Creed Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Creed

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A creed — from the Latin word credo, meaning "I believe" — is a person's or group's statement of belief. Within Christianity, creeds are statements of the church's beliefs, which are based upon the Word of God and later reflections on it. Creeds include biblical statements such as Romans 10:9 ("Jesus is Lord"), ecumenical statements such as the Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian creeds, and intrachurch statements such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In Scripture

The Lord is our God "Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone" (Deut. 6:4).

The Lord indeed is God "When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, `The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God'" (1 Kings 18:39).

"You are the Messiah" "He asked them, `But who do you say that I am?' Peter answered him, `You are the Messiah'" (Mark 8:29).

"You are the Holy One of God" "Simon Peter answered him, `Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God'" (John 6:68 - 69).

Jesus is Lord "[I]f you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).

One God "[F]or us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Cor. 8:6).

Life of Christ "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles" (1 Cor. 15:3 - 7).

Jesus emptied himself "[T]hough he was in the form of God, [he] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:6 - 11).

Jesus the image of God "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross" (Col. 1:15 - 20).

Mystery "Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16).

Spirit of God "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (1 John 4:2).

Points to Ponder

Public declarations of core belief Persons may have creeds ("I believe that when I die I shall rot," as Bertrand Russell famously said), but groups have them too. For example, there are Humanist Manifestos, national Declarations ("All men are created equal") and mission statements within businesses and other institutions. In such contexts creeds are public declarations of core beliefs.

Communal statement In the church, a creed is a communal statement even if expressed in a first-person format ("I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth"). In this case, namely that of the Apostles' Creed, the format is residue from a time in the early church when people preparing for baptism were asked basic questions: "Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?" "I believe." "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord?" "I believe," etc.

"Believing that" Christians often contrast "believing that" with "believing in." We believe that "[Jesus] was crucified, died, and was buried." "Believing that" is equivalent to affirming facts. But "believing in" is a condition of trust. "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord."

Christ's life The Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian creeds center on confessions of the Trinity and the incarnation, and, in elaborating the incarnation, they recite key deeds of Christ and events of his life, but, curiously, nothing of his teaching.

Easily memorized In the church, formal confessions are usually too long to be memorized and recited. At least some creeds are short enough to be memorized and recited.

Creeds of defiance Creeds and confessions within the church may be called lots of things: canons, declarations, articles, testimonies, formulas, catechisms, etc. There are often no particular reasons for the differences, though catechisms typically employ, or used to employ, a question and answer format, and declarations are sometimes so named because they are issued defiantly in the face of crisis, such as the Barmen Declaration of 1934 against the Hitler regime by the confessing church of Germany. Largely written by the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth, the Declaration denounced the subordination of the church to the state as well as the tyranny of any state that would presume to bind the word of God to itself for nationalistic purposes.

Some Christians resist creeds ("no creed but Christ"). They are properly impressed with the risk involved in summarizing difficult and disparate Scriptures into a human-made summary. But the Bible is a big book and hard to teach as a whole. Moreover, it itself contains creeds, which form the basis of the ecumenical and intramural Christian creeds.

Classic uses Creeds have a number of classic uses: (1) They identify and unite believers under a common public declaration; (2) they are teaching tools for the young, for new members and for aspiring teachers and preachers; (3) they may be sung, recited or prayed in Christian liturgy as forms of acclamation and edification; and (4) they may guide Christian liturgy, including Christian preaching.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.