We Believe

Growing up, my parents and I attended a United Methodist church. It is a gorgeous, steepled church set in the farmland of Salem County. Each Sunday morning, we would gather and worship with our church family. And right in the middle of the service, we would corporately recite the Apostle’s Creed. I haven’t regularly recited this ancient Christian text in many years, but I still remember it word for word. Those of you who grew up in a liturgical or Catholic tradition are also likely familiar with the Creed. It is a beautifully simple declaration of the faith we share. Over the next several blogs that I have the opportunity to write, we are going to take a look at the Creed. For those of us who are familiar with it, hopefully this will renew it in our hearts and minds and for those who aren’t, this will be an introduction into an ancient tradition within our faith.

We are going to get a quick overview of the Creed today and it feels appropriate to begin by looking at the text itself. So here it is:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, 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 heave, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
No one knows who wrote this creed or where it originated. It was in regular use within the church by the second century (100’s AD). Traditionally, it is believed that this creed grew out of the tradition of baptism. It is believed that when someone in the early church was baptized, they would be submerged under the water three times. Before each of the submersions, they would be asked if they believed something specific. Do you believe in God the Father? Submerged. Do you believe in Jesus Christ his only begotten son? Submerged. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? Submerged. Out of this baptismal tradition, grew the creed above.

Once the Apostle’s Creed was in use apart from baptism, its main purpose was to instruct new believers in the basics of their new faith. Christianity is a radical faith. It was even more so in the cultural context of the first and second centuries. This creed helped to cement the basics of this radical new faith in the minds of new believers. It lays out belief in a triune God, places the Father as Almighty Creator, the Son as the suffering Messiah who redeems, and the Spirit as the one who gathers the church.

It’s a short document. And that is intentional.  This is so that it could be memorized. This meant that it could be used with folks who couldn’t read, which was common at this time in history. The fact that it is so short continues to be useful even in an era in which most people can read. Being able to memorize a short document that outlines the basics of our faith gives us something to return to in order to be grounded in what we believe. This is especially important as we live in an ever-changing world.

The Apostle’s Creed is an ancient reminder of what it is to hold to Christian belief. It reminds us of the truth of Scripture, and it reminds us of who God is. As we continue to look at what it teaches, I want to encourage you and your family to memorize it as a reminder of what we believe.

This is a video created by a church in Indiana in which they communally recite the Creed.

Josh Cervone