What is a creed?

Do we really need deeds not creeds?

I’ve always been a part of churches that profess and confess the ancient creeds of the Church. Week after week I’ve shown up to worship and said the very same (or very similar words). The Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds have shaped me and formed me over the years. They’ve taught me the faith and reminded me that I am part of something much bigger than myself or even my church.

So, what is a creed?

The word “creed” comes from the Latin word “credo” for “I believe”. A creed is a statement of faith. Creeds are everywhere. They are on the American dollar bill – “In God we trust”. A few years ago I remember the American soccer team had a creed during the World Cup (maybe they still live by it) when their crowds could be heard chanting “I believe that we will win!”

The truth is, we all believe in something, and a creed is just an acknowledgement and outward confession of that inward belief.

The standard, traditional Christian creeds are the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. They were all formed and written between the 2nd and 4th Centuries. They are drawn from the Bible. While they are not found word-for-word in the Bible, their teachings and explanations are. There is nothing in the creeds that is also not found in the Bible.

But, why are they important?

Creeds are one of those things – like so much of what we do and receive as Christians – that might not seem to give immediate returns. You don’t recite the Apostles Creed and finish on some high or always gain some deep spiritual insight. But, in their own ways, as we recite the creeds they are working on us. Here’s how.

  1. Creeds remind us that we are a part of something HUGE. Christians across the world and throughout history have been reciting the creeds. When we speak the Apostles Creed we are saying something that Christians have been saying for almost 2,000 years. We join our voices with so many of the saints long since passed. The creeds remind us that the Christian Church is one church, united by a common confession.
  2. Creeds teach us the faith. Because they are relatively short, concise, and memorable, the creeds are easy to memorize. Which means that we can take them with us wherever we go. I often hear the objection “I can’t evangelize – I don’t know enough!” Well, if you know the creeds, you know all you need. The creeds tell the story of the fall and redemption. They succinctly tell us who our Father is, about His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  3. Creeds declare who we are. They tell us that we are God’s beloved children with a Father who created us, a Son who died for us, and a Spirit who fills us. The world is constantly telling us that we are the brands we buy from or the stores we shop at. We are constantly given identities based on our socio-economic status, our weight, the number of “followers” or “likes” we have on social media, and by our accomplishments and awards. The creeds remind us that we are none of those things. We are God’s beloved children.

Aren’t what we need deeds not creeds

Some people will argue that there isn’t enough time for creeds. They’ll say that we live in a broken world full of sin, and what we need is for people to get busy doing things to solve the problems – NOT wasting our time speaking creeds that only create divisions between Christians.

But, in the creeds we are declaring God’s deeds – the deeds that save us from our sins. The creeds are pure Gospel proclamation – and that’s what our world needs just as much as ever. The world needs to hear about the Father who created us, the Son who redeemed us, and the Spirit that powerfully fills us. Too many people haven’t heard that God loves them so much that He sent His Son and that the Son is coming again to raise the living and the dead in a kingdom that will have no end.

Now, of course we also need deeds. We need Christians to reflect that wonderful, gracious work of Christ in their lives. Christians do a lot of things to show the world God’s love. But, nothing we do can do what Christ has done – what the Creeds reveal to us.

If you’ve liked what you read and what to read more, check out our little book, “Growing Up: In, with, and under Jesus” on Amazon.

%d bloggers like this: