I grew up in a Reformed Confessional church. But that is not to say that we corporately confessed anything. The creeds and confessions were those documents that were made available on request. Few enquired. Thus I left my childhood not being able to express with clarity what it was that I truly believed.
My confession was simple: I am a Christian. While that was true, it was self-centred and shallow.
But perhaps even worse than poor articulation, was not knowing the indispensable truths about the gospel. I was unfamiliar with the robustness and riches of the Christian faith. Thus my confession was simple: I am a Christian. And while that was true, it was self-centred and shallow. Information may have been at my fingertips but, like many, my confession was starved of substance. It was focused on me.
Self-Focused vs. Christ-Focused
In contrast, one of the earliest confessions of faith in Romans 10:9 says this: “Jesus is Lord.” For the Christian faith explicitly points away from self to the only true Saviour. Furthermore, it pierces beyond religion into culture, politics and every area of life.
The Christian faith explicitly points away from self to the only true Saviour
This saving faith is not one that remains bound in silent thought. Faith does not sit well within a private religious conviction or experience. It must be declared.
A Universally Accepted Declaration
There is another creed which has been universally accepted as a declaration of Christian belief: the Apostles’ Creed. Before the New Testament writings were readily accessible, this concise presentation of the Christian faith functioned authoritatively within the church. It would also have been a useful servant in evangelism and to exhort other Christians. Those seeking baptism and membership into the church were interrogated using this creed.
But that was a long time ago. Should we still be using the Apostles’ Creed today to explain what we believe?
The Apostles Creed Unites Believers
When you recite a creed you are setting yourself apart from those who do not. However, across the broad spectrum of churches and denominations, the Apostles’ Creed has always united.
When we say the Apostles’ Creed, we are speaking with one voice across all Christian groups
The Difference Between Confessions and Creeds
While I have used the terms freely up until now, a creed is in fact distinct from a confession. A confession dives deeper into the specific doctrines that divide groups. A creed expresses precisely what all the associated Christian groups believe in common. When we say the Apostles’ Creed, we are speaking with one voice across all Christian groups, throughout time, declaring the irrefutable truth of Scripture. Therefore, as people who believe, we must – with confidence – be able to say it.
But what about the virgin birth? Is it really such an essential doctrine? Is Jesus coming back in judgement, or does love win? Do I need to believe in the Church as well? Isn’t Jesus enough?
Truth Beyond Feelings or Preference
The Apostles’ Creed indicates that these are not minor or open-handed issues. The virgin birth, the death and resurrection of Christ, his return in judgment, even the holy universal Church, are essential to the faith; they have been throughout the ages.
Let’s not be foolish to think that our latest church experience, some new philosophy, trendy pragmatism, or society’s fluctuating tolerance levels could ever change that.
A Very Trendy Tyranny
While we declare these beautiful truths found in the Apostles’ Creed, we might not always feel very passionately about them. In fact, we may not even be reflecting on the truth we are saying at all. Unfortunately, our culture has pressed us to value sincerity and authenticity above all else.
In fact, it unashamedly denies truth every day for the sake of our feelings, and not only as it combats religion, but it has even turned to deny the science it has sponged off of for so long. Science and religion must now make way for authenticity and sincerity. What rubbish! But we digress.
Our culture unashamedly denies truth every day for the sake of our feelings, and not only as it combats religion
Feelings Won’t Explain What You Believe
In response to this I want to first say how much I do value feelings. Feelings are a blessing and a grace, especially when they prompt us to align ourselves with God’s truth. They are a reminder that God is concerned with all of man and not just our minds. In fact, I have found that when information has been accompanied by the appropriate feelings, together they have been a far greater teacher than had the truth come alone. But our feelings are not always faithful.
Our feelings do not determine whether the words are worth saying or not
Truth, however, is always true; the inauthenticity of our delivery cannot touch its authenticity. Insincerity does not undermine the truth declared. We believe the gospel because it is true. Similarly, we declare the Apostles’ Creed because it expresses that truth. While we should always challenge ourselves to be thinking deeply on the words we say, we do not stop saying them if we feel otherwise. Our feelings do not determine whether the words are worth saying or not.
Truth Must Be Spoken
My final point is brief. The gospel must be said. Truth must be spoken. So the Apostles’ Creed must be said. “Jesus is Lord” is not something just to be believed in the secret places of your heart. You must also confess with your mouth.
‘Jesus is Lord’ is not something just to be believed in the secret places of your heart. You must also confess with your mouth.
Words are not the tools we only use when deemed necessary. Spoken words are indispensable, both in salvation and evangelism. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Romans 10:14)
You see, declaring audible words of truth, either individually or corporately, is a tradition we have not just received from church history, but from God’s word itself.
Salvation has made an impression on our hearts, ‘for with the heart one believes and is justified.’ And so salvation also has expression from our lips. For ‘with the mouth one confesses and is saved’ (Romans 10:10).