From the earliest times the people of God have been pressed to express their deepest convictions. 1 Corinthians 12:3, 15:3-4, Philippians 2:6-10, 1 Timothy 3:16, and 1 John 4:2 reveal confessions of faith that were important to the Early Church. In fact many lost their lives during periods of persecution for refusing to recant from the essential Christian confession, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
As a spiritually dynamic entity, the Early Church had to deal with many strange ideas that crept in from the philosophies and religions of that time. Truths that were long taken for granted had to eventually be protected in formal statements of faith. One of the most important of such statements is known as “The Apostle’s Creed.” It effectively affirms the core beliefs that hold believers together and at the same time avoids minor points over which they differ.
The Apostle’s Creed was commonly used by new converts at baptism in the Second Century. It has since been recognized by most Christian groups.
“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 Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; rose again the third day; ascended into heaven; from thence he is to come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic*(universal) Church; the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body and life eternal.”
(*catholic here is not a denomination. The word means “universal” and refers to the unity of all true believers of all times and places.)
While most of us can agree on the earliest form of the Apostle’s Creed, Christians have added to this list of essential beliefs over the centuries. It is differences over these additions that often come between us. That is why perhaps my previous statement of beliefs was so basic. In an effort to avoid division maybe I was too vague. Somehow I hope to convey that I respect the honest convictions of others while at the same time I have strong convictions of my own. Some of those convictions reflect deep concerns over what to me are serious errors threatening the Church of Jesus Christ.
Some of the pertinent issues of our time are not addressed in the Apostle’s Creed. The following are points that I urge all believers to consider:
1) The authority of Scripture.
The testimony of the 66 books of the Bible have been proven time and time again to be “God-breathed,” that is that “Holy men of old spoke, as they were moved on by the Holy Spirit of God.” Furthermore, if the men who Jesus personally chose to carry on His mission cannot be trusted, what do we have to go on? His apostles both affirmed the authority of the Hebrew Scriptures and those that later became our New Testament. (Matthew 5:18, Luke 24:44-45, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21, 3:15-16).
Most every cult and crazy person out there claims to hear from God. By what other criteria are we to discern the Truth but by these words of Scripture which have been carefully preserved for us?
Attempts to undermine the witness of the apostles has not ceased since the beginning. Modern Liberalism has asserted that the Bible is not historical, but an allegory. Today, a more subtle effort is found in the use of “Dispensational” teachings. We recognize the various covenants established by God first in Eden, then one He gave to Noah, then to Israel through Moses, and finally through Christ to His Church. However, seeing that God Himself was behind each one and in each situation, we should never dismiss the value of any of them. As New Covenant believers, we need to understand His intention for that time, and to not miss the lesson for our time! He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. His values and character will never change! (Romans 14:4, 1 Corinthians 10:11).
Most recently even the four Gospels have been marginalized under the assumption that they were addressed to those under the law, not today’s Christians. By what authority I ask was this decision made, when Jesus, after His death, burial and resurrection commanded that everything He taught His disciples as recorded in the Gospels be taught to all people everywhere? (Matthew 28:19-20).
2) The power of the Holy Ghost.
In this modern era the trend is both towards a silly spiritualism as well as a crass materialism. One extreme in the church is to accept without question every strange idea or experience, while the other is to look for a scientific explanation for everything. Many are too eager to use human methods to solve problems, rather than to look for divine help.
The Author and Finisher of our Faith, Jesus Christ, clearly demonstrated that God’s power to work miracles was available to His people. The power of the Holy Ghost serves His purpose, and His purpose only. He desires our confidence that He will cleanse and transform our lives and the lives of others in ways that cannot always be explained. He will advance his Kingdom through gifts of supernatural wisdom, knowledge, healings and miracles.
Every believer needs to experience His power to effectively witness for Him. (Acts 1:8)
Modern relativistic ideas have so crept into the church today that discussions on sin and repentance are becoming taboo. All of us have sinned and need forgiveness. There is such a thing as right and wrong. The Good News is that Christ has paid the debt we owe and all that is necessary for us to do is to accept His gift of salvation. Anyone who turns from trusting in his or her own good works, and trusts in the power of Christ alone to save, is a believer. The Holy Spirit does the rest, that is, He will come into you through the New Birth, and fill you with His Life and power to live a holy life.
Repentance and confession of sin are powerful keys to maintaining victory over sin in the life of every believer! (Luke 11:4, 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, 12:21, 1 John 1:9).
4) The Church as a Family.
One of the most important characteristics of the abundant, Spirit-filled life is the Love of God we have towards others. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ by building them up in the faith. (Ephesians 4:16). We love unbelievers not only by showing them kindness, but also by demonstrating a loving community life. (John 13:35, 17:21).
So many forms, traditions and organizational activities work against community life these days. All of these need to be re-evaluated in light of the priorities of Christ Himself for His Church.
5) A Vision for the Future.
Over the past 40 years I have sought a clear understanding of what we call the “end-time prophecies” in the Bible. Many questions still remain. I hope our minds never become so made up or that we become so committed to one point of view that we cannot hear and act on the Word of God to our generation!
All of us are called to live as citizens of heaven now. (Philippians 3:20). We are to live in anticipation of greater victories in Christ, and to see ourselves as “more than conquerors” in Him. There is no room for pessimism in the life of a true child of God. Equipped with the “whole armor of God,” we will not be moved from our confidence in His ultimate victory, no matter the circumstances.
He instructed us to pray that His Kingdom would come, and that His will be done on earth as in heaven! (Matthew 6:10).
6) We are at War.
In keeping with popular materialistic and relativistic views, more are denying the urgency of the hour. There does indeed exist, according to the entire New Testament witness, a very powerful enemy. “That ancient serpent, the Devil, who is called Satan” is not simply an allegory or myth. (Revelations 12:9, 20:2). He was in fact, defeated by Christ on the Cross two thousand years ago. For most of the human race, however, that defeat has not yet come down to their experience.
This is not the gruesome entity of popular horror movies, but an evil being who often appears to humans as “an angel of light.” He entices people with promises of freedom and happiness, only to enslave them with the very things that were supposed to make them free. (2 Corinthians 11:14, 1 Peter 2:18-20).
Is it possible that many Christians are unaware of this enemy, or at least have underestimated him? Why else are so many divorcing one another, becoming addicted to drugs, money, sex and other destructive activities? Believers must understand that we are not overcomers in ourselves, but only IN HIM Who loves us! A better knowledge of the Scriptures can help us to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of HIS MIGHT!” (Romans 8:37, Ephesians 6:10).
7) Finally, we need to keep Jesus Christ at the center of everything. We desire a clearer understanding of the Truth because He is the Truth! There is absolutely no value in being smarter or more precise in our theology without the simplicity of single-minded devotion to Him! (2 Corinthians 11:3).