The Foundational Creed

Published on August 19th, 2020

You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16)

A creed is a confession of what a person believes, and it may be derived from any number of sources.  Creeds are drawn from public opinion, dreams, science, life experiences, etc.  Everyone has creeds.  When people say, “I don’t believe in creeds,” they have just stated a creed.  A creed may also include statements of what a person does NOT believe.

In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus asked His apostles for creeds:  Who do people say that the Son of Man is (v 13)?  Some believed Jesus was John the Baptist (resurrected), others believed He was the long awaited Elijah, the prophet promised to precede the Christ, and still others thought Jesus was the “representative prophet” Jeremiah or another prophet.  Every one of these was an incorrect creed; they were wrong beliefs, beliefs that would lead to a dead end.  Finally Simon Peter spoke the rock-solid creed:  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. All valid religious creeds come from God and are linked to Peter’s confession.

The author of the epistle to the Hebrews summarizes the source of Christian creeds:  God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (1:1,2).  In summary, the Spirit-inspired Scripture is the source from which we draw our creeds.  Through the Old Testament prophets and through His Son’s New Testament revelation the Father sent His Spirit so Peter could make his foundational confession:  You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Christ Jesus would indeed build His Church upon Peter’s creed.  Thus it should come as no surprise that the New Testament repeatedly echoes this creed.  Just a couple of examples:  At His baptism Jesus is anointed as the Christ, with the Father declaring Him to be the beloved Son.  When Jesus asked Martha whether she believed Him to be the resurrection and the life, she responded, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God (Jn 11:27).  Saint John summarizes the reason for writing his gospel:  [T]hese are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (20:31). When Jesus was on trial in front of the Jewish leaders, they wanted answers to two questions:  If you are the Christ, tell us (Lu 22:67); Are you the Son of God?  (Lu 22:70).  Jesus was sentenced to die not only because of His supposed false identity as the Christ, the Son of God, but because this was the purpose of the Christ, God’s Son made flesh.  After Paul’s calling to be an Apostle, immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:20).  Then, as if scripted, Luke records that Saul (Paul) confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ (v 22).

One of the first Christian creeds was summarized in the Greek by an acronym for “fish”.  In English it states, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.  All other creeds of the Christian church—from the Apostles and Nicene creeds to the Concordia—are but expansions on what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God.  Of course these creeds draw their belief statements from Holy Scripture.

The foundational creed is that Jesus is the Christ, for to be the Christ also meant that He must be the Son of God.  It should thus come as no surprise that Mark’s account of Peter’s confession condenses the foundational creed about Jesus simply to, You are the Christ (8:29).  And as the Christ what did the incarnate Son of God have to do?  Jesus explains:  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory (Lu 24:26)?  Every valid religious creed has this as its key:  The Christ, God’s Son, came to save mankind by dying and rising from the dead.  All Christian creeds, as that foundationally confessed by Simon Peter, do not lead to a dead end, they lead to life eternal.