Notes on the Liturgy #13 – The Creed

(One of the goals of Brothers of John the Steadfast is to train the Brothers in good practice and theology. This article is one in a series that teaches about the liturgy.

These articles were initially intended to be put into bulletins or read during the service to educate the laity on the different parts of the service. They were therefore purposefully made short.

Notes on the Liturgy #13 — The Creed

“No creed but the Bible.” Perhaps you have heard something like that before and wondered why Lutherans and other Christians use creeds in the Divine Service. A wonderful answer to that question, is to use another question: Why not use them!? If another Christian ever asks you that question, recite one of the creeds to them, and ask then what is it about that creed that they would object to. We Lutherans boldly confess “Scripture alone!” We do not place creeds on the same authority as Scripture, but they become important for us because they teach what the Scriptures teach. Throughout history people have twisted the Bible. Thus, creeds become important tools for confessing the orthodox (“right teaching”) doctrine of Scripture. They say, “Here we stand! This is what the Word teaches! This is what we reject!”

Speaking of pastors, Luther states they have two duties, “feed the sheep and ward off the wolves.” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Rule and Norm, 529.14 Kolb (click here, then scroll down to paragraph 14); Acts 20:25-31, II Timothy 3:16) That is, the pastor must teach the Word purely and also condemn false doctrine. This is what the creeds do for Lutherans. In Lutheran Worship there are three ecumenical creeds–Nicene (pg. 141), Apostle’s (pg. 142), and Athanasian Creed (pg. 134). They are called “ecumenical” because they are accepted by many Christians throughout the world. All three creeds teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Note how the Nicene & Apostle’s Creed follow a similar outline based on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

These Creeds are ancient. The Nicene Creed began to be formed at a church council in Nicea, Turkey in 325 AD as a response to specific heresies that were invading the church. The Apostle’s Creed dates to at least the early 2nd century after Christ, and it gained its name because it confesses the faith as the apostles taught it, not because they specifically wrote it. The Athanasian Creed appears in what is now Southern France in the 400’s, but no one knows who the author is even though it was named after Athanasius. It too was developed to address specific heresies of the time, and it is typically used only on Holy Trinity Sunday because of its length. We do not confess “modern” creeds written anew every Sunday and neglect the confessions of the past. Because the ecumenical creeds are built on Scripture, they are timeless. The age of these creeds remind us that we do not confess them alone. We are part of a mighty army of believers marching from of old and yet we are one church that confesses the faith “with angels and archangels and all of the company of heaven.” (L. Rast, Lutheran Witness, June 2000, pg 22).

Previous Notes on the Liturgy —
Introduction
Invocation
Confession
Absolution
Introit, Psalm or Hymn
Kyrie and Gloria
Salutation
Collect
Readings
Alleluia Verse and other responses
The Hymn and Hymns
The Sermon
The Creeds

You may find all these by looking at our Regular Column on the Explanation of the Divine Service category or by using the shortcut https://steadfastlutherans.org/liturgy.

These notes were originally written in 2001 by Pastor David Oberdieck and have been edited. Thanks to Pastor Mathey for improvements to this segment.

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