The Importance of the Creeds

Recently my husband has been leading a class about false teaching within the church, and false religions that are outside the Christian faith altogether. During one of those discussions, this question was asked: how do we, as individuals, discern what is false teaching? How do we know when an idea we hear expressed is truly out of bounds? My husband’s answer is below.

There are many different denominations and groups of Christians who disagree with one another about some of the details of the faith. Is Christ physically present in the Sacrament of the Altar or is He present only spiritually, or is the Sacrament simply symbolic? Is Baptism proper only for adult believers, or should infants be baptized? Either way, should it be done by pouring, sprinkling, or immersion? These are questions that have been and will be argued about until the Lord comes. But do differences such as these mean that one side or the other has strayed from orthodoxy (right beliefs)?

This is where the Creeds of the Church come into play. Long ago, the early Church, led by the Holy Spirit determined and set forth the fundamental beliefs of Christianity in what we call the ecumenical creeds: the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed and the Athanasian Creed. Each of these is a concise statement about what defines orthodox Christianity, and each is in agreement with the others. If you agree with these creeds, you are an orthodox Christian — if you do not, well, then you’re not.

This is why it is good for congregations to recite one of these creeds in every service. It is a witness to visitors of what is believed, taught and confessed in that place. Frequent repetition also serves to remind believers over and over (and we need this!) of what constitutes correct belief.

For more about the false teaching see:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on False Teaching

False Teaching in the Church

Martin Luther on False Teachers

The Life Everlasting, part 1

My husband recently completed a sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed.  The last sermon dealt with life after death.  I found it very interesting, as it deals with a number of misconceptions people have about this subject, so, with his permission, I am posting it here.  This is the first section

We pick up now the final section of the Creed, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

I’ll start by noting that many people, including many in the Church, do not have a biblical view of what happens after death and what the Lord’s return will mean for creation. The first error we consider is the one that says our death frees the soul from the body where it has been imprisoned, if you will. When we look at God’s Word we find that the soul, like the body, is a creation of God and does not exist prior to our earthly birth nor is it to be thought of apart from the body except in one way which we’ll deal with later. Death is not a freeing of the soul, but it is, as Paul writes in 1st Corinthians, the last enemy. The idea of a soul freed from the body comes from Greek philosophy and has no place in the views of people instructed by the Scriptures.

A second error that is very common may surprise you even more. When we die we do not go to heaven. I can almost hear the gears in your heads grinding at that one. No, when we die we enter what is called an “intermediate state.” We will retain our own personal consciousness, you will not stop being you. Scripture doesn’t tell us if we will have some sort of “body” or not, although in Revelation we see the martyred saints and they are clothed, so it’s quite possible we will. In the intermediate state we enjoy the presence of God, but it is only a waiting place, a place where we enjoy God’s grace. It is not purgatory, for there is no such place. Purgatory is a false doctrine because it says that Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient for our forgiveness, a position contrary to Scripture. While we are in God’s presence we will be unaware of what is going on this side of the veil, for our whole attention will be on Him.

Are You Missing Something?

In a recent post, I talked about the sermon my family heard the Sunday after Thanksgiving in South Carolina.  It was a good one.  However, there was something missing in the service itself.

It was contemporary — not my favorite, I love the liturgy.  However, I can enjoy a contemporary service now and then. But this one was missing some key pieces.  First of all, no confession!  To me, this is crucial.  We can’t appreciate the light if we don’t understand our own darkness, which is sin. Without sin, all the darkness around us is reduced to bad luck, or something we can blame on another person.  Worse yet,  if we don’t acknowledge our sin, there is no need for the good news of the gospel.  We can save ourselves by becoming better people.

Also, no recitation of the Lord’s Prayer of the Apostle’s Creed.  Because we are sinners, we constantly need to remind ourselves of just who God is and what He has done for us.  Advent is a time, like Lent, when we should be pondering these things.  When we rush too quickly into Christmas, we forget the message of Advent– the anticipation, the meditation, the true joy of knowing that Christ came in human form to die for each of us.

So, don’t leave out the important stuff.  Don’t leave it out of the church service or out of your life.  Take time to appreciate the real meaning of Advent– confess, give thanks, remember Who you believe in and why. Christmas will mean so much more when you realize why we needed it so much.

For another post on a similar topic:

“Hello – It Is Not Christmas Yet”