Grace to you, and peace from the light of God revealed to us through Jesus Christ!
As we begin our study of the Apostles Creed we begin where all things begin, at the beginning. In the first article of the Apostles Creed we are given a summary of who God is, more specially the expression of God commonly known as the Father. In this article the understanding of the expression of God the Father is deepened to understanding God as the one who creates; the creator of heaven and earth. This means that we believe in a God who created all things, as Luther points out in his explanation: “I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties.” But Luther’s explanation does not stop there. He goes on to explain that God not only created all things but continually provides for us in our daily lives with all that we need to live. Luther then points out that this is not done to us by anything that comes from within us but instead is done out of “pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy.” When we say that we believe in God the Father, the Creator, we are confessing our faith in a God who created all things and sustains all things.
When we move into to talking about the second article, the one that talks about the expression of God made known through Jesus Christ, we get into the largest section of the creed. Remembering back to last months article, it really is no surprise that Jesus gets the most attention in the creed. After all, the creed was written primarily to correct false teachings about Christ. It is in this article where we are introduced to the expression of God as Savior. We are recounted of how Christ came to be, and what he came to do. It is in this article that we make the profession that Christ is both at the same time fully human and fully divine; as Luther puts it in his explanation, “I believe in Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father in eternity, and also true human being, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.” It is through this dual nature of Christ that allows him to be the Christ, the Messiah, in the first place. Without being fully human Jesus would not have been able to experience human life or die a human death, and if he were not fully divine, that is part of God, his death would have meant nothing toward the salvation of humankind. Luther makes this abundantly clear when he writes, “[Jesus] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned human being. He purchased and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” This article allows us to confess that the same God who created all things was also the God who redeemed all things from eternal separation from God.
In our third and final article we are confronted with the third, and most confusing, expression of God; the expression of God as Holy Spirit. The expression of God as Holy Spirit has always been a stumbling block for people because there really is no sound theological way to talk about the Holy Spirit. That is why this article of the creed does not talk about who the Holy Spirit is, but rather what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit unites the Christian church together, binds all of God’s saints into one communion, enacts the forgiveness of sins within us, and brings about the resurrection of the body for life everlasting. To put it simply the Holy Spirit is the one who sustains God’s people; those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But Luther makes a key point in his explanation. He points out that the belief in Jesus we have is only made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit. As Luther puts it, “the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in one common, true faith.” Just as God created and redeemed the world, so to does God sustain it.
It is here in the creed, the confession of faith in the One, Triune God, where we find the medicine for our disease of sinfulness. Through the confession of faith in the three expressions of the One true God we find the grace and peace of a God who has loved us since before we were created, continued to love us though we are sinful by coming to earth, dying, and rising, and will continually love us for all time. We see in the creed that the whole over arching plan God has for us is to be in relationship with him and with other people.
Next month we will begin to conclude our look back over the teachings of Martin Luther in the Small Catechism. We will begin to look at how God has given us a way to maintain those relationships with God and our neighbors through the words of the Lord’s Prayer.