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A study of the Apostles Creed


Links to sections on this page:
- I believe in the Holy Spirit
- Holy
- Catholic
- Church
- Bible Study
- Communion of Saints - Bible Study
- Questions
- Forgiveness of Sins - Bible Study
- For your consideration - Salvation
- Questions
- Resurrection
Links to other chapters:
1: Why creeds?
2: Why were the creeds written?
3: Studying the Apostles' Creed
4: The Place of Doubt
5: I Believe ...
6: God the Father Almighty...
7: ...And in Jesus Christ His only Son ....
8: ...dead and buried ...

Chapter 9

I believe in the Holy Spirit; in the holy catholic Church; (the communion of saints;) the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the flesh and eternal life.

I believe in the Holy Spirit

There is a story about a boy flying a kite. The kite was so high that it had disappeared into the clouds. A man came by and asked, 'What are you doing, son, holding on to that string?' The boy answered, 'I've got a kite up there.' The man looked up and said, 'I don't see it.' The boy replied, 'Well, I know it's there because I can feel the tug.' That's like the witness of the Holy Spirit within us. We may not always see the evidence, but we feel a tug in our hearts constantly, letting us know that we are in touch with God. That is the witness of the Holy Spirit.

As Christians we have to hold together the following central elements of the biblical witness to the nature and purpose of God

  • God created the world
  • God redeemed us through Jesus Christ
  • God is present today with us in the church through the Spirit, we can feel the tug!

The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, but it tries in human words to express the difficult truths which we find expressed in scripture. Clearly God is divine and we have seen that Jesus was considered to be the physical presence of God on earth. The early Christians then had to wrestle with how they were going to explain the presence of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit was not just a warm glow, but nothing less than the real presence of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity is not a helpful human invention, rather it is a somewhat illogical necessity forced upon us by what God has revealed of himself to us. There are many illustrations which have been used to try and explain the Trinity, ultimately none of them work! Sadly human words can never express how God can be fully one and yet exist fully in all three. It may be helpful for us to recognise that God is Creator, Redeemer and the Sustainer of our Christian life. Nevertheless human words and the nature of God can never fully meet. When we speak of the Holy Spirit we think of the life and breath of God which is at work in the world and in us.

The Holy Catholic Church 


The basic meaning of the Greek word hagios, 'holy' is different. God is holy because he is so different and set apart from us. If we remember our bible study from Isaiah Chapter 6, this is one passage which seems to capture more than any other essence of what it means to be holy

And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."


The word catholic has often been confused with Roman Catholic! The Greek word Katholikos simply means universal. It has been a proud boast of the church that it crosses barriers. There have been times when this statement has not fully coincided with practice and yet it remains as a great statement of belief. In Galatians Chapter 3:28 one of the most wonderful passages in the Bible declares

'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.'


Perhaps through no fault of our own we often think of the church as a building, however there is no instance in the Bible where this is the case. Indeed the church never possessed buildings at all in the New Testament period, they simply met in each others homes.

The church is rather a group of people pledged to each other through their commitment to their Lord Jesus Christ. Now of course the church which is being spoken of here is not a building but a group of people, and necessarily an organisation. We are therefore proclaiming that it is God's people are different.

There is nothing specifically religious in the use of the word church, which comes from the Greek 'ekklesia.' At its most basic it meant just a group of people. It was used in Acts of the rioting silversmiths (Acts 19:32). However one thing which does come across clearly from the scriptural use of the word is that the church is very much about people.

Jesus is the head of the church and loves the church (Ephesians 5:23,25) Our faith is intensely personal and this is entirely right for we come to know that the love of God is shown to us in a personal way and demands a personal response. Yet as we participate in that love of God we come to know that we are called to belong to a body of believers. It is only because the church as a body of believers has existed throughout the centuries that we have been able to preserve the faith and communicate it to subsequent generations. It is therefore through the church that Jesus confronts individual people.

It is for this reason that it is a grave error to suppose that being a Christian can be a solitary private affair, without the need to be a part of the church. If we were all to take that position the church would die out in a very short time. We are fortunate that the Christians church has enabled us to hear the message of the Gospel, we now have a responsibility to be the church and pass it on.

If we were to consider ourselves as individual musicians, then we would realise just how much we need the other instruments in order to be able to create music. Christians are called to belong to an orchestra, with other Christians supplying those other essential gifts which we do not possess in an entirety ourselves.

Scripture uses such images as that of a body to make the same point. No one part of the body can exist on it own, it requires all of the participating members in order for the whole to function properly. As the body of Christ it is the work of the church to be the hands through which Christ can work, the voice through which he can speak to our world.

He has no hands but our hands
To do his work today
He has no feet but our feet
To lead men in his way
He has no voice but our voice
To tell men how he died
He has no help but our help
To lead men to his side.

