Catechism

2 The Creed

A creed summarises the essential content of a doctrine of faith. Those who profess a creed fulfil one of the prerequisites for belonging to a respective denomination of faith: one thus believes the same things all other members of this denomination profess. A denomination thus defines itself by its creed, and thereby distinguishes its doctrine from that of others.

2.1 Biblical creeds Back to top

The old covenant already had its own confessional statements. Professing Yahweh as the God of Israel was linked to His historical act of salvation for His people, that is their deliverance from slavery in Egypt (Deuteronomy 26: 5-9). This profession of the One God necessitates the rejection of all other gods (Joshua 24: 23).

The focus of synagogue divine service is the creed "Hear, O Israel" (Shema Yisrael) which states, among other things: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! ... And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house" (Deuteronomy 6: 4-7).

The creeds of the New Testament express God's act of salvation in the sending of Jesus Christ. Already early on, there were statements in which Christians expressed their faith at baptism or in divine service.

An example of this is the statement "Jesus is the Lord!" (Romans 10: 9). An important statement expressed in the creeds of the early church is the testimony that the Lord is resurrected: "The Lord is risen indeed" (Luke 24: 34; cf. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-5). Likewise the statement "Maranatha"–which can be translated as "O Lord, come" (1 Corinthians 16: 22) or "Our Lord is coming"–can be understood as a creed. It first came into use in the Aramaic-speaking congregations of the early church.

Further professions of Jesus Christ, His essence, and His work can be found in the early church hymns, for example in 1 Timothy 3: 16: "God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory" (Philippians 2: 6-11, Colossians 1: 15-20).

2.2 The origin of the early church creeds Back to top

As Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, many who became Christians remained, at least in part, mired in their previous religious or philosophical views. The fusion of these views with Christian doctrine resulted in heresies, which caused uncertainty among the believers. In particular, the doctrines of the Trinity and of the essence, or nature, of Jesus Christ ignited serious disputes. To counter this development, efforts were made to formulate creeds which were intended to be binding for the faith of the congregation and thus also for the individual believer. Conformity to the doctrine of Christ and His Apostles served as the standard when it came to deciding whether a statement about God's being and activity should find its way into the creeds. Over the course of time, various creeds were formulated: the Apostles' Creed (Apostolicum), the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople, and the Athanasian Creed.

2.2.1 The Apostles' Creed Back to top

The Apostles' Creed originated in the early post-apostolic period. Some of its essential statements are based upon the sermon preached by Apostle Peter in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10: 37-43). The basic tenets of the Apostolicum were compiled in the second century and lightly supplemented in the fourth century.

It has the following wording:

"I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He 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 and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal [catholic] church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."

2.2.2 The Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople Back to top

In the year 325 Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea. Approximately 250 to 300 Bishops accepted the emperor's invitation. Constantine regarded the now widespread Christian faith as a force potentially capable of supporting the state. Since the unity of Christendom was threatened by a controversy concerning the essence of Christ ("the Arian controversy"), he was very interested in having the Bishops formulate a unanimous doctrine.

The most important result of this council was the Nicene Creed. It was further refined in later councils right up until the eighth centuryamong them the significant Council of Constantinople (AD 381)–and is designated as the "Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople". In particular, this creed goes beyond the scope of the Apostolicum to enshrine the profession of the Trinity of God and emphasise the distinguishing features of the church.

Following is the wording of the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople:

"We 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 (æons), 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, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary, and was made man; He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried, and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; from thence He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son [1], who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets. In one holy universal [catholic] and apostolic church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."

A creed that largely corresponds to the Nicene Creed in its statements is the much more detailed Athanasian Creed, which likely came into being during the sixth century and was made public (ca. AD 670) at the Synod of Autun.

[1] The statement that the Holy Spirit also emanates from the Son (Latin filioque) is not part of the original text of this creed. This formulation was incorporated within the Western Church in the eighth century. This led to a dispute with the Eastern Church, which has refused to accept the addition to this day. This dispute was one of the reasons for the separation between the Eastern and Western Churches in the year AD 1054. The Roman Catholic Church, the Old Catholic Churches, as well as the churches of the Reformation eventually emerged from the Western Church, while the Eastern Church eventually spawned the various national Orthodox Churches.

2.3 The early church creeds and their significance for the New Apostolic Church Back to top

The doctrine of the New Apostolic Church is based on Holy Scripture. The early church creeds express the fundamentals of the Christian faith as attested in the Old and New Testaments. The early church creeds do not extend beyond that which is attested in Holy Scripture, but rather summarise its content in concise and binding terms. As such, they stretch beyond confessional borders andlike Holy Baptism with waterrepresent a unifying link between all Christians.

