The Apostles’ Creed

Some 1800 years ago, the early church in the west provided catechetical instruction for converts who were about to undergo Christian baptism. The instruction came to be known as the Apostles’ Creed, not because the Apostles wrote it (there is no evidence to the 5th century legend that each Apostle provided one-twelfth of the Creed), but because it contained the teaching of Christ and His Apostles.

The Creed spells out the basic doctrines of Christianity in a systematic manner. One sees the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of the virgin birth, the doctrine of the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the return of Christ, and the doctrine of the Church all within a matter of three short paragraphs. One also can read of the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of our Lord Jesus Christ, all in a form that even a child can understand. Before one was baptized, he (or she) would be asked, “Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?” and the candidate would answer, “I believe.” Then, each section of the creed would be asked in the form of a question to the new convert, and after responding, “I believe,” he would be baptized.

Of course, one must remember that the phrase, “descended into hell” (which was not added until the approximately the fourth century) speaks in a general way of the place of the dead, not Gehenna or the place of torment. (It simply means in terms of Christ humanity, He really died; not swooned, fainted, etc.) Moreover, it is prudent to point out that the phrase “holy catholic church” does not describe the Roman Catholic Church (which did not yet exist), but the universal church of God.

However, when one recites the Apostles’ Creed in a corporate worship service (or in family worship), believers are comforted by the fact that they share a common faith with the church of Jesus Christ of all the ages. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

 

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth:

 

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

 Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

 Was crucified, dead, and buried:

He descended into hell;

The third day he rose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,

And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

 

I believe in the Holy Ghost;

The holy catholic church;

The communion of saints;

The forgiveness of sins;

The resurrection of the body,

And the life everlasting.

Amen.

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