Study 4. The Creeds

[ Q4.. What is your Christian belief?

There are some things we believe because we see, hear or feel them, therefore we know they are true. There are other things we believe because we have been told about them by those we trust. At our baptism, our parents and godparents promised on our behalf, that we "would believe the Christian faith as set out in the Apostles' Creed". If we are to take to ourselves what they "promised" on our behalf, then we will need to consider the truths of the Apostles' Creed. Studies 4 to 7 will focus on the teachings of the Creed.

Does belief matter?

Some people say that so long as a person leads a good life it doesn't matter what they believe. The theory is that good people go to heaven, or put another way, "Jesus loves good little boys and girls." The Bible clearly tells us that all good works are useless in themselves without faith (belief) in the living God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Ephesians 2:8-10. Therefore, what we believe about God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, matters enormously. In the end, knowing God and sharing eternity with him depends on trusting Jesus for our salvation. It is as simple and as profound as that.

Our salvation (saved to be Jesus' friend for eternity) is totally dependent on our belief (trust) in God as he has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Obviously, to put our trust in someone, to trust their character and their words, requires us to know something about them. Many people say they believe in God, but in the end the God they believe in is like Father Christmas. "He's a nice bloke and if I am nice he will give me a set of angel wings when I die." Yet, the truth is, our salvation depends on trusting the God of the Bible, the God who has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

What are we to believe?

The church, in the very early days, gathered together (in a short form, easily understood and remembered) the principle truths about God revealed to us in His Word, the Bible. These short statements of faith are known as the "Creeds" ("Creed" comes from the Latin word "Credo" - "I believe").

In these Creeds we are not asked to believe anything that can't be found in the Bible. This point is underlined in the "Article of Religion VI". These Articles explain the foundational truths of the Anglican church and are to be found at the back of the Prayer Book. Read this Article. Creeds only contain truths that are in the Bible, and can be proved by the Bible. Read what Article VIII says about the Creeds.

The creeds

In such passages as Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:22-24 and 33, 3:13-16, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, 1 Timothy 3:16, we see some of the very earliest examples of Christian Creeds, or God-revealed truth.

The Prayer Book has preserved three ancient creeds:-

  The Apostles' Creed

So called because it contains the teachings of the apostles as recorded in the Bible.

  The Nicene Creed

Named after Nicea, the place where Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, called Christian scholars together to correct errors in the church, and to settle what the church believed concerning Jesus Christ. This creed, used at Holy Communion, deals more fully with our Lord Jesus than does the Apostles' Creed.

  The Athanasian Creed

Named after the great champion of the Christian faith, St. Athanasius, who some 300 years after Christ, bravely defended the faith against those who said that Christ was not God. This Creed is appointed to be read instead of the Apostles' Creed on three special Sundays: Easter, Whitsunday and Trinity Sunday. It was also to be read on certain Feasts and Saints' days. It is usually only read now on Trinity Sunday.

The trinitarian nature of the Creeds

While we have these three forms of Creeds, it is perhaps more correct to say there is only one Creed, for although the three vary in length and wording, they are alike in the three great truths, or facts, they bring before us. They all remind us of what is called the "threefold revelation of God", or the three ways in which God has revealed, or made himself known to us. God has revealed himself to us as triune or multi-personal. He has revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This teaching about God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, is called "the doctrine of the Trinity". The word means tri-unity. That is, God is known to us as three in unity. God is one in three persons. We do not believe in three Gods, but only one God. Yet, we believe that our God is a multi-personal being. He is three persons. In that sense he is never alone, but able to interrelate within his own being. So then, our Creeds present Christian belief in a threefold form - "I believe in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

The human mind is not able to understand all that lies behind the idea of the threefold nature of God. We just have to accept that it is one of the mysteries which God will one day make plain to us.

The Articles of Religion

The Anglican church is a Bible-based church. We believe the Bible is the word of God. This is why our church affirms the three ancient Creeds that summarize what the Bible teaches about God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As well as the Creeds, our church has the 39 Articles of Religion. These articles attempt to expand on the teaching of the Creeds and give a more detailed study of what the Bible says about God. As far as salvation is concerned, the Apostle's Creed tells us enough about God to enable us to knowingly put our trust in him. The Articles fill out this knowledge.

The Articles are printed at the back of the Prayer Book and have already been mentioned in the notes. They were finally agreed to in the year 1562 and although a wonderful summary of Christian belief, they are a little hard to understand, especially as they are still in Elizabethan English. There are also some rather sharp references to the Roman Catholic church. The Articles were composed at a time when the English and Roman churches were in bitter dispute. Such language would not be used today, given the warm friendship that now exists between the two churches.

It is not necessary to study the Articles, but it is worth knowing that the Articles exist and that they stand next to the ancient Creeds as the belief of our church.

Memory work

Know completely the Apostles' Creed.


O God, my Father who loves me, my Saviour who has died and was raised for me, my Comforter who strengthens me, I pray that I may put all my hope and trust in you. Grant that I may not only confess you with my lips, but show forth your praise in my life. Amen.