Every Sunday in churches around the world Christians gather and recite in unison the Apostles’ Creed, but, do they understand what they’re saying? Do they connect these ancient statements of faith to their daily lives? Do our beliefs translate into discernible life transformation?
I believe that in 1492 Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. I believe this is factually true. However, I don’t think there’s much to believe IN about it. One might believe that a particular political party is best at leading the nation forward. This type of belief may be more on par with the kinds of beliefs we confess when we say the creed, but these key Christian doctrines are even deeper. They shape our identity and worldview. They speak to what truly function as first things in our lives. Merely reciting a memorized set of theological prepositions, however, can devolve into empty rhetoric and simplistic devotion.
To enliven our engagement with the Apostles’ Creed I have designed a sermon series outlining the basic principles found in the Creed, and life application of these fundamental theological facts. The title of the series is “Ancient Creed – Living Faith.” I wanted to connect these ancient statements of belief with our contemporary lives in such a way as to rejuvenate and deepen our faith journey. For the sermon series I used the ecumenical version of the Apostles’ Creed, although we generally rotate between several statements of faith, including it and the traditional version.
Week 1: I Believe in the Relator God
Scriptures: Genesis 1:1; Luke 15:11-32
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth;
We have two angles from which to view God that jump out of this opening phrase: Creator and Father. Both ways of expressing God’s personhood emphasize the relational nature of God. God creates, not because he must, but because he desires to love. He creates simply by exerting his will, revealing his all-powerful nature. We also acknowledge God as Father, the first person of the Holy Trinity. This creed exhibits a trinitarian structure. Jesus reveals the love of the Father in the wonderfully familiar story of the Prodigal Father. I refer to it as the Prodigal Father because “prodigal” implies “extravagantly wasteful,” and God extravagantly lavishes his forgiveness and love on those who are lost in order to restore them to their proper place in his family. God is a God who reaches out and calls us into relationship with himself.
Week 2: I Believe in the Messiah
Scriptures: Psalm 2; Galatians 4:4-5
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
Some people think “Christ” functions like a last name for Jesus, like Jesus Gonzalez, but Christ is not a name; it’s a title from the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” One of the temptations when focusing on the beliefs found in the Apostles’ Creed is to forget about the Hebrew Scriptures and the fact that Jesus came as the fulfillment of the mission of God, beginning with Abraham. Psalm 2 offers a vision of the Jewish Messiah ruling over not only the Promised Land but the whole world. The coming of the Messiah serves as a pivotal moment in the history of the world when the one true King is revealed. As the Messiah’s called-out people we are united in him, building for his kingdom through our faithful obedience.
Week 3: I Believe in the Victory of God
Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:1-28; Psalm 110:1
On the third day he rose again, he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Jesus may have appeared defeated because of the cross, yet the Father reversed the curse of the tree by raising Jesus out of the tomb. This sermon examines every part of this section of the creed as it breaks down into a nice outline: I have a risen Lord because Jesus rose from the dead. I have a reigning King because Jesus ascended into heaven. I have righteous Judge because Jesus is coming again to judge. Because he is coming again, I need to be about the King’s business.
Week 4: I Believe in the Presence of God
Scriptures: John 14:6; Luke 24:49
I believe in the Holy Spirit.
Many Christians are practical “binitarians.” We have a basic understanding of God the Father and God the Son, but our devotional and practical often neglect the person of God the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that we experience God, firsthand. The Holy Spirit comforts, convinces, converts, consecrates, and calls. Every step of the way we respond either by being drawn closer to God and his Kingdom purposes, or by neglecting his gracious presence. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live out our mission.
Week 5: I Believe This Involves Me
Scriptures: Romans 12:5
I believe in the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Each of these last phrases of the creed has a common connection: the individual follower of Jesus. A Christian is touched by and included in each of these. The church is the gathering of those called out by Jesus to be his people. Every Christian is referred to as a saint and because we’re in communion with Christ, we’re in communion with all saints of all times and places. We are each offered the forgiveness of sins. We look forward to living into the fullness of the new creation through the resurrection of our bodies. God’s age of redemption and renewal, “life in the age,” the literal translation of the Greek zoe aiōnon, is the ultimate goal of God’s plan.
This five-week series based on the Apostles’ Creed could easily be expanded. Each and every phrase could be expanded into its own sermon. Hopefully, the thoughts above will serve as a springboard for your prayer, preparation, and creativity to develop a series that will help your congregation connect the dots between this ancient creed and a vital faith for today.