“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some
evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of
the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body
of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure
of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer
be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind
of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of
deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up
in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the
whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies,
according to the effective working by which every part does its
share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love”
(Ephesians 4:11-16, NKJV).
Last week I wrote an article on creeds and some of their problems. I wanted to discuss a few more things because some may not be familiar with how creeds are typically used, and some problems are relatively subtle.
The point of a creed, as noted in that Wesleyan article, is that to become a member of a particular congregation or denomination, you have to “confess” that creed. In other words, to gain church membership, you have to accept that creed as authoritative, just like you do the Bible. The reason for this is that the creed is considered a summary of what the Bible actually teaches; it is intended to be a repackaging of Biblical truth in a summary-type form that the “layman” can understand, internalize, and consent to. If you do an internet search, you will immediately find that many scoff at the idea of “no creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.” But it is precisely this adoption as a man-made authority that I reject as a member of the
Lord’s church. It is to go beyond that which is written (1 Corinthians 4:6); it is to say that the
Scriptures are not sufficient (1 Timothy 3:16); it is to say that the faith once for all delivered
is not enough (Jude 3). It is to say we need a new kind of authoritative word, one that is
arranged by topic like a textbook instead of epistles and gospels.
I heard someone the other day, a creedalist, make a claim in this regard. I will not quote it exactly, but the gist of it, as I understood it, is this. The claim was that all churches (he meant individual congregations) are confessional; some write it down, and some don’t, but they all have their theology/belief/ rules, and as soon as you run afoul of them, you will find out—written down or not. I assume that is how he would look at our practice of not using instruments to worship the God of heaven, an unwritten creed. Examples could be multiplied.
I contend it is not an unwritten creed; it is a clear and straightforward understanding of John 4:23-24. But then, he would argue that original sin is just an understanding of multiple other passages.
So what are we to do? We cannot generate extra-biblical writings that are authoritative like the Word of God—His own Word condemns such. We can neither add to nor subtract from His Word. We approach His Word in faith that it will do just what God intended for it to do—without the help of man-made creeds. But without them, how do we grow and learn and become unified? The answer is found in Ephesians 4 most clearly. I preached this a lot last year, so forgive me if this is repetitive, but we do Ephesians 4 together... until we all come to a unity of the faith. This requires all of us to be learners, to be patient with each other, to have as our motive the understanding and practicing of God’s will alone as our aim, the willingness to study together, strive together, and work together to find His truth; and rejection of the authority of ecclesiastical titles, authorities, and creeds in the process.
May the Lord bless us as we try to fulfill His will in His world, according to His Word.