The early Church was growing in understanding of who Jesus is, and how our understanding of God shifted in the light of Jesus’ person, life, death and resurrection, and teaching. Clearly, in Jesus, God had revealed Himself in a new way, a “New Testament”.
In the writings of the New Testament, phrases such as “Jesus is Lord”, “Christ Jesus”, and the “Holy Spirit” all signalled a new revelation of God, of three persons together within the Godhead. There was a continuance with Jewish understanding of “the LORD our God, the LORD is one”, and yet Jesus had claimed one-ness with God, and spoken openly of the past, present and future work of the ‘Counsellor’, the Holy Spirit – who would undertake work that is God’s alone to do.
The early Church wrestled and debated these ideas as they spread out across people without Jewish backgrounds, with the words of Jesus’ Great Commission resonating: “Go. Teach. Make disciples. Baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
So the followers of Jesus did so, and developed a ‘rule of faith’ that began to define what Christians did, and did not, believe to be true of God. Over time this grew into Creeds, refined and robustly developed memorable statements that were used to fulfil the Great Commission.
The Apostles’ Creed was used to teach and disciple new believers. Initially it was unwritten, passed down orally to those about to be baptised. They were expected to not only recite the full Creed from memory, but also teach from memory the details of it to the gathered Church before their baptism.
The Creed provided a consistent statement of faith across cultures, languages and places, for teaching, for orthodoxy and above all, for faith in the risen Jesus. May it continue to do so today.