the shape of leadership

Lessons in the Apostles' Creed

What we can learn from this centuries-old tradition

Rebecca Burtram on August 29, 2018

Because I tend to think new is better, I have had to fight the temptation to discard certain church traditions just because they’re old.

Although we were born and raised in the Assemblies of God, my husband and I spent a couple of years attending a Methodist church where he was on staff as the youth pastor. During that season, we learned we shouldn’t do things simply because that’s the way people did them in the past, but we also shouldn’t avoid them because of personal biases against tradition.

In fact, I grew in my understanding of and appreciation for traditions as I participated in a few I had overlooked. By traditions, I don’t mean the order of the service or a potluck every third Sunday. I’m talking about centuries-old traditions like reciting the Apostles’ Creed from time to time.

Recently, we brought tradition into our current church with a series on the Apostles’ Creed. Each week, we recited the creed and then focused on understanding the importance of one of the individual stated beliefs. For several weeks, people knew exactly what to expect in our services, right down to the words we would say together after the sermon introduction and prior to the altar time.

This consistency was not boring. It was a reflection of our God, who is steady and reliable. It was a time to remember who God is and what we believe about Him and our standing with Him.

Although this old tradition was new to our church, people enjoyed the in-depth study on what Christians have proclaimed to believe throughout much of Church history. Just as the Jewish people in Scripture frequently recited the miraculous manner in which God rescued them from slavery, we can benefit from repeating the truths of who God is, His promises for us, and our future hope through Him. Here are some things the Apostles’ Creed reveals about our faith today:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth … .” If someone told you your house was on fire, your belief would lead you to respond. In the same manner, if we believe in God, it must change the way we live our lives. This portion of the creed reminds believers of the immeasurable nature of God as Almighty Creator and His intimate nature as our Father.

“And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord … .” The name Jesus Christ means Messiah and Savior. Proclaiming belief in Him recalls our position as individuals in need of saving. God revealing himself in relationship demonstrates how fundamental relationship is. When we identify Jesus as our Lord, we identify Him as our Leader, Master, Savior, and the One who directs our steps.

Traditions like reciting the Apostles’ Creed are great reminders that God is deserving of honor and worship.

“Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried … .” Jesus is a historical figure who really walked the earth. His story isn’t just that of a great leader or philosopher. Jesus performed miracles and preached the truth of God. He lived a sinless life and willingly suffered and died for the sins of the world. The historicity of Jesus forces us to deal with who He is in our own hearts. The pinnacle of the story is the narrative of His crucifixion and death. The fact that Jesus would choose to die for us demonstrates the magnitude of our fallen state and our need of a Savior.

“He descended into hell; the third day He rose from the dead … .” As we say this, we acknowledge the reality of a spiritual existence. Hell is real. There are consequences for our sin. Not everything in this world is about what we can see. Jesus took on the weight of our sins through His death. Through His resurrection, Jesus not only defeated our physical death, but He also defeated hell, the place of spiritual death. His actions made a way for us to experience true life, both physically and spiritually.

He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” God’s coming judgment is a reality. We are accountable for the things we say and do. Yet we must remember that judgment is God’s responsibility, not ours. As followers of Christ, our job is to introduce people to the One who wants everyone to come to salvation. He is a God of love, mercy, and justice. Rather than pointing fingers at sinners, we must point sinners to Jesus.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit … the communion of Saints … .” The Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus and helps us testify as well. Through the Spirit, we have the power to be the Church, God’s witnesses, and connect our lives to God’s will. The Holy Spirit brings us together as a united body of believers seeking to glorify Christ in everything we do.

“The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” Reciting this portion of the creed reminds of us of the reality of sin. However, sin doesn’t define us as Christians; forgiveness defines us. Forgiveness of sin gives us assurance that we will experience resurrection and life everlasting. We can live our lives with a different perspective because we have an eternal hope.

Traditions like reciting the Apostles’ Creed are great reminders that God is deserving of honor and worship. Remembering all that He has done for His Church should make us want to join with other believers in proclaiming our faith. We should be open to resources, both old and new, that reinforce the truths of Scripture and draw us closer to God as we worship Him with awe and wonder.


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