By Sherree Funk | January 01, 2012, reposted November 1, 2014
I Believe in God the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
I Believe 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 to the dead.
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 there, He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I Believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
The final phrase is a triumphant belief in eternal life, the life He came to make available to all. For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16.
Tennent stresses that we as Christians believe in a bodily resurrection, not just a gauzy spiritual world where our souls live forever. He refers us to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. (1Cor. 15:16)
These resurrected bodies will be recognizably us – you and me. I will know you when we all get to heaven. I look forward to long conversations with my great grandmother and grandmother who both died before I was born. We will not simply be existing on a cloud, perhaps playing a harp (although I have always wanted to learn to play the harp, so I wouldn’t mind this as a heavenly hobby!) The life everlasting will be fantastic, more than just a body that doesn’t get sick or tired, more than just a worship service that never ends. According to Tennent, in the New Creation, “we will be engaged in all the kinds of industrious work, projects, inventions, and building that we are involved with here, but without the presence of sin.” Sounds exciting to me. “We will be unleashed into endless creativity and deeper discoveries about God’s creation. We will be brought deeper and deeper into the full glory and mystery of the Trinity and His self-revelation.” We will finally be like Christ in ways that are impossible in this earthly existence.
The specifics of heaven are indeed a mystery, but we have Jesus’ promise, and I am willing to simply believe. In John 10:28 Jesus says, I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
And in John 14:2-3 He says, In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
I am thankful that the apostles sat down to put together this Creed – this timeless, yet historically unifying set of scripturally supported beliefs – so that we may all affirm together our unique faith in God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And thank you, Tim Tennent for your enlightening commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. May this meditation bring everyone’s faith to greater levels in this new year.
So we conclude this 12-day inspection of my personal statement of faith. It is important for us all to know what we really believe. I hope this has helped you to clarify your own beliefs.
By Sherree Funk
note: This blog was written on New Year’s Eve, 2011.
Here we are on the final day of 2011 talking about forgiveness of sins. How appropriate. Everyone wants to start a new year with a clean slate. And forgiveness of sins is the most complete cleansing we could hope for.
Tennent’s book, This We Believe!, is really wonderful on this phrase in the Apostle’s Creed. For one thing, he emphasizes that Jesus’ work on the cross is the one and only event in history which brought about forgiveness of sins. Hebrews 10:4 says it plainly: It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Tennent stresses that the Old Testament procedures for handling sin – carefully administrated sacrifices of animals on certain days, by certain people – were merely a ‘promissory note’ on a future complete sin removal. Thus, those who trusted in those ancient sacrifices would have their sins completely forgiven only after Jesus paid the price in full. So Jesus’ sacrifice “worked simultaneously back through time as well as forward through time.”
Tennent makes three great points about this:
Read some of these scriptures highlighted by Tennent in this chapter: Matthew 26:28, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, 5:31, 10:43, 26:18, Colossians 1:13-14. Each time we take communion, we hear these words of Jesus: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” It doesn’t get any better than that.
It is a great feeling of freedom to realize that all our sins have been washed away, as far as the east is from the west. We can really start fresh after accepting this gift from God. But there is one thing that can keep us from a full realization of that freedom: unforgiveness toward others.
Tennent says, “We demonstrate that we have been forgiven by becoming forgivers ourselves.” Ephesians 4:32 says “Forgive each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” And the Lord’s prayer reminds us: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This can be very difficult. Listen to this wonderful Matthew West song: Forgiveness.
What better way to start the New Year than by forgiving? Forgive those who have hurt you. Forgive those close to you, those far away, those who have already died, and even yourself. Wipe clean the slate. Then ask God to forgive you, once again. Let your new year begin with an open clean heart.
Happy New Year!!!
By Sherree Funk
The mention of the church in this creed is significant. With this phrase, we lift the church “from being a mere human organization with certain functions, such as preaching, discipling, or feeding the hungry.” “The Church is what God is building in the world,” says Tennent, in his book, This We Believe!
All of us have been in churches that were less than perfect. They are often inefficient. Sometimes theologically askew. Sometimes spiritually dead. And yet, the church, even with its shortcomings, is the divine work God is doing in the world. The process of bringing the church into Christlikeness is ongoing and involves us.
The terms used in the Creed to define the Church, “holy” and “catholic,” are important and often misunderstood. Holy means set apart. The church is to be set apart for holiness, for righteousness, godliness, and beauty. Thus when certain things take place in church, we are horrified. The church is to be something set apart, something more righteous than the world as a whole. And we in the church are called to be holy as well. This requires an intention to put off our old sinful ways and become more Christlike. How often do we consider our holiness? Is this why the church is often indistinguishable from the rest of the world?
