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Luther’s Small Catechism, Part II: “The Creed”

The Apostles’ Creed

The First Article

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

The Second Article

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 rose 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.

The Third Article

I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

5CreedccIn the church, Christians universally confess formulated statements of faith.

These formulated statements of faith, known as Creeds, are the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

In the Small Catechism, the Creed “learned-by-heart” is the Apostles’ Creed.

As we continue engaging Luther’s Small Catechism during this season of Lent, we now come to that Creed, that formulated statement of faith whereby Christians everywhere confess belief in the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Apostles’ Creed consists of three articles.

Each article acknowledges the Person and work of the Godhead.

The First Article confesses God the Father and creation, saying in summary form what the Bible reveals about God as Maker of heaven and earth.

The Second Article confesses God the Son and redemption, by and through whom God the Father gives salvation to sinners.

The Third Article confesses God the Holy Spirit and sanctification, how God “calls, gathers, enlightens, and keeps us in the true faith.”

According to Holy Scripture, the Christian Church believes, teaches, and confesses that God is One.

There is one God, and one God only.

Thus, in the First Commandment, the one true God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod. 20:3 NKJ).

The prophet Isaiah declares, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me” (Isa. 45:5 NKJ).

Jesus Himself says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6 NKJ).

He also says, “I and My Father are one” (Jn. 10:30 NKJ).

Jesus also declares, “You believe in God, believe also in Me” (Jn. 14:1 NKJ).

To rightly worship the true God is to believe, teach, and confess the Holy Trinity, for so has God revealed Himself to be.

In fact, to “confess the faith” is literally to “Say the same thing” as God has said.

This is what faith does.

Confessing sin before God is saying, “Amen,” to what God has said about us and our condition.

Confessing the Christian faith and the Holy Trinity is saying, “Amen,” to what God has revealed about Himself and the true teaching according to His Holy Word.

The Second Chief Part of the Small Catechism confesses God’s revelation of Himself, for our salvation.  It testifies to God’s work in Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification.

In distinction from the Ten Commandments, the First Chief Part of the Small Catechism, the Creed does not command anything.

The Creed does not tell what to do, how to live, or how to become better.

The Creed, with linguistic precision, declares what the Bible teaches, and therefore, what Christians believe, of God and His work, not for Himself, but for us:

God’s work of creating, preserving, providing, and sustaining us in our earthly needs;

God’s work of saving sinners through Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, by whose fulfillment of the Law (i.e. The Ten Commandments) in their entirety and whose sacrificial death in our stead is eternal life; and

God’s work of creating, preserving, providing, and sustaining us with the needs of the soul, through Christ’s church, which is all about the Means of Grace, God giving life and salvation, won for us by Christ and His cross, given in God’s blessed means of Word and water and bread and wine according to God’s divine institution.

We believe these things because God so says and so promises.

God makes known in His Word what we are to believe, and so we do believe, for we are His people and not another’s.

We note the words, “I believe” in the Creed.

As a statement of what is believed by Christians everywhere, the Creed does not say everything word-for-word that the Bible teaches of God.

The Creed does identify, clearly and concisely, Who God is, in distinction from Who God is not.

In the First Article, Christians say, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

In a few words, Christians confess that God “Created the heavens and the earth,” just as recorded in Genesis 1:1 and given throughout the Bible.

What this means, however, is more than just that God created the world at one point in time and is now either indifferent to it or just doesn’t care about what goes on it anymore.

Nor does God having created the world imply that we are free to believe according to our own notions or that of popular scientific theory that God created differently than what the Bible records.

To believe either that God did not create as the Bible tells us in Genesis 1 & 2 and throughout Holy Writ, or that God just doesn’t care about His creation is to deny what the Bible teaches about God as Creator.

Very simply, such positions deny God as God.

Far from being indifferent to the world and His creation, God continues to provide for its needs.

Human worry and anxiety about our world, including that of climate change, population growth, health, and advancement, are largely commentaries on sinful unbelief.   They are not expressions of confidence upon God to sustain and preserve His creation as He Himself wills.

Yet, as St. Peter says, “By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:5-7 NKJ).

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein,” writes the Psalmist (Ps. 24:1 NKJ).

If God was indifferent to the world and the people of it, as some erroneously claim, believe, or demonstrate in plentiful ways, what is to be made of all that the Bible records of God’s caring for His people, His provision of food and water through fields and rain, His compassion on the weary and spent?

How are we to comprehend the sending of the Father’s only-begotten Son, if not by the love of God for the world?

How are we to believe the giving of Christ in Word and Sacrament, if not as the Lord having mercy and compassion upon sinners, sinners who can’t and don’t save themselves, and who, apart from God, remain condemned in their sin?

The Second Article of the Creed clearly testifies to God the Father’s love for the world, in Christ Jesus.

Listen to the meaning given to the Second Article, as expressed in the Small Catechism.

“I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

These words most certainly testify to what the Bible teaches of God’s love in Christ for sinners.

“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28 NKJ).

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10 NKJ).

“In due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6 NKJ).

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8 NKJ).

“When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10 NKJ).

And, “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:1-2 NKJ).

We are not deserving of any of God’s mercies and kindnesses—none of them—yet God freely gives what we are not able to earn or merit.

God freely gives that for which we do not ask.

Of His love, God hears our petitions for Christ’s sake and answers according to His good and gracious will and for our good.

Not only does God provide by means physical for body. God provides by means physical for the soul. We call these means, “Means of Grace.”

Throughout these days of Lent, the Sunday readings press onward toward Jerusalem, Gethsemane, and Golgotha, significant locales in the Passion of our Lord.

On the cross is where Jesus won your forgiveness, your salvation, your eternal peace with the Father.

There, Jesus died.

There, His shed blood cleanses you of all your sin.

But you don’t there go to receive such blessings, your forgiveness, your peace with God, your salvation.

You don’t go there.

Christ Jesus comes to you.

Christ comes to you in Word, in water, in bread and wine.

Here is where God freely gives you life to sustain your soul, the certainty of sins atoned, God’s grace unmerited.

This is what the Christian congregation is all about—giving God’s divine gifts.

The is what Christians confess by the words of the Third Article of the Creed.

God’s call by the Gospel is through the means of Word preached and Sacraments administered.

This is how the Holy Spirit works, not through the empty vacuum of space and the unknowable, but through the concreteness of the Word proclaimed, the earthiness of water applied, and the eating and drinking of Christ’s body and blood in real bread and real wine.

By these, the Lord creates faith and sustains faith.

Outside of us and from the Lord, according to His Word, they are certain.

Even as what is outside of us is the means by which God provides for the body, so by what is external to us is the means by which God gives and sustains us to eternal life.

These things we confess in the Creed.

It is not we who provide and do for ourselves.

It is God, Who, through means, continually does so.

Such is His love, that God neglects neither the smallest detail nor our greatest need.

We are bold, then, to confess, “I believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God is my God, of Whom I am not ashamed.  He keeps me.  He sustains me. He saves me.” Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-Canvas“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14 NKJ). Amen.

 

 

Series on Luther’s Small Catechism for midweek Lenten Services.

 

 

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