Apostle’s Creed: Overview

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Opening Prayer

Almighty God, by our baptism into the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, you turn us from the old life of sin. Grant that we who are reborn to new life in him may live in righteousness and holiness all our days, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Discovering the Apostle’s Creed

5 Facts about the Apostle’s Creed

  1. The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo, which means “I believe.” A creed is a statement of what a person (or a church body) believes; it is a confession of faith.
  2. The Apostles’ Creed is the most universally accepted creed among Christian churches. Some churches accept no creed of any kind, being careful not to add anything to Scripture. Other churches accept many other creeds (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also accepts the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed). We affirm that these statements are accurate reflections of Scriptural teaching.
  3. The Apostles’ Creed, the best known creed of Christendom. Although named after the Apostles, it was not written by them, but it was named such because it was a brief summary of the teachings the Apostles believed and taught. As it stands today, it first appeared as part of a book from around 750 AD although mentions of an Apostle’s Creed appear as early as 390 AD. In time, the Apostle’s Creed became an essential summary of what Christians believed, a check against false teachings and a statement of faith for those being baptized.
  4. The Apostles ’ Creed is a scriptural statement, but it’s not specifically in Scripture. That is, it agrees with Scripture, but it is not a quote from Scripture. It reflects principles and truths found in the Scripture.
  5. The Apostles’ Creed consists of three articles, or three short statements of truth. These statements tell what Christians believe about God as God has been revealed to us as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The First Article focuses on creation, which reveals God as the Creator and Provider; the Second Article focuses on redemption, which tells of God’s work in God’s Son, Jesus; and the Third Article focuses on being made holy, which speaks to how God is revealed and active as the Holy Spirit.

(Adapted from The Apostle’s Creed: Lesson 1: Abiding Savior Free Lutheran Church)

So What Does this Mean?

Martin Luther believed that all followers of Jesus should know the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments along with other basic facts the sacraments and God’s love for the world in Jesus Christ.  To help people hear and understand their faith more fully, he produced the Small Catechism which could be used by pastors, teachers and parents to share the faith.  As you will see below, Luther doesn’t go into great detail or try to explain every line of the text, but rather offers an overview to encourage familiarity and understanding.

The First Article: On Creation

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?

I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties.

In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property; along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.

The Second Article: On Redemption

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 [or, “he descended into hell,” another translation of this text in widespread use]. 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 to judge the living and the dead.

What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father in eternity, and also a true human being, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human being. He has purchased and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. He has done all this in order that I may belong to him, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true.

The Third Article: On Being Made Holy

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.

What does this mean?

I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith. Daily in this Christian church the Holy Spirit abundantly forgives all sins—mine and those of all believers. On the last day the Holy Spirit will raise me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true.

Closing Prayer

Direct us, Lord God, in all that we do and give us your continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

“Luther’s Small Catechism with Evangelical Lutheran Worship Texts.” Copyright © 2000, 2006 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Prayers are adapted from “ELW -Additional Prayers” Copyright © 2015 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.