The Apostles’ Creed
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 Spirit, born of the virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven; and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; he will come again 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.
I grew up in the Lutheran Church growing up in Hudson, IA. We would read the Apostles’ Creed each Sunday so I am very familiar with this creed. Even though it has been many years since I have actually read it, I found that when I did, it came right back to me and even after all these years, it is still committed to my memory, probably for the rest of my life?
Why the Apostles’ Creed? Where did it come from? Why would we recite it in church? I did some research on the origins of the Apostles’ Creed and found out several interesting facts about it.
The origin of the Apostles’ Creed is not entirely known. One thing that is known for certain is that it was not written by any of the apostles. The most common view is that this creed was originally developed in the first or second century AD and has been through many revisions since that time. The earliest historical evidence of the creed’s existence is in a letter written by the Council of Milan in 390 AD.
The Apostles’ Creed reflects the theological formulations of the first century church. The creed’s structure seems to be based on Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the time when the creed was first developed, most Christians were illiterate. Oral repetition of the Apostles’ Creed, along with the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments helped preserve and transmit the faith in western churches.
In the early church, Christians would confess that Jesus was Lord, but they did not always understand the biblical context of lordship. Marcion was a Christian who lived in Rome in the second century. His views threatened the church’s understanding of Jesus as Lord. Marcion saw the Old Testament as referring to a tyrannical God who had created a flawed world. Marcion believed that Jesus, in contrast, revealed a good God full of love and mercy. Because of these views, Marcion believed that Jesus was not the Messiah proclaimed by the prophets and that the Old Testament was not considered Scripture. Marcion proposed that the Christian’s “Scripture” be limited to Luke’s gospel (minus the parts in Luke that referred to the birth narrative and other parts that he felt expressed Jewish thinking) and the letters of Paul that Marcion regarded as being anti-Jewish. Marcion developed a movement that lasted for several centuries.
It is believed that around 180 AD, Roman Christians developed an early form of the Apostles’ Creed to refute Marcion and what he stood for. They affirmed that the God of creation is the Father of Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, was buried and raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven, where he rules with the Father. They also affirmed their belief in the Holy Spirit, the church, and the resurrection of the body.
Candidates for membership in the church, having undergone a lengthy period of moral and doctrinal instruction, were asked at their baptism to state what they believed. Many responded with the words of this creed.
The Apostles’ Creed underwent further development through the centuries. In response to the question of readmitting those who had denied the faith during the persecutions of the second and third centuries AD, the church added, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” In the fourth and fifth centuries AD, the North African Christians debated the question of whether the church was an exclusive sect composed of the heroic few or an inclusive church of all who confessed Jesus Christ as their Savior. This lead to the addition of “holy” (belonging to God) and “catholic” (universal). In Gaul, in the fifth century AD, the phrase “he descended into hell” came into the creed. By the eight century AD, the creed had attained its present form.
Today almost every denomination has a slightly different version of the Apostles’ Creed.
The Apostles’ Creed is a statement of faith and it can easily be memorized through the simple repetition of reading it each Sunday. I am living proof of that. There is a strong danger though of memorizing it and then just reciting it to recite it without really thinking about what it is really saying. I was guilty of this on many Sundays growing up. When we do read this creed we need to really think about what it is saying and ask ourselves if we really believe what we are saying. If we do, then it needs to be stated boldly in worship to God who has made all these wonderful statements we are making in this creed possible.