I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. Jude 3 NLT
Question 31: What do we believe by true faith? (Jude 3)
Answer: “Everything taught to us in the gospel. The Apostles’ Creed expresses what we believe in these words: We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his 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 into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. We 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.”
Today’s answer may stir up denominational controversy. However, I hope by explaining the historical context, you will fully understand the Catechism answer. I found the writings of two theologians very helpful: (1) Donald Arthur Carson, Canadian-born, Reformed Evangelical theologian, professor of the New Testament, and founder of the Gospel Coalition and (2) John Wesley, English cleric, theologian and evangelist, leader of a revival movement within the Church of England, and founder of the dominant form of the independent Methodist movement that continues to present.
GiG, what is faith? It’s not an opinion, no more than it is a form of words; not any number of opinions put together, be they ever so true. A string of opinions is no more Christian faith, than a string of beads is Christian holiness…Christian faith …is a divine evidence or conviction wrought in the heart, that God is reconciled to us through his Son; inseparably joined with a confidence in him, as a gracious reconciled Father (John Wesley).
In other words, “We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” This sentence begins what is universally called the Apostles’ Creed. Just so you know it was not formulated by the apostles. It emerged in the second century. But it is called the Apostles’ Creed because the summary of what is given in the creed reflects the doctrine of the apostles, the doctrine of the New Testament in summary form. Simply put, it’s an early Christian confession. But it is so early, and has been used so widely across Christian denominations all around the world, that it is one of the rare things that unites all Christians in common belief.
GiG, if you read the Apostles’ Creed through carefully and slowly, you’ll see there’s explicit mention of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, of creation, the virgin birth, the coming of Christ, his rising from the dead, who Christians are, what it means to have the Holy Spirit working within us, and so forth, all in very brief encompassing words that millions and millions of Christians have either memorized or recite every Sunday or sometimes use as part of their private devotions (D.A. Carson).
Let’s look at the historical nature of this Creed. It’s important to remember that creeds are shaped, at least in part, by the era in which they are formulated, not because the Bible changes, but because the questions that we ask of the Bible change just a wee bit from time to time. Other creedal statements, for example, that were made at the time of the Reformation in the sixteenth century ask and answer slightly different questions. But the Apostles’ Creed is regularly said by Christians all around the world because it was written so early that it was used before a lot of the later important doctrinal divisions set in. And within this framework, it very ably summarizes the gospel in just a few sentences (D.A. Carson).
If you gather for public worship on the Lord’s Day and recite this creed, remember that behind the mere words on the page are two thousand years of Christian history. Again, remember the creed serves to link Christians across cultures and languages and space and time as together we say we believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
May we be encouraged by the phrase “Maker of Heaven and Earth” for this startling claim should make our faith come alive to us. Let’s not divorce theological truth from the history of our salvation, which occurred in time and space.
God’s Got It…so we can receive His LOVE—Let us not waiver in unbelief, but rest our lives upon the truth that the Maker of Heaven and Earth raise the dead. D.A. Carson
Have a “Mining” Monday, April 15, 2019—to believe (in the Christian sense) is to walk in the light of eternity; and to have a clear sight of, and confidence in, the Most High, reconciled to us through the Son of his love.
Called to serve and encouraging others to thrive,
DEA: Embracing a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Life and Loving My Priorities, Loving My Life