The New Apostolic Church professes belief in the triune God, in Jesus Christ as true God and true Man, in His birth by the virgin Mary, in the sending of the Holy Spirit, in the church, in the sacraments, in the expectation of the return of Christ, and in the resurrection of the dead, as formulated in the two early church creeds.

SUMMARY Back to top

A creed summarises the essential contents of a doctrine of faith. A religious denomination thereby defines itself and distinguishes itself from others. (2)

The old covenant already had its confessional formulas in which the profession of the one God was linked with His historical act of salvation, deliverance from Egypt. (2.1)

The professions of the New Testament bring to expression God's act of salvation in Jesus Christ. (2.1)

When disputes flared up over the trinity of God and the doctrine of the nature of Jesus Christ, creeds were formulated. The standard for their formulation was the New Testament, that is the doctrine of Christ and His Apostles. (2.2)

The Apostles' Creed (Apostolicum), the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople, and the Athanasian Creed thus came into being. The basic tenets of the Apostles' Creed were summarised in the second century and lightly expanded in the fourth century. The Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople brings the trinity of God to special expression. (2.2.1; 2.2.2)

The early church creeds summarise the testimony of Holy Scripture in concise and authoritative form. Thereby they transcend confessional borders and represent a binding agent between all Christians. (2.3)

The New Apostolic Church professes the belief formulated in both creeds of the early church. (2.3)

2.4 The New Apostolic Creed Back to top

It is the task of the apostolate to interpret Holy Scripture and the early church creeds in a manner that is authoritative for our faith. An important result of this is the New Apostolic Creed. In it the faith and doctrine of the New Apostolic Church come to binding expression.

The New Apostolic Creed is closely related to the early church creeds. The first three Articles of Faith largely correspond to the Apostolicum. They thereby emphasise the significance of this early church confession. The seven Articles of Faith that follow represent an interpretation and further development of, as well as a complement to, these creeds as they apply to the ministries, the sacraments, the teaching of the last things, as well as the relationship between the individual and society.

Since its inception, the New Apostolic Creed has been revised on several occasions. This was done in order to reflect the proper and timely development of the New Apostolic doctrine of faith. Interpretation is an action that can take place on an ongoing basis. This is part of a dynamic tradition that occurred in the writings of the New Testament itself, and in the interpretation work of later generations which was based upon it. Dynamic tradition is not rigid, but is instead characterised by both preservation and change. Both of these are of decisive importance for tradition and therefore also interpretation: preservation is indispensable for church doctrine if it does not want to forget its history or dissociate itself from its origins. Change is indispensable for church doctrine if it does not want to become irrelevant to present generations and become rigid in one or the other insights of a particular period.

Through the course of time the Creed came to propagate belief in the triune God, in Jesus Christ as the incarnate God, in His sacrificial death, in His resurrection, in His return, in the church as the authority that imparts salvation, in the sending of the Apostles, and in the sacraments as expressions of God's saving love and care.

New Apostolic Christians are to profess the Articles of Faith. The creed is to define their attitude of faith. It also serves to familiarise others with the essential content of the New Apostolic faith in concise form.

The New Apostolic Creed is formulated in the awareness that God's love, grace, and omnipotence cannot be exhaustively expressed in doctrinal and confessional statements, and that these divine characteristics will always be greater than anything human beings can ever say about them. Thus the creed does not draw any boundaries that would deny other Christians access to salvation.

2.4.1 The First Article of Faith Back to top

I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth. Back to top

The First Article of Faith refers to God, the Father, as the Creator (see 3.3). That God is the Creator is attested in both the Old and New Testaments. The creation incorporates both heaven and earth, namelyas the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople states–"all things visible and invisible". Both the material and the spiritual exist on the basis of God's act of creation: God is the author of all reality, and it testifies of Him.

God is not only almighty as regards His work of creation, but is omnipotent in all respects. The omnipotence of God is also demonstrated by the fact that He has authored the creation in the absence of any preconditions: the act of God's free will created all that exists from nothing (creatio ex nihilo, Hebrews 11: 3).

Although the First Article of Faith speaks of God, the Father, as the Creator, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, are also involved in the act of creation. After all, it is the triune God as a whole who is the Creator, as is suggested in Genesis 1: 26: "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." In John 1: 1 and Colossians 1: 16 the creatorship of the Son is expressly referenced.

