“I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”
I. Why study the Apostles Creed?
- Clarity – It summarizes the biblical storyline in a succinct way.
- Unity – Jesus prays that all his followers will be “one” (John 17:21ff.). Believers are unified around the “core” or central elements of the Christian faith, even while disagreeing on some secondary issues.
“In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity.” – Martin Luther
3. Protection – It guards against individualistic readings of the Bible and false views of God.
4. Mission – It acts as a starting place for sketching out the Good News presented in the Bible for seekers.
The Apostles Creed (Developed in Rome, circa 190 AD)
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit|
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church, [meaning the ‘universal’ church, all Christians throughout the ages]
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,|
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
II. Credo = “I believe”
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)
Before there was anything else – even time – there was God. God is separate from, distinct from, what God creates.
1. On Believing
We live as inheritors of the Enlightenment philosophical tradition in the late-modern Western world – which is just a fancy way of saying: “If you can’t see it, or measure it under a microscope, you can’t really know it.”
That idea is called “agnosticism” – the stance that says, “Because we can’t know for sure about God, with mathematical precision, that we have to say, ‘I don’t know’.” Most thinkers today realize that this view of the world is bankrupt – it is unrealistic and reductionistic.
Problems with Agnosticism:
- It assumes God is an “object” within the universe that can be investigated like any other object. The Bible calls God a “Rock” – which doesn’t mean he’s an inanimate object, but is like the bedrock, the foundation, the Ground and Source of all that exists. God can’t be “measured” – is not an object to be studied, but the source of all that is.
- It doesn’t recognize that everyone is a “believer”. Agnosticism is often used as an excuse not to seriously look into the claims or the evidence for God. It’s an easy out for many. Some people will even say: “Well, you’re a believer, but I’m not – I am a person of “no faith.” The fact is, however, that everyone ‘believes’ in something. To ‘believe’, in the way Christians understand it, is all that makes up what you think is true about the world. And everyone is living out a vision of the world that cannot, at the end of the day, be proven with mathematical precision, or under a microscope. Atheists and agnostics are exercising as much faith as those who believe in God.
- Agnosticism makes the assumption that God has not told us about himself. Agnostics have a faith position that says, “God has not revealed himself.” Christians say otherwise.
2. God the Artist
The Artist is not the painting – or just “within” the painting. But God has actually spoken. Has chosen to tell us about himself.
He has actually shown up in person. Jesus is God the Son – who came in the flesh (see John 1:14; 18; 14:9; Hebrews 1:1-3).
3. God is Triune
Christians speak of God as “the Trinity” we mean there is one God – one ‘substance’, that is, “God”, and three “persons” – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
God is love (1 John 4:16) means: God has always existed in a love relationship of Father, Son and Spirit
III. Believing in God Is “Personal Knowledge”
We experience God as “our Father”, since God is our Source – but more. Like a parent whom we relate to personally – speak with, are provided for, trust in, share in life with – we experience God for ourselves, personally.
“At this time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things [meaning, the reality of God’s saving work, the truth and nature of the kingdom of God] from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
The idea that God has ‘hidden’ these things – about God’s nature and saving work and kingdom – from the “wise and learned”, is not to say God is “anti-intellectual”. This is about a posture of heart toward knowing God. Jesus is saying your intellect alone can never “get you there” with knowing God.
What do kids have that we need?
a. Kids have a sense of dependence. Personal knowledge requires ‘openness’ and ‘trust’ to having someone ‘reveal’ him or her self to us.
b. Kids are intensely curious. You have to want to know God.
“The danger of your intellectualism, the danger of being an adult, the danger of having your own opinion is that you can use your questions as excuses instead of pursuits.” – Justin Thomas
IV. Believing Is More (But Not Less) Than What We Think. It’s Where We Place Our Fundamental Trust and Allegiance
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God
raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe
and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess and are saved.”
– Romans 10:9-10
- Knowledge: Content includes knowledge of the historical realities – “Jesus is Lord”; “God raised him from the dead.”
- Trust: To confess: “Jesus is Lord” is not just lip service. It’s to say: “Jesus is my Lord, my King – and I will order my life around who he is, how he has loved me, and what he teaches.”
For Further Reflection and Discussion:
1. When the Apostles Creed was first developed in Rome there were several serious heresies: you had the Marcionites – those who believed that Jesus was somehow a different ‘God’ than the God of the Old Testament, and they rejected the Old Testament; you had the docetists, who said Jesus only “appeared” to be a human – because, how could God really share in our humanity? You had adoptionists who believed that Jesus somehow became God through his resurrection.
- How might the Creeds continue to ‘protect’ the Church from false views of God? Why is that?
- Read Hebrews 12:1. This verse points back to those who had run the race of faith before us and uses them as an example of faithfulness to God. Some groups, however, have devalued the long history of the Church throughout the ages, and how God has worked in his people through the centuries. Why might it be helpful to know how and why Christians have been faithful to God through history?
2. There is a story of a child running down to the ocean, filling his bucket, running up the beach, emptying it, and then doing it again. Over and over. When the observer asks the child, “What are you doing?” The little girl says: “Emptying the ocean.” Our ability to comprehend God is like that bucketful of water – and God’s character and quality and personhood like the ocean.
One of the attributes of God that theologians throughout the centuries have taught is called “divine incomprehensibility”. That’s not to say that God is completely incomprehensible, but that no human mind can completely ‘comprehend’ or fathom the immensity of God. We can know God with all our senses – but God is always higher than our minds can fathom (for example, Job 38-41; Eph 3:14-21).
For those who think their cleverness is how they discern if God is there, or what God is like, or who God is – essentially, those who are ‘proud’ in heart, who want to put God under their thumb – Jesus says in Luke 10:21-22 that posture of heart will leave you empty handed.
Pastor Dave mentioned what children have that we need: Kids have a sense of dependence and are intensely curious – they want to know just to know, not to insulate themselves. How have you found that these postures are true in your experience of God?
3. What’s the difference between knowing things about God and actually knowing God? Read John 17:1-3. What does Jesus say “is eternal life”? Why do you think he says that?
4. Have you personally experienced the difference between only knowing about God, and knowing God? Talk about that as a way of encouraging your group (just try not to be too long so that you give others an opportunity to share).
Pray for your Life Group, your community/neighbours, and any needs that you have. For God is our Father – is Almighty and yet is still accessible to us!