The Church at Worship VII
What are you doing when you join the congregation at worship in the reciting of the Apostles’ Creed? Are you really doing it?
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the house of the Lord.” God speaks peace unto his people. It is true, we cannot come before the Lord with clean hands. We must declare ourselves unworthy to stand in the presence of a holy and righteous God. But the Lord in his grace and lOving kindness assures us that though our sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Out of the confession of our sin and sinfulness we are by the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ our Lord. It is thus that the believing congregation answers God, declaring that it believes his promises and that its members realize that they are children of their Father in heaven.
It is against this background that we should interpret the glorious confession: “I believe in God.” Consciousness of these things will make confession of faith a living and blessed item of worship. Thus our confession of faith is a declaration of our victory over sin, which we have in our Lord Jesus Christ. If we have but eyes to see, we then behold the salvation which God has wrought. We then see a people at worship, confessing that in them, that is, in their flesh, dwelleth no good thing; being assured by God that he will forgive their sins for the sake of the atoning blood shed upon Calvary’s cross; lifting up its head and standing in the righteousness earned for them; saying with the firm assurance of faith: I believe in God.
Confession of faith as part of our worship should be the outpouring of a heart overwhelmed with the joy of salvation. I ask you, do you experience that kind of joy when you take part in this confession of faith? Attending divine worship is for so many often a dull and uneventful experience. We may well pray:
Open my eyes, that I may see
Glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
Place in my hands the wonderful key
That shall unclasp, and set me free.
Worship and Daily Life
The confessing of our faith on the Lord’s Day in the midst of and as a member of the congregation certainly ought to bring to mind;the close connection between our worship in the house of prayer and our daily life. If our daily We is characterized by worldliness, by a clinging to the things that are seen, we need not be surprised that it is impossible for us on the Lord’s Day in our divine worship to rise to those spiritual heights necessary to see the things that are not seen. True Christians are deeply concerned about the condition of their spiritual life. It is well to watch ourselves, to study our reactions when we are called upon to declare: I believe in God. There should be something of the spirit of the psalmist in us when he sings: “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: They walk, O Jehovah, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name do they rejoice all the day; and in thy righteousness are they exalted. For thou rut the glory of their strength; and in thy favor our horn shall be exalted” (Psalm 89:15–17).
The Use of the Apostles’ Creed
To confess our faith in our congregational worship on the Lord’s Day we usually employ the Apostles’ Creed. It does not contain all that a Christian believes, but it is a summary expression of the essence of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. It is rooted in and has grown out of the command of Christ given to his church: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” It is a confession of our knowledge of the triune God, whom to know is eternal life. It is this confession which sets the Christian religion apart form all other religions.
Men everywhere and through all the ages have searched for this knowledge. Sometimes they have gained lofty visions of a divine being, yet they erected an alter in the intellectual center of the ancient world “to the unknown god.” One of the ancient temples of Egypt bore the inscription: “I am he that was, and is, and shall be; but no mortal hath lifted my veil.” In our confession, however, we joyfully recognize that God has lifted the veil. He has told us who he is and revealed to us what he has done both in creation and re-creation, giving us the assurance of eternal life. We should appreciate these spiritual blessings and ought to be deeply thankful that we may confess: I believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Apostolic Creed lends itself to the confession of faith in our public worship because of its brevity. From the very nature of the case a broad and detailed confession could not be used. It is also desirable because it is a personal confession, “I believe.” It recognizes the fact that our relation to God is a personal one. It is beautiful because it is a confession of faith shared by all true Christians. It is indeed an inspiring thought that wherever Christians are found they can express their faith in these words.
This tells us that although the Christian church is divided in many ways because of different interpretations of the Word of God, it is nevertheless one, The many divisions in the Church speak to us of sin and the result of sin. Sin that has darkened our minds so that we have but an imperfect understanding of the revelation of God in Christ. Sin which brings us sorrow, be cause we know that these divisions often cause the name of God to be mocked; and the light which is in us to be obscured “under a bushel.” But even so, we dare to sing: “We are not divided, all one body we.” The prayer of Christ (John 17) has been heard, and we are one! We believe in God the Father, Our Creator; in God the Son, our Redeemer; and in God the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier. From the earth, out of the mouths of an unnumbered throng, arises the confession: “I believe in God.”