On Sunday, August 25, in my sermon Church Building, I illustrated that the Christian church has benefitted greatly over the years by the various creeds, confessions and catechisms found within it’s history.
Someone told me afterward that I had defined all three and mentioned many of the important ones in history but that I only quoted an example for catechism and not the other two. That was true…and a good point. So, let me follow that illustration up by giving the definition again for each and pointing you to examples of all three. I’ve also included links as a resource.
- Creeds “are authoritative summaries of the principle articles of faith.”
Here is an example of the first creed in the church after the canon of Scripture was closed:
The Apostle’s Creed
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 Ghost, 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 quick and the dead:
I believe in the Holy Ghost:
I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
The forgiveness of sins:
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting. Amen.
Here’s is a list of some of the key creeds
- Confessions: “a manual of Christian doctrine drawn up in essay form.”
Here is an example of a confession from the beginning of the “The Baptist Confession” of 1689:
“The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.”
Here is a list of some of the key confessions
- Catechisms: “a manual of Christian doctrine drawn up of in the form questions and answers.”
As an example, The Westminster Catechism starts off with the question, “What is the chief end of man?” Then answers, “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”
Here is a list of some of the key catechisms
There have been some other notable works that are similar in impact as the ones in the above three categories but don’t fit neatly into those categories. These include: Martin Luther’s 95 Theses; The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy ; The Lausanne Covenant for missions.
Here is another link to the significant creeds, confessions and catechisms of church history.
My ultimate point and the content of my sermon, was that the church’s first confession is actually found in Scripture. In Matthew, chapter 16, Jesus asks His twelve disciples the most important question in the Bible: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” This is the only right answer to that question. How do we know? By Jesus’ response:
“And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’”(Matthew 16:17-18 ESV)
This is the confession upon which Jesus builds His church. At their best, all other creeds, confessions, catechisms, etc. are man’s attempt to reflect and summarize what Scripture says. For this reason, many of these have been a huge blessing to Christ’s church at pivotal moments in church history.