The term catholic used here is not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. Many have been baffled by this phrase. The term catholic – small c – simply means universal. It speaks of the Church of Jesus Christ worldwide and throughout time. It unites all believers, regardless of denominational differences. Reciting the Apostle’s Creed, we stand together with the global Body of Christ throughout history. This creed is ecumenical.
“The Communion of Saints” unites us spiritually with that same global group through history. As Tennent puts it, “To be ‘in communion’ with someone means to be spiritually connected with a shared fellowship under the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Three things Tennent highlights concerning the communion of saints.
I love this part of the creed for making me feel part of something much bigger than my local church. I can recall great pastors I have loved and learned from, who are now in heaven. I can think of my mother and grandmother. I can imagine Christians in Africa, Asia and elsewhere reciting the same creed. It speaks of the invisible bond we have through space and time with all other believers. Thank you, apostles, for including me in your creed.
By Sherree Funk |first published December 27, 2011
After seven meaty affirmations about the person of Jesus Christ, the Apostle’s Creed now turns to the third person of the Trinity. This affirmation plainly places the Trinity in the center of Christian belief. The creed earlier declared that the Holy Spirit conceived the child Jesus in Mary’s womb. We have affirmed the relational aspects of God, the father, and Jesus, the son, and we now state simply that we believe in the Holy Spirit.
In This We Believe!, Tennent stresses that the Holy Spirit is crucial to reconciling ‘twin truths’ about God: God is both high, holy and unapproachable and, at the same time, compassionate, tender, loving and merciful.
Two scriptures speak of this paradox:
Isaiah 49:15-16: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”
Isaian 57: 15: “God dwells in two places: in the high and holy place, and also in the place of humbleness and humility.”
Tennent strongly believes that the Trinity is the highest conception of God. Churches must hold fast to the awe-inspiring mystery of the Trinity in order to keep a proper idea of God. Any imbalance in this understanding leads to oversimplification and trivializing each part of the Trinity.
Three things the Holy Spirit gives to the church are:
The Holy Spirit is very real, not just something we mention in passing. It is in a sense, the substance that gives us access to God the Father and His Son. It is the communication system God uses to speak to our hearts. It is indispensible in a full understanding in the Triune God. Pray to be filled with this Spirit and your life will begin to take on the character of Christ. You will be His witness.
By Sherree Funk | first published December 23, 2011
This may not be the most encouraging piece of the Apostle’s Creed. Many of us would rather not dwell on the subject of judgment. I know I am uneasy. It is easy to be joyful about being saved and loved, but judged?
Start at the beginning: He Shall Come.
This we can rejoice over. As Tim Tennent reminds us, Jesus said, “at that time the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with great power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30. And 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 also tells us, “For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first.”
Which part do you look forward to? For me it’s the trumpet sound. Each year during the Christmas season I love to hear Handel’s Messiah…. “The trumpet shall sound!!! The dead shall be raised, incorruptible!!!”
But when Christ returns, we will stand before Him. Romans 14:10 says, “For we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of God.”
In his book, This We Believe!, Tennent gives us three things to ponder about Judgment Day.
Lord, help us to do works in obedience to you, out of a desire to serve, not to be rewarded. And help us to trust you completely, so we need not fear Judgment Day.
Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come!
By Sherree Funk | Originally published December 22, 2011
Ephesians 4:10 says, He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.
Jesus’ ascension is more than just another reference to his resurrection. He ascended all the way back to the heaven he left at the incarnation. And his position in heaven is “at the right hand of God,” the position of any honored guest. But Tennent cautions us not to think of Jesus in a passive role in heaven, sitting in a great throne next to God’s, watching as things unfold in the universe. No, Jesus has three major roles as the victorious second person of the Trinity: Prophet, Priest, and King. The book of Hebrews clarifies much of this activity of the ascended Jesus.
The prophets of the Old Testament delivered God’s word, and then waited to see what effect it had on the listeners. They waited for repentence, for judgment, for prophesied events to unfold. Similarly, Jesus waits. Hebrews 10:12b-13 says, “He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool.” Just like the prophets of old, Jesus delivered the WORD, (himself) and now waits for the world to recognize its truth. One day “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
This is his priestly role. The priests of the Hebrew people were to intercede for the people by performing carefully designed sacrifices on a particular schedule. They were chosen by family heritage only,their priesthood was temporary, and the sacrifices were performed in an earthly temple, a mere shadow of the heavenly one. Jesus perfectly fulfills the role of priest: “Now there were many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25. I love the thought that Jesus himself is always interceding on our behalf and has been doing this for 2000 years.
