02. The Creed
A creed is a summary of the essential content of a doctrine of faith. Such a creed contains all the things which the members of a particular religious denomination profess.
It is by way of its creed that a religious denomination distinguishes itself from another.
Yes, even the Old Testament contains texts that bring common convictions of faith to expression. In one such creed it says: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” (Deuteronomy 6: 4).
This profession, entitled “Hear, O Israel”, was one that the Israelites expressed together. Thereby they attested their belief in the one God in a time when the nations around them venerated many different gods.
The New Testament contains texts which employ specific formulations expressing that God grants salvation in Jesus Christ.
Examples of such New Testament creeds are:
- “Jesus is the Lord!” (Romans 10: 9);
- “Maranatha” (1 Corinthians 16: 22) = “O Lord, come”
- “The Lord is risen indeed” (Luke 24: 34)
“[...] if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Romans 10: 9-10
The first Christian creeds are called the “early church creeds”. They came into being between the second and fourth centuries AD. It was during this time that the doctrine of the trinity of God and the doctrine of the essence of Jesus Christ, that is, of His nature, were formulated.
This had become necessary because there had been disputes about various contents of faith. For example, there was the opinion that Jesus Christ did not really die on the cross and that He did not really resurrect. The function of the creeds was to distinguish the faith from these heresies.
The deciding factor as to whether a statement about the nature and activity of God could be incorporated into the creeds was its agreement with the doctrine of Christ and His Apostles.
The two most important early church creeds are the Apostolic Creed (“Apostolicum”) and the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople.
The basic features of the Apostolicum were compiled in the second century and lightly supplemented in the fourth century. The Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople is the result of the Council of Nicaea (in the year 325 AD) and the Council of Constantinople (in the year 381 AD). The main purpose of this creed was to enshrine the profession of the trinity of God.
A council is an assembly of senior religious dignitaries, who come together to discuss important matters of faith.
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal [catholic] church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
The term ‘catholic’ is derived from the Greek word katholikós and means “all-encompassing”, “universal”. The term ‘catholic’ in the two early church creeds does not refer to any specific church as an institution, but rather to the church of Christ in its universality.
“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (aeons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary, and was made man; He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; from thence He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. In one holy universal [catholic] and apostolic church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
The doctrine of the New Apostolic Church is based upon Holy Scripture. The early church creeds summarise important contents that are attested in Holy Scripture.
The New Apostolic Church professes belief in the triune God, in Jesus Christ as true God and true Man, in Jesus’ birth by the virgin Mary, in the sending of the Holy Spirit, in the church, the sacraments, the expectation of the return of Christ, and the resurrection of the dead, as formulated in the two early church creeds.
Despite the differences between the individual denominations, these professions constitute a binding element among Christians.
The term ‘confession’ can mean “creed” or “church affiliation”. The different Christian denominations can also be described as different “confessions”.
“I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, entered the realm of the dead, rose again from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from where He will return. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the one, holy, universal, and apostolic church, the community of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting. I believe that the Lord Jesus rules His church and thereto sent His Apostles
and until His return still sends them, with the commission to teach, to forgive sins in His name, and to baptise with water and Holy Spirit. I believe that those designated by God for a ministry are ordained only by Apostles, and that authority, blessing, and sanctification for their ministration come forth out of the Apostle ministry. I believe that the Holy Baptism with water is the first step to a renewal of a human being in the Holy Spirit, and that the person baptised is adopted into the fellowship of those who believe in Jesus Christ and profess Him as their Lord. I believe that Holy Communion was instituted by the Lord Himself in memory of the once brought, fully valid sacrifice, and bitter suffering and death of Christ. The worthy partaking of Holy Communion establishes our fellowship with Jesus Christ, our Lord. It is celebrated with unleavened bread and wine; both must be consecrated and dispensed by a minister authorised by an Apostle. I believe that those baptised with water must, through an Apostle, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to attain the childhood in God and thereby the prerequisite for becoming a firstling. I believe that the Lord Jesus will return as surely as He ascended into heaven and that He will take to Himself the firstfruits of the dead and living who have hoped for and were prepared for His coming; that after the marriage in heaven He will return to earth with them to establish His kingdom of peace, and that they will reign with Him as a royal priesthood. After the conclusion of the kingdom of peace, He will hold the Last Judgement. Then God will create a new heaven and a new earth and dwell with His people. I believe that I am obliged to obey the worldly authorities provided no godly laws are thereby transgressed.”
The New Apostolic Creed is the result of the Apostles’ interpretation of Holy Scripture and the early church creeds. In terms of content and language, its present form has come into being in line with ongoing developments in doctrine and deepening knowledge. It was formulated in the awareness that God’s love, grace, and omnipotence cannot be exhaustively described. These will always be greater than anything human beings can ever say about them. Thus the creed does not draw any boundaries that would deny other Christians access to salvation.
In ten Articles of Faith, the New Apostolic Creed brings the doctrine of the New Apostolic Church to binding expression. It also has the function of defining the attitude of faith of New Apostolic Christians.
Beyond that, the creed serves to make other people familiar with the most important elements of the New Apostolic faith.
The first three Articles of Faith largely correspond to the Apostolicum. They deal with the triune God. The Fourth and Fifth Articles describe the activity of the Apostles, and the Fifth Article also goes on to describe the activity of the other ministers. The Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Articles explain the three sacraments. The content of the Ninth Article of Faith centres on hope for the future (eschatology). The Tenth Article of Faith deals with the Church’s relationship to the authority of the state.
The term ‘eschatology’ denotes the “doctrine of the last things”. This can be related to the future of an individual human being (“personal eschatology”) as well as to the completion of salvation history (“universal eschatology”).
The First Article of Faith deals with the creatorship of God, the Father.
The Second Article of Faith speaks of Jesus Christ, the foundation and content of Christian faith.
The Third Article of Faith professes belief in the Holy Spirit, that is, the third person of the Godhead, as well as belief in the church, the community of the saints, and further salvation.
In the narrower sense, the “community of the saints” includes all believers who are reborn out of water and the Holy Spirit, who allowed themselves to be prepared for the day of the Lord by the Apostles of Jesus Christ, and who are accepted by Him as His bride. Those who belong to this fellowship will only be revealed at the return of Christ. In the broader sense, the “community of the saints” includes all those who are numbered among the church of Christ. The term thus refers to all those who already today receive salvation from Jesus Christ. The “community of the saints” will be revealed in its completion and perfection in the new creation.
The Fourth Article of Faith states that Jesus Christ rules His church and that the sending of the Apostles is an expression of this rule.
The Fifth Article of Faith has to do with the spiritual ministry.
The Sixth Article of Faith talks about Holy Baptism with water.
The Seventh Article of Faith deals with Holy Communion.
The Eighth Article of Faith talks about Holy Sealing.
The Ninth Article of Faith speaks of the return of Christ and the events following it.