2.4.2 The Second Article of Faith Back to top

I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, entered the realm of the dead, rose again from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from where He will return. Back to top

The Second Article of Faith refers to Jesus Christ, the foundation and content of Christian faith. Each statement of this article has a direct relationship to the New Testament. The designation "Jesus Christ" is in itself already a statement of profession, namely that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah (from Hebrew: "Anointed One", Greek: "Christ") who had been awaited by Israel.

Yet Jesus is not only the Messiah, but also "the only begotten Son" of God (John 1: 14, 18). This formulation brings to expression the oneness of substance between God, the Father, and God, the Son. The Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople clarifies the meaning of the formulation "only begotten Son": the Son is "begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father". This "only begotten Son" is "our Lord". In the Old Testament, "Lord" is the designation for God. In the New Testament this term is applied to Jesus Christ in order to emphasise His divine nature. Here the term "Lord" also signifies that Jesus Christ holds dominion over heaven and earth (Philippians 2: 9-11).

The ensuing statements deal with the divine origin of the Man Jesus and His miraculous birth. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1: 35, Matthew 1: 18), and thus did not come into being through natural conception by a man, since Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (Luke 1: 27). The virgin birth is not to be regarded as a matter of secondary importance or as an ancient mythological notion, but is rather among the fundamental convictions of Christian faith. The mention of Mary in the gospels demonstrates that Jesus was true Man and that He had a mother.

The historicity of Jesus also becomes clear through the mention of "Pontius Pilate". This man was the Roman governor in Palestine in the years from AD 26-36, which means that Jesus' sufferings took place during his time of rule (John 18: 28 et seq.).

The article then goes on to mention three significant events that relate to Jesus, namely that He "was crucified, died, and was buried". This once again clearly highlights the true humanity of Jesus: He had to endure a shameful death, namely the death of the cross. He died and was buried, and thus shared in the general fate of mankind. The special thing about all of this is only brought to expression by the words: "rose again from the dead on the third day". Here we are confronted with an event that far transcends the human sphere of experience, and which can only be expressed and understood from the perspective of faith. Behind this formulation there is another confessional statement which is already mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." The dual reference "according to the Scriptures" demonstrates that these were not merely random events, but requirements of salvation history. Jesus Christ "rose again from the dead". His resurrection is the prerequisite for, and the promise of, the resurrection of the dead in general.

However, the Apostolicum also inserts the words "He descended into hell [the realm of the dead]" in between the phrases "buried" and "On the third day He rose again". The New Testament evidence for this statement can be found in 1 Peter 3: 19, which states that Jesus "preached to the spirits in prison" after His death on the cross.

After the profession that He "rose again from the dead", it states that Jesus Christ "ascended into heaven" (Acts 1: 9-11). The earthly life of Jesusas well as His direct presence on earth as the Risen Onethereby came to its conclusion. The receiving of the Risen One into heaven signifies His return to the Father and His exaltation. The exalted state of Jesus Christ comes to verbal expression in the formulation: "He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty" (Colossians 3: 1).

The end of the Second Article of Faith states that the exalted Lord will return in order to take His own unto Himself (John 14: 3).

2.4.3 The Third Article of Faith Back to top

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the one, holy, universal, and apostolic church, the community of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting. Back to top

The Third Article of Faith begins with a profession of belief in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead. The Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople again brings to expression the divine essence of the Holy Spirit and His oneness with the Father and the Son: "[We believe] in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets." Believers thereby acknowledge the Holy Spirit and His divinity.

One of the works of the Holy Spirit is the church. The church is not something that emanates from human beings or that was created by them. Rather it is a divine institution. It is the assembly of those who are baptised, who follow Christ in their conduct of life, and who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord. The purpose of the church of Christ consists, on the one hand, of making salvation and eternal fellowship with the triune God accessible to mankind, and on the other hand, of bringing praise and worship to God.

The church of Jesus Christ has a concealed side and a revealed side. In this respect it corresponds to the dual nature of Jesus Christ, who is both true Man and true God. The concealed side of the church (see also 6.3) cannot be fathomed by human reason, but can be accessed through faith and experienced, for example in the sacraments and in the spoken word of God, that is in all the signs of divine salvation and divine nearness. The revealed side of the church is a reference to the true humanity of Jesus Christ. Like the Man Jesus, the church is part of the history of mankind, although the Man Jesus was without sinwhich is not the case with the revealed side of the church. It shares in the sinfulness of humanity on account of the human beings at work within it. Thus the mistakes and deficiencies of human history are also present in the church.

