A Minute With Martin
- The Ten Commandments
- The Apostles’ Creed
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Daily Prayers
A Minute With Martin
The Apostles’ Creed (SC) (http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php) is a statement of faith used in the Christian Church since at least the 4th century AD. This brief summation of the Christian faith is used both for instruction as well as in the liturgy, where the congregation recites it as part of the worship service. While not necessarily a series of quotations from Scripture, the Creed is a brief explanation of the faith based on Holy Scripture.
The name comes from the widely accepted tradition in the 4th century that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, each of the 12 Apostles contributed a line of the creed.
Christians confess there is one God, in three persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The structure of the Apostles’ Creed reflects the Trinitarian nature of God, with the first article speaking about the Father (Creation), the second about the Son (Redemption) and the third the Holy Spirit (Sanctification).
Regarding the First Article of the Creed Luther writes:
- The First Article
- Of Creation
- I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
- What does this mean?
- I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
After listing all that God has made and provided, both things material and spiritual (e.g. preserving from all evil), Luther gives God’s motivation for it all—“…pure fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me”. All of God’s provision is pure gift. We have done nothing and can do nothing to earn it or deserve it. Take note that our response to these gifts of God is to thank, praise, serve and obey Him. We don’t “thank, praise, serve and obey Him” as a means of earning or bargaining with God to give us what we have—rather our response comes from knowing and understanding what we have already been given. This does not preclude the reality that bad things happen in the world. What it does ask of us is to recognize God as the source of all that is good, and trust that he will provide for us as we need—not necessarily as we might want or expect. In this brief explanation, we hear echoes of the Ten Commandments, which, if you will, are simply an outline of what it looks like to “thank, praise, serve and obey Him”, as we are mindful and grateful of all God has provided us with out of his great and abundant love.
Regarding the Second Article of the Creed Luther writes:
- The Second Article
- Of Redemption
- 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.
- What does this mean?
- 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 creature, purchased and won [delivered] 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, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
For Luther (and all believers) this article of the Creed explains the greatest blessings God has provided us with and how that was achieved through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ that we might be saved from sin and given a right relationship with God (also known as redemption). As we reflect on the magnitude of what Jesus accomplished for us, it is important to do so with the explanation of the First Article in mind—that God provides everything, including salvation, out of “…pure fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me”. We are never going to do enough, or be good enough to warrant this incredible gift. But instead, as we recognize the blessing we have been given, we are called to live lives of gratitude, which reflect the reality of all we have been given in Christ. This also calls us to understand what Jesus has done, is doing and will do on our behalf, frees us and enables us to live gratefully to God—it is through Jesus Christ, that we are able to be and people and live the lives to which God has called and created us.
Regarding the Third Article of the Creed Luther writes:
- The Third Article
- Of Sanctification
- 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.
- What does this mean?
- I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
God is the one who “calls, gathers, enlightens“ and keeps the whole Christian Church on earth in the faith of Christ—in effect setting apart or “sanctifying” it. By now we see a clear pattern in Luther’s understanding of the Creed—all the action, all the initiative, everything comes from God to us. Anything we can possibly give or do is simply in response to what He has graciously and lovingly already given us. God is the one who forgives, and God is the one who will raise all believers from the dead to everlasting life. It is also worth noting that at the end of his explanations of each of the articles, he says “This is most certainly true.” This is above all a confession of faith and trust. The Creed is not intended to be a series of proofs, demonstrating how we know this is true, rather it is a declaration that we believe this is true. As such, what we believe about God guides and directs how we live and how we understand the world. There is a time and place for explanations as to why we hold this to be true, but the place of a Creed is to simply state what we know by faith to be true.