What are the Creeds?

The word creed comes from the Latin word “credo” which means ‘I believe.’ Creeds in the church are a confession of faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the triune God. Romans 10:9 says:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

The church has a long tradition that goes back to the first centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus. That tradition is confessing the Church’s faith in a way that shows unity with the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps us from falling into false beliefs. The creed most often used during the Lutheran service is the Apostles’ Creed.

I 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. On the third day, He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Repeating this creed during worship not only reminds us of what we confess and believe, it is also a helpful statement for visitors.

For more about the liturgy see these posts:

The Laity and Liturgy

Liturgy as Prayer

The Liturgy Teaches

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