Famed theologian A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Our theology matters. It determines how we relate to God, how we treat others, how we see church, even what our eternity will look like. Our beliefs matter. That’s why we’re kicking off a new series: I Believe: Exploring the Theology of the Apostle’s Creed.
I have three goals for you with this series:
- I want to help you clarify your beliefs. Every person on earth has beliefs—about God, Jesus, sin, salvation. But not everyone knows what they believe. So, whether you’re a Christian or not, do you know what you believe?
- I want to challenge some of your beliefs. It’s easy to treat Christianity like Chinese buffet: I like God being loving but don’t like hell. I like Jesus’ miracles but not the virgin birth. Research by Barna in 2015 revealed that only 17% of Christians held what they called a biblical worldview. So, there’s a good chance that you believe some stuff that’s unbiblical.
- I want to check your definition of what it means to be Christian. The beliefs we are going to talk about in this series have defined “Christian” for more than 1500 years. They are the basics, bare minimum, the non-negotiables. So, if you don’t agree with some of these, you might not actually be a Christian. You might think you are, but your beliefs say otherwise.
How does all that sound?
To do this, we’re going to turn to one of the Church’s oldest statements of belief. It’s called the Apostle’s Creed. Creeds were really important in the first 500 years of the Church. They helped summarize the Bible, defining & clarifying Christian belief. The Apostle’s Creed was the very first formal creed. It dates back as early as 150 AD. And it’s called Apostles Creed, not because apostles wrote it. They were all dead by this point. But because it accurately represents what apostles taught and wrote in Scripture.
The early Church used this creed used as:
- A teaching tool, like catechism or Sunday school curriculum
- A way to identify heresies and false teachers.
- It was even used as the first baptism test.
I want to start by reading the whole thing. If you know it and believe it, you can read it along. Or you can just listen.
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;
On the third day, he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of Father
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy universal Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
For next 9 weeks, we’re going to talk about this. We’ll break it down, by sections and phrases. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been singing a song called “I Believe”, which is based on Apostle’s Creed.
So, this week, we’re going to focus on the first section. It reads like this:
I believe in God…the Father Almighty…creator of heaven and earth.
Here are three big characteristics of God. Did you catch them? He is Father, he is Almighty, and he is Creator. Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Texas has a great way of summarizing this: God is immensely powerful and intimately personal. God is almighty and creator of everything, but he is also Father. God is immensely powerful and intimately personal.
There’s a passage in Acts that perfectly captures these themes of God as Father, Almighty, and Creator. It’s a speech that Paul gave to some very important people in Athens. He was on his second big missionary journey through what we would call Syria, Turkey, and Greece. He stopped in Athens. He spent time in the Jewish synagogue and the Greece marketplace. Then he was invited to a meeting at the Areopagus, where they held the courts and city council meetings. There he directly challenged their religious beliefs with some bold statements about the nature of God.
This is Acts 17:24-31. You can turn to it, click your Bible app, or follow along on the screen.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
Paul begins with a strong emphasis on God as Creator and Almighty. He makes five big statements describing God’s Almightiness.
- God made the world and everything in it
- He is Lord of heaven and earth (That means he is the ruler.)
- He gives everyone life and breath and everything
- He made all the nations
- He marked out time and land boundaries
Think about that for a second. God marked out all dates and land for all nations for all time. Mesopotamians will start here and end here. England start here, end here. America: start here, end here.
But why would God do all of this? Paul answers that question next.
27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
Let’s pause here. Let that sink it. God did all of that so that YOU would look for him, reach out, and find him. And then he says the most amazing statement: He is not far from any one of us. Some of you needed to hear that this morning. God is not far from you. Despite your pain, your mistakes, your hard work or your no work, your success or your failure. None of that changes the fact that God is not far from you. Remember, God is intimately personal.
Then he continues with 2 examples of how intimately personal God is to us.
