Apostles' Creed - Prayer of Faith
- Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff
- 2020 19 Jun
You may have heard of the Apostles Creed before. Perhaps you have even recited this creed in a church service. But what is the history of this? Did the church fathers utter these words during their church services? And what exactly is the Apostles Creed? We'll dive into these questions and more.
What Is the Apostles Creed?
The Apostles Creed, also sometimes named the Apostolic Creed or the Symbol of the Apostles, is a statement of Christian belief from the beginnings of Christianity. It is generally used by a number of Christian churches for both ceremonial and catechetical purposes, most notably by liturgical Churches of the Western tradition including Catholics and Protestants.
The Apostles Creed is an affirmation of what Christians believe. A "creed" is simply a brief, authoritative formula of religious belief, a set of beliefs, a guiding principle. The author is unknown, yet is founded on Apostolic teachings. The Apostles' Creed is the oldest known creed of the Christian faith and was a foundation of the church's belief statement. It was widely used for memorization before a copy of the Bible was available for most people. The statements in the Apostles' Creed are Biblical and were often used by Christians before baptism as a way to verbally recognize their repentance and faith.
Enjoy this moving video of The Apostles Creed set to powerful music.
The Apostles Creed
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten 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 sits at 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;
I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints;
The forgiveness of sin;
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting. Amen.
These words are a beautiful prayer of confession and statement of salvation. The creed symbolizes the full Gospel - beginning with God, salvation through Jesus, the growth of the church, and the resurrection. Note that the use of the term "catholic" refers to the universal Christian church and not specifically the Roman Catholic Church. It is declaring the body of Christ, the church as a whole across the world as one fellowship.
"This Creed is the spiritual seal, our heart's meditation and an ever-present guardian; it is, unquestionably, the treasure of our soul." - Saint Ambrose.
According to Christianity.com, on the first part of this creed, "We believe,” the Creed says, not in some gods (as if multiple deities exist) or in a god (as if God is some vague, unknowable higher power we hope exists). “We believe,” it says, “in God.” The way the confession is phrased asserts exclusivity and identity. This God is the one true God. We are not “the maker of heaven and earth.” God is. Heaven and earth didn’t just appear in a magical moment of self-actualization; they didn’t just always exist; they didn’t just develop by happenstances. They were made by God. That’s (part of) what makes him God – he’s the maker of everything."
We should note that some churches have changed the line "he descended into hell" into "he descended to the dead." There has been some theological debate as to what Jesus did during the days in between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. This article will not attempt to bridge the divide between these theological viewpoints but simply wants to make known the differentiation used in various churches.
History of the Apostles Creed
The Apostles Creed was the first of its kind for the Christian church. According to billygraham.org, in its earliest version, the Apostles’ Creed goes back to at least 140 A.D. Many of the first church leaders summed up their beliefs as they had an opportunity to stand for their faith—view, for instance, 1 Timothy 6:12. These declarations were refined into a more standard form to proclaim one’s confession of faith at the time of baptism. It is not Scripture, but it is a formal list of the profound doctrines of the faith.
Several Christian denominations—including some Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists—use a responsive version of the Apostles’ Creed in their ceremony of baptism.
Although many Protestants view the Apostles’ Creed to be only a creed, other Christian factions like Catholicism also believe it to be a prayer.
Who Created the Apostles Creed?
A narrative alleged that each of the 12 articles was composed by each of the 12 apostles. For instance, Rufinus of Aquileia (345–411) suggested,
"So they [i.e., the apostles] met together in one spot and, being filled with the Holy Spirit, compiled this brief token . . . each making the contribution he thought fit; and they decreed that it should be handed out as standard teaching to believers."
Notwithstanding its name, there is no confirmation the Apostles’ Creed was indeed created by the apostles, and that story was mostly discarded by theologians by the era of the Renaissance.
Furthermore, the Apostles’ Creed is a modified version of an early baptismal declaration known as the Old Roman Creed. The Old Roman Creed is considered to have been conceived in consideration of Jesus’s instruction in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Is the Apostles Creed only for Catholics?
According to thegospelcoalition.org, a general misunderstanding among evangelicals is the line that says, “I believe in . . . the holy catholic church.” In the Apostles Creed, the word catholic means “general, universal, concerning the whole” and does not refer exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church. As the Southern Baptist scholar Timothy George explains, “When we say that we ‘believe in the holy catholic church,’ we are confessing that Jesus Christ himself is the church’s one foundation, that all who truly trust in him as Savior and Lord are by God’s grace members of this church, and that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.”
Many churches recite this Creed multiple times a year, if not, once a week, an important piece of church history.
How has this prayer renewed your faith? Share with our large praying community in the comments below and be encouraged by others seeking to know God more!
This article is part of our larger Prayer resource meant to inspire and encourage your prayer life when you face uncertain times. Visit our most popular prayers if you are wondering how to pray or what to pray. Remember, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and God knows your heart even if you can't find the words to pray.
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