The Apostles' Creed: Lesson One
This lesson looks at the Apostles' Creed as a summary of the articles or doctrines that must be affirmed by all those who would call themselves "Christian." It speaks of the history of the Creed, provides an overview of its statements, and focuses on the importance of its doctrines for today. More
Have you ever wondered what makes a tree a tree? Or a house a house? Or a person a person? Or to ask it another way, what qualities must something possess before we call it a tree or a house? These are complex questions that philosophers have been pondering for thousands of years. And we face a similar question when we approach the study of Christian theology. After all, there are countless churches that we would consider to be "Christian," and many of them disagree about many things. So, it's useful to ask, "What doctrines are fundamental and essential to Christian theology?"
Now, of course, as we ask this question, we need to be clear that individuals can be saved even if they have a very poor understanding of theology. Our commitment to Christ is sufficient to make us Christians. At the same time, it's fair to say that there are several essential ideas that must be present in any theological system before it deserves to be called "Christian." And since the early centuries of the church, the Apostles' Creed has provided a useful summary of these core beliefs.
This is the first lesson in our series on The Apostles' Creed, a well-known and widely used summary of what Christians believe. We have entitled this lesson "The Articles of Faith" because we will be looking at the Apostles' Creed as a summary of the articles or doctrines that must be affirmed by all those who would call themselves "Christian." The Apostles' Creed appeared in various forms during the early centuries of the church. But it was standardized by about A.D. 700 in Latin. A popular modern English translation reads as follows:
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker 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 into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into 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,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting. Amen.
Our discussion of the Apostles' Creed as the articles of faith will divide into three parts. First, we will speak of the history of the creed. Second, we will provide an overview of its statements. And third, we will focus on the importance of its doctrines for today. Let's begin with the history behind the Apostles' Creed.