This is his kingly role. He reigns. When Jesus spoke to his disciples before his ascension, he said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” “And surely I am with you, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18, 20. Jesus is in heaven and on earth with full authority. And he is both at the right hand of God and with us always. Wow. A truly divine King. He is omnipresent and available to all, everywhere.
This declaration of the Apostles’ Creed marks our belief in Jesus’ present and continuing authority in heaven. He is seated as God’s most honored guest. How blessed we are to have a friend such as Jesus in a position equal with God Almighty. To remember this is to be amazed and wonderfully grateful. Thank you, Lord.
By Sherree Funk | first published on December 20, 2011
Now we slow the boat. This phrase of the Apostle’s Creed represents the activity of Christ on what we call Holy Saturday. Jesus was crucified and buried on Friday, risen and seen by many on Sunday, and the day between is known as Holy Saturday. It was the Sabbath, and all the disciples were laying low, in part because it was the Sabbath.
But Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, and he had work to do.
This phrase in the creed has been omitted by some. Yet Tennent makes clear, in his wonderful book, This We Believe!, that no piece of this creed should be tampered with. Creeds are “historic statements affirmed by Christians all across time and they apply to all churches everywhere.” Specific denominations may have Statements of Faith which include distinct views on subjects like baptism, tongues, church governance and other points.
Sheol is the Jewish name for the place of the dead. I like to meditate on Psalm 139:7-8, which says, “Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” Jesus left no one out. And he can find you anywhere.
This passage in 1Peter 3:18-20 describes what Jesus was doing on Holy Saturday.
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
After his death, Jesus went and preached to all the dead who knew nothing of him. By his presence in this place, Jesus displays his power over all the forces of evil and over all death.
And finally, “Jesus unites himself with the saints from all time in his glorious ascencion,” writes Tennent. Ephesians 4:8 declares,“When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train, and gave gifts to men.” This reference is to those who had been captive in death, who were now ascending to heaven with Christ.
Wow. These are not the kind of things we hear much about on Sunday mornings. Tennent emphasizes again and again in his book that the words of the creed were all carefully chosen. This phrase again emphasizes the cosmic importance of Jesus’ death.
The time dimension seems to be no challenge for our Lord. What an awesome God we have!
By Sherree Funk | Originally published December 19, 2011
The Apostle’s Creed seems to leap quickly from Jesus’ birth to his death. This is not to say that all his teachings and miracles were of no importance, but that his greatest work, his essential work, the thing that we believe above all other things is this: Jesus – fully God, fully man – died a humiliating death by crucifixion at a particular point in history. That he really died is a key point. And this begs the question: Why did the eternal Son of God have to die?
Tennent, in his book, This We Believe!, points us to three reasons taken from Hebrews 2.
In a sense, Christ’s death proved that he lived.
In death Jesus faced the one thing that Satan thought he had over us. And then he triumphed over it.
Jesus did not live avoiding the evil in the world. He faced it head on without ever succumbing to temptation, without being conquered by evil. He was killed in a most evil way. No one will ever die a more unjust, humiliating, painful death. He tasted human death for us all.
I guess I always wondered why old Pontius Pilate got his name in this creed. It seems like he shouldn’t have gotten so much free press. But Tennent points out that this anchors the life and death of Jesus to a particular identifiable point in history. By mentioning Pilate’s name, a person who is well-known in history, whose name has been identified on a stone in Caesarea Maritima, the creed dispels any notions that this is just an abstract set of beliefs that may never have happened. While the crucifixion is not solely the fault of Pilate, he was a part of the evil plan to destroy Jesus. Satan was behind it all, but God had a bigger plan.
The previous phrase of the creed reminded us of Mary’s humble obedience while this one reminds us how we, like Pilate, often make wrong choices, and thus work into Satan’s evil plans. It is worth pondering this human condition, humbly confessing our sins, and earnestly seeking to obey.
Luke 23:23-35; John 19:18-20; Acts 4:10; 1Corinthians 15:3-4; Hebrews 2:5-18
A verse in Charles Wesley’s hymn, Amazing Love captures our gratitude:
He left His father’s throne above, so free, so infinite His grace;
emptied Himself of all but love and bled for Adam’s helpless race;
Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God it found out me –
Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou my God shouldst die for me!
Perhaps it makes Christmas even sweeter when we remember what love prompted His birth, knowing that it would lead to His suffering and death.