The following are sermon notes from a new series at Christ Community Church entitled “We Believe” — a series unpacking the core beliefs of the Apostles’ Creed. The sermon title was “The Basics of True Belief.”
Today we begin a new series entitled “We Believe.” We will be taking a 12-week look at the Apostle’s Creed. The word ‘creed’ is derived from the Latin word credo, that means “I believe,” which is what we will be looking at today — a theology of what it means to believe…
Every person on the planet is a theologian. (Theology = the study of God.) Even atheists are theologians — we all think about God, have beliefs about God and live our lives accordingly. Here’s the deal: We’re either good theologians or we’re poor theologians. Good, sound theological bearings in our lives will provide stability, contentment, and an undercurrent of joy that will keep us humble during the good times and sustain us during difficult times.
“What comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” –A.W. Tozer (Knowledge of the Holy, p. 1)
The Apostle’s Creed was not written by the Apostles but is a summary of apostolic teaching that contains essential Christian doctrines and beliefs that summarize the gospel and make up the foundation of our faith and is rooted in truth and a rich history that connects the 21st century Church to the early Church – a time when the Church was growing exponentially.
Two types of people who might be nervous about a series based on the Apostles’ creed:
- If you have a Catholic background you’ll either think this is awesome because it’s a prayer that is often prayed in the Mass – or you could be pretty nervous right now thinking that the Apostles’ Creed is a distinctly Catholic prayer. It’s not. The Apostles’ Creed dates back to between 180-250 AD.
- On the other hand a few of you may have grown-up in a very conservative church where you heard statements like, “No creed but Christ!” If that is your background and general disposition I would urge you to reconsider.
A creed is a concise statement of faith that is used for three primary reasons:
- To identify and list essential historic Christian truths.
- To clarify doctrinal distinctives
- To distinguish truth from error.
The Bible contains a number of creed-like passages…
- For example, The Shema, based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9, is used as a creed (usually benedictory).
- Paul included a number of creed-like statements in his letters. Whether or not he generated them, or they were teaching creeds circulating around the churches written by other teachers, we don’t know for sure. But scattered throughout his letters are several poetic, devotional, and instructive meditations. 1 Timothy 3:16 is a good example.
- We could also identify The Lord’s’ Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as a creed. Not only was it meant to be prayed as written but it is also meant to describe and teach us some basic concepts about prayer — What does it mean for God to be “our” Father? “Hallowed” means we are to reverence and worship God. We are to long for God’s kingdom to come in fullness. Etc…
As the early church spread, there was a very practical need for a statement of faith to help believers focus on the most important doctrines of their Christian faith. As the church grew, heresies also grew, and the early Christians needed to clarify the defining boundaries of their faith. Here at CCC we view this series as an opportunity to review and teach the basic doctrines of our Christian faith.
Over the next 12 weeks we will not be preaching the Creed but using the Creed to preach the gospel as well as to teach some basic foundational and historic theology.
I heard one pastor explain it this way:
- The SUN is like the Bible and the MOON is like a historic creed…
- Like the moon reflecting the light of the sun – a historic creed reflects the light of Scripture.
The scriptural truths contained in the Apostles’ Creed help us to live-out good theology with the knowledge that our faith is rooted in truth and in a rich history that spans past and present.
“Throughout church history it has been necessary for the church to adopt and embrace creedal statements to clarify the Christian faith and to distinguish true content from error and false representations of the faith.” –R.C. Sproul
W will consider the first two words of the Apostles’ Creed: “I Believe.” We will look at just two verses but then turn our attention to focus on exactly how belief occurs.
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” –Romans 10:9-10 (English Standard Version, emphasis added)
Takeaway: To believe in Jesus Christ is to confess Jesus Christ. The result is justification, which forever changes our legal standing before God. God declares us not guilty, but righteous because of the finished and complete work of Jesus Christ.
Two points to make concerning these verses:
- There is a difference between knowing something and believing something. To know something is to have it registered in our brain. To believe something is to have knowledge travel the 18-inches from our head to our heart.
- To confess and believe happens when the truth moves from something we understand to something we stand under.
- To use the Apostle John’s language from 1 Jn 3: We go from knowing to beholding.
- Think of a father taking his son to his freshman year at college. They unpack the car into the dorm room and the son walks his dad back out to the car. When they get to the car the father hugs his son, kisses him on the cheek, and says to him, “I love you and I will do anything necessary, even die, to make sure you have everything you need.” And the boy weeps…
- What’s going on here? This is not new information. The son already knew that his father loved him. It’s not a new idea — but the idea becomes new.
- He doesn’t get new information but the information becomes new. He experiences his father’s love in a new and profound way.
- What it means to believe and confess is that we experience God’s sweet embrace – and the truth becomes radioactive in our heart.
- I have to ask: Has this happened to you yet? Have you experienced the Father’s sweet embrace?
- Notice how Paul reverses the order of verbs in v. 9 and v. 10: confess–> believe –> believes –> confesses.
- This a literary technique called parallelism. When a writer employs parallelism, it is done to add emphasis to the author’s intent.
