By Stanley D. Gale
Children display a wonderful naivety to life – trusting, unassuming, authentic. Jesus held up childlike faith as the posture for entrance into the kingdom of God. Challenging worldly conceptions of greatness, Jesus beckoned a child to Himself and said this:
“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3–4)
The humility of a child represents an utterly dependent spirit.
While a child’s naivety can be endearing, it can also be endangering. Disciples are to be taught to distinguish between truth and error, to watch their step and guard their ways. The same childlike humility makes believers receptive and teachable.
Disciples are to be taught with the goal of safety and stability. The curriculum for instruction is the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, the result of which is mature manhood, defined as the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-14; cf. Eph. 2:20-22).
The apostle assigns this training responsibility to those Christ raises up to shepherd the flock under their care (Acts 20:28). The outcome of forged faith is described in this way: “that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).
The faith of which Paul speaks is the body of teaching that promotes the knowledge of the Son of God. The reference is not faith but the faith, the good deposit entrusted to the church to be protected and propagated.
I would suggest that the faith is no better introduced than in the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed represents the beating heart of the Christian faith.
The Apostles’ Creed divides into three sections, addressing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit respectively. But its emphasis is not so much the Trinity as it is that salvation is Trinitarian – grounded in the saving purpose of God the Father, gained through Christ His Son, and granted by the Spirit of the risen Christ. The Creed lays all the glory of salvation at the feet of God alone.
The core of the Creed is found in the center section that addresses the person and work of Jesus Christ, commanding more lines than the other two sections combined. Jesus is the Son of the Father. He is the sender of the Spirit. The Father is identified but not expounded upon. The Spirit is referenced but not developed as He is in the Nicene Creed. Rather, the Spirit is depicted as the conveyor of Christ’s accomplished work for the church.
The Creed is particularly well suited as a curriculum to attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God. It grounds disciples in the gospel and keeps them tethered to truth that they not stray as wave-tossed children.
There is perhaps no better introduction to the Christian faith and indoctrination in it than the Apostles’ Creed. Not simply through reciting it but through understanding it by exploring the Scripture informing each of its declarations and following the redemptive logic of its flow.
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