Whether it’s movies, mysteries, or matches, we hate it when someone spills the beans about how it ends rather than our discovering it on our own. In respect to that, online postings will sometimes carry the warning: “Spoiler alert!” That warning will let readers know not to read the post if they want to be surprised.
I have just written a book on the Apostles’ Creed. In it I try to explain the various declarations and give scriptural support. One reviewer called it “a page turner.” Being a nonfiction writer, I’ve never had that said about one of my books.
I think the reviewer made that comment because he saw the book as interesting and easy to read. But perhaps it has to do with last chapter, which contains a big reveal of sorts. Not that there is unearthed information about the Apostles’ Creed or a sudden plot twist in the gospel of salvation related.
Rather, the last chapter contains a story that illustrates the value of the Apostles’ Creed. In the Introduction I describe the Creed as liturgical (to profess in community), catechetical (to teach), confessional (to express alignment), and missional (as a light to life in Christ).
The story at book’s end shows the missional value. I’d like to share that story now. But before you go on, I want to issue a Spoiler Alert! Perhaps you would prefer to experience the impact of this illustration of God’s grace after you have reminded yourself of the substance and flow of the Creed. But if you are not so inhibited, here it is, from the last chapter of The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith (Reformation Heritage Books, 2018).
Some parts of the contemporary church don’t recite creeds. But reciting the Apostles’ Creed brings us to join our voices with God’s people over the centuries in proclaiming the gospel of salvation. Let me close with a story that emphasizes the importance of creeds in the life of the church. I can’t remember where I heard it, but its impact stuck with me.
A young pastor was asked to visit a dying man in a Washington, D.C., hospital. The man was dying of aggressive bone cancer. Of his own admission, he was not a Christian. The pastor shared the gospel with him; the man wasn’t particularly interested. But the pastor continued to visit, and a friendship formed. He got to know the dying man. The man had grown up in Spain. His mother had taught him the Christian faith, but he had rejected it when his father was killed.
The man came to America. He worked hard. He went to college and on to medical school. He became a highly respected physician. Then came the cancer. His body that he kept in shape started to deteriorate. His skills diminished to such a degree he had to stop his medical practice. All the accomplishments and many accolades of his lifetime became empty. He became empty. He said to the young pastor, “What can your God possibly do for me?”
The pastor explained the gospel again. He pointed him to what Jesus did and the forgiveness and hope found in Jesus. The man didn’t interact. The visit ended.
A few days later, the man’s leg broke spontaneously from the cancer. The doctors had to operate. The night before the operation, the man wrote a note. It was for the pastor, and it was partly in Spanish. The part in Spanish was the words to the Apostles’ Creed because that’s how the man had memorized it as a kid. His note continued in English: “Jesus, I hate all my sins. I have not served or worshiped you. Father, I know the only way to come into your kingdom is by the precious blood of Jesus. I know you stand at the door and you will answer those who knock. I want to be your lamb.” By God’s grace he embraced the faith of the Apostles’ Creed as his own. That man didn’t survive the operation, but he did survive his death.
Praise God for the spoiler alert welcomed by every believer: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).