- What Paul is saying in these verses is that heart-belief and mouth-confession are one and the same — and that hey come together for our justification (some translations use the word “righteousness” – NAS, KJV, NKJV).
Now we turn to the theological doctrine of justification in Romans 10:10 – What does it mean to be justified?? I would like to take the next few minutes and quickly walk you through what is called in Christian theology circles as the Order of Salvation (v. 10a: For with the heart one believes and is justified):
Order of Salvation, or the Latin phrase Ordo Salutis, refers to the lining up in chronological sequence of the events which occur from the time when a person is outside the community of faith and dead in their sin, through to the time when a sinner is fully and finally saved.
A short version of the Order of Salvation can be found in:
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” –Romans 8:29-30
An Order of Salvation is as follows:
- Election, or God’s choice of us. (The terms election and predestination are often used interchangeably, both referring to God’s gracious decree whereby He chooses people for eternal life.) “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” –Ephesians 1:4
- Gospel Call
- Outward Call: God sends us an outward call by bringing the message of the gospel across our paths, either through reading or hearing the good news of the gospel proclaimed. We have a “wait, what?” moment.
- Inward Call/Heart Awakening: Next, God provides an inward call through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which awakens, or calls to life previously dead hearts.
- Regeneration: God imparts new life to us so we have the spiritual ability to respond. “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” –Titus 3:5
- Conversion = Repentance + Faith. Repent of sin and trust in Christ for salvation. (Think of a two-sided coin.) Regeneration and conversion is our response to the inward gospel call. We see Paul’s dramatic conversion detailed in Acts 9.
- Justification: Immediately after conversion comes justification, which forever changes our legal standing before God. God declares us not guilty, but righteous — because of the finished and complete work of Christ. Our justification / righteousness is not imparted but imputed. Let’s consider the difference between imparted righteousness and imputed righteousness…
- Imparted Righteousness – The word “impart” means to “give.” (It is also called “infused righteousness” — think of a teabag). The idea of imparted righteousness is that Christ’s righteousness is given to, or infused within, the believer such that he or she actually becomes righteous. I believe this is the wrong view of justification or righteousness…
- Imputed Righteousness – The word “impute” means “ascribe” or “credit.” Imputed righteousness thus carries the theological weight of being “counted” or “considered” or “reckoned” righteous.
- Paul is not writing that we are transformed into people who possessrighteousness, but rather that we have been united to Christ (i.e., the 30 “in Him” passages of Paul’s letters) and because of our union with Him (the emphasis of Romans 5), we have that which He possesses, that is, Christ’s righteousness.
- Here’s what imputed righteousness accomplishes:
- In God’s eyes Jesus’ perfect record is imputed to us.
- We are treated as if we had lived the perfect life that Jesus lived.
- We are given the love that Jesus deserved (through His obedience).
- We have the same access to the Father that Jesus did.
- The best news is that all of this comes not from us doing anything (i.e., works) at all, but simply by confessing and believing.
- Adoption: At the same time, God adopts us, making us His children and the brothers and sisters of Christ; and He also unites us with Christ, so that henceforth we are in Him (think of a judge declaring you not guilty and then taking of his judicial robe and adopting you into his family).
- Grace Empowered Sanctification: Beginning at that point, and on throughout the rest of our lives, God changes us into His likeness.
- This occurs mostly through worship and surrender (not willpower – although the will is involved).
- When (or, as) we worship and surrender the grace of God comes and does IN us and THROUGH us what we could never do on our own.
- Grace Empowered Perseverance of the Saints: Throughout this time, God empowers us to persevere in the faith through grace, so that we do not fall away. Then, at death, we enter an intermediate state, where we are in the presence of the Lord, but without our physical bodies.
- Glorification: Finally comes glorification, when our bodies will be resurrected and changed so that they will no longer decay, and we will inherit the new heavens and new earth, where we will live in the presence of God for all eternity.
A woman named Hetty Green died in 1916 and left an estate valued at between $100-200 million. She went down in history as, “America’s Greatest Miser.” It was said she ate cold oatmeal to save the cost of cooking it. Her son had to eventually have his leg amputated, because she was too cheap to pay for medical care. Hetty Green was wealthiest woman in the world, yet she chose to live like a pauper.
Her life becomes an excellent illustration of the way many Christians live today:
We have unlimited spiritual wealth at our disposal and yet we often live in spiritual and theological poverty.
Do you just know about God, or have you experienced the Father’s love in a new, regenerating, and profound way?
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten 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 sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead:
I believe in the Holy Ghost:
I believe in the holy [universal] church: the communion of believers:
The forgiveness of sins:
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting. Amen.
 Adapted from Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680), an English Puritan theologian and preacher.
 A balance within one or more sentences of similar phrases or clauses that have the same grammatical structure.
 The justification of a sinner is based solely upon the complete and unwavering righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is imputed at salvation (see Romans 5:18-21; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:7-10). Imputation means that the merit of Christ’s work of mediation is legally applied to the person, to their account, so that s/he is saved, justified, positionally made fit, and entitled to all of salvation based on a righteousness they personally did not produce, the righteousness of Christ becomes their Substitute and Surety.
 She was also known as the “Witch of Wall Street.”