What is the best way to instruct ourselves and our children? According to Timothy W. Massaro the best way is to familiarize ourselves with the creeds (statement of faith) of the early church. “Worshipping God, and understanding what was necessary for our salvation, drove our church fathers to write down why salvation had to look and be a certain way,” says Massaro. In his piece over at CCC Church Life, he explains why he believes the creeds are essential. He writes:
When we think about the Christian faith, most people today rarely think about creeds, liturgy, or confessions, let alone see them as essential to their relationship with God. Our hesitation concerning creeds is understandable, especially when they are disconnected from our worship and love of God. People often see them as cold, mindless doctrines that have nothing to do with Jesus. But this is not how they were created nor how they should be used.
In the creeds of the early church, we find something of a hidden secret – a treasure chest overlooked by many. We find a way to instruct ourselves and our children in the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Let’s look at each of these three points to see why every Christian needs to use the creeds in their personal and corporate worship.
1. Creeds are instructive because they are biblical.
When we think of the great Christian creeds (the Apostles’ Creed or Nicene Creed, for example), we often put them in opposition to the Bible. What we often do not realize is that the Bible itself leads us into making creeds and is filled with creedal statements.
In the Old Testament, we see Israel confessing its faith in God as it worshiped him in what is called the Shema: “Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4-5). This daily statement of faith is intertwined with the command to love God. Who God is and what he has done to save his people is tied to our response in faith and love. Credo, from which creed is derived, after all simply means, “I believe.”
The early church inherited this tradition and confessed before the world what it believed. Many of these confessions and creeds found their way into the New Testament writings (cf. 1 Thess. 4:14, 2 Cor. 5:15, Rom. 4:25, Rev. 2:8). These statements were circulated in the early church to confess what they believed. Who God was, who Jesus was as the God-man, and what he came to do were essential to their worship and life as the church.
We rightly say that Scripture is our ultimate authority. When the church becomes aware of what it believes in opposition to false teaching concerning how we come to a saving faith in God, we must clarify our beliefs. We must write them down. The Apostle Paul did this and placed many of these statements into the New Testament (1 Cor. 15:3-5, 11:23-26; 2 Thess. 2:15). Jesus himself tells the church in the Book of Revelation to carry on this biblical tradition and believe what they have received and heard from the apostles – the eyewitness testimonies of the risen Lord (Rev. 3:3).
The church looks at Scripture as its ultimate authority and cannot but respond in faith concerning what she believes. She believes, confesses, and declares to the world what God has done for her in Jesus Christ. To neglect this great treasure is to attempt to reinvent the wheel and miss what Christians for millennia have been doing as part of their faithful witness to Jesus. Study the creeds to know they are true. Continue reading
Book by Kevin DeYoung: The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism