Early Church Councils, Creeds, and ‘Creed’ by Rich Mullins

A creed is a statement of faith. Maybe you have seen one printed on a church bulletin. I can not imagine there being a church anywhere without a statement of faith, either of there own or one they share with a larger group. When looking for a church most of us will ask “what are the beliefs?”. The two creeds mentioned here, the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed were agreed to by Church universal, the whole church, or as read in the creeds catholic, with a little ‘c’.

Other than “Jesus is Lord” and 16 “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory,” the Apostles Creed is one of the most succinct. These creeds distill the understanding of God found in the Bible, giving a foundational set of beliefs that a christian should come to know.

When you read over the Creed you will be considering the heart of Christianity, just as the early Church did.

I have never listened to this song, that it did not touch me. I said the creeds are our beliefs, not made by the intention of people, but they are the truth of God. In Rich Mullins’s song “Creed” he sings, “And I believe what I believe – Is what makes me what I am – I did not make it, no it is making me – It is the very truth of God – And not the invention of any man.” Let these be the truths that help to form you into what you will be.

 

Rich Mullins CREED Apostle’s Creed – second or third century CE
I believe in God the Father Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth 1. I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord 2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit 3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate 4. Under Pontius Pilate, He was crucified, died, and was buried.
He was crucified and dead and buried
And I believe what I believe – Is what makes me what I am – I did not make it, no it is making me – It is the very truth of God – And not the invention of any man
I believe that He who suffers 5. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven 6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Where He sits at God’s mighty right hand
I believe that He’s returning 7. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
To judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men
And I believe what I believe – Is what makes me what I am – I did not make it, no it is making me – It is the very truth of God – And not the invention of any man
I believe it, I believe it – I believe it – I believe it, I believe it
I believe in God the Father – Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth – And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit 8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
One Holy Church, the communion of Saints 9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sin 10. the forgiveness of sins,
I believe in the resurrection 11. the resurrection of the body,
I believe in a life that never ends 12. and the life everlasting. Amen.
And I believe what I believe – Is what makes me what I am – I did not make it, no it is making me – I did not make it, no it is making me
I said, “I did not make it, no it is making me” – It is the very truth of God – And not the invention of any man
I believe it, I believe it – I believe it, I believe – I believe it, I believe it – I believe it, I believe it – I believe it, I believe it – I believe it

 

It was not until college that I heard of the Creeds of the Church. For something so vital to the Church, I was completely unaware of the documents. Don’t feel bad if you have gone to church all your life and have not heard the creeds. You probably wouldn’t unless you grew up in a Catholic, Orthodox, or other Liturgical church (liturgy is a pattern used in public worship, usually repeated in a cycle from day to day or year to year). A creed is simply a statement of beliefs. This type of question arose, “how can I, as the bishop of a city church, refer a member of my flock to another church if they need to move. In the New testament we can see the issue already. On one hand there is dissension and jealousy when people begin argueing or lifting up their leader, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” On the other hand, there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies that even deny the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow in their depravity, and because of them the way of the truth will be defamed. 2” It was the concern that people might be deceived by false teachers that led to the ecumenical council. Ecumenical relates to representing multiple groups of churches.

About 150 km SW of (Istanbul, Constantinople, Byzantium), the First Council of Nicaea (325 CE) enjoyed a full representation of the Church. There were 318 bishops, representing cities across the Roman Empire, both east and west. The purpose was to come to a universal, “catholic” set of beliefs. So a bishop of one city could know the other churches which are in communion – partaking the same beliefs. The product of the Council of Nicaea was, no surprise, the Nicene Creed. The creed usually referred to as Nicene is actually the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the final version. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381 CE) in both English and Greek has been included.

Studying creeds of the church is a great way to learn of the history of the Church. Every creed is written to settle a controversy or to clarify some theological point. In the creeds mentioned, the concerns were primarily against Marcion and Arius, between the belief that the God of the Old and New Testaments were not the same God, and that Jesus was created. Both were counted as heresy.

 

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381 A.D.) The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381 A.D.)
Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Θεόν, Πατέρα, Παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων. 1. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;
Καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων· φῶς ἐκ φωτός, Θεὸν ἀληθινὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί, δι οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο. 2. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:
Τὸν δι ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς Παρθένου καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα. 3. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
Σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα καὶ ταφέντα. 4. And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;
Καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα κατὰ τὰς Γραφάς. 5. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures;
Καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Πατρός. 6. And ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;
Καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς, οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος. 7. And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.
Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζωοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺν Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ συμπροσκυνούμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν. 8. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;
Εἰς μίαν, Ἁγίαν, Καθολικὴν καὶ Ἀποστολικὴν Ἐκκλησίαν. 9. And we believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
Ὁμολογῶ ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν. 10. We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
Προσδοκῶ ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν. 11. We look for the Resurrection of the dead,
Καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος. – Ἀμήν. 12. And the Life of the age to come. Amen.