Lord’s Day Seven

Consider how the focus narrows as we work from general terms down to the specifics.

  1. Who is in need of deliverance? All men

  2. Who will be delivered? Some men

  3. Which some of all men will be delivered? Those with faith

  4. What sort of faith delivers? True faith

  5. What is true faith? Knowledge of and confidence in the truth of the Bible

  6. What truth in the Bible is necessary to know and believe? Everything contained in the Gospel
    In other words, what are the non-negotiable essentials?

  7. What is contained in the Gospel? The articles of the Creed

We are not Universalists, #’s 1-2.

We are not Existentialists, #’s 3-4.

We are not Deists, # 5.

We are Christians who believe a well-defined body of truth. Our certainty of deliverance is based on more than a feeling, it is based on an objective reality. It is on the basis of the Creed that we divide, cease to have fellowship with an individual or church.

  1. The source of our faith is God. Ephesians 2:8-10

  2. Our faith is personal and objective. We own it even though it is given by God, its object is Christ as revealed to us in Scripture. John 17:3, 17; Hebrews 11:1-3

  3. It is the evidence of our salvation, not the means or basis of it.

What kinds of faith are there?

  1. Historical faith – “to know and believe that every word of God is true which is divinely delivered and revealed, …by any method of revelation by which the divine will is made known unto us, upon the authority and declaration of God himself. …it is merely a knowledge of those things which God is said to have done, or now does, or will hereafter do.” Ursinus, Commentary

    “mere assent to a known truth. If you would ask such an historical believer whether he believes what the Bible says, he would surely answer affirmatively, for he holds God’s Word to be the truth.” G. H. Kersten

    Acts 26:27 “King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe”

  2. Temporary faith – “he receives the truth with some outward joy, the word has taste for him. In Matth. 13 the Lord compares the temporary believer to the seed sown in stony ground. But he lacks the inward sincere delight in the truth of God that is the portion of all God’s children. He knows nothing of the opening of the Scriptures for the poor, lost sinner, because the seed of the Word had no root in him to show him his misery and he had no true sorrow for sin, as an affront against the holy Majesty of God. Temporary faith does not yield fruit.” G. H. Kersten

  3. Faith of miracles – “strong conviction that a miracle shall be wrought on us or by us. It can be exercised by God’s people, as, for example, the apostles, who wrought miracles, or the leper who returned to Christ. But it is very different from saving faith. Consider those ten lepers. They all had faith; they showed it, else they would not at the Lord’s command have departed to show themselves to the priest. What could they, lepers, do by the priest? They had to go to the priest only after they had been cleansed. Still they went without contradiction upon the command of Christ; for they all believed; they all had that strong feeling that He would work a miracle of healing in them. That was all the nine had. The Lord Jesus was to them a miracle-doctor. G. H. Kersten

  4. Justifying faith – it is what is defined in the catechism, but we must be careful to distinguish between the grace of faith and the act or exercise of faith. The grace is what God gives to us, the act or exercise is what flows out of that grace and shows varying degrees of defectiveness. Remember the father of the demon-possessed boy whom Jesus healed – Mark 9:24 Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

Aristotelian logic:

  • the material cause is the stuff from which the thing is made;

  • the formal cause is the pattern or structure it has;

  • the efficient cause is the agent that imposed this form on that matter; and

  • the final cause is the purpose for the thing.

The material cause of faith in general is the Word of God (Romans 10:17) The formal cause is the certain knowledge of all God has revealed and confidence wrought in the heart. The efficient cause is God (Ephesians 2:8-9) The final cause is the glory of God and our salvation.

How much must one know/believe in order to be saved? Ursinus says “the man who truly believes experiences these things and can explain them to others:

  1. He believes that everything which the Scriptures contain is true and from God.

  2. He feels himself constrained firmly to believe and embrace these things; for if we confess that they are true and from God, it is proper that we should assent to them.

  3. He sees, embraces, and applies particularly to himself, the promise of grace, or the free remission of sins, righteousness and eternal life, by and for the sake of Christ.

  4. He trusts and rejoices in the present grace of God, and …concludes in reference to future good [based on God’s character and my present state].

  5. Joy arises in the heart in view of such benefits.

  6. He has a will and earnest desire to obey all the commands of God and is willing to endure patiently whatever God may send upon him.

This justifying faith is peculiar to the elect and them alone.

The creed which bears this name is undoubtedly a gradual growth. We have it in two forms.

History of the Apostle’s Creed, etc.

The earlier form as found in old manuscripts, is much shorter and may possibly go back to the third or even the second century. It was probably imported from the East, or grew in Rome, and is substantially identical with the Greek creed of Marcellus of Ancyra (about 340), inserted in his letter to Pope Julius I. to prove his orthodoxy, and with that contained in the Psalter of King Aethelstan. Greek was the ruling language of the Roman Church and literature down to the third century.

