Creeds have played an immense part in the support system of the very lifeblood of Christianity! Those of us who live in the marvelous latter-days era cannot comprehend their vital role in the establishment and defense of Christian Orthodoxy.
With Bibles of every size and translation neatly tucked away in virtually every home, church pew, library, hospital, airplane and hotel room, it would appear that we have more Bibles than people!
For those of us who don't like reading, we even have 24-hour Christian television and radio networks, and iPods of every kind and style.
A DIFFERENT WORLD
Try to imagine a very different world, the one in which the early Church survived, where the Bible was guarded in sacred trust and a world in which few believers were even able to read.
This was the world in which the Christian often gave up his very life for a faith in the person of Jesus Christ. Suddenly, what you believed and why you believed it became of vital importance. The exact context of Jesus' words were understood when he said, "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God!"(Luke 12:8).
In trying to understand the historicity of the Christian Creeds, we need to understand that many of the central doctrines of the Christian faith did not become Explicitly defined until heretical teachings began to erode the Implicit simplicity of the faith.
Yet, from the very first statements of faith by the first Christians to the confession of the simple Doxology today, we see a uniformity of purpose and doctrine which we must define as Christian Orthodoxy. To step outside the general theology of these confessions must be viewed as acts of Heresy.
A SIMPLE VIEW
In a simple view, the Bible is the Word of God to man. The Creed is man's answer to God. The Bible is to be believed and obeyed. The Creed is to be professed and taught. Actually, the First Creed dealt with the fundamental Old Testament doctrine of monotheism. The Israelite Creed was distinctly the doctrine of a One and Only One God. These are the beginning words of the Shema, which you still hear today at the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem. "Hear O Israel, Jehovah our Elohim, Jehovah is One . . ." (Deut. 6:4)
THE CONFESSION OF NATHANAEL
"Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel (The Messiah)." (John 1:49)
CONFESSION OF PETER
"And Simon Peter, answering, said, 'Thou art the Christ (Messiah), The Son of the living God.' " (Matt 16:16)
CONFESSION OF THOMAS
Thomas answered and said unto him, 'My Lord and my God!' " (John 20:28)
THE FIRST TRINITARIAN CREED: THE BAPTISMAL FORMULA
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matt 28:19)
CONFESSION OF PAUL
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures . . ." (I Cor 15:1-5)
CONFESSION OF IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, AD 107
"Be deaf, therefore, when any would speak to you apart from (at variance with) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was descended from the family of David, born of Mary, who was truly born both of God and of the Virgin … truly took a body; for the Word became flesh and dwelt among us without sin, ate and drank truly, truly suffered persecution under Pontius Pilate, was truly, and not in appearance, crucified and died, who was truly raised from the dead, and rose after three days, his Father raising him up, and after having spent forty days with the Apostles, was received up to the Father, and sits on his right hand, waiting till his enemies are put under his feet."
CONFESSION OF IRENAEUS, AD 180
"The Church, though scattered through the whole world to the ends of the earth, has received from the Apostles and their disciples the faith in ONE GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, who made the heavens and the earth, and the seas, and all that in them is; and in ONE JESUS CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the HOLY GHOST, who through the prophets preached the dispensations and the Advent, and his birth of the Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily assumption into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father, to comprehend all things under one head, and to raise up all flesh of all mankind, that, according to the pleasure of the Father invisible, every knee of those that are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth should bow before Christ Jesus, our Lord and God and Saviour and King, and that every tongue should confess to him, and that he may execute righteous judgment over all: sending into eternal fire the spiritual powers of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and apostatized, and the godless and unrighteous and lawless and blasphemous among men, and granting life and immortality and eternal glory to the righteous and holy, who have both kept the commandments and continued in his love, some from the beginning, some after their conversion."
He later added, "The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, as said before, though scattered throughout the whole world, zealously preserves it as one household . . . and unanimously preaches and teaches the same, and hands it down as by one mouth; for although there are different dialects in the world, the power of the tradition is one and the same."
CONFESSION OF TERTULLIAN, AD 200
The Rule of Faith is altogether one, sole, immovable, and irreformable -- namely, to believe in ONE GOD ALMIGHTY, the Maker of the world; and his SON, JESUS CHRIST, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate, on the third day raised again from the dead, received in the heavens, sitting now at the right hand of the Father, coming to judge the quick and the dead, also through the resurrection of the flesh."
THE APOSTLES CREED, AD 340
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, 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 heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the Holy Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
THE NICENE CREED, AD 381
I 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 His Father before all worlds, God of God, 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 our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He 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; And He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe 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. And I believe one holy Christian and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism unto the remission of sins, And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
A VOICE OF WARNING
"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." (Ephesians 4:14-15)
"For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; inasmuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect, Behold, I have told you before.
Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not." (Matt 24:24-26)