“We believe in God…” That’s how the Apostles’ Creed begins. For a long time it has served as a unifying or ecumenical statement of faith for churches around the world. In fact, one of the largest predominantly black denominations in the United States, African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), has stated: “To find the basic foundations of the beliefs of the (AME) Church, you need look no further than The Apostles’ Creed.”
When we say, “We believe in God…” we mean the one true God, who is triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit); who is sovereign, creator, and sustainer of all things. It is God’s revealed word that we have in the Bible. It is the revelation of his creative power that we witness in the world around us. He is holy and just, loving and righteous. He is consistent and self-satisfied, never changing or needful. He is the source of our salvation. He is revealed to us as the Father – our loving protector and provider. He is full of mercy and loving-kindness. Accordingly, he does all things well, including the redemption of his people through the life and death of Jesus Christ.
After affirming belief in God the Father, the creed states, “We believe in Jesus Christ…” At the heart of Christian orthodoxy is the person and work of Jesus Christ. No church can be taken seriously and no expression of Christianity can have any validity if it does not affirm the centricity of Christ. Therefore, the Apostles’ Creed, while beginning with God the Father, says most when it confesses the truth about Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the Son of God, sharing both the divinity of God the Father, and the humanity of those whom he redeems. He has been described in the Nicene Creed as “God of very God” and yet the Bible also says, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men,” (Phil. 2:6-7). He is as much God as God is and as much human as you and I are. This makes it possible for him to redeem all those who come unto him.
No doubt, Jesus Christ is a polarizing figure. He does not suffer fence sitters (Mt. 10:37-38) or those who see him simply as a good teacher or example and not as Lord (Lk. 18:18-30). Jesus demands total allegiance (Jn. 12:23-26). The allegiance is the result of an incomparable salvation, decreed by God the Father, accomplished by God the Son, and applied by God the Holy Spirit.
The creed’s concluding section begins, “We believe in the Holy Spirit.” Sometimes called the Forgotten God, or the Neglected God, the Holy Spirit is known as the third person of the Trinity. While we speak much of the person and work of God the Father and God the Son, we often neglect to focus our attention on God the Holy Spirit. Yet, the creed reminds us that belief in the Holy Spirit is just as important as is belief in the Father and the Son.
Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is divine. He is not only holy, but as God he is omnipresent and omniscient (Ps. 139:7; 1 Cor. 2:10-11). He speaks (Acts 1:16). He teaches (Jn. 14:16). He intercedes (Rm. 8:26). He is agent of regeneration and inspiration (Jn. 3:5-6; 2 Pet. 1:21). He is the source of our comfort and strength as we live the faithful Christian life. He is indispensable to our faithfulness. In fact, John Owen said it well in his Discourse on the Holy Spirit:
“There is no good communicated to us from God but it is bestowed on us or wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. No gift, no grace, no mercy, no privilege, no consolation, do we receive, possess, or use, but it is wrought in us or manifested to us, by him alone. Nor is there any good in us towards God, any faith, love duty, obedience, but what is effectually wrought in us by him, by him alone.”
While the Apostles’ Creed doesn’t say everything about Christianity, what it does say it says it well. We believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. At the heart of our faith is the triune God, who is worthy of all our praise.
Being raised in a National Baptist Church, every Sunday we sang out of the burgundy National Baptist Hymnal. If you’re at all familiar with this hymnal you would know that the very first hymnal is a song in praise of our triune God. The song is Holy, Holy, Holy. Appropriately, as the first hymn in the hymnal, it sums up our devotion to the one true God when it begins:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity.