On The Creeds

By: Dr. Gregory S. Neal

I am often asked why we use the Nicene Creed so often in our worship services. “I'm used to the Apostles' Creed. Why don't we just use that one?” It's a good question, really, and one that can be easily answered from within the context of our continuing exploration into the teaching of the Niece Creed itself.

One of the greatest advantages to using the Nicene Creed over the more traditional “Apostles’ Creed” is that the Nicene Creed is FAR more complete regarding the 3 persons oi the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For example, all the Apostle’s Creed tells us about God the Father is:

I believe in God the Father Almighty
maker of heaven and earth;

Whereas the Nicene Creed has us proclaim:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

Granted, this is only minor amplification of what is said in the Apostles’ Creed about God the Father, but regarding the Son and the Holy Spirit the Nicene Creed provides substantial augmentation. For example, no where does the Apostles’ Creed tell us that Jesus is God. All it says is that He is God's “only Son.” The Nicene Creed, on the other hand, draws from St. John's Gospel when it says that Jesus Christ is:

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;
through him all things were made.

This, and many other similar amplifications of the words of the Apostles’ Creed, serve to make the Nicene Creed far more complete — and far less vague — than the older, shorter, more familiar Apostles’ creed. And, this is one of the reasons we profess our faith with it’s words as well as with the Apostles’ Creed.

The second reason has to do with the fact that the Nicene Creed is more commonly used throughout more denominations and by more Christians than even the Apostles’ Creed. Hence, it is the most complete statement of what the Church universal believes when our denominational distinctiveness is placed aside. As such, when we stand and affirm our faith as we did last Sunday in the second Service - with the words of this 1500 year old Creed — we are joining with the vast majority of all other Christians in proclaiming our common “catholic” Faith.

Which brings up what must be the most asked question from both Creeds. The Nicene Creed, leads us in affirming:

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.

I am often asked: “why de we say we believe in the Catholic Church? We’re not Catholic, are we?”

Ready for a surprise? We are catholic! While we're not Roman Catholic, but The United Methodist Church is part of the universal church, which goes beyond ethnic, racial, national, and denominational boundaries. When we affirm that “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church,” we are actually proclaiming that we are “one in Christ through the same Holy Spirit who brought the Church of the Apostles into being at Pentecost.” We may call ourselves by many different names, and squabble over differing theologies, but when it comes down to the fundamentals of our Faith — as we find them in these ecumenical creeds — we stand together, in one common confession of our one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The point is that “catholic” means “universal,” which means that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is, truly, universal. Glory be to God that we serve a risen Savior who breaks down our sinful divisions and make us one.

© 1995 Dr. Gregory S. Neal
All Rights Reserved

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The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal is the Senior Pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Commerce, Texas, and an ordained Elder in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Duke University, and Trinity College, Dr. Neal is a scholar of Systematic Theology, New Testament origins, and Biblical Languages. His areas of specialization include the Theology of the Sacraments, in which he did his doctoral dissertation, and the formation and early transmission of the New Testament. Trained as a Christian educator, he has taught classes in these and related fields while also serving for more than 25 years as the pastor of United Methodist churches in North Texas.

As a popular teacher, preacher, and retreat leader, Dr. Neal is known for his ability to translate complex theological concepts into common, everyday terms. HIs preaching and teaching ministry is in demand around the world, and much of his work can be found on this website. He is the author of several books, including
Grace Upon Grace: Sacramental Theology and the Christian Life, which is in its second edition, and Seeking the Shepherd's Arms: Reflections from the Pastoral Side of Life, a work of devotional literature. Both of these books are currently available from Amazon.com.