28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
He quotes two Greek philosophers, which happen to also match biblical teaching. First, everything about us is found “in God.” Second, we are his offspring, his children. Remember: God is intimately personal.
Then, he concludes with his application, his “so what”. He starts with the word “therefore.” Like I always say, “When you see a therefore, find out what it’s there for.” Here, it’s to help people transition from theology to daily living.
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
And there it is: repent. Turn away from our sin. We need to repent of our bad theology.
- Not believing God is immensely powerful
- Not believing God is intimately personal
- Not believing God is our Father
- Not believing God is Almighty
- Not believing God is our Creator
Why do we need to repent? Paul answers it.
31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
And in case you didn’t catch it, that’s Jesus. We’re gonna talk about this in a couple weeks.
So, If Paul is commanding us to repent of our bad theology, how do we know whether we have bad theology? It comes out in two ways: the obvious (our beliefs) and subtle (our daily life).
Let’s go back to the first line of the Apostle’s Creed to help us think this through:
I believe in God…the Father Almighty…Creator of heaven and earth.
Remember, the three characteristics of God: He is Father, he is Almighty, he is Creator? What would it look like to have bad theology, or heresy, in these three critical beliefs?
First, do you believe that God is Father? You might push against this idea and favor gender-inclusive titles for God. Anyway, God’s not male, and it just reinforces patriarchy in the church and the home. Or you didn’t like your father, so can’t imagine God being like him. While those may be true, it doesn’t change the fact that Scripture, even Jesus, describes God in relational terms of Father. We can’t just change that because we want to or because sexist men have abused that term.
Now, that’s an obvious example of heresy. But what about some that are more subtle? For example, do you see God as close or far away? Is he involved in your life or detached? If God is distant or detached from you, you might not think of him as Father. Because Scripture consistently describes God as intimate. Remember: he is not far from any one of us.
How about the next one: Do you believe God is Almighty? This one seems easy enough. You’re not going to find many in the Church who believe in a limited-power God, in a small God with small power. I believe most, if not all, people in here will say they believe God is Almighty.
But do you live like you believe God is Almighty?
- Do you worry a lot? How’s your anxiety level? It probably means you don’t fully trust God because you don’t really believe he’s Almighty, all-powerful.
- How do you react when things go bad? Do you get controlling, angry, judgmental? All of that emanates from one belief: God isn’t powerful enough to handle my problem. So, I have to take matters into my own hands. Is that you?
- When you need help or advice, where do you go? Do you ask all your friends, post to Facebook, Google for answers? If you go to Siri before God, you might not see him as Almighty.
Lastly, do you believe God is Creator? This one might seem obvious. Do you believe in the evolutionary origin of humans? If so, that’s heresy. It doesn’t mean that all of evolutionary science is wrong. This also doesn’t mean that you have to believe in seven literal days in Genesis or everything that Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis people believe. But what it does mean is that the Bible is very clear about the origin, uniqueness, and elevated place of humans across among everything else in nature. It also means that being for the last 2000 years has been synonymous with believing that God created humans and everything else.
That’s an obvious example. But what about more subtle examples. How do you view ownership of your body, your stuff, this world? A common rallying cry of the pro-choice movement is “My body, my choice.” Theologically, this could not be more wrong. It’s not your body. You didn’t create it. You don’t keep it alive. It’s God’s body. Whether it’s your health, your drinking, your tattoos – it’s God’s body, not yours.
One of the consequences of really believing God is Creator is a sense of accountability to God. If God created you and me, we answer to him for the way we live our life. We aren’t masters of our own destiny, free to do what we feel is best. We belong to God.
Where do you need to repent? Where’s God tugging at your heart? What part of God are you missing out on?
- God as a loving Father; near to you; intimately personal
- God as Almighty Lord; immensely powerful
- God as Creator; deserving of worship; the one to whom you are accountable
I want to close with this. At the end of each message, we’re going to recite part of the Apostle’s Creed together. And each week, we’re going to add onto it. This is your opportunity to stand before God and say this is what I believe