by: R.L. Wilson
I believe. There is a wealth of information to be gleaned from those first two words of the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed outlines the basic beliefs of Christians—Christ followers—throughout the world. A few years ago Martin Thielen wrote a book entitled What is the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian?In a very real sense, the Creed provides the answer to that question.In fact, J.I. Packer says, “I want to display the Creed as, in effect, a power-point declaration of the basics of the Christian message—in other words, of the gospel itself.”
Of course, the Creed does not provide a comprehensive list of every important doctrine. Among “essentials” that are not included John MacArthur lists “the authority of Scripture, the depravity of man, the deity of Christ, and the means of salvation: justification by faith.”But it does provide basic “non-negotiables.” As Albert Mohler puts it, “All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.”
In his 12-week study of the creed, Building a Firm Foundation, Rick Brannan asserts,
The creed’s underlying value is in the teaching of basic doctrine. As Schaff points out, “It must be admitted that the very simplicity and brevity of this Creed, which so admirably adapts it for all classes of Christians and for public worship, make it insufficient as a regulator of public doctrine for a more advanced stage of theological knowledge.”The value of the Apostles’ Creed is how it provides a short, concise summary of basic doctrine that is easy to remember. It is a synopsis of the biblical material. Sort of a Cliff Notesfor the Bible.
It’s important to hold to these essential truths. Unfortunately, in recent times doctrine has become a dirty word. But the apostle Paul explained why it is important to not only have a set of beliefs, but also to guard against those beliefs being tainted. He warns,
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9)
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1)
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions (2 Tim. 4:3)
Michael Bird sums it up nicely when he says,
When the Apostles’ Creed begins with the words, “I believe,” it is asking people who recite it to recognize their need to know, to trust, and to belong to something beyond themselves. It is an affirmation of one’s needs, needs that cannot be satisfied by anything material but are met in the faith professed by the speaker.
Recommended books for further study:
- Michael Bird, What Christians Ought to Believe
- Donald Cole, The Apostles’ Creed: All You Need to Believe
- Alister McGrath, I Believe
- J.I. Packer, Affirming the Apostles’ Creed
Thielen’s premise and purpose is very different. I’m simply using his title to make a point.
J.I. Packer, Affirming the Apostles’ Creed, ebook
In the foreword to R. Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed, ebook.
Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, p. 16.
Rick Brannan, Building a Firm Foundation, Kindle edition.
Michael F. Bird, What Christians Ought to Believe(Zondervan Academic, Kindle Edition), p. 44.