Lutherans and Creeds: The Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism


Referencing the Evangelical Lutheran Book of Worship (ELW) page 1162.  Apostles’ Creed in Luther’s Small Catechism.


  1. First thing first: What’s the point of a Creed? Christianity is a “creedal” religion in that it has always been theological.  Theology for my purpose is defined as:  “Faith seeking understanding. “(Anselum of Canterbury).
      1. A Christianity without a creed first arose in the sixteenth century when “individual seers” came to the forefront of Christian thought known as Christian mystics.
    1. As one might imagine– discussed and debated by critics of “Creedal” Christianity, and rightly noted that the Apostles’ creed (read: any creed) isn’t biblical. They are correct in that point…. But…. The need for a creed arises out of our human need to share our intellect about who/what in an attempt to describe the triune God.
    2. Creeds attempt to give an articulate, intelligent expression to our faith in the triune God, and they serve to provide good order for the faith life of the Church.
      1. Bear in mind that every creed was fashioned at a specific time in history and the ‘great’ creeds of the church where often fashioned around a time of turmoil to help give definition to faith in the Triune God. Creeds typically weren’t written during quiet times in the Church history!  
      2. Moreover, the creeds are not only marked with a specific time in history, but also by their catholicity. They (creeds) are universal in nature and can be applied to any context and culture.  This is to say that a Christian Creed can never be sectarian in nature.  It has to, and must be, universal and to stand the test of time.  In other words, the creeds are timeless in that each generation confesses the same believe in the triune God.
    3. For our life of faith, creeds are most often used in worship. It is both uniquely a personal statement of faith about what I personally believe, and a confession our faith as the gathered body of Christ.  IN that when we say “I believe…”  we mean to say both “I believe” individually and “I” as the One gathered body of Christ.
    4. From their earliest forms in Christian history, the creeds have been associated with the entry point in to the Christian Church – baptism and/or the affirmation of baptism.
  2. The Three “Great” Christian Creeds (in Western Christianity)The Apostles’ Creed– not sure exactly on the historicity of the creed… Legend holds that the Apostles’ Creed was composed by the Apostles on the 10th day after the Ascension by/through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This isn’t recorded in scripture.  We do know, however, that a version of the Apostles’ Creed was floating around 100A.D. and was most likely developed by the church in Rome.
      1. This included the language that Lutherans (and other Christians) still use in baptism liturgy known as the “Interrogatory Creed of Hippolytus”(c. 215A.D.) … “Do you believe in God the Father? I believe in God…”
    1. The Nicene Creed was adopted by the Church in 325A.D. to hold together a common faith and hold the church together.

And lastly, (although seldom used any longer in liturgical worship) is the Athanasian Creed which originated in the 5th century as an attempted to the Holy Trinity


Luther on the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism

  • Luther believed the Apostles’ Creed, like scripture, “speaks of Creation, Redemption and final sanctification” which, for Luther, were the “great deeds” of God.
  1. First Article of the Apostle Creed “on Creation”(turn to  ELW p. 1162)
    1. For Lutherans, when we confess the first article of the creed (according to Luther) we express three things:
      1. It is God who has made me and all the created world. Therefore, we are, according to Luther, “indebted” to God for everything we have. We could not live one hour, nor would the world exist, if God didn’t care for it.
      2. God’s good and mercy are the only reason why God created me and all the world and why God preserves me and all creation.
      3. It is my duty to thank, praise, serve, and obey God because God is good and merciful.
  2. Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed – “Redemption Article” Christ redeems us from sin, death and the devil. This is the confession of faith that we will use tonight that Luther wrote as an explanation to the second article.
    1. The “Who, How and Why” of the Creed:
      1. WhoJesus Christ and no one else in Heaven or on earth is the Lord of the Church. He is the Son of God and born of the woman, Mary.
      2. HowBy his life on Earth, His deeds, and the power that is His, Jesus Christ abundantly deserves the name “Lord of the Church” through his sufferings and death in which he has redeemed me from sin, death and the devil.
      3. WhyJesus Suffered and died and became my Lord in order that I might be his own, live under him, and serve him here on earth and in heaven.
  3. The Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed- The Holy Spirit and His “Workshop” Here Luther speaks of the Works of the Holy Spirit in terms of the Past, Present and Future. By the “Work Shop” Holy Spirit, Luther speaks of the church has the Holy Spirit’s workshop. “There we have God’s Word and Sacraments, which Christ provides…it is in the church that the Holy Spirit continues to work on me and make me ever more pleasing to God.
      1. The past – in past times, the Holy Spirit has sanctified me by bringing me into the Christian Church and keeping me there.
        1. H.S. invites me into the gospel, shows me my sin, created faith in my heart, and separates me from the Devil.
      2. The Present – I believe the Holy Spirit sanctifies me in the Present by granting me daily forgiveness of my sins.
        1. Daily the Holy Spirit forgives my sin. “The Holy Spirit forgives my sins daily and abundantly and so provides for my soul as God the Creator provides for my body.”
        2. The future – I believe the Holy Spirit will in the Future wholly and forever sanctify me by raising me from the dead and granting me everlasting life.

The Holy Spirit will raise me from the dead

The Holy Spirit will sanctify me forever.

Creeds and believers

In our scripture text from Matthew tonight we hear Jesus ask his disciples “who do people say the son of man is?  Some say John the Baptist, but other Elijah, and other Jeremiah, or a prophet.”  And then Jesus ask them personally, and it’s Peter’s confession of who Jesus is “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”.  That was Peter’s confession of faith in its earliest form.  And our faith, in large measure stems from what we confession individually and corporately each week in our creeds.

Knowing that our faith always has to do with invisible things, things which our eyes cannot see nor our hands grasp.


    1. Hi Mary Ellen.
      Thanks for contacting me. Regrettable there is no Apostles’ Creed on page 27 in Pew or Leaders Edition of the Evangelical Lutheran Book of Worship printed by Augsburg Fortress in 2006. Best regards, Steve. +


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