Next Sunday we begin an evening sermon series through the Heidelburg Catechism’s discussion of the Apostles Creed. We are praying that this evening series will be a great opportunity for our church to be built up in some of the core truths of the Christian faith, as well as provide a context for evangelism. With so many patently false ideas regarding Christianity floating in our culture, this study of the Creed gives us an easy structure from which we can present the basics of Christianity too many who may never have heard it. Please pray for this study, come yourselves, and invite friends and neighbors.
However, as we move closer to the summer, I want to address a potential question that many Christians have, perhaps some in our church: Why are we basing a sermon series on a man-made document? Why not preach the Bible? After all, one of the hallmarks of reformation theology was “Scripture Alone.” Why do we need creeds and confession if we have the Bible? These are important questions and deserve a good answer.
Everyone has a Creed
The first point to make is that everyone has a creed. A creed (from Latin meaning “I believe”) is simply a concise summary of Biblical truth, and all of us summarize what we believe before we express it. Let me put it this way, if a neighbor asks you, “What do Christians believe?” what will you say? If you only say, “We believe the Bible,” then your neighbor will ask, “But what does the Bible teach?” Unless you are prepared to start reading verse by verse from the Bible beginning at Genesis 1:1 (probably not a good evangelistic strategy), your answer to this question will be a summary of your understanding of the Bible - A creed. Everyone has a creed because everyone has a way of summarizing what they believe the Bible teaches. So the question is not, “Should we have Creeds?” But “Is the Creed I confess faithful to what Scripture actually teaches?”
The Importance of Creeds
In the NCPC membership class, Pastor David lists several important purposes the creeds have served the Christian church from the very beginning:
- Counteract Error
From the very beginning the church has been plagued by teachings contrary to the Scripture. Creeds became an import test for determining whether or not a teaching or group was consistent with the Scripture or not. Think about it this way. If the only requirement for membership in our church was that a person say “I believe the Bible,” would that be sufficient standard for membership? Absolutely not! Why not? Because people with fundamentally different beliefs about what the Bible actually teaches, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, could all affirm such a statement. Clear statements of belief such as Creeds are essential if the church is going to successfully pass on the orthodox faith to the next generation. Creeds also provide a clear standard against which any new truth can be judged.
- To provide a basis for fellowship
This is the flip side of counteracting error. The Creeds/Confessions provide a concise summary of theological truths that the people of God can affirm together, and which binds them together. There can be no true fellowship that is not based on common truth.
- As a tool for Christian Education
This is precisely what the Apostles Creed was used for beginning as early as the 2nd century, continuing to the present. Clear summary statements of biblical truth are invaluable tools for teaching children and new converts the content of the Christian faith. Many of our parents at North City use the Children’s Catechism with their young children precisely because it faithfully takes majestic Biblical truth and presents it in a form suitable for children.