In the early centuries of the church, Christians developed a short summary of the teaching of the apostles, who were a core group of people entrusted with the leadership of the church after Jesus ascended into heaven (more on that below). This summary, called the Apostles’ Creed, is perhaps the most widely used overview of Christian theology. If you’re looking to dive into the teachings of Christianity, this is a great place to start. Below we have given the text of the Creed (italicized) with a short commentary on each line.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
The entire universe was created by God, who is not a vague force but is personal. He knows you and cares about you.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
There is one God, and He exists in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. That might sound confusing at first, but that’s not a bad thing. If our understanding of the infinite, eternal God, who is beyond space and time, felt like everyday common sense, then that would be a serious red flag.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
God the Son became a real human being in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, also known as Jesus Christ, about two thousand years ago. He was born to a real mother, Mary, but was not created through the natural way of reproduction. God the Holy Spirit miraculously produced the baby inside Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
Jesus’s teachings and actions upset a lot of people, and a governor in the Roman Empire had him executed. As horrifying as this was, it was part of God’s plan. Jesus, the union of God and humanity, was meant to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all people. It is because of His sacrificial death that we can be forgiven by God, reunited with Him, and rescued from the destruction in our world.
He descended to the dead.
It was not just Jesus’ physical body that died. Even the non-physical part of Him was subject to death, as was the case with every other human being who had died before Him.
On the third day he rose again.
Death could not hold Jesus down. He was killed on a Friday, and on the Sunday he was resurrected in bodily form. (We say “third day” rather than “second day” because in the culture Jesus belonged to, people counted the day they started on.) Salvation includes being spiritually united with Jesus, the resurrected God-Human, and deriving spiritual life from him as a branch does from a vine (see John 15:1–17).
He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
Jesus did not remain on earth forever after he was resurrected. After about six weeks, he went to heaven and, in His place, sent God the Holy Spirit to live within all those who follow him. “The indwelling of the Spirit,” as it is called, is an amazing privilege that believers have to this day.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Our world is far from perfect, and God is not going to leave it that way. One day—we don’t know when—Jesus will return to earth and put an end to this present age, which is plagued by sin and death. At this time, those who have received God’s redemption will be vindicated and totally set free once and for all, and those who have not received God’s redemption will face the tragic outcome of their sin. We don’t want anyone to be in that second category, and that’s a big part of why we at St. Hilda’s are so eager to tell people about Jesus and the salvation he offers.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
As stated before, God the Holy Spirit is a person of the one God. He lives in believers and gives them the desire and ability to follow God’s instructions for humanity—though nobody does this flawlessly.
the holy catholic Church,
The Christian life is not lived in isolation from other people. God has arranged his plan of redeeming the world in such a way that people experience redemption with others—that is, they experience it in the church. The church is called “holy” because it is taken from the normal world and dedicated entirely to God. It is called “catholic”—meaning “universal”—because there is one all-encompassing church across the world, even though today it is, unfortunately, broken into different denominations.
the communion of saints,
Because all Christians are spiritually united to the resurrected Jesus, all Christians are also united with each other; this union is called the “communion of saints.” The word “saints” (meaning “holy people”) refers not to special people but to every Christian, since every Christian is dedicated to God and therefore holy. Importantly, this communion also includes Christians who have died, since they continue to live spiritually.
the forgiveness of sins,
When people become Christians, God forgives them of their sins, no matter what they have done. In the Christian life that follows, believers still sin sometimes and therefore ask for forgiveness, even though their salvation does not depend on them remembering and asking for forgiveness for every single sin. These requests for forgiveness, which flow naturally from a heart that truly loves God, heal a wounded relationship with Him and in many cases remove the need for Him to engage in loving correction.
the resurrection of the body,
One of the most common misconceptions about Christianity is that we believe that after death our disembodied spirits float around in heaven for eternity. What Christianity really teaches is that we, like Jesus, will have a bodily resurrection. That is to say, in the future, God will give all His followers perfect, immortal bodies that they will use to inhabit a perfect physical world. That makes sense, after all, since the physical world—mountains, suboceanic caves, silver mines—is the handiwork of God, not junk to be thrown out, even though it is imperfect at the moment. In the meantime, deceased Christians live spiritually without a body, waiting for the coming resurrection.
and the life everlasting. Amen
Humans aren’t disposable. God made us for everlasting life and relationships, and that’s what he offers us. This new life in the perfected world will continue forever, and it will always be free from sin and corruption.