The Creed: God the Father
This is the second post in a series of posts studying the Apostles’ Creed. This post will be examining the first article of the Creed.
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
Suppose for a moment that you are discipling someone that was just recently saved. John knew nothing about Christianity or God until he heard the gospel preached to him on the street corner just the other day. He knew that you were a Christian and he earnestly wanted to learn more so he approached and asked if you could teach him about Christianity.
Where do you start? Do you start with TULIP? What about different perspectives on creation? Maybe start with different perspectives on the millennium?
You may find yourself in this situation one day. Someone may come up to you and want to learn more about Christianity. I believe the Creed is useful because it sets out the very basic doctrines of Christianity (among other things). Therefore, why not start where the Creed starts when it comes to teaching the basics of Christianity?
Considering this scenario, I will examine belief, God as the Father, God’s omnipotence, and God as the Maker. Likewise, I will show their significance and help apply the truths learned to everyday life.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
— Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
In the first place, we should start with “belief.” After all, each of the statements in the Creed is an affirmation of belief.
First, the Greek here is very interesting. J.I. Packer explains “I believe” in his book Affirming the Apostles’ Creed:
“I believe in God” … mean[s] literally: “I am believing into God.” That is to say, over and above believing certain truths about God, I am living in a relation of commitment to God in trust and union.
In other words, this is not some abstract belief, this is an active belief. This belief is not something that was solely in the past, it is current and should continue the rest of life.
In short, this is one of the main reasons I am writing this series, I want to make the very beliefs confessed by the Creed applicable to everyday life rather than mere words so that they become active belief.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
— Romans 8:14-16 (ESV)
Using “Father” makes the Creed relational because it shows relationship with God the Son and with those saved.
First, the belief in God the Father sets forth the Trinity. Using “Father” shows relationship between God and Jesus Christ – twofold of the threefold Trinity. The very love shared between parents and children is the very love infinitely multiplied shared between the Father and the Son which leads to an understanding of the doctrine of adoption.
In light of the doctrine of the Trinity, there is a more beautiful picture of the doctrine of adoption. As John pronounces, “[b]ut to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, ESV). This verse, along with the verse in the quote above, shows the beautiful doctrine of adoption that only believers get to experience.
For instance, with adoption, believers experience “access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, … sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit promises” (see Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 12). In short, whatever the Son enjoys, believers will also enjoy (Romans 8:17).
However, people are often turned off by referring to God as “Father” because they think of failed earthly fathers – abusers, abandoners, failures. Our thoughts and experiences of fatherhood do not determine what the fatherhood of God is like. Rather, the imperfect fatherhood we experience informs us that there is a more perfect fatherhood to come and it can only be found in the Father.
Perhaps adoption may be a hard concept to embrace for some, but this is one area where Jesus heals and restores our broken conceptions because human fatherhood is not how God’s fatherhood is, God uses human fatherhood to imperfectly point to the perfect fatherhood only found in him.
The Almighty – we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate. Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.
— Job 23:23-24 (ESV)
Indeed, God’s name is very unique. The name God gave Moses at the burning bush proclaims his might, “I AM WHO I AM.” In light of this, “Almighty” is often used in connection with his name or in place of his name because of the very nature of who God is.
However, what is “almighty?” Sure, we all use the word on occasion, but do we really understand what we mean when we are referring to God as “Almighty?” Specifically, when “Almighty” is used, it is talking about God’s omnipotence – that is his all-powerfulness.
However, there are restrictions to God’s omnipotence. For instance, God cannot sin, God cannot make himself finite since he is infinite, God cannot die, and God cannot give access to heaven for unbelievers. These things, among others, are simply impossible for God to do for if he did them, he would no longer be almighty among other things. Does this mean that God is not omnipotent? Certainly not.
In other words, God’s omnipotence does not mean he can do everything. Rather, God’s omnipotence means he can do whatever he pleases (Psalm 115:3) that is consistent with his nature. Basically, anything under his subjection – all of creation – he can do with whatever he pleases because he is sovereign and he created all things.
On the other hand, there are some that will object to the omnipotence of God by claiming he is not all powerful because there is evil in the world. However, evil does not disprove the existence of God, rather it proves the existence of God. Simply put, we cannot account for evil if it were not for God proclaiming to us what evil is and because he permits something to happen does not mean that he is not all powerful.
I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.
— Isaiah 45:12 (ESV)
Lastly, in this first article of the Creed, the Creed affirms God as the Creator of all things.
First, God being the Maker of all things causes us to see our need for the Gospel. God created all things good (Genesis 1-2) and created man special (Genesis 1:27) and gave him dominion over all things on earth (Genesis 1:28). However, as we all know, we are no longer good (Romans 3:23). Due to Adam’s disobedience, sin entered the world, and we are all equally responsible for that disobedience (Romans 5:12-14). Since creation, man fell from the state of innocence, thus our need for a savior – which will be covered through the rest of this series.
Not only that, but affirming God as the “Maker of heaven and earth” shows that we recognize our position in relation in him. God created us, but he did not need us. He could have gone on happily for all eternity glorifying in himself. And yet, he chose to go on and create man for his pleasure (Revelation 4:11) and so that we may “glorify God, and … enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q1). Knowing this should truly humble us.
As we come to the end of this article, how does this article of the Creed apply to daily life?
First, we should memorize the Creed. The Creed shows an active belief, these beliefs are not passive so we should heed the words of Saint Augustine, “[r]eceive, my children, the Rule of Faith … write it in your heart, and be daily saying it to yourselves; before ye sleep, before ye go forth, arm you with your Creed.” We should continue to believe these truths instead of constantly reading the Creed to remind us of these basic truths recall them from memory.
Second, rest in the knowledge of who your heavenly Father is. God will not fail you like earthly fathers will. God will take care of you through all your trials and needs (Matthew 6:25-34) because he has adopted you as a son or daughter.
Also, be open to the option that God may want you to adopt a child. There are plenty of children awaiting adoption and there are plenty of adoption agencies out there that will pair you with the right child. Every child should get to experience the love of a father – nay, a family.
Third, stay humble. God is all powerful and we are not. We should be humbled by the fact that he sustains all things that he has created and has no problem sustaining it. When we are weak, we should rest in the strength of God and that is when he is most glorified.
Fourth, care for what you have. God created all things good and because of sin, all things have become marred by sin. Since God has given us dominion over all things, we should take care of what he has given us.
Fifth, give glory to the Father. God created and sustains all things. He created, saves, and preserves his people to the end. We have no reason to boast in light of who God is and what he has done for us. In light of all this, we should instead worship and glorify him.