Rev. Mark Buetow
This is a series of articles explaining what the Apostles’ Creed teaches and why we use it in church and in our prayers.
The Third Article:
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. Amen.
The First Article of the Creed teaches us that God the Father made all things. The Second Article teaches that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, who was born, lived, suffered, died and rose again to take away our sins. The Third Article tells us what the Holy Spirit does. The Bible teaches, and the Creed therefore summarizes the work of the Holy Spirit this way: He delivers what Jesus did for us and thereby makes us holy. That is, Jesus died for our sins and rose again; He accomplished our salvation. The Holy Spirit delivers that salvation through the church.
The Christian church is where the Word of God is preached and baptism, absolution and the Lord’s Supper are administered and given. Through the Word (which is preached but also written in the Bible), the Holy Spirit turns the hearts of those who hear it to faith and trust in Jesus. Without these “means” or “instruments” or “tools,” the Holy Spirit doesn’t work. But through these gifts, we can be certain that the Holy Spirit is active and delivering Jesus and His forgiveness to us.
In fact, the Christian church is about nothing other than the forgiveness of sins. Jesus did not establish His church by the preaching of the Apostles and the sending of the Holy Spirit to be a place of correcting morals. He didn’t establish it to be a place of self-affirmation. He didn’t establish it as the center of judgment against what is wrong with the world. He establishes His church, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to forgive sinners. To deliver to the world the Good News that no matter what we’ve done, no matter what sins we have, they’ve been wiped out by His death and resurrection. Baptism, the absolution, the Gospel and the Supper all testify of this, proclaim it and deliver it.
But there’s even more! The Third Article of the Creed teaches and reminds us that just as the Spirit breathed life into Adam when he was created, so on the Last Day, the Spirit will breath life into us and our bodies will rise from the dead. Often we get sidetracked into thinking that eternal life is just our disembodied spirits floating around “heaven.” The Bible teaches there will be a new heaven and new earth and that our bodies will rise from the dead. In other words, ours will still be a physical existence, though we will be changed in that resurrection so that we never die again and every tear is wiped away.
There is always a temptation, when talking about the Holy Spirit, to make Him be some impersonal force or working of God which isn’t so much about the Lord as it is about what we want or feel or decide. People can do lots of things and then say, “Well the Spirit led me.” The Apostles’ Creed helps us by reminding us the Spirit’s job isn’t to be an excuse to do whatever we want. Rather, the Spirit’s job is to forgive our sins, and give us everlasting life, by giving us Jesus and His salvation. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t just do that anywhere, He does it in and through the Word and gifts he gives to us in the holy, Christian church.
Now hopefully you see that the Apostles’ Creed, though its words are not directly from the Bible, doesn’t teach anything that isn’t in the Bible. In fact, the Creed is just a short summary of what God’s Word teaches. When we say it in church, or in our prayers at home, we are simply hearing the summary of the what the Bible says. On the one hand, we glorify God when we speak the truth that He has revealed to us. This is an act of worship, as we speak His Word and hear who He is and what He has done for us. On the other hand, these words teach and remind us what the Truth is, so that we are not easily led astray by teachings and ideas that are not taught by God’s Word. The Creed reminds us of what is true and protects us from what is false.
So say the Apostles’ Creed! Learn it! Memorize it! Recite it! Pray it! The Apostles’ Creed is a gift because it fills our ears with the wonderful list of the Father’s, Son’s, and Holy Spirit’s gifts to us!
Created: March 25th, 2014