The following teaching was given by Joel Swan at this evening’s study and worship gathering. We had a rousing discussion of the Holy Spirit and the Creed. Someone asked how to make the Creed come alive since we say it so often. Four possible ways to pray it were offered: 1) by reading it very slowly and praying with each line as you read; 2) reading it backwards and mixing up the parts in order to jostle the meanings, so they carry some surpirse, and 3) stopping after each line, and saying “amen.” And finally to pray for the Holy Spirit to make it come alive for you.
THE APOSTLES CREED by Joel Swan
The Apostles’ Creed is a short religious writing that most Christians memorize at some point in their lives and then recite back each week in church. It is intended, however, to be much more important. In fact, Luther, in the Small Catechism suggests starting and ending every day with it!
The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest creed in use by the Christian Church. An early legend claimed that the Creed was written by the twelve Apostles in a round robin fashion on the day of Pentecost with each Apostle adding one line. It was actually written much later, passing through a number of revisions before reaching the familiar form we use today. It is called the Apostles’ Creed because it sets forth the central teaching and beliefs of the Apostles.
The Creed is divided into three main articles describing the Trinitarian Christian beliefs. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity teaches the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as three persons in one God.
Article I of the Apostles’ Creed states the belief in God, the Father Almighty as the Creator of all that is in heaven and earth. God did not stop creating after the initial six days in Genesis but instead, continues to create to this day, making us all that we are and giving us all that we need. This includes all the physical objects we have, such as food, water, clothing, and homes, as well as our talents, our understandings, peace and security. God watches over us protecting us from evil out of pure love and goodness as a benevolent Father, although none of us truly deserve this.
How should we thank God and praise Him for all that He provides?
We can follow the Ten Commandments as He has demanded. Most of us have trouble even following the first commandment, let alone all ten! Yet He still loves us and cares for us, always giving us “one more chance”, always inviting us back under His outstretched arms. God the Father created us.
Article II of the Apostles’ Creed states the belief in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. What does it mean that Jesus Christ is our Lord?
God the Father created the world for us and everything in it. Yet we still sin. We fail miserably at keeping the Ten Commandments. We fail to honor and worship God the Father. God reached out to us again. God gave us Jesus, His only Son. Jesus lived for us. He suffered on the cross and died for us. He arose from the dead for us. Jesus made us whole again bringing us back from sin to righteousness, from death to back to life. God the Son saved us.
Article III of the Apostles’ Creed states the belief in the Holy Spirit. For many, this is when the Creed dips into mysticism, or perhaps starts to resemble a ghost story.
The Holy Spirit is not a ghost or something that hides in the shadows, but is instead equal in every way to God the Father and God the Son. The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit functions at different times as a guide, a teacher, a counselor and a comforter. The Holy Spirit lives inside of us, brings us strength and wisdom, and leads us in times of trouble.
It is only through the Holy Spirit that we know Jesus and have Him become our Lord. The Holy Spirit offers that to us when we hear the Word. Without the Holy Spirit bringing this good news to us, bringing us the Gospel, Jesus would have lived and died in vain. The Holy Spirit makes us holy.
There are three more words in the Creed to highlight. Without these words, some might consider the Creed merely a history lesson or perhaps just an interesting story.
The first two words of the Creed are “I believe”. “I believe” is not the same as saying, “I know” or “I think” or “I feel.” True belief or faith comes from deep inside us and is always personal. You cannot live on the faith of those around you. Faith, however, is not a decision we can ever make since “deciding to believe” or more often than not “deciding not to believe” is merely sin working in us again.
We are powerless to make this personal commitment. Faith, if we have it, comes as a gift by the grace of God. God walks in the door and removes the chains of sin – which Jesus did for us on the cross. Through the Holy Spirit, God works inside each of us, Word and Sacrament creating faith, joining us to the communion of saints, the spiritual union of all Christians living and dead. The final word of the creed is one which many no longer even notice. It’s a word we hear so often that it has lost all meaning.
The final word of the Apostles’ Creed is “Amen”. For many, the word “Amen” means, “the prayer or song is over” or even sometimes “it’s time to eat.” “Amen is a much more important word than that. The word itself comes from the Old Testament and means, “So be it” or “I agree”. Luther uses the phrase “This is most certainly true.”
The Apostles’ Creed begins with the words “I believe” and ends with the word “Amen.” In between, we are given God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Luther wrote in the Large Catechism:
“From this you perceive that the Creed is a doctrine quite different from the Ten Commandments; for the latter teaches indeed what we ought to do, but the former tells what God does for us and gives to us. Moreover, apart from this, the Ten Commandments are written in the hearts of all men; the Creed, however, no human wisdom can comprehend, but it must be taught by the Holy Ghost alone. The latter doctrine [of the Law], therefore, makes no Christian, for the wrath and displeasure of God abide upon us still, because we cannot keep what God demands of us; but this [namely, the doctrine of faith] brings pure grace, and makes us godly and acceptable to God. For by this knowledge we obtain love and delight in all the commandments of God, because here we see that God gives Himself entire to us, with all that He has and is able to do, to aid and direct us in keeping the Ten Commandments-the Father, all creatures; the Son, His entire work; and the Holy Ghost, all His gifts.”
I believe in God the Father, who created me;
in God the Son, who saved me;
in the Holy Spirit, who makes me holy.