“I believe in God, the Father Almighty . . . And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. . . . I believe in the Holy Spirit . . . (Apostles’ Creed)
“I believe . . .”
“I think . . .”
“I feel like . . .”
What’s the difference? And what difference does it make what I believe or think or feel? It’s all just an individual matter, isn’t it? Everybody’s free to believe whatever he wants, isn’t he? Really, aren’t all beliefs equally valid?—you’ve got yours and I’ve got mine?—yours works for you; mine works for me?
I remember a girl in one of my freshmen college classes saying, “Well, I believe in Jesus. I’m a Christian. But that’s not for everybody.”
Except that believing in Jesus—and in the eternal Father who gave His precious Son to die and rise for us and in the Spirit who brings us to believe all this—is the only way to heaven. Believing in the one true God, the Holy Trinity, is the only escape from the everlasting suffering all people deserve for their (for our!) sins. Yes, believing the right stuff makes the difference between heaven and hell—forever.
That’s why from the earliest days—the First Century AD no less!—the Christian Church has been very careful to lay out and speak what the Bible teaches about the Triune God and the gracious way He saved us. It’s called the Apostles’ Creed. A creed is simply a statement of what someone believes. The Apostles’ Creed (and the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed) are what all Christians believe about the most important things. The things that save us. We actually call them ecumenical creeds (“ecumenical” means “pertaining to the whole Christian church”), because their contents are believed by all truly Christian groups, including a few Christian churches who don’t actually say them. That is, they’re believed by everybody who’s going to be in heaven. So we Lutherans do say them—week after week. The Creed is that important!
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The Bible teaches us that there’s only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), and He sure did make everything—in a week, by the way (Genesis 1-2). Then He sent His only Son—who’s also been around from eternity—to become a real human being, “born of the virgin Mary,” without a human father (Matthew 1:18-25). I believe in Him, too, “Jesus Christ, [God’s] only Son, our Lord.” In fact, I count on Him, because He “was crucified, died, and was buried” (John 19:6-42) to pay for all my sins. But “the third day He rose again from the dead” (Mark 16:1-7) so that He lives and cares for me every moment, ruling everything from “the right hand of God the Father Almighty” (Ephesians 1:20-23). And He’s coming back someday “to judge the living and the dead” (Matthew 25:31-32). In the meantime, through the Word, the Holy Spirit has been calling people to faith in Christ, that is, calling them into “the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints (1 Peter 2:4-10, Ephesians 1:18),” the only place where there’s “forgiveness of sins (2 Corinthians 5:19)” and “life everlasting (Daniel 12:2-3)” in “the resurrection” of our very own bodies on the last day (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Until that day, the Church will keep speaking the Creed . . . so that everybody hears it and nobody forgets it. It matters that much.