What is Missing from the Apostles’ Creed

By Justin Johnson

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
       Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
       Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
       born of the virgin Mary:
       suffered under Pontius Pilate;
       was crucified, dead and buried:
       He descended into hell:
       the third day he rose again from the dead:
       He ascended into heaven,
       and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
       from thence he shall come to judge
       the quick and the dead:
I believe in the Holy Ghost:
I believe in the holy catholic church:
       the communion of saints:
       the forgiveness of sins:
       the resurrection of the body:
       and the life everlasting.

Which Gospel

The Apostles ’ Creed is commonly accepted as the oldest creed in the church1, and the simplest form of what the early apostles taught, but can someone be saved by reading it?

The answer depends on what is the gospel.

If the gospel that saves is found in Matthew-John, and was preached by the Twelve apostles in their ministry in Jerusalem, then the Apostles’ Creed is spot on.

The Twelve apostles in Luke 18:34 did not understand the cross of Christ, and they did not preach the glory and finished work of the cross at Pentecost (Acts 2:23), and neither does the Apostles’ Creed.

Which Apostles

The Creed does not include the important fact that Christ died for our sins, nor does it make any atoning connection between Christ’s death and the grace it bestows upon all who believe.

This has led some to think that doctrines such as substitutionary atonement, justification without works, and free grace were developed later in history since they are absent in this supposed early church creed.

The problem of the Apostle’s Creed is resolved when you understand the necessity to rightly divide the Twelve apostles’ covenant ministry of Christ from the apostle Paul’s grace ministry of Christ.

The gospel of grace was hidden until Christ revealed it to and through the apostle Paul who was specially tasked to make known the mystery of the gospel (Eph 6:19; 1 Cor 9:17).

Since much of the information for the Apostles’ Creed aligns with the apostolic prayer and doctrine found in Acts 4:24-30, it would be more aptly named the Twelve Apostles’ Creed, since it excludes the information found in the apostle Paul’s mystery gospel.

The Missing Gospel Creed

As historians have supposed from reading the Acts 4 based Apostles’ Creed, there were doctrines concerning salvation that were revealed later. They are wrong that they were developed by the church centuries later.

Instead, they were revealed from Christ in the Bible itself. The Bible calls this the dispensation of the grace of God, or the revelation of the mystery, and it was revealed to the apostle Paul at least five chapters after Acts 4.

Christ revealed to Paul the gospel of salvation for today. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead to proclaim forgiveness, imputed righteousness and eternal life through faith in his finished gracious work alone: his death, blood, burial, and resurrection (Rom 3:23-26; Rom 4:24-25; 1 Cor 15:1-4).

None of this is in Acts 4, and none of this is in the Twelve Apostles’ Creed.

Everything in the Apostles’ Creed is true, but what is missing makes all the difference concerning the gospel. The gospel of the grace of God by which men are saved today is absent.

The Place for Creeds

No one can be saved today by reading the Apostles’ Creed. They need further information found in Paul’s epistles. Start with Romans.

If you want to know who Christ was you can read the Creeds. If you want to know what Christ did to save you read Paul.

Historical creeds may be right about what they say, but they are not exhaustive, nor do they hold more authority than the Bible rightly divided.

We should be familiar with the historical creeds and the context in which they were created, but when historical creeds are given authority over the Bible rightly divided, then the church performs Israel’s kingdom ministry, neglects the revelation of the mystery of Christ, and suppresses the clear gospel of the grace of God.

Actually… that explains a lot of history.

1 – The form of the creed here comes from the 7th c, and before that in shorter form in the 4th c. Some phrases are found in scripture and in the 2nd c. writings.
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Published: January 16, 2016
Last Modified: January 20, 2020
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