the water is the separating from past relationships.
I Peter 3:21
"The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."