Creeds and Statements of Faith

Text: John 17:11-23

 

I.         Every once in a while someone will ask what is our statement of faith.

            A.        Back when we were home schooling, we were wanting to get involved with a local group, but they wanted us to sign a statement of faith

            B.        Another name for a statement of faith is “creed.”

                        1.         A creed is a statement of what one believes.

                        2.         Merriam-Webster defines it as:

                                    a.         A brief authoritative formula of religious belief

                                    b.         A set of fundamental beliefs or guiding principles

II.        Creeds exist because of division

            A.        Two people claim to be Christians, but they don’t agree. A creed exists to distinguish one group from another.

            B.        For instance, the Apostles’ Creed was written around AD 180 to refute a false teacher named Marcion and his followers.

                        1.         Marcion thought the Old Testament referred to a tyrannical God who created a flawed world. He believed that Jesus revealed a good God of love and mercy. In other words, Marcion thought there were two Gods. Jesus could not have born in this world, since the world is a part of the bad God’s work, so Marcion claimed that Jesus just mysteriously appeared in the temple at the beginning of his ministry.

                        2.         Therefore, Marcion concluded that the Old Testament was not Scripture. He only accepted the Gospel of Luke (leaving out the parts he felt were too Jewish in nature) and some of Paul’s letters, especially those that Marcion thought were anti-Jewish.

                        3.         The Apostles Creed was written as a statement to recite at baptism

                        4.         It was lightly modified over the next few centuries to take stances on a few other issues. The current version comes from the 8th century.

            C.        The Nicene Creed was written in AD 325 by the Council of Nicea to tackle another false teaching. Arius state that Jesus was a special created being, but that he was not God. Thus, the Nicene Creed was written to assert the divinity of Jesus.

                        1.         It too went through several revisions

            D.        The Augsburg Confession, written in AD 1530, was written to defend the Protestant reformation and became the creed of the Lutheran church.

            E.        The Westminster Confession of Faith, was written during the English Civil War and was completed in AD 1647. King Charles and his followers adhered to the Anglican church. The Scottish supported the Presbyterian church, which held to Calvin’s system of beliefs. The Westminster Confession of Faith was commissioned by England’s parliament to convince the Scots to join them in fighting the King.

            F.        The problem is division - I Corinthians 1:10

                        1.         Writing a document to distinguish one side from the other does not solve the problem of division. Instead, it makes the division more distinct.

                        2.         Christ wanted his followers to be one - John 17:20-21

                        3.         A Roman Catholic Catechism produces a Roman Catholic. A Westminster Confession produces a Presbyterian. The Book of Discipline produces Methodists.

                        4.         But only the Bible produces Christians

III.       Creeds puts men’s words above the Scripture

            A.        In essence they are codified traditions - Matthew 15:1-9

            B.        The philosophy of men - Colossians 2:8

            C.        The problem is that creeds are seen as authoritative and a guidance

            D.        Our authority is found only in Christ, who gave his teachings to the apostles - Matthew 28:18-20

            E.        We are established by the gospel - Romans 16:25-26

IV.      Creeds are modified and changed

            A.        The Nicene creed was written in AD 325, but was revised in the 6th, 8th, and 11th centuries.

            B.        In contrast, the Scriptures were given once - Jude 3

            C.        God was clear that His Word was not to be altered

                        1.         Deuteronomy 12:32

                        2.         Proverbs 30:6

                        3.         Revelation 22:18-19

            D.        If a creed contains something not found in the Bible, then it is adding to God’s word

            E.        If a creed leaves out something found in the Bible, then it is subtracting from God’s word

            F.        If a creed teaches exactly what God’s Word says, then it is unnecessary

V.        The Bible is complete

            A.        II Peter 1:2-4 - Everything pertaining to life and godliness

            B.        II Timothy 3:16-17 - Able to make a man complete

            C.        Creeds stand between the people and the truth. If a false teaching needs to be refuted, we need to pull out our Bibles, not insist that people agree to a creed.