The Apostolicum only makes reference to the "holy universal church". The formulation "one holy universal and apostolic church" is taken from the Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople. This formulation makes the essential criteria of the church of Christ clear: it is "one", it is "holy", it is "universal", and it is "apostolic".

The church is "one": the fact that the church of Jesus Christ is one is based upon the profession of the one God. God, the Father, is the Creator. Jesus Christ is the sole head of the church. He is the one Lord. The one Holy Spirit is at work in this church and fills the believers with the knowledge of the truth.

The church is "holy": this holiness has been conferred upon the church by God. Holy things are revealed in itfor example in the sacramentsand the Holy Spirit is at work within it.

The church is "universal" (Greek: catholic): the universality, or catholicity, of the church implies that it is all-encompassing, in other words, that it far transcends anything which can be experienced by human beings. God's universal will to save finds direct expression in the church, and thus it encompasses both that which is of this world and that which is of the world to come, both past and present. It even reaches into the future and finds its completion in the new creation.

The church is "apostolic": the apostolicity of the church has a content-related aspect and a person-related aspect. First of all, the church is apostolic because the gospel of the death, resurrection, and return of Christas preached by the early Apostlesis proclaimed within it. On the other hand, the church is apostolic because the apostolic ministry is historically manifest in the Apostles who work within the church in the present.

In its historical manifestation the church will never do complete justice to the requirements of oneness, holiness, universality, and apostolicity. Among other things, this is also due to the sinfulness of the human beings who are active in it. Despite these inadequacies, the church of Christ does not remain concealed or inaccessible. It can be most clearly experienced where the Apostle ministry, the dispensation of the three sacraments to the living and the dead, as well as the proper proclamation of the word are present. It is there that the Lord's work of redemption [2] to prepare the bride of Christ for the marriage in heaven is established.

Though all believers share in the holiness of the church, the narrower meaning of the "community of the saints" nevertheless has an eschatological dimension. It consists of those who will belong to the bride of Christ, and will thus only be revealed at the return of Christ. In the broader sense, however, the "community of the saints" also has a current dimension: it comprises all those who are part of the church of Christ. Ultimately, the "community of the saints" will be revealed in its full perfection in the new creation.

The opportunity for "forgiveness of sins", which has been created by the sacrifice of Christ, is also an object of profession. The fundamental liberation from the rule of sin occurs through Holy Baptism with water, in which original sin is washed away.

The Third Article of Faith ends with two eschatological hopes, namely the "resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting". The belief in the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the deadwhich is predicated upon itare among the essential certainties of Christian faith. The "resurrection of the dead" refers to the fact that those who have died in Christ will receive their own glorified body, whereby they can share in God's glory (1 Corinthians 15: 42-44).

The Third Article of Faith concludes with a view to "life everlasting", that is unceasing fellowship with God in the new creation.

[2] The term "Lord's work of redemption" is generally understood to mean Jesus' act of salvation, which is already concluded. When this term is used here, it refers to that part of the church in which the Apostles are active to impart those gifts of salvation which serve for the preparation of the firstlings, the bride of Christ.

2.4.4 The Fourth Article of Faith Back to top

I believe that the Lord Jesus rules His church and thereto sent His Apostles, and until His return still sends them, with the commission to teach, to forgive sins in His name, and to baptise with water and Holy Spirit. Back to top

The Fourth Article of Faith further specifies the belief in the church already mentioned in the Third Article of Faith. This article starts off by mentioning the rule of Jesus Christ: it is He who rules His church because "He is the head of the body" (Colossians 1: 18). Among other things, this rule comes to expression in the sending of the Apostles. The great commission (Matthew 28: 19-20) shows that the proclamation of the gospel and the dispensation of the sacraments were originally bound to the apostolate. Here the apostolicity of the church, as already generally referenced in the Third Article of Faith, is taken up again and set in the concrete framework of the church in its historical manifestation.

The Apostle ministry is not historically confined to the era of the early church. It is rather to fulfil its task "until His [Jesus'] return". That which Jesus Christ effects through His Apostleswhich can be experienced by every believeris expressed in the following: "to teach, to forgive sins in His name, and to baptise with water and Holy Spirit".

The commission "to teach" also applies to the proper proclamation of the gospel of the death, resurrection, and return of the Lord.

A further task incumbent on the apostolate is to "forgive sins in His [Jesus'] name" (John 20: 23), that is to bindingly proclaim forgiveness to human beings on the basis of the sacrifice and merit of Jesus Christ.

The Fourth Article of Faith concludes with a reference to the sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and the Holy Sealing. The apostolate has