THE APOSTLES' DOCTRINE

A STUDY BY
GARY RAY BRANSCOME

Lesson One


    We live in a world in which religions abound. Some of those religions are theistic, while others are atheistic. Some consist of speculation and abstract ideas, while others consist of ceremonies and traditions. Some die out, while new ones are continually being created. However, there is no religion on earth like the Christian religion. For, unlike the petty systems devised by man, the foundation of the Christian religion consists of historical events written by God on the pages of time.

Those events are:

1- God's creation of the world in six days.
2- The fall of man into sin.
3- The virgin birth of Christ.
4- The death of Christ on the cross.
5- The resurrection of Christ from the dead.
6- The ascension of Christ into heaven.
7- The return of Christ to judge the world.


    Since each of those events has a deep spiritual significance, they were basic to all that the Apostles taught. And, by the end of the first century (or shortly thereafter) had been formulated into a statement of faith which we know as the Apostles’ Creed. The spiritual significance of those events is not a matter of conjecture, but is explicitly stated in the words of Scripture.

1- Since the historical record of God's creation of the world in six days is basic to our knowledge of who God is, as well as His relationship to us and our accountability to Him, it is the foundation for everything else that the Bible says (Isaiah 64:8, Genesis 1:27).

2- The record of man's fall into sin explains the presence of evil in the world, our sinful nature, our need of salvation, and why we cannot save ourselves. In short, the fall explains why it was necessary for Christ to come into the world, and why we need a Savior (Romans 5:12,19). Moreover, because the Law of God also shows us our sin and need of a Savior, everything that the Law says relates to the record of the fall.

3- The record of the virgin birth of Christ is basic to our knowledge of who He is, how He could be born without sin, and how He could be both God and man. That knowledge, in turn, is basic to our knowledge of how He could triumph over sin, death, and the devil to win eternal life for us. Therefore, the record of the Virgin birth is basic to all the Bible says about Christ’s deity, as well as the entire salvation message (Matthew 1:23, 2Corinthians 5:21).

4- The record of Christ's death on the cross cannot be separated from the fact that He died for our sins, and that through His death we have forgiveness, reconciliation to God, and eternal life. In fact, the Biblical record of Christ's death on the cross is central to all that the Bible teaches and essential to a sound understanding of what the Bible says, because Christ’s very reason for coming into the world was to save us from our sins (1Timothy 1:15), and God’s reason for bringing the Bible into existence was to testify of that salvation (John 5:39, 1Corinthians 15:3).

5- The record of Christ's resurrection from the dead is not only one of the best attested facts of history, but is fundamental to our knowledge that He defeated sin, death, and the devil. For that reason, it is basic to our faith; that is, to our assurance that He won forgiveness and salvation for us. We believe that because He lives we also shall live (Romans 4:25).

6- The record of Christ's ascension into heaven is basic to our knowledge that we have an advocate with the Father (1John 2:1), as well as to our knowledge that He will return to judge both the living and the dead (2Timothy 4:1). It also closely relates to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, for Christ told His disciples that if He did not leave the Spirit would not come (John 16:7).

In regard to the Holy Spirit, I might also point out that His purpose is not to testify of Himself but to testify of Christ (John 15:26, John 16:13,14). That testimony is threefold:

1- He will convict the world of sin, because they do not look to Christ for forgiveness. The historical record of Creation and the fall is basic to the work of the Holy Ghost in convicting the world of sin (John 16:8,9).

2- He will reprove the righteousness of this world while lifting up Christ as the source of all true righteousness, because Christ is no longer visibly present. The historical record of the virgin birth, Christ's death on the cross, and Christ's resurrection from the dead is basic to the work of the Holy Ghost in convincing the world to look to Christ for righteousness (John 16:8,10, Romans 10:4).

3- He will convince the world of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged already, and only those who look to Christ for forgiveness will escape condemnation on the day in which that judgment is revealed (Romans 10:11). The historical record of Christ's ascension into heaven, together with what God has revealed about His future return to judge the world, is basic to the work of the Holy Spirit in convincing the world that only those who look to Christ for forgiveness will escape the wrath of God (John 16:8,11, Romans 5:9).


7- The record of Christ's future return to judge both the living and the dead impresses upon us the importance of repentance and being prepared for His return, for He could return at any time. Moreover, because those who repent see Christ as a source of deliverance while the unrepentant see Him as a source of condemnation; the knowledge that He will return (and that everyone will account for their sin) brings terror to the unrepentant but comfort to those who trust in Him (2Timothy 4:1, 1Peter 4:5).  

CONCLUSION


    Because the historical events that I have just outlined are basic to the salvation message, they are of key importance to our faith and our understanding of God’s Word. Even though the Old Testament revealed the spiritual significance of each of those events, that revelation was not understood as the actual events were not yet known. That is why a summary of those historical events became the Apostles’ Creed. While that creed does not explicitly mention the Fall, that may be because its focus was on what God had done, not what Satan did.

THE APOSTLES' CREED


    I believe in God the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
    And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died for our sins, and was buried; He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven And sitteth on 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; The holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; The forgiveness of sins; The resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen.

 
 

STUDY QUESTIONS


1- What does the foundation of the Christian religion consist of?
2- What statement of faith summarizes the historical events that are basic to the Christian religion?
3- The Biblical record of creation basic to what?
4- What does the Biblical record of the fall explain?
5- What is the Biblical record of the virgin birth basic to?
6- What fact cannot be separated from the historical record of Christ's death on the cross?
7- What is Christ's resurrection from the dead basic to?
8- How does Christ's ascension relate to the work of the Holy Ghost?
9- What historical truths are basic to the work of the Holy Ghost in convicting the world of sin?
10-What should the possibility of Christ's return impress upon us?