Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Creed - Lent Midweek Four - March 2, 2016 - Text: The Apostles’ Creed
This year during the season of Lent and all the way through Easter morning we are looking at the various parts of our Divine Worship Service and seeing how the various parts reflect God’s working in our lives; God’s giving His gifts to us, our being given to and our response of faith. We have been looking at the parts of the service somewhat in the order of our service but we have delayed looking at Confession and Absolution until Good Friday and the Lord’s Supper until Maundy Thursday, the evening in which our Lord gave us His Holy Supper.
Last week we moved on in the Divine Service to another of the means of grace that holds prominence in our divine service, the Word of God. We made note that our divine service liturgy is permeated with the Word of God as is noted in our Lutheran Service Book as all the parts of the liturgy are referenced to the Word of God. As one of my favorite professors said, “We worship best when we say back to God the very words that He has given us to say.” He also reminded us that all words are law words until the Lord makes them Gospel words, which should remind us that the only and best Gospel words are not the words of man but the Word of God. This evening we move on in our divine service to respond to the Word of God we were given in the divine service, that Word of God which was read in the readings, the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel readings and that Word of God we were given in the sermon, that is our response of our confession of our faith in that very Word of God.
I find it amazing that some denominations and congregations do not make use of the creed and some that even say something like “deeds not creed,” as if a creed is something not good. Some denominations and congregations even make it a point to say that they do not have a creed. Actually what they do not realize is that they do have a creed it is just that it is a pretty lousy creed. You see, a creed is simply a profession or confession of faith. Most creeds were written in order to correct any particular heresy that was being proclaimed at the time. Thus, a heresy was making the rounds and so in order to combat the heresy with what God truly says, a statement of God’s Word, a statement of faith was formulated. The Christian Church, that is all churches that profess to be Christian, recognize and confess three main creeds, the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. Any church, such as the Mormon church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and any other religion cannot truly confess these creeds. Any church or congregation professing to be a Christian church can and does profess these creeds because these creeds are a summary of what we believe, teach and confess according to Holy Scripture.
When we confess our faith, as we do in the Apostles’ Creed, we confess our faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We confess: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” We confess individually, “I” because we cannot believe nor confess for someone or anyone else. Everyone must believe for themself. When we make our confession we need to realize that we are not making any confession from within ourselves, as Jesus told Peter when He confessed that Jesus was the Christ, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). So too is our confession, not by flesh and blood, but by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace.
So our confession is a response to God’s Word which we just heard read and expounded on in the sermon and which as we said last week is a word which has power and does and gives what it says. It is through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit works to give faith when and where He pleases and it is through that same word that the Holy Spirit stirs in us to confess that faith which He has imputed to us, given to us. Notice how we keep pointing to Jesus?
And so, briefly, we confess faith in God the Father, the Creator and Preserver of all creation. We confess that we believe that God created the world, just as He tells us in His Word. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. God created all things that exist out of nothing so that everything that is seen has been called into existence by God. God also created time for us, on the first day, and on the fourth day He created the Sun, moon and stars and set them into motion according to the time He created on day one. Yet, not only has God created all things, but He is still taking care of all things. Indeed, according to His promise the oceans will remain in their boundaries until the day He returns. And here again I would reiterate when man posses theories which contradict what God says, even if those theories are quite convincing, because I know that human beings often get things wrong, I will believe what God has said and that humans need to go back and recheck their facts because they got something wrong.
We confess faith in God the Father, and in God the Son, the Redeemer. It was God who promised way back in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve sinned and brought the curse that God promised to take care of their sin and our sin. God promised to send a Messiah, a Savior, even a Christ, thus the Christian Church was born. God’s promise was that He would send someone who would redeem us, that is trade His life for ours, thus when Jesus was born, as we confess, He was conceived and born in perfection, having been conceived by God Himself. He lived a perfect life for us in our place because we cannot. He obeyed all God’s commands perfectly. He fulfilled all Scripture concerning the Messiah, perfectly. He took all our sins and all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times upon Himself and suffered and paid the price for those sins, and all sins, the price of shedding blood, the price of death, eternal spiritual death and physical, temporal death. He died. Our God in Jesus died. But death and the grave had no hold over Him as He rose victorious over sin, death and the devil. He showed Himself to be alive for forty days before ascending back to heaven where He is continually watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us.
We confess faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, that is the one who makes us and keeps us holy. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to give us faith which He does through the means of Holy Baptism and His Word. It is His work to strengthen and keep us in faith which He does through the means of Confession and Absolution, our remembering our Baptism, reading and hearing His Holy Word, and His Holy Supper where in we eat His body and drink His blood thus participating in His life, death and resurrection. We do not hear about the Holy Spirit because He is doing His job, not pointing to Himself, but pointing to Jesus.
Probably the most difficulty we have in our confession of faith is the fact that we may not be able to completely and reasonably articulate the Holy Trinity. Even though we profess faith in these three persons in one Godhead, even though we talk about each individual person of the trinity, the fact is the trinity is undivided so that where the Father is, there is the Son and the Spirit. Where the Son is there is the Father and the Spirit and where the Spirit is there is the Father and the Son. And so we profess what God gives us to profess, nothing more and nothing less for to do so would be un-advantageous on our own part.
So, just as the children of Israel professed faith in God and the promise of the coming Messiah through their offering of sacrifices as well as their obedience to the ceremonial law, which all pointed to Jesus, so we profess the same faith, not looking forward but looking back at Jesus who fulfilled all things for us. The creed is important because it is a statement of what we believe and what we believe separates us from those who believe something else. And the creed focuses on and helps us to focus on Jesus, just Jesus. Thus we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.