Keeping the Main Thing, the Main Thing

The ancient dictum, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity” resonates with practically everyone. The question is: what are the ‘essentials’?

The Village Church holds to one of the earliest Rules of Faith commonly referred to as the Apostles’ Creed as it’s foundational Statement of Faith. We hold that it embodies the ‘essentials’ of what the Scriptures lay out as basic tenets.

It reads:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe 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 to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the quick and
the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic (otherwise known as “universal”) Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

What the Apostles’ Creed Teaches

All systems of belief, all religions, strive to explain the nature of reality. The Apostles’ Creed does this by using three “I believe” statements to explain the basic beliefs of the Christian faith.

“I believe in God . . .”

Fundamental to the Christian faith is a belief in God. Specifically the God of the Bible; the Hebrew God Yahweh. The Creed begins by calling God “Father.” He is a parent, with all the loving, nurturing, and teaching capabilities that the role requires.

The Creed then goes on to refer to God as “creator of heaven and earth.” Calling God creator likens him to an artist or inventor who thoughtfully and innovatively makes new things. This also separates Christianity from other belief systems and religions that teach that the creator and the universe are one and the same. Within Christianity, as creator, God is not in nature, he created it. God is separate, above, and in control of all he has made. This is what makes God “almighty.”

“I believe in Jesus Christ . . .”

Much of the Apostles’ Creed focuses on Jesus. Part of Jesus’ role is to rule along with God. He is Lord, a position that commands more respect than that given to bosses, leaders, or governments.

Jesus’ story begins with a miracle: a virgin birth, made possible by the Holy Spirit. His life ended in crucifixion, a torturous execution at the hands of Pilate, a Roman governor. But—and this is the Creed’s key claim about Jesus—unlike all humans who die, God resurrected Jesus from the dead, who then ascended to heaven, and now reigns at God’s right hand. Yet this is not all: Jesus will imminently return as the judge of “the quick (living) and the dead.”

“I believe in the Holy Spirit . . .”

The Holy Spirit appears twice in the Apostles’ Creed, first as the power behind the virgin conception and then as the subject of the Creed’s third “I believe” statement. Interestingly, rather than go into detail about what the Spirit is, the Creed describes the nature and destiny of the Church. It seems to be saying that the Church is what happens when the Holy Spirit is at work in people.

The Spirit is the power behind the catholic Church. The word “catholic” here—with a lowercase c—means universal; that is, the Creed is saying that there is one universal Church. This Church is not comprised of buildings and events, but rather the individuals who claim to be followers of Jesus.  The Spirit enables individuals to live together in “communion,” an open sharing of one’s heart, possessions, and daily life. The Creed states that we can have forgiveness of sin (the rebellious wrongdoing responsible for the brokenness of the world) through God’s Son, Jesus. Finally, the creed affirms that Christians will receive resurrection bodies that will never die.

Can I Get an Amen?

The Apostles’ Creed ends with a simple “amen.” The word is an affirmation. When a person says amen, they are agreeing with a statement made.

The Apostles’ Creed begs the question: Can you read it and say amen?

For Christ-followers, the Creed provides both comfort and challenge. It is encouraging to see oneself as another believer in a centuries-long line of men and women who affirmed the same tenets. But the Creed also challenges believers to ask themselves whether or not they are living lives consistent with what they are saying.

For those who are exploring God, or The Village Church, the Creed acts as a guide to what Christians believe. It provides the ‘essentials’. The Creed does not replace the Scriptures, being a part of a local community of Christ-followers, or living by the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is a helpful and well-worn tool for beginning this journey.