The Apostles’ Creed

Today we continue our second week of Catechism study. Last week we focused on the Ten Commandments, about how they are God’s will for mankind, and yet we fail to keep them. We fail the very core of the Commandments, which is to love God and our neighbor. The only one to ever keep the Commandments is Jesus, who instead of claiming the blessing that would come from obedience, bore the curse of the Law and died to redeem us from our sins. If we were able to keep the Ten Commandments, then Scripture would stop at Mt. Sinai and there would be no New Testament, nor anything else in the Catechism to learn. However, today we move on to the Apostles’ Creed.

Martin Luther wrote,

I am also a doctor and preacher; yes, as learned and experienced as all the people who have such assumptions and contentment. Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism…I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so… [for] catechism study is a most effective help against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts. It helps to be occupied with God’s Word, to speak it, and meditate on it, just as the first Psalm declares people blessed who meditate on God’s Law day and night (Psalm 1:2).[1]

For this reason we continue to learn the Catechism today, particularly the Creed. In it we learn what every Christian should and must believe. In history, it has been divided into twelve articles, understanding that each of the Apostles contributed a line. There isn’t necessarily any proof for that, though the Creed is a summary of the teaching of the Apostles. For our purposes, the Creed is divided into three parts, which reflect the Triune God. First, the Father creates; second, the Son redeems; and Third, the Holy Spirit sanctifies.

I.

The First Article of the Creed confesses, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The First Commandment taught us to have no other Gods before God Almighty, and here we confess who God is, and what is His will and work. By saying God is the maker of heaven and earth, we confess exactly that. All that we see and have is the result of His work. We believe that He gives each of us our body and soul, our eyes, ears, and all our members. In addition to those things, He gives us food and drink, clothing, children, house and home. Besides even those things, He gives what we need to support this life, which include the sun and moon, air, fire, water, the earth and everything in it. To watch over these things, He also gives us good government, peace, and security.

From this we should learn that none of us owns themselves, nor can we preserve or create any of those things we just heard. This is true, whether we’re talking about something as small as a grain of wheat or as big as a jumbo jet. All these things are included in the work of God as Creator. What is more, not only does God give us these things, but He also guards and protects us against all evil. Like a good Father, He diverts danger and misfortune from His children. All of this He does out of Fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness within us.

This article is of one of those things that we all seem to know, and yet we don’t really consider what it means. If we did, maybe we would pride ourselves less in the lake house we just built or the new truck we have, thinking that those come as a result of our own hard work. The world works that way, and so abuses the gifts that God gives by denying Him the thanks and praise that we do owe Him. We know that we sin daily, and often use things that God gave us to sin. If that doesn’t make you shake for a second, I don’t know what will. That is why we must move on to the Second Article.

II.

The Second Article begins, “and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” Here we confess the work of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. After man had received all good gifts from God, the devil came and led the world into doubt, disobedience, sin and death. Because of these things the entire world, us included, was subjected to God’s wrath. But rather than destroy the world, God sent His only begotten Son into the world to be our Lord. Lord, in the sense that the Creed uses it, means to be our redeemer. God the Father is the Creator, and the Son is the Redeemer. He is the one who took on flesh to beat back Satan and rescue us from the powers of sin and death, giving us free forgiveness and eternal life.

The Second Article outlines the things He did to make that so. First, He became man. We learn that, for example, in John 1: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[2] He was conceived without sin and born of the Virgin Mary, as we read in Luke 1, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”[3] Then, as we read in 1 Corinthians, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [that] he was buried, [and] he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”[4] Lastly, as the angels testified at the Ascension, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

These things sum up the work of Christ as our Lord and Redeemer, but now we must move to the Third Article, which confesses how the benefits of Christ’s work get to us.

III.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” There are many kinds of spirits. There is the spirit of man, what Scripture calls heavenly spirits, and evil spirits; but there is only one spirit called “holy,” and that is God’s. It is the Holy Spirit who makes holy and continues to make holy. Just as the Father is the Creator and the Son is the Redeemer, we call the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. His work is done after Christ won for us forgiveness by His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit gives us the benefits of Christ through the Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

First, the Holy Spirit brings us into the Church, the communion of saints. Apart from the work of the Spirit, we cannot know Christ or believe in Him. The Holy Spirit calls us to Christ through the preaching of the Word. If He didn’t, then Christ’s work was in vain. Because we cannot earn God’s favor ourselves, the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit does what His name implies and makes us holy by bringing us into the Church. In church we receive the forgiveness of sins. This comes through the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, through Holy Absolution, and through the preaching of God’s Word. Because we are in the flesh and sin much, we should always continue to gather around Christ’s Word and Sacraments, which reassure us of forgiveness and actually bring it to us.

Though new life has been created in us through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can expect that some day our flesh will die and be buried. This is the result of sin in the world – that our bodies die – yet, we believe that as we are united with Christ in His death, so are we united with Him in the resurrection. What is perishable must put on the imperishable. We confess in the Creed what we learn in Scripture, that we will all be resurrected in the flesh. When we die we are immediately in Christ’s presence, and when He returns He will raise our bodies as well.

This we must always confess. Creation is done, as is our redemption, but the Holy Spirit will continue to work until the Last Day. He is always at work to call us to repentance and faith, to assure us that we have forgiveness in Christ, and to keep us in the one true faith.

This section of the Catechism has been quite different from the Commandments. They taught us what we are supposed to do and what we fail at, but the Creed tells us what God does for us and gives to us freely. The Commandments are not what make us Christians, because we are unable to keep them. Instead, the Creed tells us of God’s grace and favor in Christ. Through faith we learn to love and delight in God’s Commandments as good and wise. In the Creed we are reassured of our gracious God: the Father, who gives us all things; the Son, who gives us His righteousness; and the Holy Spirit, who bestows His grace upon us.


[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 353.

[2] John 1:14, ESV.

[3] Lk. 1:35.

[4] 1 Cor. 15:3-4.

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