- The central message of the Bible is that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Saviour from
sin, and the only safety from Gods righteous punishment of sin. The only way of
salvation is through belief in the purpose of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus
Christ. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is
Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). The Apostle Paul proclaims Christ
crucified as the only antidote to the deadly venom within man, called sin. He wrote:
"For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him
crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2). The Apostle wrote of the importance of this
- I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received,
and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached
unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that
which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and
that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures [I
- Evidently, the Apostle believed that the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ
was of primary importance, a message to be understood by both those who have already
trusted in Christ for their eternal state, and those who were yet to hear the Gospel.
Notice from the text that Paul did not invent this Gospel. No, he received it, and he
delivered it just as it was declared to him. He mentions the Gospel as the first and most
important part of his preaching: "I delivered [the Gospel] unto you first of all;"
that is, Paul taught the Gospel that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
first, and that Gospel is to be proclaimed first in proclaiming the Word of Life to
others. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is to be central in the Christians
proclamation of whole counsel of God to the world, for it is written,
- [T]he Gospel of Christ...is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes;
to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed
from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith [Romans
- Knowing what that Gospel is, and believing it, is of first importance for those who
proclaim the Word of God. If it is not first in importance, but somewhere down the list of
things to be taught, or absent from the list entirely, confusion (frequently fatal)
results. How shall the justified live by faith, if the object of that faith is unknown, or
at best, obscured? If the professed Christian doesnt understand the meaning of
Christs life, death, and resurrection, how can he give a clarion call to those
without hope and without God in the world? Our proclamation to others, as well our
rehearsals of what we believe in our congregations, is vital: It is life-giving, or
life-withholding, depending upon the content of the proclamation. When an unbeliever
enters our assemblies of worship, does he hear this vital truth proclaimed clearly, or is
the meaning of Christs death and resurrection obscured? Our words are spiritual, and
have spiritual effects upon the hearers: Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
Solomon wrote; and John, guided by the Spirit, accurately wrote down Jesus words:
"It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh profits nothing: My words are Spirit,
and they are Life" (John 6:63).
- The Purpose of a Creed
- Part of that vital proclamation of the Gospel is the practice of publicly reciting
creeds and confessions. Public recitations of creeds should not be mindless rituals of
repetition, like the chants and drones of unbelievers. Recitation, so it is said, aids in
the understanding of Christian doctrine; but it may not do so, if the recitation is done
or heard inattentively, or the creed itself is not faithful to the Gospel. Supposedly, the
congregations "one voice" in reciting a creed reflects its unity in one
belief as well. Yet, what do individual minds (and there is no other kind) understand by
what they say? Is there unity of thought and meaning of the particular words expressed? Or
is the creed ambiguous or incomplete?
- Creeds are expressions of what one believes to be truth. According to Philip Schaff,
"The first object of creeds was to distinguish the Church from the world, from Jews
and heathen, afterwards orthodoxy from heresy, and finally denomination from
denomination" (The Creeds of Christendom, 1, 8). Creeds are important in that
they "nail down" in writing what is believed to be true, never changing, and
worthy of belief. ("Creed," of course, is from the Latin "credo," I
believe.) But not all creeds are equally worthy of belief or expression.
- The Apostles Creed is a case in point. It has a long history behind it, and in its
longevity, it is unchallenged as the Christians creed; yet is it Christian? The
apostles knew nothing of the Apostles Creed, for it emerged some three centuries
after their passing, its author(s) lost to history. It has the honorific label
"Apostles" attached to it, as if they created it, recited it, and endorsed it;
when they neither wrote, recited, nor endorsed the creed attributed to them. Roman
Catholics, Greek Catholics, Anglicans, Liberals, and Protestants all recite the
Apostles Creed, yet the Reformers thought rightly that the Roman Catholic Church
with its papacy is Antichrist. How can this be? Rome has recently called Protestant
dissenters to its hierarchy and doctrine, "separated brethren," and continues to
attempt to end the separation by such means as ecumenical councils, documents, and creeds.
The Apostles Creed is one ecumenical bridge over the gap. The Apostles Creed
is a lowest-common denominator attempt at ecumenism.
