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What is a creed?
For centuries, Christians in the West conducted their worship in Latin. When it came time to confess their faith they would begin with the Latin word credo, which means "I believe." From credo the three confessions of Christian faith inherited the name "creeds."
The creeds of the Christian church are a sort of "Reader's Digest condensed version" of who God is and the gracious things he has done for us. The full account is found in the Bible.
The Lutheran church recognizes three ancient creeds as accurate expressions of Bible teaching: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.
How creeds came about
These three creeds were developed by Christians during the 500 years which followed our Lord's ascension into heaven.
Some religious groups insist that creeds are wrong. They feel we are elevating these human confessions to the level of the divinely inspired word of God.
God commanded the prophets and apostles to record the words of the Bible. And although he gave no specific command to write creeds, he does expect us to confess our faith in Jesus. He also gives us the freedom to express that faith in our own words.
For instance, when a friend asks you what you believe about God, what do you do? If you have your Bible handy, you can open it and show him all of the passages which describe God. That would be the most thorough way of answering his question. But what would you do if you had no Bible and time was short? You might simply say, "Jesus Christ is God."
If your friend pursues the matter, you might try to explain as best you can the mystery of the Godhead by saying, "I believe in one God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," or "I believe in the Triune God."
There. You have just invented a creed. You have expressed Bible truth in your own words for that specific situation.
That is precisely what our early Christian brothers and sisters did as the need arose to confess their faith. When their Roman persecutors insisted they confess, "Lord Emperor," Christians replied, "Lord Christ." Those two words were a brief and effective summary of the Christian faith.
First-century converts to Christianity were often baptized "in the name of Jesus." Those few words summed up everything which Jesus taught about himself, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. That is a creed in its simplest form.
St. Augustine once defined a creed as "a rule of faith which is few in words but full of meaning."
Specific creeds for specific needs
Author: Wayne A. Laitinen
Volume 79, Number 7
Issue: April 1992
Volume 79, Number 7
Issue: April 1992
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2009
Permission is granted for a single personal copy of an article. Additional copyright information is available at Northwestern Publishing House.
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