Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Early Church & Creeds

It has been said of early Christianity and up to and including the 15th century that the Church chained the Scriptures securely in the place of worship. Only Church leaders could read and handle the scriptures. There were no Bibles in the homes of the laity. Can it be imagined that for 14 centuries the invisible church existed and thrived with no KJV, NIV, ASV, and NKJV or other Bibles?

Not until the printing press were copies of any books available to the general public. The exception being hand written books, very rare and expensive. Around 1439, Johannes Gutenberg invented the mechanical printing press. Later he invented removable type speeding up the production process. His major work was the Gutenberg Bible.

There are a lot of trails that can be taken here. Which Bible is most accurate? How could hand written copies of Scripture be accurate over centuries? How could Christians in the early church hide the Word in their hearts? How could people demonstrate from Scriptures their security in God? How could Scriptures be memorized? How was it possible that so many Christians through the centuries knew the Scriptures so well? Answers to these questions are for another time.

The Church and Creeds

The early Church was made up of people who knew the Scriptures, Peter, Stephen, Paul, Timothy, Phillip and all the others.In Acts 8:26-40, The Lord spoke to Phillip, “Arise go south" The angel of God is very specific. He tells Phillip where to go. Phillip was directed to a man who was reading the Scriptures a rich man; he was in charge of the treasury of Ethiopia. Phillip is directed to overtake the chariot of the Ethiopian who was reading from the prophet Isaiah.

"Do you understand what you are reading," asked Phillip?

"How can I," the Ethiopian asked, "I need some one to guide me." He asked Phillip to sit down with him. The place where he was reading was"

“He was led as a sheep to the slaughter and as a lamb before its shearer is
silent, so He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken
away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the

"Who is this talking about?" asked the Ethiopian. Phillip began at this Scripture and preached to him Jesus.

Phillip knew the Scriptures and preached Jesus using the Older Testament Scriptures. The Newer Testament of God’s Holy Word, not yet written, took about 400 years after Christ to be settled (another subject, and worth studying, the canonization of Scripture).

The Apostles Creed is a short confession that early Christians used (these were the Christian laity), they had no Bible to carry or Bible text to read. I remember well my first encounter with the Apostles Creed. It was in an Assembly of God Bible School. Like the early church Christians, I knew very little of Scripture; I had no background in Christianity. When asked to memorize the Apostles Creed in Bible school, I discovered knowledge of God that sustained me until I would become more familiar with the whole of Scripture. I am still learning 50 years later.

My amazement for the last 50 years is the abandonment of the creeds in worship and especially the failure to teach the creeds to new Christians. Let me suggest that parents teach the Apostles' Creed to their children. Sunday School teachers teach this creed to your students. Pastors teach this creed to your congregations especially to new converts.

History of the Apostles Creed

The origin of the creed is thought to have been a baptismal confession made by converts. The original confession may have been no more than “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God”. It is believed this became enlarged. Paul speaks of the “form of teaching” delivered to converts:

"But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered" (Romans 6:17)

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1Tim. 6:12).

Confessions were a part of early Christianity and used through the many centuries of the Church.[1] The cannon of Scripture were not settled until 367AD. “These are fountains of salvation, that they who thirst may be satisfied with the living words they contain. In these alone is proclaimed the doctrine of godliness. Let no man add to these, neither let him take ought from these.” [2]

The Uses of The Creed

1. The Creed was a public statement of faith, a standardized way in which new people could confess their faith in Jesus Christ.
2. The Creed anchored Christian faith to a tradition, to make it difficult for people or churches to be led astray by strange doctrines.
3. The Creed was a preaching and teaching tool, giving an outline for further discipleship.
4. The Creed was memorized through frequent repetition, which helped the many believers who could not read.
5. The Creed provided a doctrinal basis for different churches to accept one another, and to reject those who did not accept the basic truths.

The Apostles Creed contains the words “Holy Catholic Church” here is the explanation of that remark. The Gnostics believed that the most important Christian doctrines were reserved for a select few. The orthodox belief was that the fullness of the Gospel was to be preached to the entire human race. Hence the term "catholic," or universal, which distinguished them from the Gnostics.”

The Apostles Creed (Say it with me.)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

It seems to me, having a problem with this creed is not a problem with the creed but with one’s self.

Christian What Do You Believe?

Ken Clouse
NEMRS Lay Administrator

[1] Other creeds like The Nicene Creed , The Athanasian Creed, The Definitions of Chalcedon, and The Anathemas of the Second Council of Constantinople (553 AD) area available here also.
[2] Athanasius speaking of the 27 New Testament Books. Available at

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