- The Apostles Creed Examined
- The Apostles Creed does not perform the requisite functions of a creed: It does
not accurately summarize the content of Christian belief; it omits essential Christian
doctrines; it does not distinguish heterodoxy from orthodoxy; and it is ambiguous, rather
than clear. Because of these defects, it cannot unify the hearts of Gods people,
for, as an ecumenical creed, it allows many who do not hold to the Gospel revealed by God
to profess to be Christians.
- It is not that creeds per se should be done away with, for creeds may be very
useful; but rather that the content of a creed should reflect Scripture more accurately
and completely. One may ask: How close must a creed come to Scripture? The answer is,
Close enough so that Christian believers will find in it the truths they hold precious,
and those who do not believe the Gospel will find the creed unacceptable. The
Apostles Creed does not meet Schaffs desideratum: "A Creed
confession of faith for public use, or a form of words setting forth with authority
certain articles of belief, which are regarded by the framers as necessary for salvation,
or at least for the well-being of the Christian Church" (Creeds,1,3-4).
- Gods revealed truth divides men; but it also is the only basis of Christian unity.
As Christian believers, we are to confess the same things, to speak the same words, to
believe the same propositions regarding God, man, and salvation. Further, those
confessions are what set us apart from the world and the unorthodox. The Apostle Paul says
in 1 Corinthians 1:10: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions
among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same
judgment." Among many other applications of this verse, it gives creeds and
confessions credence. Gods people, and only Gods people, are "to join
together in the same mind, in the same judgment, speaking the same thing, without
division." Paul says Christians are to be unified in thought, not in organization;
unified by the words of our great God of Truth. But if the words of a creed join together
believer and unbeliever, Protestant, Roman, Anglican, Liberal, and Greek, then the creed
has failed to achieve Christian unity, but has accomplished the purpose of the enemy, who
sows tares among wheat.
- The Apostles Creed reads:
- Though I have here parsed the Creed into 17 phrases, it is usually parsed into 12, in
accordance with the medieval legend that each of the apostles contributed one of the
phrases to the Creed. This hoaxand the name "Apostles
Creed"were perpetuated by the Roman Church-State, as were many other hoaxes.
This hoax was first exposed by Lorenzo Valla, who also exposed the Donation of
Constantine as a Romanist hoax.
- Scripture Articles Not Found in Creed
- After reviewing the 17 phrases of the Apostles Creed, notice that the
Apostles Creed neither mentions essential articles of the faith nor defines the
terms it uses. Thus it becomes, at best, a mere mentioning of terms, not a confession of
well-defined truths revealed by God for our instruction. Is it any wonder that many in
society misrepresent Christianity as superstitious in belief and practice? If words are
left undefined, and spoken as ritual, then they are no more a confession of Gods
revealed truth than those spoken by a magician while performing his art.
- The Heidelberg Catechism seems to say that the Apostles Creed expresses the
very things, termed "Articles of our catholic, undoubted faith," necessary for a
Christian to believe: that is, it supposedly expresses that which a person must believe to
be a Christian. A childrens primer based upon the Heidelberg Catechism titled
A First Book of Christian Doctrine, by Hylkema and Tuuk, tells us that we
are to believe "Everything God tells us in the Holy Scriptures." Well and good.
It goes on to ask: "Why must we believe all that the Bible contains?" It
answers: "Because it is the Word of God himself." A very profound answer. Then
it asks, "Where can we find a short statement of everything God commands us to
believe?" (This question itself seems a bit contrived given the previous answer and
command "to believe everything God tells us," does it not?) The primer answers:
"In The Apostles Creed." Now, does this Creed contain "everything God
commands us to believe," even in summary? Does the Apostles Creed express that
which a person must believe to be a Christian? Is it the "litmus test" of
ones Christian faith? Ponder these omissions of some of the articles of our
- 1. The Creed is silent on Christs satisfaction of the Fathers justice. The
term and concept of propitiation are absent.
- 2. The Creed is silent on Christs substitutionary death. The term and concept of
Atonement are absent.
- 3. The Creed is silent on the purpose of Christs death. His death is mentioned,
but an historical event, without an explanation of its meaning, is not a Christian
confession. The Pharisees also believed Christ died. Christians must confess, "Christ
died for our sins."
- 4. The Creed is silent on Scripture. In his summary of the Gospel, Paul wrote:
"Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." How can a Creed derive
its authority from Scripture if it does not even mention it? Perhaps this is one reason
why the pope can confess the Apostles Creed too: Belief in Scripture is omitted, but
belief in the "Holy Catholic Church" is included.
