The Apostles’ Creed is a 2,000 year old confession of the basic contours of the Christian faith. From the earliest beginnings of the New Testament Church, the Church began articulating a “pattern of sound words” (2 Tim 1:13) of what Christians believe. When leading our congregation in affirming our faith, I preface it with the question, “Christian, what do you believe?” In turn, the congregational response begins with the opening words of the Creed, “I believe.” While a basic fixture in many worship services, we must ask ourselves the following important question: “Have I really grasped the importance of these words?
The first word is a personal word, “I.” The Apostles’ Creed is a personal declaration of faith. This is something that must be held at the first-person singular level. It is not enough to merely be near faith. It is something that must be comprehended and affirmed as an individual. And yet with this very personal and individualistic declaration of faith, the one affirming his faith is joining in with the Communion of Saints which stretches across millennia and continents and cultures. We say “I believe” but we are also acknowledging that our personal and individual belief is but a part of the faith of the catholic (i.e. universal) Church. One letter into the Creed and we have already made the profound declaration that the faith is both something intimately personal and inherently communal. “I” believe means that we must own our own faith but never see it simply as our own.
The Christian begins the Creed by confessing, “I believe.” What follows is a verbal description of the broad shape of that belief. This belief has a content. It includes certain propositions and excludes others. R.C. Sproul says, “The Holy Spirit does not call us to faith in general, but to faith in particular.”1 The Scriptures are clear that we are saved by faith (Rom 3:20-28) but they are also clear that we are not saved by faith in just anything. We are saved by “faith in Jesus” (v.28). The Creed’s opening words declare that we do not accept a relativistic or universal faith; rather, our faith has definite and specific content. We do not believe in just anything; rather, we believe in the Triune God whose glories are declared from Genesis to Revelation.