Text: First Article, Pt. I
The Latin title for today, the first Sunday in Lent, is Invocabit. It means, “He shall call.” It comes from a verse in Psalm 91, where it says, “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” (Psalm 91:15, King James Version) This applies especially to Christ, whose temptation we heard in the Gospel reading; but it is also a promise for we who are in Christ. It is our Lord who teaches us to call on Him and promises to hear. Therefore, we may have confidence when we pray that God does hear us and will deliver us from every evil.
In the Evangelical Lutheran Church, it has long been the practice to set aside the season of Lent as a time for relearning and refocusing on the teachings of the Small Catechism. We learn the Catechism not for the sake of the Catechism itself, but because the Catechism takes the essential teachings of Scripture and packages them in a digestible way. The Catechism isn’t always easy, but it is a good tool for us to learn and confess the Christian faith. We began last year by looking at our Lord’s Ten Commandments. The Commandments are God’s good and holy will. They show us what we should do, and what we fail to do. They show us our need for Christ and, after having received the forgiveness of sins by faith, they teach us how to love our neighbor. This year, our attention turns to the Apostles’ Creed. Today, we confess that God our Father is the maker of all things.
Let’s pause for a moment so we can first answer this question: What’s a creed? Creed is actually taken from the Latin word credo, which means, “I believe.” A creed, essentially, is a statement of one’s beliefs. We all have many creeds. For example, if you believe one college team is better than another college team – that is a creed. In the Christian Church, we also have creeds. We have three of them: The Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creed. The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest, dating to at least the middle 2nd century. The Nicene Creed comes from 325. The Athanasian Creed is named after a man named Athanasius, though it probably wasn’t written by him. It comes from about the fifth century and is a defense and explanation of the faith we confess in the Nicene Creed – particularly as regards the Trinity and the divine and human natures of Jesus. These three together are called the Ecumenical Creeds because, if you are a Christian, you believe these things.
We confess these creeds not for their own sake but because, as with the Catechism, they take the true teachings of Scripture and put them in a digestible format. It takes a lifetime to learn the Scriptures, but one can learn the creeds in a shorter time. They also make it easier to confess the faith. If someone asks us what we believe, we can turn at least to the Apostles’ Creed, which we all probably have memorized. We use the Apostles’ Creed in the Catechism because it is the shortest and because, since ancient history, it was what you learned before you were baptized. Why not learn it before you get confirmed?
The Apostles’ Creed is broken into three articles; one each for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This week and next we are looking at the First Article. Let’s speak the First Article together. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Already, with only one sentence, we have set ourselves at odds with the world. In recent years, we’ve begun to notice more and more the division between those who are of God and those who are of the world. This is one area where the division is plainly visible. The world says that there is no maker of heaven and earth, but that all things came into being simply by chance and brute force. Sadly, even many Christians have fallen into this thinking. Or else, they may believe that God created – but not in the way that He Himself says He did in Genesis. In the First Article of the Creed, we mark a line in the sand and confess that God is the maker of heaven and earth.
But why do we confess this and suffer friction for it? We confess that God is the creator of heaven and earth, and that it happened in the way Genesis says, because that’s what Jesus believes. In Matthew 19, some Pharisees came to our Lord in order to test Him. They asked Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife, as Moses had allowed them. Jesus answered their question by going back to Creation. He said to them, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6, English Standard Version)
Jesus cites the Creation account, specifically the creation of man and the institution of marriage, as fact. Later in Matthew, Jesus also affirms the Flood account and how He spoke to Moses from the Burning Bush. All these are things the world calls into question, and so do some Christians; but we believe that God created the heavens and the earth because that’s what Jesus believed. It is the plain witness of the Holy Spirit in the rest of Scripture, as well; but time limits us from going further. One can learn these things from Hebrews, Romans, Colossians, 2 Peter, the Psalms, and, of course, John 1.
We are breaking the First Article into two parts, so we’ll finish next week. But, before we end we should actually confess what we believe. We’ve now learned why we should believe that God created the heavens and the earth – in the way that Genesis says; but what do we believe? It’s simple, we believe what we’ve already said, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Martin Luther explains this well in the Catechism. So, let’s turn to the meaning of the First Article and read just the first paragraph. “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.”
We believe that, in six days, God created all that exists, both in heaven and on earth; things both visible and invisible. He created all things out of nothing, simply by speaking. He is God, after all. Not only did He create planets, plants, and animals, but He also created you and me. Of course, He created us by knitting us together in our mothers’ wombs as Scripture says elsewhere. In the beginning, He created man by forming him from the dust of the earth. The Scriptures say that God formed man as a potter would a clay vessel. He breathed into man the breath of life and we became living creatures.
This belief does mark us as different from the world. Isn’t this what Jesus said though, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (Jn. 15:19) The First Article doesn’t stop with creation, though. We also confess our faith in God using the word father. Just as our earthly fathers care for us throughout our lives, so does our true Father continue to be involved in His good creation. We’ll continue with the First Article next week.