- 5. The Creed is silent on the inspiration of Scripture, the authority of Scripture, the
sufficiency of Scripture, the necessity of Scripture, the inerrancy and infallibility of
Scripture, the perspicuity (clarity) of Scripture, the power of Scripture, the coherence
of Scripture, etc. The Apostles Creed describes the "Catholic Church" as
"Holy," but not the Word of God.
- 6. The Creed is silent on the Trinity. Although all three Persons are mentioned, the
unity of the Godhead is not expressed, and only one Person is confessed as God. The Creed
is so vague that its confessors may believe in three gods, or that only God the Father is
God, and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are lesser beings.
- 7. The Creed is silent on the Gospel. The term and concept are absent. It makes no
reference to the method and means of salvation. Salvation by Gods grace alone is not
- 8. The Creed is silent on justification by faith in Christ alone. One would think a
creed would say something about justification and faith. The Apostles Creed does
- 9. The Creed is silent on predestination, and election. It contains not even a hint of
an eternal divine plan for the salvation of Gods people.
- 10. The Creed is silent on regeneration and sanctificationthe new birth and the
- 11. The Creed is silent on confession of sin to God, and offers no definition of sin.
- 12. The Creed mentions Pontius Pilate, but is silent on the Person of the Holy Spirit.
"I believe in the Holy Ghost" does not express much of anything. Would any
listener figure out who he is or what he does? The Apostles Creed does not even say
that the Holy Ghost is God. Amazing, isnt it? Did I say amazing? I meant appalling.
- 13. The Creed implies that only the Father is Creator. John says that "All
things were made by him [the Logos]." Job and the Psalms proclaim
that the Spirit "made the heavens and all the hosts of them."
- So what kind of creedal expression is the Apostles Creed? It is a lowest-common
denominator ecumenical confession, apparently designed to please everyone in the churches,
except the Christians. It is not, as Schaff believes, "the Creed of creeds." Nor
does is it "contain all the fundamental articles of the Christian faith necessary to
salvation" (Creeds, 1, 14).
- Omission of these central truths leaves many doors open for cunning persons to bind
unsuspecting souls in ecclesiastical chains. Without Gods wrath fully appeased once
for all by Christs death, we must sacrifice Christ afresh every day and work for our
own salvation. The Apostles Creed does nothing to preclude or dispel damnable
heresies such as the mass, taught by the largest religious organization on the planet.
Schaff reports that "its [the Creeds] triumph over all the other forms in the
Latin Church was not completed till the eighth century, or about the time when the bishops
of Rome strenuously endeavored to conform the liturgies of the Western churches to the
Roman order" (1,19).
- Creed Articles Not Found in Scripture
- These words of this ecumenical Creed"He descended into Hell"tend
to confuse, not explain, the belief of the Christian. Must one believe that Christ went to
Hell after his death and before he rose from the dead? (This is how the Apostles
Creed states it by its word order.) What is the basis for this belief? In his commentary
on the Heidelberg Catechism Ursinus tried to explain this clause as Christ
suffering the pains of Hell before he died. But that is not what the Apostles Creed
says. Then why do we continue to say this line publicly, in our congregations, if it
isnt true? Why do we say what we do not mean? Why dont we say what we mean and
mean what we say? Honesty requires that churches not continue to recite a confession that
they do not believe. I suspect we continue to recite this creed because weve always
done it that way. It is a church tradition, and church tradition has become more important
than confessing Scriptural truth. Bad habitsespecially bad ecclesiastical
habitsare hard to break.
- What do unbelievers think as they attend our assemblies and hear us say, "He [Jesus
Christ] descended into Hell" after his death, and then try to explain away the
obvious meaning of the words by saying that Christ really didnt go to Hell? Why
should they believe anything else they hear in our assemblies? Perhaps we have an esoteric
interpretation of other statements as well. Intellectual dishonestyor ecclesiastical
dishonestywill not persuade anyone to listen to the rest of our teaching.
