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Week 6

Liturgical Location: remember the Creed occurs between the Scripture readings and the sermon. Why? The Creed is both a summary of Scripture’s teaching and a standard of orthodox belief. As such, it both concludes the day’s lessons and prepares for the day’s sermon (i.e. this is the Faith just heard in Scripture and the theology about to be expounded in the sermon).

 

Review: Remember, the Creed begins with the words “I believe”. In other words, it is not enough that you go to a church that believes the right things, you must believe yourself. At the same time, the Creed is a corporate expression of the Faith once delivered. In other words, it’s not enough that you believe something (however sincerely). Rather, you are to believe the Gospel as God has revealed it in Scripture. Notice then, in saying the creed, you are actively joining your heart to the living Faith of the Church down through the ages. Thus, in the Creed we see once again the basic dynamic of an active liturgy: one voice, many hearts.

 

Finally, there are several motions that are incorporated into the Creed to remind us of the meaning and importance of what we are saying. Each motion then serves as highlighter pen underscoring the theology at work at that portion of the Creed.

 

H] Nicene Creed (continued):

And ascended into heaven5, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
   And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified6; Who spake by the Prophets: And I believe7 one Catholic and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for8 the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come.
Amen.

 

5. As we recall Christ’s ascension, the priest raises his hands in worship. Thus, like the Apostles who watched Christ ascend, so we too worship a risen savior who has been exalted and seated at the Father’s right hand. At the same time, this motion also reminds us that as we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Table we are literally preparing to enter into fellowship with that heavenly court. How?

 

Notice as we step back and look, what we find is that the scene depicted by the Lord’s Table is that of the ascension and the heavenly Holy of Holies (the heavenly court). That is, what we see presented in outward signs on the Table is the very reality that our Father sees before Him in heaven.

Revelation 5:6 And I saw a Lamb, as if slain, standing between the throne of God and the Church (Rom 8:34/Heb 7:25)

Not only that, God assures us that when we partake of the Table by faith we share in the very reality it represents.

1 Corinthians 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a participation in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a participation in the body of Christ?

 

Bottom line: to partake of the Lord’s Table by faith is to enter into the spiritual reality of the heavenly Holy of Holies. The Table then is a time of intimate fellowship (a family meal) when God meets with His people as a people and nourishes us with His grace. In other words, the grace is real and Christ’s spiritual presence is real.

 

6. Just as we bowed in worship at the mention of each member of the Trinity individually so too we bow as the Creed proclaims that we worship all three together. Our bowing then reminds us that the triune God we worship is one God, one being, without parts or divisions (One God, Three Persons).

 

7. Next, notice that while we believe in God, the Creed does not say that we believe in the Church. Why? God alone is our savior. Thus, being a part of a church is not enough. The Church alone cannot save us no matter how much we respect it as an institution or enjoy the beauty of its ceremonies. Salvation is in Christ alone.

 

However, that said, the Creed does tell us we believe the Church. In other words, we believe that the Church and we believe what the Church.

 

First, we believe that there is only one Church and that all believers are a part of this Church. Just as there is no salvation apart from Christ so too there is no salvation which does not incorporate the believer into Christ and His people. Thus to be a Christian is to be included among God’s people, their blessings, and their government. When a believer, does not join a church or when he rejects “organized religion” He is not standing outside the Church or her government. Rather, he is simply living inconsistently with who he is as well as depriving himself of the nurture and direction God intends for His people.

 

Second, we believe what the Church teaches. In other words, just as there are not many ways to heaven so too there are not many gospels given to man to believe. Rather, there is but one Gospel and God gave this Gospel to the Apostles, who He sent to establish His Church. The Gospel then has been entrusted to the Church.

1 Timothy 3:15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.

 

As such, salvation always demands a reception of the Church’s Gospel as the Church received it and has historically proclaimed its essential (or fundamental) teachings down through the ages. It is thus that Jesus tells His disciples

Matthew 18:18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

In other words, all who receive her message will be saved. All who reject her message will be lost. It is also thus that the earliest theologians rightly taught that there is no salvation outside the Church. Salvation is always from the Church (a reception of the Gospel entrusted to her) and is always an incorporation into the Church (inclusion in Christ’s one body)

 

8. Finally, the Creed ends with the resurrection and the life to come. At the words, “I look for” we cross ourselves indicating our prayer as well as our assurance that God will complete in us the work He has begun and so give us the full measure of the salvation accomplished for us by Christ.

Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

 

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