My 13-year old son, Sage, could probably tell you the statistics and salary of his favorite NBA or MLB player much easier than he could give you a basic breakdown of his own Christian beliefs. He could name the starting lineup of the Golden State Warriors, but I’m not sure he could give you five critical points of Christian doctrine.
Sage has trusted Jesus as his Savior, he’s been baptized, and he has grown in his relationship with God over the years, but if you asked him what are the elemental concepts of Christianity, he would probably be at a loss.
That’s on me.
So, we’re playing catch-up.
To help, this summer I have acquainted myself with an ancient but timeless Christian creed. It’s called the Apostles’ Creed. It is called that not because it was written by the original apostles of Jesus – guys like Peter, Paul, and John – but because it is an abbreviated summary of their teaching.
The Creed was originally crafted (circa 400 AD) to help new Christians get their doctrinal legs underneath them so that they would not be knocked around by all the alternative belief systems in circulation at the time. It was long enough to cover the important stuff, but short enough to memorize.
In his recent book, Dr. Al Mohler explains “All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.” It is a “timeless distillation of the Christian faith.”
In Ephesians, Paul compares the teaching of the apostles to the foundation of a building:
…you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, -Ephesians 2:19-20
The contribution of the apostles is foundational to the church and to the stability of every Christian believer. So it is not surprising that someone would come up with a short-version of all that God gave to them to give to us. In all of twelve lines, here it is:
The Apostles’ Creed
1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord;
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell.
5. The third day he rose again from the dead.
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
7. Whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
9. the holy catholic* (see note below) church, the communion of saints,
10. The forgiveness of sins,
1l. The resurrection of the body,
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.
It must be said that knowing and memorizing a creed is no substitute for regular exposure to the entire Bible. Nothing can help a Christian thrive like a regular devotional life in which you have communion with God through prayer and His word.
But I’m wondering if we haven’t missed out on a powerful resource in the Creed, something to help us clarify what we believe and to keep it clear for those coming behind us.
I’m taking Sage camping this week, just before he goes back to school. While we’re out there under the stars I’m going to challenge him to memorize the Apostles’ Creed with me and I’ll explain to him why I think it is important. In a month, or two, or three, after both of us say it from memory, we’re going to attend the NBA basketball game of his choice as a reward for the hard work : )
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.
*Catholic in this instance means “universal” or “comprehensive” – not the Catholic church that is presided over by the Pope. Catholic describes the church, the body of Christ, as a universal fellowship of believers.