- Scripture, of course, describes the suffering of Christ. But unlike the ecumenical
creed, the Scriptures also accurately reveal the meaning and time of his suffering. If one
wishes to take a Biblical, rather than a traditional, approach, one could confess:
"He suffered on the cross for our sins, according to the Scriptures." But even
this is not quite complete: He suffered throughout his life: "He is despised and
rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our
faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and
afflicted..." (Isaiah 53:3-4). He suffered in the garden of Gethsemane, as Luke
22:44 records: "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as
it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." He suffered in the trial:
"And so Pilate, willing to content the people, released Barabbas unto them, and
delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified. And the soldiers led him away
into the hall, called Praetorium
. And they clothed him with purple, and platted a
crown of thorns, and put it about his head, and began to salute him, Hail, King of the
Jews. And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their
knees worshiped him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and
put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him" (Mark 15:15-20).
He suffered in the wilderness, for 40 days and more. He was dragged by the devout
congregation from the synagogue in Nazareth to the top of the hill to be murdered on the
Sabbath. He was called a drunkard, a glutton, a demoniac, and insane. The epistles give
further explanation of our Lords suffering, and even an answer to his searching
question ("My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?") upon the cross:
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for
it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham
might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the
Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13-14).
- But even in the Old Testament, in the very place where we find those vivid descriptions
of Christs sufferings, we also find the reason for His suffering: "Surely he
has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows
. He was wounded for our
transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities
the chastisement of our peace was
upon him; and with his stripes we are healed
and the LORD has laid on him the
iniquity of us all.... [F]or the transgression of my people was he stricken."
- One does not need to travel far from the Biblical descriptions of Christs
suffering to learn the meaning of it all: Gods sufficient Word does not keep us
hanging in suspense. But the Apostles Creed does. Nowhere does it state the meaning
of Christs death; nowhere does it proclaim a finished Atonement, or for that matter,
any Atonement at all. By its words, "He descended into Hell," confusion is bred
and false doctrinethe doctrine of purgatoryis inculcated. It is an example of
not saying what we mean, and saying what we do not mean. It is an example of
- Another example of thisnot saying what we mean, and saying what we dont
meanis found in the words: "I be-lieve...in the Holy Catholic Church."
This clause is such a source of confusion that disclaimers need to be made for it upon its
every utterance, and it isnt the only one. Reformed churches, born out of the
Protestant Reformation, do not mean the alleged "church" of Rome when reciting
this creed. Commonly, Reformed and Protestant preachers will give a disclaimer immediately
following the recitation of the Creed to the effect that the Creed is not to be construed
as meaning the Roman Catholic Church, which calls itself "the Holy Catholic
Church." If Protestants mean "We believe that there is an elect people of God
that the Lord Himself gave out of the whole of mankind to the Son, and this people is
the church in view, known in Scripture as the very small remnant, and the
only true children of Abraham," then they should say so: "I believe that God
has chosen and saved his own people out of every race and nation." This would
maintain the antithesis between true and false, which distinction is blurred by the
confusing term "Holy Catholic Church." When Rome decides to call
"home" the "separated brethren" of the Protestant churches, she will
no doubt use the ambiguous terminology of this very Creed to further her aim. The call
will be legitimized by the gentle reminder that "we all believe in the one Holy
Catholic Church, do we not? Youve been confessing it in your churches for centuries;
now come home, come home to the one place youve been confessing for all those
generations. Mother Kirk has her arms spread wide to embrace you."
- Protestant Reformers protested against that very institution, the organization calling
itself the Holy Catholic Church, which is a governmental power, a nation unto itself, and
not a church at all. Roman Catholics recite this Creed, using the same words, without
disclaimers, and people know very well what they mean. Why adopt their confession? Why can
we not frame the words of a true confession to reflect Scripture? Such a confession would
be truly apostolic, for it would contain the apostolic doctrine. Of course, confessing
that "God has chosen and saved his own people out of every race and nation"
doesnt restrict the elect to an institutional church, which might be a
stumblingblock to the traditionalists; but it was no problem for the apostle who penned a
letter to "the strangers scattered throughout...Asia...elect, according
to...God...the Spirit...and Jesus Christ.
" The Elect of God were strangers in
the world, and strangers to each other. That is why we are not to neglect entertaining
- This clause, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church" is followed by a
confession of "the communion of saints," and then by "the forgiveness of
sins," with no explanation given as to how one can have forgiveness. Out of all the
things of importance in life, how one obtains forgiveness of sins is absolutely vital.
