Shortly after the Christian Church was born, opponents arose who ruthlessly and relentlessly attacked the Christian faith. Attacks came from the Roman emperors who demanded that all Romans worship the emperor as god. Thus begin the persecution of Christians and the dispersion of Christians into lands beyond Jerusalem. Then came the Gnostics, who taught that access to secret knowledge rather than faith in the Son of God, was the key to salvation as if it’s not who you know but what you know that makes the difference. They also sought to suppress the movement of Christianity by keeping it bond under their control. Then came attacks against the church by the Church itself. There was a 4th century priest from Egypt named Arius who taught that though Jesus was a god, He was not The God. Within the Church, others also came forward to refute the Words of Holy Scripture concerning Jesus’ nature, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and interjected such attitudes as the worship of Mary, the practice of penance to make one self-righteous, and etc.
The leaders of the Christian Church found both the lack of faith and the attack on faith alarming. If there was to be unity in the Church, under the guidance of God & His Word, the visible Church on earth would need to formulate concise, memorable statements of the sure and foundational truths of God, the Triune God, & His relationship with man and man with God. Such statements are the creeds confessed and professed by all Christians the world over.
The Christian Church has three Ecumenical Creeds: The Apostles’ Creed (taken from the very pages of Holy Scripture), The Nicene Creed (AD 325), and The Athanasian Creed (5th century AD). A creed is a confession of faith for public use and a formula of words setting forth with authority certain beliefs. Creeds do not precede faith, but follow it, expressing the convictions of the believer toward Christ and His Word. Confession is, then, the outward manifestation of a deed and gift of God. A confession is subjective inasmuch as faith springs from the heart and objective inasmuch as such a faith can be characterized only by its foundation and content.
Creeds were also used as summaries of doctrine, bonds of union, safeguards against error, and a means for instruction. And for a Creed to be Ecumenical, it means that it is spoken & confessed by the whole Christian Church.
Our Creeds have remained and sustained Christian believers through the centuries that followed. In the late 19th and early 20th century, there was a trend away from creedal subscription in some churches. This trend reversed itself by the mid-20th century and a new interest in creeds and confessions is evident today.
Over the course of future weeks, we will look at our Christian Creeds in more detail as to what they say and why they need(ed) to be confessed.
In the meantime, I welcome you to come & worship with us. Hear the message of God’s great love for you… a dying/risen love, an unconditional love, and everlasting life-giving love.