So far we have heard the first part of Christian doctrine, (that is the 10 Commandments). In it we have seen all that God wishes us to do or not to do. The Creed properly follows, setting forth all that we must expect and receive from God; in brief, it teaches us to know him perfectly. It is given in order to help us do what the Ten Commandments require of us, For, as we said above, they are set on so high a plane that all human ability is far too feeble and weak to keep them. Therefore it is as necessary to learn this part as it is the other so that we may know where and how to obtain strength for this task. If we could by our own strength keep the Ten Commandments as they ought to be kept, we would need neither the Creed nor the Lord’s Prayer.
Therefore, Martin Luther introduced the Apostles’ Creed. The word “creed” is from the Latin word, “Credo” or “I believe”. The Creed begins with “I believe”. A creed is statement of belief but note, it is not “I believed”, but present tense, “I believe”. Why? The object of belief and faith is the living God who is creating, redeeming and sanctifying us. The Creed confesses the present tense of the Lord.
These works of God are described, not in the past tense, but as happening now. God is still creating and caring. The Redeemer is now bringing under his rule those freed from the tyranny of the devil. The great works of God in the past are seen as works at the same time being done in and to us now. The goal of all the activity of God is the forgiveness of sin, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Everything God does leads to this. Then the confession of faith becomes a jubilant witness to the wonderful works of God in Jesus Christ for us. The Creed, therefore, is not speaking of metaphysical facts, toward which a person can take a neutral attitude. On the contrary, a person who reads or says or hears it is directly addressed by the real, triune God, addressed—and this is the real intent of the Creed—by his saving and merciful love.Thus seen, the Creed becomes an exposition of the gospel. The revelation of what God really is, is gospel or good news for men. (Teaching Luther’s Catechism I, by Herbert Girgensohn)
In a recent article, a philosopher professor saw a disturbing sign in his son’s second grade classroom:
Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.
Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.
Believing is now simply an opinion, not a fact, so not true. The sages of the zeitgeist assert that the only truths are facts. If that were true, then we could not live nor understand anything. The Declaration of the United States has the memorable line, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.. Thomas Jefferson wrote those words and all those who signed the Declaration said what is written is true. The Declaration declares what they wrote is truth, it is “self-evident”, as plain as the nose on your face. Now if facts alone are true, then the Declaration is not true. I cannot prove by sight that the Creator has endowed these rights, yet the very nature of what humankind as it is created to be, attests to that truth. The last sentence of the Declaration: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”. If the American revolution failed, Jefferson and the founding fathers of our nation could have been executed for treason. Those men risked their lives for truth. If facts alone are truth….
None of us can prove that there is a Creator, after all, neither you nor I were there when God the Father, Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, said, “Let there be light”. I also believe as truth the fact that Carol Schroeder gave birth to me on January 25th, 1954. I don’t remember it at all. I have witnesses of my birth: my Mom and my Dad. That’s enough. I can not “prove” it but they told me and I know it is true. I did not see my birth with my own eyes. I believe it as true. I trust, believe in Mom and Dad, and that is a fact. It is not my untruthful opinion.
The Lord who created the heavens and the earth breathed His Word, as in the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures for many men to write it down. Now that written Word, the Bible, from which the Creed is compendium of the Word, particularly, the Gospel, is true, because unlike other creeds, this Creed attests the Triune God creates, redeems and sanctifies, present tense, for us. As much as Emil and Carol Schroeder loved each other to have a child, so much more the Father of all love and mercy creates, redeems and sanctifies.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth”. Just think of the radical change of meaning if the word “Father” is dropped, “I believe in God the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth”. Most religions attest to that, but the Lord, our Father who art in heaven, the one God, has revealed His disposition toward us. The living heart of the Creed is the Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Ghost. To know God is to know his benefits (Phillip Melancthon) and the Creed is the witness that we are not self-created nor self-redeemed nor self-sanctified. The Law of God has clearly shot out of the water self-creation by showing us the result of our self-creation: sin and evil. Truth is both fact and trust. I believe that and I believe in. The “For You” center of the Creed is Jesus Christ, who is both fact and the object of our trust, our Credo. The Creed is:
The greatest sign (signum), standing at the center, is the incarnate Son of God himself. The Creed thus acquires an aim and purpose directed toward us. Its ultimate aim and high point is not the revelation of the divine mysteries; it rather starts from the mysteries of God’s being and leads us to the works done in and for us. (Teaching Luther’s Catechism I, by Herbert Girgensohn)
Women and men do not risk, “house, goods, honor, child or spouse” for an untruthful opinion. Coptic Christians, 10 million in Egypt, are mostly poor day laborers. For centuries, as second class citizens, brazenly tattooed on their wrists a cross and the cross is both fact and truth of the One who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died and was buried and on the third rose again. 21 Copts seem to have not denied the cross tattooed on their wrists…and so have thousands upon thousands not denied Christ from the Coliseum in Rome to the concentration camps to the ISIS crucifixions and beheadings…they were martyred not for an opinion . Now, in the Rite of Confirmation in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a confirmand is asked: “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word and deed to remain truth to God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, even to death? “I do,by the grace of God.” The sheer law of God overwhelms us with our knowledge of our sin, the sheer Gospel of the Creed overwhelms with the utter grace of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that we can pray, Our Father. Next week the third Chief Part, the Lord’s Prayer.