Since it follows on the heels of "the Holy Catholic Church," would it not
plausibly follow that forgiveness comes through and because of that Holy Catholic Church?
It is strongly suggested by the word order of the Creed. But the truth is, of course, that
forgiveness of sins neither comes through nor because of the church. Since the church
consists of those who are already forgiven, why isnt forgiveness mentioned before
the church? Forgiveness is based upon God justifying his people, which forgiven people are
then called saints and form the church universal throughout time and throughout the world.
One possibleand plausiblereason for the order in the Apostles Creed is
the false teaching that the dispenser of forgiveness is not God, but the Holy Catholic
Church. That large and influential religious organization based in Rome teaches that very
thing: Forgiveness comes from its authority, through its priests and sacraments. There is
no ambiguity as to their teaching in this regard; the ambiguity lies in Protestants
using the same words to confess some different meaning. Christians are to proclaim clearly
what they mean, and not speak in ambiguities that confuse others. A creed should declare
truth plainly. Another problem is that the clause "I believe in
the communion of
saints" follows "the Holy Catholic Church" clause, suggesting that that
communion is within "the Holy Catholic Church."
- Further, does the confession of a communion of saints, even properly defined, belong in
a basic creed? That is, is it an essential point, without which we are not believers?
Elijah didnt know that 7,000 were reserved by the Lord until the Lord told him so.
Was Elijah not a believer before he was so informed? Of course he was. Salvation is not
corporate; it is individual. It is received from God immediately, not mediated through the
- The Creed says, "I believe
in the Holy Ghost." Well, so do the
Jehovahs Witnesses. The question is: What are you confessing when you say those
words? Jehovahs Witnesses believe in the Holy Ghost as a "radar beam" of
Gods power (their words, at my door, many times) but not as a Person of the Trinity.
They believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force used by God to direct people and
things. The Apostles Creed does not rule out such a notion. To say: "I believe
in the Holy Ghost," is not to say very much. The clause is devoid of definition, of
predication, and therefore of clarity. It does not distinguish between meanings that
differ, for no meaning is given. The antithesis between false doctrine and true
teaching is absent. The clause as it occurs in the ecumenical Apostles Creed is
devoid of the meaning that would make it Christian, i.e., Scriptural. Some would
say that the very structure of the creed lends itself to the idea of God being triune in
nature. After all, it proclaims a sentence about the Father creating, several statements
about the Son, historically speaking anyway, and then a brief mention of a Holy Ghost,
which, it is claimed, all people must (somehow) understand to "complete the
trio" of personalities within the Godhead. Three parts to the Creed must equal three
Persons "in God," it is assumed.
- Is the Apostles Creed less than accurate? We have seen that it is. Is it less than
Biblically sufficient? Absolutely. There are deficiencies in this Creed in that central
doctrines are not expressed. This allows common confession of the Creed with Antichrist.
- A Challenge
- The Creed substitutes unexplained statements of historical events for the Gospel of an
atoning Christ who is the perfect satisfaction of holy justice for his elect people. A new
Christian creed is necessary to replace the truncated, misnamed, and misleading
Apostles Creed. But there will be opposition from traditionalists, unbelieving
church members, and ecumenists. Christians who take Scripture and creeds seriously,
desiring a creed that accurately summarizes Scripture, must resist them. The question is:
Will the Reformed churches put away the so-called Apostles Creed of the Roman
Church-State, or will they continue to recite it, obscuring the Gospel and erasing the
distinction between a true church and a false? Will they practice the first mark of a true
church of Jesus Christas defined by Guido de Bres in the Belgic Confession,
"the preaching of the pure Gospel"or will they sink deeper into the mire
of "unity first" thinking? Will the Gospel of justification by faith alone be
clearly expressed to those whom God brings to their assemblies? Shall it contain the
evangel, the Gospel of the Christ who died for the sins of his people,
explained according to the authority of the Scriptures, or omit it
for the sake of peace, unity, and tradition, as the Apostles Creed has done for many
centuries? Whether an individual like Guido de Bres, or sessions or synods, write a new
creedit must express the central doctrines of the faith accurately. What words will form
Christs mind in us, the hope of glory? His church is built upon the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner
stone. For no other foundation can be laid, nor should be laid, than the
Lord Jesus Christ, the Logos, the Word of God Himself. As Paul gave good
confession before the court, we are to believe all that is written in the Law and in