Pastor Matt Chandler of The Village Church in Texas is explaining the meaning and relevance of the Apostles' Creed to his congregation in an ongoing sermon series because "the lines of the creed aren't mere words" but they carry "the essence of what we confess and believe."
Beginning late August, Chandler has been taking his congregation through a 12-week series of sermons on the Apostles' Creed, elaborating on each section of the statement of faith, which finds its genesis in the apostles' teachings.
"The creed will help us develop better symmetry as Christians, give us a more robust understanding of the God of the Bible," the pastor said in the first sermon in the series. "The creed helps us with clarity. It makes it clear who God is. The creed informs our community, who we belong to and who we are with. Finally, the creed informs our counsel, both to ourselves and to others."
However, he clarified that creeds do not hold any authority in and of themselves, but rather they point outside of themselves to the ultimate authority of the Word of God.
Chandler read out the creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and 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, dead, and buried. He descended into Hell and the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven and sits on the right hand of the Father almighty, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting, amen."
Giving a scriptural introduction to the creed, the pastor referred to Romans 10:9-10: "Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord you'll be saved, but if you look at the context of Scripture, the text does not say, "Know," he explained. It says, "Believe." "It's important because belief leads to action, and knowing may or may not," the pastor said, adding that that leads to justification, right standing before God, which then leads ultimately to a confession with our mouth that Jesus is Lord.
The creed brings in symmetry, Chandler told the congregation. "You love the Gospels. You love Jesus. That's a good thing. You can tell all of the stories from the Gospels. … You love all that about Him, and yet somewhere along the way you've lost sight of the fact that Jesus is still alive. He is ascended. He is seated at the right hand of God."
It also gives clarity, the pastor said, referring to a survey done by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Christian Resources about Evangelical belief about the doctrine of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, sin, the Bible. It showed that large swatches of Evangelical Christians deny that Jesus is God in the flesh. They deny the deity of Christ. They deny that the Holy Spirit is a person. Less than half of Evangelical Americans think the Bible is the Word of God and that it is true.
The creed also gives a sense of community, the pastor said.
"We're a part of a people who go back to the beginning of mankind, where God has called people unto Himself, and we're a part of that," he reminded the congregation. "We're a historic people. Throughout history, God's people, His elect, those He has called to Himself, have thrived. They've worshiped Him. We're a part of that tradition. We're a global people. … People all over the Earth this weekend will gather because they believe this, and they'll rejoice in it. They'll be shaped by it, and massive swatches of them will actually recite this together."
The creed affects how we counsel ourselves and how we counsel others, Pastor Chandler added. "Think about how you counsel yourself. Think about how you counsel others if you believe that Christ is going to return to judge the living and the dead. … If you believe in the forgiveness of sins, does that change how you counsel yourself?"
If we believe in the forgiveness of sins, we will walk with those who sin against us more graciously, he explained.
"When the church recites this creed, distilled, pulled from, wrung out of the Word of God, we're saying, 'We reject the modern narrative. We believe the historic narrative, the narrative that God has come into the world to save sinners, that Jesus Christ has died for our sins, and we believe and trust that he has made known to us the path of life,'" Chandler concluded.