The Creed (Part 3)
April 14, 2020
by Peter Amsterdam
The Creed (Part 3)
(Points for this article were taken from The Creed by Luke Timothy Johnson.1)
In the previous article, we looked at the first clause in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed, I believe in one God, the Father Almighty. Here we’ll focus on the next phrase, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible. This phrase points back to the statement that God, the Father, is Almighty—that He is able to do anything that He wills that is compatible with His nature.
Stating that God is the Maker of Heaven and Earth points back to what Scripture teaches in the opening words of the Old Testament:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.2
This point is made numerous times throughout Scripture.
May you be blessed by the LORD, who made heaven and earth!3
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever.4
It’s important to understand that God’s creative power wasn’t only displayed in the original creation of the heavens and the earth. His creative work continues through His constant and present activity in sustaining His creation. Psalm 104 points to God sustaining creation as something He does on a daily basis.
These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works.5
God’s work in creation shouldn’t be seen as limited to an event in the distant past, but rather as a constant and present activity, as He sustains all of creation. We can also broaden our understanding of God’s creation by recognizing His power all around us at every moment. We see it in nature, the seasons, the birth of a child, the beauty of the night sky, flowers, sunrise, and an unlimited number of wonders in this world.
Scripture sees God as the breath that breathes through the world, giving it life at every moment. God causes the world to be at every moment. God is the world’s “beginning,” not once long ago, but at every moment.6
The book of Genesis speaks about the origins of the world, but not in a scientific manner. It tells us that everything which exists comes from God, who is not part of our universe but who brings everything into being by His love and power. It tells us that everything He has brought into being is good. We’re told that human beings represent God the Creator among all the other creatures on earth, because we bear God’s image and likeness.
After stating that God is the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the creed adds and of all things visible and invisible. While it seems like calling God the Maker of Heaven and Earth would have been sufficient, the teaching of Marcion (see previous article), which stated that the God of the Old Testament was a lower God who was responsible for the visible creation (heaven and earth), was pervasive in the second century. This teaching also contended that the true God, Jesus, is unseen—totally spirit, and completely separate from the evil realm of the visible, material world. As such, those who believed this false doctrine could not confess that God was both the creator of heaven and earth as well as the spiritual father of Jesus Christ; thus, they were not considered true Christians. The creed presented the correct understanding of Christian doctrine, that God was the creator of all things, both physical and unseen.
The phrase “all things visible and invisible” in the creed echoed the words of the apostle Paul when he wrote:
By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.7
This connects all the way back to the opening words of the book of Genesis, which tell us that God created absolutely everything that exists. In stating that God made everything, both material and immaterial, the creed makes the point that the material world comes from God and that it is good, and that no part of creation should be considered evil. The apostle Paul wrote,
Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.8
This clause also shows that God is the creator of things which exist but can’t be seen. Along with the unseen spiritual world of heaven and spiritual beings, even in our world there are invisible things which exist. There are unseen forces of nature such as gravity, electricity, and radio waves, among others. Also, individuals think, have ideas, emotions; they communicate with words. These things are invisible, yet they exist. There are also concepts such as truth, justice, mercy, peace, freedom, and love—all of which exist but are unseen.
As Christians, we believe what Scripture teaches about God, which the creed summarizes as:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
One Lord Jesus Christ
Having condensed the Christian teaching of God the Father, the focus of the creed moves to God the Son, Jesus Christ.
The lengthiest part of the creed focuses on the vital beliefs regarding Jesus, the Son of God. This portion of the creed falls into two sections: the first describes Jesus’ relationship with God the Father; and the second focuses on His involvement with humanity, beginning with His incarnation and ending with His second coming.
Having begun with I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the creed goes on to say, and in one Lord Jesus Christ. The name Jesus is an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew name Joshua, which derives from the word Yehoshua, which means The Lord saves. When telling Mary, Jesus’ mother, that she was going to bear a child by the Holy Spirit, the angel Gabriel told her that His name would be Jesus, and he interpreted the name, for he will save his people from their sins.9 Jesus’ name pointed to His mission.
The designation Christ means anointed one (messiah) and is a term used throughout the Old Testament in reference to Israel’s kings.10 In the New Testament, Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one, the Christ. He was anointed by the Spirit of God.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.11
You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.12
All throughout the New Testament writings, the understanding that Jesus is the Messiah is made abundantly clear by the fact that the designation Christos (Christ) is used in reference to Jesus, with no need for further clarification. For example:
Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.13
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.14
Christ is faithful over God's house as a son.15
Within the Gospels and in the book of Acts, Jesus is referred to as the Christ (Messiah).
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Martha] said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”16
The life that Christians live through the gift of the Holy Spirit is considered a life “in Christ.”
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.17
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.18
The creed’s first line about Jesus powerfully states that He is Lord, which reflects His deity. His name, Jesus, points to the one who saves His people from their sins, and the title Christ points to His role as the Messiah, the anointed One, sent from the Father. In the next article, we will continue focusing on how the creed addresses the deity of Christ.
(To be continued in Part Four.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 The Creed—What Christians Believe and Why It Matters (New York: Doubleday, 2003).
2 Genesis 1:1.
3 Psalm 115:15.
4 Psalm 146:5–6. See also Exodus 31:17, 20:11; 2 Kings 19:15; Isaiah 37:16; Jonah 1:9; Acts 4:24, 14:15, 17:24; Revelation 14:7.
5 Psalm 104:27–31.
6 Johnson, The Creed, 96.
7 Colossians 1:16.
8 1 Timothy 4:4–5.
9 Matthew 1:21, also Luke 1:30–31.
10 1 Samuel 2:10, 26:16, 2 Samuel 19:21, Psalm 2:2, 18:50; 20:6; 28:8; 84:9; 89:38.
11 Luke 4:18.
12 Acts 10:37–38.
13 Romans 8:9–10.
14 Romans 9:5.
15 Hebrews 3:6.
16 Matthew 16:16, John 11:27.
17 Romans 6:11.
18 Romans 8:1.