(F)or I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27 ESV)
On Sundays when we have communion (Jesus’ meal), we make it a practice to recite the Apostles’ Creed. I grew up in a church tradition that did not practise the recitation of the creeds. A creed is a system or formula of beliefs. Originally, I failed to see the need for creeds. This is because I felt that it was more important to read the Bible than to read the creeds. Then while I was at theological college, I learned that to read and recite the creeds was not necessary a replacement of reading the Bible. In fact, the creeds may actually help us to understand the Bible better and be motivated to read the Bible even more.
At theological college, we are taught that creeds are the first exposition of Scripture. In other words, creeds are an explanation of what it found in the Bible. Creeds are an attempt to summarise the thoughts that are given to us in the Scriptures. When we read the Bible, we are given the truths from God. We are given the truths either in a narrative fashion (when we read the Bible directly) or in a systematic creedal fashion (when we read or recite the creeds).
Below is the Apostles’ Creed. It is one of the earliest creeds; believed to be from the 2nd century A.D. Therefore, this creed is a very basic creed as Christian history was barely 100 years old. It presents to us what the early Christians believed.
As we read the creed, we might sometimes ask the meaning of the words in it. For example: “I believe …in the holy catholic church”. What does the word “catholic” mean? Is it a reference to a particular branch of Christianity? The word “catholic” actually means “universal”. Therefore, when we say we believe in the holy catholic church, we mean that we believe in the holy universal church irrespective of place or denomination.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
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,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again 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.