Why are creeds important? They orient us to the truth of the faith in a succinct and explainable way. People can use God’s word to say whatever they want it to say, but creeds have helped the Christian faith since it’s beginnings to explain God’s Word in a specific Christian fashion. Creeds are not inspired nor does reciting a creed automatically form faith in someone’s heart, rather, creeds point to Scripture and appeal to the revelation of Christ and affirm in the heart of a believer that which they have committed themselves to by faith.
This past Wednesday night, we took a large portion of the Creed and talked about its significance in showing forth the Gospel. Did you know that out of the 20 lines in the Creed, 10 speak specifically of Christ? That’s half the Creed! It seems as if the early church really emphasized the focal point of Christ in their faith. Shouldn’t we as well continue to point all we do back to Christ and God’s plan of redemption found in his Son? Surely that is our calling as Christians who worship and share the faith in a sick and dying world.
“Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost born of the virgin…”
Christ’s birth was miraculous, and it pointed to the divine character of this one who would take up the sins of man upon himself. It points to his ministry which was marked by the Holy Spirit. It also points to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. This point of the Creed is vital in understanding who Christ is. Many believe in Christ as their example. Many others believe in Christ as a prophet among many other prophets. Still others see Christ as just one of many moralistic teachers and a choice among many other valid choices. We believe Christ is God in the flesh. The Son incarnate was conceived without sin by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin in the most miraculous fashion. We too are to be conceived of by the Holy Spirit through our second birth, that is, the rebirth proclaimed by Christ that is necessary for anyone to know him (John 3.3, 5-8; Titus 3.5). This comes through faith but is wrought solely by the power of God.
“Suffered under Pontius Pilate…”
Pontius Pilate is recognized, both in the Gospels and in historical accounts, as a local ruler of questionable character. History paints him as a tyrant looking to exert his local authority over the Jews. The Gospels paint him as a pushover seeking to do anything to maintain the peace. So why is this important in a a Creed which explains the mystery of the Christian faith? Two reasons come to mind. First, we must understand that Christ was in fact among us as one of us. He walked, breathed, ate, slept, wept and was tempted with every temptation common to man. The marker of Pontius Pilate in the Creed dispels any doubt that Christ was merely a spiritual being as early heretics proclaimed and gives people a point of reference in regard to history. Second, and in similar fashion, it proclaims that Jesus Christ, the God-man, was divine yet human, fully existing as both God and man without loss of any attribute of either nature. This is what the church has proclaimed since it’s inception. Jesus Christ: God and man. It places an earthly marker in the ministry of our Savior who we proclaim to be man yet be God at the same time.
“Was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell.”
God not only came to man, he suffered and died the most gruesome death imaginable. If the miracle of God among us is not enough, the reality that he willingly submitted himself to death is almost unimaginable. His descent into hell is understood in many different ways. Scripture says he proclaimed the Gospel to those spirits who perished in the days of Noah (1 Pet. 3.18-20). Scripture also attests to the reality of his death. To say he descended into hell is equal in ancient times of saying that he descended to the place of the dead meaning he was truly dead. Many people today will want to say that he in fact was not completely dead which makes his resurrection not a miracle but just a natural occurrence. We can say this for sure: Christ died a death we deserved and endured the agony of God’s wrath against sin. His descent into hell was both a marker for his real death and a something that points to the spiritual work done as part of God’s plan of redemption.
“The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty…”
The miracle of our faith is that our Savior is risen! This is what we proclaim with worship every Sunday and specifically during the Easter season. As he ascended, the promise was made that he would return one day and this is the cry of his people: Christ return! Scripture proclaims that he dwells now in heaven, continually interceding on our behalf to the Father. He his our advocate (1 John 2.1). This is our Lord and Savior! The church proclaims his resurrection through worship, prayer and fasting. During the Easter season, many traditions practice Lent which is a period of fasting in tandem with a season of spiritual growth and renewal in light of Christ’s resurrection and reality of salvation in the life of believers. What a great God we have! He willingly laid aside his divine status and submitted to the shame of the cross (Phil. 2.7-8). Praise be to God! He bore the wrath for our sin and rose again as a proclamation to the power of God. He ascended and now intercedes on our behalf. May all glory and honor be given to him who has taken away the sin of the world. This is our God and may we worship him until our faith is made sight and we will dwell with him for ever and ever. May the God of all grace bless you this week with the encouragement found in the Creed and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.