Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Book Review: The Apostles' Creed

The Apostles' Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits. R. Albert Mohler Jr. 2019. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It began as an assignment. It ended as a milestone in my Christian life.

This book is a great choice for new Christians or any Christian looking for a refresher course on the basics of the Christian faith. Let's be honest, every Christian needs to be preaching the gospel to themselves daily because we need frequent reminders.

Each chapter focuses on a specific phrase of the Apostles' Creed. When you break the Apostles' Creed into short phrases, and actually take the time to unpack what is being said and how significant it is to the faith, then you realize just how much theology is packed into it.

Mohler goes one step further. He not only helps readers unpack the theology of the creed but he thoughtfully examines the times. What does it mean for the church if this part of the creed is not lived out, is not upheld, is not proclaimed or taught.

He begins the book by answering the question WHY. Why is it important for Christians to know and understand the Apostles' Creed? Why study the creed? What benefits do Christians gain from understanding an ancient creed? One reason Mohler gives is that the Apostles' Creed helps every believer be able to discern true from false. (That isn't his only reason, mind you. But it is a crucial one in these days and times. If you don't have a solid foundation, deep roots, if you will, then you won't recognize false teachers and false doctrines when you encounter them. And you will encounter them. They are abundant.)

Mohler actually gives SEVEN reasons why the creed is useful and necessary.

1. Creeds define the truth. Jesus Christ told his disciples, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). We must study the creeds of the faith, so long as they rightly espouse the Scriptures, because they outline the truths of our faith. The truth sets the people of God free from sin, corruption, and a world under the despair of sin. The truth ushers in an eternal hope in the glorious splendor of God and his gospel to mankind.

2. Creeds correct error. The reality of truth presupposes the existence of error. In the present age, however, we find a generation, perhaps for the first time, that objects to the existence of truth. The church, however, has understood since its founding that heresy and false teaching exist and that these are horrible dangers to the people of God. Indeed, no error presents a greater danger to the church and the world than theological error. Heresy, the denial of a doctrine central to Christianity, departs from the truth and thus has eternal consequences.

3. Creeds provide rules and standards for God’s people. The Apostles’ Creed functions as a guardrail for our teaching and instruction. Indeed, the creeds protect teachers from stumbling into error by providing a rule to follow and boundaries for healthy theological discussion and development. One of the most important functions of the Apostles’ Creed, like all faithful creeds, is that it helps the church to teach and prepare new believers for faithfulness and maturity in the faith of the church. New believers in the early church were often asked to affirm the lines of the Apostles’ Creed, one by one affirming their belief and confession of the true Christian faith.

4. Creeds teach the church how to worship and confess the faith. The Apostles’ Creed delineates the most glorious and splendid truths of the Christian faith. It naturally ushers our souls into heartfelt worship and praise of God. The creeds, therefore, guide the church in worship and contain the most precious truths through which we can worship God and rightly praise his name. In corporate worship, voices converge so that I believe becomes we believe, joining together all believers, both the living and those already with Christ.

5. Creeds connect us to the faith of our fathers.

6. Creeds summarize the faith. Those who would argue for no creed but the Bible have forfeited a great gift in maintaining biblical Christianity. This dubious position fails to understand the heart behind creeds and confessions. These documents do not seek to replace Scripture. Instead, they accurately seek to summarize its content into succinct statements in order to equip Christians with brief yet crucial distillations of the faith.

7. Creeds define true Christian unity. Finally, the affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed weave a fabric that knits all Christians together in the genuine bonds of unity. Statements of faith and the creeds of the church unite believers from all ages to the unchanging truth of God’s revelation. True Christian unity is unity in the truth revealed by Christ, not unity at the expense of truth, as is becoming all too common.

It would be easy for Christians to dismiss the Apostles' Creed--not because they reject the truths it contains--but because of their familiarity with it. It is so familiar, so routine that it is easy to recite it without engaging the heart and mind. It can be recited mindlessly. But if read slowly, thoughtfully--it can be an act of worship. God is GOOD.

I loved reading this one. All of the chapters were good and solid. A few of the chapters really spoke to me and got me thinking. (For example, the chapter on Christ's Ascension.) I loved, loved, loved the chapter on the Holy Spirit.

Favorite quotes:
The Apostles’ Creed collapses time and space, uniting all true believers in the one, holy, and apostolic faith. This creed is a summary of what the Bible teaches, a narrative of God’s redemptive love, and a concise statement of basic Christianity. All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.
I believe. These two words are among the most explosive words any human can utter. They open the door to eternal life and are the foundation of the Christian faith.
Real Christianity is Christianity resting on truth—a faith of definite beliefs cherished by believers throughout the ages and all given to the church. as Christians, we believe what the apostles believed. And we want to hand that same faith to the next generation. Further, we want to worship like the apostles and preach and teach like them. To do so, we turn first to the Bible, but we also turn to the historic and faithful summaries of the Christian faith, the most honored, historic, and universal of which is the Apostles’ Creed.
Just as in the early centuries of the church, it takes courage to be an orthodox Christian. It takes courage to confess the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). It takes courage to believe the orthodox faith of the church, rooted in Scripture—but confessional courage is exhilarating. Throughout Christian history, many believers have faced persecution, imprisonment, and even death for the sake of the gospel. Their courage in the face of immense adversity should inspire us.
We must confess our complete dependence upon the revelation of God in Scripture lest we preach some other Jesus, some other Christ. Jesus is the supernatural Savior. We know this by means of a supernatural revelation. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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