Authors: J.I. Packer
Tags: #ebook, #book
Apostles ’ Creed
Other Crossway books by J. I. Packer
Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J. C. Ryle
God’s Plans for You
Growing in Christ
Keeping the Ten Commandments
Life in the Spirit
A Passion for Faithfulness:
Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah
Praying the Lord’s Prayer
A Quest for Godliness:
The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life
Affirming the Apostles’ Creed
Copyright © 2008 by J. I. Packer
This book was formerly part of
Growing in Christ,
copyright © by J. I. Packer,
originally published under the title
I Want to Be a Christian.
Published by Crossway Books
a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
1300 Crescent Street
Wheaton, Illinois 60187
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher,
except as provided for by USA copyright law.
Cover design: Keane Fine
Cover photo: Veer
First printing, 2008
Printed in the United States of America
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from
The Holy Bible:
English Standard Version
, copyright © by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations indicated as from kjv are taken from
The Holy Bible: King James
Scripture quotations indicated as from
are taken from
The New Testament in
translated by J. B. Phillips. Copyright © 1972 by J. B. Phillips.
Mobipocket ISBN: 978-1-4335-0416-7
PDF ISBN: 978-1-4335-0415-0
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Packer, J. I. (James Innell)
Affirming the Apostles’ Creed / J. I. Packer.
“This book was formerly part of Growing in Christ by J. I. Packer,
originally published under the title I want to be a Christian”—
T. p. verso.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-1-4335-0210-1 (tpb)
1. Apostles’ Creed. I. Packer, J. I. (James Innell) Growing in
Christ. II. Title.
VP 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 09 08
14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
who by what they
are even more than
by what they say
share the strength they
have been given
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ
his only Son our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried:
he descended into hell;
the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
f you are going to travel cross-country on foot, you need a map. Now there are different kinds of maps. One sort is the large-scale relief map, which marks all the paths, bogs, crags, and so on in detail. Since the walker needs the fullest information about his chosen route, he must have a map of that sort. But for choosing between the various ways he might go, he could well learn more, and more quickly, from a small-scale map that left out the detailed geography and just showed him the roads and trails leading most directly from one place to another. Well-prepared walkers have maps of both kinds.
If life is a journey, then the million-word-long Holy Bible is the large-scale map with everything in it, and the hundred-word Apostles’ Creed (so called, not because apostles wrote it—despite later legend, they didn’t—but because it teaches apostolic doctrine) is the simplified road map, ignoring much but enabling you to see at a glance the main points of Christian belief.
means “belief”; many Christians of former days used to call this Creed “the Belief,” and in the second century, when it first appeared, almost as we have it now, it was called the Rule of Faith.
When folk inquire into Christianity, their advisers naturally want to get them studying the Bible and to lead them into personal trust in the living Christ as soon as they can, and rightly so. But as means to both ends, it helps to take them through the Creed, as both a preliminary orientation to the Bible and as a preliminary analysis of the convictions on which faith in Christ must rest.
Those convictions are Trinitarian. The Creed tells us of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that having found out about them we might find them experientially. What do we learn from the Creed as we study it? The answer has been summarized beautifully as follows:
First, I learn to believe in God the Father, who hath made me, and all the world.
Secondly, in God the Son who hath redeemed me, and all mankind.
Thirdly, in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God.
When one has learned this much, one is not far from God’s kingdom.
The purpose of knowledge is that we might apply it to life. This is nowhere truer than in Christianity, where true knowledge (knowledge of the true God) is precisely knowledge about God—applied. And knowledge about God, for application, is what is offered here, in the studies that follow.
The Prayer Book Catechism.
eeklies for kids were well under way when I was young, and at age six or thereabouts I was devouring
brought me not only Dick the Boy Inventor, with his personal spaceship, and Val Fox and his Funny Pets, who every week helped Val detect crimes, but also puzzle drawings in which animals were hidden (“Can you find the elephant/lion/cat/cow in this picture?”).
From the ridiculous, now, to the sublime: I want to press the question, can you find the gospel in the Apostles’ Creed? And I want to display the Creed as, in effect, a power-point declaration of the basics of the Christian message—in other words, of the gospel itself.
Many today will react to that last sentence with skepticism. Why? Because of a habit that established itself in evangelistic circles in the twentieth century and became a mind-set among evangelicals generally. In the interests of memorable simplicity, evangelists, tract writers, youth workers, plus others boiled the gospel down to an ABC, commonly formulated as follows: (1)
ll have sinned and come short of the glory of God, you included; (2)
elieve on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved; (3)
onfess Jesus Christ as the risen Lord, and he will in due course welcome you into heaven. As twentieth-century trains and cars came to be streamlined for speed, so the gospel was streamlined for instant comprehension and response. The question being explored was: how little do we need to tell people for them to become Christians? Was this a good question to work with? In some circles, maybe so, but in most, definitely not. Let me explain.
In North America, ever since the days of the Pilgrim Fathers, a general idea of what constituted Christian belief had been warp and woof in North American culture. Just as sugar stirred into coffee is present in solution, so Christianity was continuously present in solution in North American culture right up to the twentieth century. Then, for a number of reasons, Christianity and the Bible were eliminated from public schools and universities, family prayer and Bible reading at home closed down almost everywhere, a consciously post-Christian and indeed anti-Christian outlook established itself among thought leaders, and the gospel message had to fight for entry into the minds of white people under fifty, just as it had to do in the face of the paganism of the Roman Empire in the apostolic and post-apostolic age. In such a milieu, a truncated version of the gospel message, presenting Christ the Redeemer apart from God the Creator, and remis-sion of sins apart from personal regeneration, and individual salvation apart from life and worship in the church, and the hope of heaven apart from the pilgrim path of holiness—which is what in practice the ABC approach does—becomes a misrepresentation, one that sows the seed of many pastoral problems down the road. Against a background of general acquaintance with, and acceptance of, the Christian outlook, periodic highlighting of a few truths to galvanize response might not in itself be a bad idea; but when we reach the point where the Creed no longer looks or sounds to Christian people like a declaration of the gospel, there is need, I believe, for some whistle-blowing and reassessment of what goes on.
For in fact the Creed itself was born as an instrument of evangelism—first, as a summary syllabus for catechetical teaching of the faith to non-Jewish inquirers, and then as a declaration of personal faith for converts to use at the time of their baptism. Jewish converts in the days of the book of Acts, for whom the issue was simply acknowledging Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah, were baptized in his name immediately on professing faith and brought straight into the fellowship of the church, but the initial discipling of pagan Gentiles required much more than that. So the cate-chumenate came into being. It seems that every congregation of any size in the second and third centuries had its ongoing instructional classes for teaching Christianity to those who wished to learn it. The course usually lasted three years and always climaxed with confession of faith and solemn baptism on Easter Eve, followed by first Eucharist on Easter Day. And the confession was made in the words of the Creed.
We should note as background that in the second century, when the Creed was crystallizing throughout the Christian world, the church was constantly harassed by sheep-stealing Gnostics. Their very name made an elitist boast; to catch the proud nuance of the Greek word
you need to render it as “those in the know.” And their Gnosticism was in fact an imaginative intellectualism that claimed to give the “real meaning” of each Christian doctrine, something that (so the Gnostics said) Christians regularly miss by reason of their mistaken idea that spirit and matter can interact to the point of uniting, and indeed have done so in the person of Jesus Christ.