By Stanley D. Gale
For centuries Christians have joined their voices to declare the glory of God in the face of Christ through reciting the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed has served to catechize in the Christian faith, to confess that faith through its declarations, to unite in kindred faith for corporate worship, and to call unbelievers to faith in the faith.
The Apostles’ Creed disciples in the gospel. It lays out a redemption grounded in the triune God and centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. To embrace the Creed is to ascribe all glory to God for such a great salvation.
But does the Apostles’ Creed speak to morality? Does it address the social issues of our day and those of generations past and future? Do the words “I believe” affect the stand we take regarding areas like abortion or sexuality or marriage?
The answer is no, and yes. The Creed does not explicitly speak to social issues, or to any issues of morality for that matter. But it does speak emphatically to the where and the why we adopt the positions we do on such issues.
In our call to believe where do we see in the Creed direction for the stances we take on matters of doctrine and life? We find three guides.
The Truth “I Believe.” In arriving at what we believe, we are not left to our own imaginations, preferences, or sensibilities. The formulations of the Creed are not innovative; they are derivative. The Creed follows the lead of Paul’s preaching to the Corinthians:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4, emphasis added).
The Apostle’s Creed directs us to an authority outside of ourselves. It lifts our eyes to God and leads us to look for the sanction of “thus saith the Lord.” “I believe” is a response to what God reveals in His written word.
Christ as “Lord.” The Creed emphasizes the lordship of Jesus Christ. He is the One to whom all authority has been given. That authority is kingdom authority. It is exhibited in redemptive life and resurrection power. Those who have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and enfolded into the kingdom of Christ, who have bowed the knee before Him by God’s grace are “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). If we call Christ “Lord,” it is incumbent upon us that we do what He says. That means our opinions and options are to be brought under the lordship of Jesus Christ, hearing His word and putting it into practice.
The Church as “holy.” When we say we believe in a “holy” church, we understand a people in the world but not of the world, a people separated unto God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The church is where the kingdom of God and His Christ are most visible. The church is where disciples are gathered and taught to obey (Mt. 28:18-20). Believers are educated, equipped, and encouraged to seek first the kingdom of God with its counter-cultural perspectives, priorities, norms, values, ethics, calling, commitments, and goals. Our positions and practices should be kingdom-qualified.
So in arriving at positions on social issues, the Creed does not so much give us bread as it teaches us how to bake bread—by the light and heat of God’s Word, in His call to be holy unto Him, through living out the lordship of Jesus Christ. Christ gives us this reminder as His holy catholic church: “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:8–10).
Stanley D. Gale is the author of the newly released book, The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith (Reformation Heritage, 2018).
“Stanley Gale’s new book on the Apostles’ Creed is a gripping, biblical read, eminently suitable for beginners in the faith, and for the more advanced. I found it to be a page-turner—so well written and insightful and encouraging.” – Dr. Joel Beeke