The Creed

 

Audio here.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I believe that God has made me. I believe that Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, is my Lord. I believe that the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me, sanctified me, and kept me. The word that we say as “creed” is from a Latin word, credo, that simply means “I believe.” But when we say the Creed, we are not simply repeating a list of things that we happen to believe are true. They are true, but when we say “I believe,” we are saying more than that. We would believe none of this if the Holy Spirit had not done His work and we would not go on believing if the Holy Spirit did not continue to keep us in that Faith. But since the Holy Spirit has called you, and since He has called me, we do not simply say that these things are true facts about God. We are saying that this God has done these things for me. We are never given abstract characteristics of God, which we fill up with things that we think a God like that might do. Every single word that we repeat back to God is a word that proclaims what He has done. We never say, “Well, a Father is like this, a Son is like this, a Spirit is like this, so they must do these things.” We say, “This is what God—Father, Son, and Spirit—has done; and He has done it for me, as well as for all creation.”

When we say, “I believe,” we are first of all saying the Father through the Son in the Spirit has made me (and all things). And yet, so few people really believe this first Article. “We all pass over it; we hear it and recite it, but we neither see nor think about what the words command us to do. For if we believed it with our whole heart, we would also act accordingly, and not swagger about and boast and brag as if we had life, riches, power, honor, and such things of ourselves, as if we ourselves were to be feared and served. …For this reason we ought daily to practice this article, impress it upon our minds, and remember it in everything we see and in every blessing that comes our way” (LC, 1st Article). Second, we are saying that the Son, sent by the Father, anointed by the Spirit, has redeemed me and become my Lord. “For when we were created by God the Father and had received from him all kinds of good things, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all misfortune. As a result, we lay under God’s wrath and displeasure, sentenced to eternal damnation, as we had merited it and deserved it. There was no counsel, no help, no comfort for us until this only and eternal Son of God, in his unfathomable goodness, had mercy on us because of our misery and distress and came from heaven to help us. Those tyrants and jailers have now been routed, and their place has been taken by Jesus Christ, the Lord of life, righteousness, and every good and blessing. He has snatched us, poor lost creatures, from the jaws of hell, won us, made us free, and restored us to the Father’s favor and grace. As his own possession he has taken us under his protection and shelter, in order that he may rule us by his righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness” (LC, 2nd Article). And, finally, we are saying that the Spirit creates faith in the Son to bring me, holy and blameless, before the Father. The Holy Spirit “leads us into his holy community, placing us in the church’s lap, where he preaches to us and brings us to Christ. … The work is finished and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection. But if the work remained hidden so that no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not remain buried but be put to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure, this redemption. Therefore being made holy is nothing else than bringing us to the Lord Christ to receive this blessing, to which we could not have come by ourselves. … For where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit to create, call, and gather the Christian church, apart from which no one can come to the Lord Christ. … [And] the Holy Spirit continues his work without ceasing until the Last Day, and for this purpose he has appointed a community on earth, through which he speaks and does all his work. For he has not yet gathered together all of this Christian community, nor has he completed the granting of forgiveness. … Then when his work has been finished and we abide in it, having died to the world and all misfortune, he will finally make us perfectly and eternally holy. Now we wait in faith for this to be accomplished through the Word” (LC, 3rd Article).

All of that means that the creed is far more than a list of statements which we believe, or are asked to believe. It is the very narrative of this whole creation, of God’s holy work of creating, redeeming, and restoring. And when that Name of God is put on you at Holy Baptism and you say this creed or you have someone say it on behalf of the promise of God to you, you are put into this same story. And you begin to say, not only is this true, but it is true for me. We say the same in the Nicene Creed, when we say, “who for us men and for our salvation [He] came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.” This is the definition of faith: to say “Amen, this is for me.” The creed is, beginning to end, the story of God working together all things for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. God creates, and there is none other. Jesus reigns, and there is none other. The Spirit makes holy by the means He has put into the Church, and there is none other. When you say, “I believe,” you are saying that you have no other Creator; you have no other Lord; you have no other Sanctifier.

So the story of God’s work in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit for this creation has become the story of God’s work for you in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Notice in the explanations how many times “me,” “my,” “mine” are used. Not because it’s all about you: God is the center of all things, not you. But He is your Creator and Provider; He is your Redeemer and Lord; He calls you into His Church, sanctifies, keeps, forgives, and raises you from the dead. This is the story of all those who have this God for their God; no other god can create, redeem, and make you holy. For now, until that final resurrection day, you live in the Father’s creation serving your neighbor, under the redemptive reign of the Son, in the holy communion of the Spirit, the whole Christian Church, which He has called, gathered, enlightened, sanctified, and keeps. This is most certainly true.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 3/1/16

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