The longer form of the Roman symbol, or the present received text, does not appear before the sixth or seventh century. It has several important clauses which were wanting in the former, as “he descended into hades,” the predicate “catholic” after ecclesiam, “the communion of saints,” and “the life everlasting.” These additions were gathered from the provincial versions (Gallican and North African) and incorporated into the older form.

The Apostles’ Creed then, in its present shape, is post-apostolic; but, in its contents and spirit, truly apostolic. It embodies the faith of the ante-Nicene church, and is the product of a secondary inspiration, like the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te deum, which embody the devotions of the same age, and which likewise cannot be traced to an individual author or authors. It follows the historical order of revelation of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, beginning with the creation and ending with the resurrection and life eternal. It clusters around Christ as the central article of our faith. It sets forth living facts, not abstract dogmas and speaks in the language of the people, not of the theological school. It confines itself to the fundamental truths, is simple, brief, and yet comprehensive, and admirably adapted for catechetical and liturgical use. It still forms a living bond of union between the different ages and branches of orthodox Christendom, however widely they differ from each other, and can never be superseded by longer and fuller creeds, however necessary these are in their place. It has the authority of antiquity and the dew of perennial youth, beyond any other document of post-apostolic times. It is the only strictly ecumenical Creed of the West, as the Nicene Creed is the only ecumenical Creed of the East. It is the Creed of creeds, as the Lord’s Prayer is the Prayer of prayers.

Schaff’s History of the Christian Church

At the same time, it must be admitted that the very simplicity and brevity of this Creed, which so admirably adapt it for all classes of Christians and for public worship, make it insufficient as a regulator of public doctrine for a more advanced stage of theological knowledge. As it is confined to the fundamental articles, and expresses them in plain Scripture terms, it admits of an indefinite expansion by the scientific mind of the Church. Thus the Nicene Creed gives clearer and stronger expression to the doctrine of Christ’s divinity against the Arians, the Athanasian Creed to the whole doctrine of the Trinity and of Christ’s person against the various heresies of the post-Nicene age. The Reformation Creeds are more explicit on the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures and the doctrines of sin and grace, which are either passed by or merely implied in the Apostles’ Creed

Among these, again, the Roman formula gradually gained general acceptance in the West for its intrinsic excellence, and on account of the commanding position of the Church of Rome. We know the Latin text from Rufinus (390), and the Greek from Marcellus of Ancyra (336–341). The Greek text is usually regarded as a translation, but is probably older than the Latin, and may date from the second century, when the Greek language prevailed in the Roman congregation.

This Roman creed was gradually enlarged by several clauses from older or contemporaneous forms, viz., the article ‘descended into Hades’ (taken from the Creed of Aquileja), the predicate ‘catholic’ or ‘general,’ in the article on the Church (borrowed from Oriental creeds), ‘the communion of saints’ (from Gallican sources), and the concluding ‘life everlasting’ (probably from the symbols of the churches of Ravenna and Antioch). These additional clauses were no doubt part of the general faith, since they are taught in the Scriptures, but they were first expressed in local creeds, and it was some time before they found a place in the authorized formula. If we regard, then, the present text of the Apostles’ Creed as a complete whole, we can hardly trace it beyond the sixth, certainly not beyond the close of the fifth century, and its triumph over all the other forms in the Latin Church was not completed till the eighth century, or about the time when the bishops of Rome strenuously endeavored to conform the liturgies of the Western churches to the Roman order. But if we look at the several articles of the Creed separately, they are all of Nicene or ante-Nicene origin, while its kernel goes back to the apostolic age.

Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom

  • 1. First Council of Nicaea, (325); repudiated Arianism (God the Father and the Son were not co-eternal, seeing the pre-incarnate Jesus as a divine being but nonetheless created by (and consequently inferior to) the Father at some point, before which the Son did not exist), adopted the Nicene Creed. This and all subsequent councils are not recognized by nontrinitarian churches: Arians, Unitarians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses et al.

  • 2. First Council of Constantinople, (381); revised the Nicene Creed into present form used in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches and prohibited any further alteration of the Creed without the assent of an Ecumenical Council.

  • 3. Council of Ephesus, (431); repudiated Nestorianism (the Christian doctrine that Jesus existed as two persons, the man Jesus and the divine Son of God, rather than as a unified person), proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God (Greek, Η Θεοτόκος;). This and all following councils are not recognized by Assyrian Church.

  • 4. Council of Chalcedon, (451); repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism (the Christological position that Christ has only one nature, as opposed to the Chalcedonian position which holds that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human), described and delineated the two natures of Christ, human and divine; adopted the Chalcedonian Creed. This and all following councils are not recognized by Oriental Orthodox Communion.

  • 5. Second Council of Constantinople, (553); reaffirmed decisions and doctrines explicated by previous Councils, condemned new Arian, Nestorian, and Monophysite writings.

  • 6. Third Council of Constantinople, (680–681); repudiated Monothelitism (the Christological doctrine that Jesus had one will but two natures, divine and human), affirmed that Christ had both human and Divine wills.

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