“I believe.” Those first two words of the most historic creed of the Christian faith underline the fact that belief is central to true Christianity. Easter, like Christmas, comes once a year to remind us of the beliefs that are central and essential.
As a matter of fact, Christianity is not belief in belief, it is belief in Christ, and all that the Bible reveals about who He is and what He has accomplished for us. We do not believe in the Christ of our imagination but in the Christ of Scripture— the Christ believed in by all Christians in all places throughout all time.
The Apostles’ Creed emerged in the earliest centuries of the church as a concise summary of biblical truth. Our ultimate authority is Scripture, and the creed did not displace the Bible, but sought to summarize its essential teachings. These truths are what the apostles preached. All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.
The creed begins with belief in “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” and then goes immediately to Jesus Christ, “His only Son, our Lord.” What does the Bible reveal about Jesus? As the creed states, He was “conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.”
Christmas focuses our attention on those first words about Jesus, and then we turn to the events that reach their fulfillment in our Lord’s crucifixion, death, and burial.
Soon comes the trumpet blast of Christ’s resurrection – “The third day He arose again from the dead.”
In Romans 10:9, the Apostle Paul tells us that if we “confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
That is really good news. In fact, the fact that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead is the greatest news of all, because it is the good news of salvation to all who believe in Him.
Christianity is not just another form of spirituality. The Christian faith is not just a set of optional beliefs. Christians are those who believe the very truths expressed so powerfully and succinctly in the Apostles’ Creed. The creed doesn’t save – Jesus saves – but the creed summarizes how Jesus saves.
Every year, the celebration of Easter reminds us of the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christ is the very foundation of our faith. He died in our place and was raised from the dead by the Father, announcing Christ’s victory over sin and death and the grave.
Christians do not believe merely that this is our story. As the Apostles’ Creed makes emphatically clear, we believe that these things happened, exactly as the Bible says.
All four of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present a consistent witness to the bodily resurrection of Jesus. The raising of Christ from the dead energized and validated the message of the apostles and the early Church. Preaching soon after the resurrection, the Apostle Peter boldly proclaimed the assurance that Jesus Christ is the divine Savior precisely because God raised Him up from the grave: “God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:24]
The New Testament refers to authentic Christianity as “the faith that was once for all delivered to saints.” [Jude 3] This means that Christians do not hold to evolving beliefs that are understood to change over time. We believe in truth as revealed in God’s Word, unchanged and unchanging.
A friend once told me that as a teenager he attended a church that was unclear in its preaching, but included the Apostles’ Creed in its worship. Sunday by Sunday my friend heard the words of the creed and realized that he believed every word. He realized, “this is what Christians believe.” He found every statement of the creed backed up by the Bible and then understood the creed to be a summary of what the Bible teaches.
There is good reason why the Apostles’ Creed is the most venerable of all the creeds and confessions of the Christian church. Its words have been spoken by martyrs, by heroes and heroines of the faith, and by simple Christians all over the world.
But the Apostles’ Creed is also honored for another reason – it is easily memorized. Its powerful language is so concise, and it takes the shape of an unfolding story. Line after line, biblical truth resounds.
This Easter, why don’t you memorize the Apostle’s Creed? It will help you to tell the story of Easter. More importantly, it will help you to summarize and explain the most important biblical truths. Starting with those first two powerful words, you speak the truth of authentic Christian faith: “I believe.”