John 20:24-31
Romans 10:8-15

Formal statements of beliefs like ours, what are formally known as creeds have been part and parcel of the faith we hold dear for over 3,000 years.

Yes, that means they appear in the Bible. Twelve centuries before Christ, the first Hebrew creed, known as The Shema, appears in Deuteronomy:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:4).

Those words continue to form the basis for the Hebrew faith to this day. It is said that Jewish babies raised in orthodox homes are not weaned on milk but, rather, on The Shema.

As far as I am aware, there at least three creeds in the New Testament. All three appear in letters from Paul in which he quotes an already established song/poem of belief.

The first is found in his first letter to the Corinthians:

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. (1 Cor 15:3-4)

The second is contained in the letter to the Philippians:

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5-11)

And we just heard the third one in today’s reading in Romans:

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. (Rom 10:9-10)

Though Christian creedal statements bear a resemblance to the original Shema, there is one obvious difference. The earliest Christians altered their story of God’s way in the world in light of their personal experience of the resurrection of Jesus, as the earliest non-biblical statement of belief, the Apostle’s Creed, attests:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s 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.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will 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. Amen.

Before he died in 2006, Jaroslav Pelikan, professor of Christian History at Yale wrote “Creeds ground our faith in a tradition while protecting us from self-invented forms of religion that are so popular in our time.” 1

In his book, Credo, he describes his own sense of wonder in worship that occurs when he recites the same creed that was likely sung that same morning in the Philippines or somewhere else in the world, and recited down through the ages from the early church fathers, to Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, to his own grandfather in the 20th century. He wrote, “The creeds form a universal foundation for the Christian faith that unites people across cultures and even across time.” 2

Blessed are those who believe the creeds because our beliefs serve to unite us as brothers and sisters in the church of the Lord Jesus.

When so much else divides, the story held in common by all Christians and expressed in our beliefs brings us together. Christians can and do disagree on any number of issues from all kinds of social issues that rock our world to how we each individually interpret the Bible but we still maintain unity through a common confession of faith.

Concerning disagreements among Christians, John Wesley so wisely wrote, “As to the essentials of the faith, unity; as to the non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” 3 In other words, when it comes to Biblical interpretation let us be united on the big picture of our beliefs and not allow our various views of the non-essentials divide us.

Entire denominations have been formed when certain groups of people have wanted to make an essential out of a non-essential. For example, the method of baptism, whether to sprinkle, splash or dunk has spawned several denominations.

Speaking of jumping in the water, I read about a man who saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. He said, “Don’t do it!”
The guy about to jump said, “Nobody loves me.”
“God loves you. Do you believe in God?
“He said, “Yes.”
“Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
“Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”
“Me, too! What franchise?”
“Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
“Northern Baptist.”
“Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
“Me, too!” Northern Conservative Baptist Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Council of 1912?”
“Northern Conservative Baptist Council of 1912.”
He said, “Die, heretic!” and pushed him over. 4

Something like that was happening in the early 4th century. The Church was beginning to experience division over several issues, not the least of which was the Deity of Christ, and felt it necessary to respond with a statement of belief. A gathering of bishops met at Nicea (a city in Asia Minor, present-day Turkey) and formulated what we know today as the Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

And the result was that The Nicene Creed brought a tremendous peace and unity to the church.

I say unto you today, because of the beliefs we hold dear the people of Crosspointe will not allow any non-essential to come between any of us! In the essentials, CrossPointe’s Beliefs, UNITY, in the non-essentials liberty!

Blessed are those who believe the creeds because we are filled with hope.

The New York Times reported that television commentator Larry King “is obsessed with death.” His day begins with reading obituaries, and he ponders who will give the eulogy at his funeral. King has had a heart attack, quintuple bypass, prostate cancer, and diabetes. He was 77 years old when the television news station CNN dropped him, and then really became aware that there will come a day when he dies. To ward off aging and death, he takes hormone pills for human growth. His body will be frozen in hopes that someday he will live again. “It’s nuts,” concedes King, “But at least it gives me a shred of hope. Other people have none.” 5

I think some of you here today would beg to differ.

Christian author and theologian, Gary Habermas, writes, “In 1995 we thought my wife, Debbie, had the flu. When it didn’t go away as quickly as it should have, her doctor sent us for tests. The first sentence I remember that the doctor uttered to Debbie was, “You’ve got some serious problems here.” My heart sank into my stomach, and I had to sit down.

Little did I know that my belief in Jesus’ resurrection was about to be severely tested by the sting of pain and grief. Debbie was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Four months later, at the age of 43 years, she passed away. I had lost my best friend.

During Debbie’s suffering, I took refuge in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. After all, it had been my major research area for 25 years, and I appreciated a student who asked, “What would you do now if Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead?” I knew that the resurrection had a historical, theoretical side, but I wasn’t fully aware of its practical power.

I imagined what God might say to me in response to my questions about Debbie. He would ask me, “Gary, did I raise my Son from the dead?”
“Of course you did, Lord,” I would respond. “But why is Debbie dying?”
“Gary, did I raise my Son from the dead?” the question would come again.
“Yes, Lord, but…”
“Gary, did I raise my Son from the dead?”

I imagined God repeating the same question until I got his point. There was an answer to Debbie’s suffering, even if I didn’t know it. But if Jesus has been raised, then because Debbie was one who proclaimed “I believe,” I can trust that Debbie will be raised someday too. 6

Blessed are those who believe the creeds because a creed is something to which we can and should give our hearts!

The Apostle Paul sacrificed so much of his life to the gospel because the fact that Jesus, “died for our sins according to the scriptures, was buried and raised on the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4) had captured his heart! And because it did, he spent the rest of his days sacrificing everything he had for the sake of what he believed in.

Think of the patriots of our country who gave their hearts and in many cases their lives to the ideals of our nation’s earliest creed, The Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Of the fifty-six signers, twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Nine fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Many of those who survived ended up penniless. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to those sacred beliefs.

We can and should do no less for ours.

The task for us is to take Our Beliefs, words on paper, and allow those words to become a living, breathing reality in our experience as we continue to minister to our community. For although our beliefs currently separate us from those who choose not to believe, we encourage and welcome with open arms any who would join us in this grand endeavor called the church of the Lord Jesus!

1 Pelikan, Jaroslav. Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition. [New Haven, Connecticut: Yale U. Press, © 2003].

2 Ibid.




6 Gary Habermas, author; this article was taken from Decision magazine, April, 2000; © 2000 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, used by permission, all rights reserved.