Christopher Hunt

What Do Christians Believe? The Apostles’ Creed

What do Christians believe? The answer to this question can feel elusive when there are so many different Christian traditions and denominations, each with its own doctrinal interpretations. But is there a core set of beliefs that all Christians profess? There is. An ancient confession of belief known as the Apostles’ Creed provides a succinct summary of the core beliefs of Christianity held by nearly every Christian tradition over the centuries. 

The Creed’s history exceeds the scope of this short blog post, but the form we know it in now dates back to the end of the 4th century. In spite of its title, the Apostles’ Creed was probably not composed by the apostles who knew Jesus Christ personally, but it reflects the written (most notably, the Bible) and oral traditions descending from the early church about what Christians believed. 

One major characteristic of the Apostles’ Creed is how beautifully its form represents the Christian belief in a triune God. Each section of the Creed professes what Christians believe about each of the three distinct persons God reveals himself as: God, the Father; God, the Son; and God, the Holy Spirit.

The Apostles’ Creed

Here is the text of the Creed as expressed by the Christian Reformed Church

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
       who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

       and born of the virgin Mary.

       He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

       was crucified, died, and was buried;

       he descended to hell.

       The third day he rose again from the dead.

       He ascended to heaven

       and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

       From there he will come to judge the living 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. Amen.

Christians Believe in God

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty…” As the Apostles’ Creed states, Christians believe in one God who created everything that exists, including the whole universe, the earth, and all that lives upon it (Genesis 1). Because God revealed himself as “the Father,” God knows us intimately and personally and takes an active and loving role in all of our lives (Psalm 139:13-16).  

Christians believe that God’s creation is good and that it points us to God so that every person knows something about God (Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:20). But the first people disobeyed God, and, because of it, became separated from God, also known as the fall (Genesis 3). The main theme of the Bible is God’s plan and action to bring his people back into a relationship with him.

Jesus Christ is God’s Only Son

“I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord...” The story of the Bible climaxes with the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. At Christmas, we celebrate his birth to the virgin Mary. His virgin birth was a sign to God’s people that a Savior had come to bring them back into a relationship with God (Isaiah 7:14, Luke 2:10-12). He did this by living a sinless life and then dying as a penalty for the sins of all who believe in him. The apostle Paul put it like this: 

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

This is the good news, what Christians call “the gospel.” Through his Holy Spirit, God empowers us to believe the good news so that we may be saved from eternal destruction (Romans 10:9-10). As Jesus himself said, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, and we have eternal life (Ephesians 1:7).

Christians believe that Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and will return to earth at a time appointed by the Father to fulfill his kingdom (Matthew 24:36, 1 Corinthians 15:52, John 14:1-3). 

The Holy Spirit is God’s Gift

“I believe in the Holy Spirit…” Before his crucifixion and after his resurrection, Jesus promised his disciples that a helper would come to guide and empower them—the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God (John 14:16-17, Luke 24:49). God fulfilled his promise and the Holy Spirit lives in everyone who believes the good news, forever closing the rift that our sin had opened between humankind and God (Romans 8:9-11). It is the Holy Spirit who unites the church in faith (Ephesians 4:1-6), empowers the forgiveness of our sins (1 John 1:9), enables the resurrection of our bodies, and gives us “the life everlasting” (Romans 8:11).

The Apostles’ Creed is a statement of what Christians across nearly every theological tradition believe about God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. If you would like to learn more about the Apostles’ Creed and the core beliefs of Christianity, check out the free resources below.

The Apostles’ Creed: What Christians Believe, by Courtney Jacob. This is an introduction to an audio Bible study series of the same title from our radio and podcast program Groundwork

The Apostles’ Creed, by Kurt Selles. The Today Devotional has published a series of devotions exploring the Apostles’ Creed. Begin with day one of the series “The Apostles’ Creed” here or download the full PDF.

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