Bible Study

1 Corinthians Chapter 12 :1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

The communion of saints

Bible Study

Acts Chapter 2: 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

As Christians we believe that we are inhabited by the Holy Spirit, God lives within us. (Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16). We therefore share amongst each other a very special gift. The word communion expresses this religious fellowship.

In most people's minds, the word 'saint'; means only those who are extra-specially good and holy, those who are awarded the title of saint, usually many years after their death. Each of them has their particular date in the Church's calendar, when we remind ourselves of their personal qualities and work for the faith, and link our prayers with theirs. The word saint in the Bible should not be thought of in this modern day sense of the special individuals whose names have been commemorated by the church, rather all Christian people are 'saints'. In Ephesians 5:3, they are reminded that they should not be greedy, because they are Gods 'holy saints'.

In this form communion of saints refers to the special bond which unites all Christian people, since they form a part of God's family. This can be seen from the passage from Acts which describes the early church at its best as they cared for each others and shared their goods freely. There was in the church a deep recognition of the need to help others Christians. When the Jerusalem Christians were in need the Christians of Antioch were quick to send help (Acts 11:27-30). Paul organised a collection for the church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, 9:1, Romans 15:25-28). In this way Paul demonstrated what the communion of saints meant, the fellowship of caring and sharing which should be the mark of the church.

This fellowship extends not just to those living, but also to the whole family of God, living and departed in the Lord Jesus. Charles Wesley wrote

One family we dwell in him,
One Church, above beneath,
Though now divided by the stream,
The narrow stream of death.

The writer to the Hebrews expressed this most clearly (Hebrews Chapter 12:1)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As Christians we believe that we are able to enjoy fellowship with all of God's family, including those who have gone before us to be with God. Death brings fuller union with Christ, not less.

Questions for discussion

  • How can we demonstrate the communion of saints ?
  • Should our financial giving be concerned mostly to other Christians?

The forgiveness of sins

Bible Study

Luke Chapter 15 The parable of the Prodigal Son is perhaps one of the most powerful pieces of teaching in the whole bible. For in it we see from the mouth of God how he views sinners. It is worth reading the whole of Chapter 15 of Luke. Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' "'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'"

The young prodigal was clearly at fault. He left the family without a care in the world for anybody other than himself. It wasn't just about leaving home either, it was about dodging responsibilities, avoiding work and having a good time. He wanted his money and he wanted it now, not so that he could go and learn a trade, set up in business and develop his own independence. The money was all about easy carefree, living.

He is an arrogant young man who insults father (give me what I could have if you were dead!), leaves home to make his fortune (familiar enough then and now), and then hits rock bottom, especially as a Jew ending up in the piggery. He came to his senses in a sort of repentance, but is was hunger and need which drove him back to his father.

John Newton - who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace back in 1779 certainly identified with the younger son -the son who wasted his inheritance -in this way. As a young man he left home and went to sea - and there lived wildly and free. Like many people who abandon God, he was highly critical of the Christian faith, and spent much time tearing down the faith of the people he met as he went from place to place. It was only in later years that he realized that he had wasted his young life, and indeed not only wasted it -but in all that time he had been offensive to God and to all God-fearing people, and like the young prodigal, he repented and sought, in humility and in submissiveness to serve God for the rest of his days.

His resulting experience of God's forgiveness, of God's grace, is not only described well in the emotion packed words of the song he wrote, it is also to be found in his epitaph, an epitaph he himself wrote shortly before his death in 1807 He describes himself and his experience of God this way: " John Newton, clerk, once an infidel and libertine, was by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long laboured to destroy."

Indeed many people have had Newton's experience of the love of God - they have discovered no matter how far they have fallen, no matter what they have done, and no matter how intensely they have turned away from and rejected God, that God remains faithful to them, and indeed longs for them to return. They have discovered that God through Christ, indeed preserves, restores and completely pardons - and like Newton they rejoice in it and submit their lives thereafter to Him. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul Acts 22:3

Then Paul said: "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.

The Apostle Paul who had approved of the death of Stephen (Acts 8:1) went on to kill Christians. It was he who Christ forgave and called to his service, there is hope for all of us. Sadly I feel that Christians have often been like the older brother. He was resentful at 'slaving away' whilst the other brother was out enjoying the high life, and how could the father welcome the little idiot back! The older brother would have invented the doctrine of hell with burning sulphur and the fiery furnace, just as we have accommodated it into our thinking.

On the other hand and fortunately, Jesus tells us that God is like the father. Jesus' hearers would have gasped at the image of the father running, a strong cultural taboo in that society. In another shocking gesture the father orders the son clothed in a robe, ring and sandals. Far from being welcomed as a servant, the son is restored to family dignity and given the signet ring to act with the father's authority. The son as a free person wore sandals, while slaves went barefoot. A spiritual that the slaves sang in hope of freedom went 'All God's children got shoes; all God's children have travelling shoes'?"

For your consideration

Dr. Billy Graham started some trouble when he appeared on the hour of Power in America when he spoke at that great glass cathedral. He was asked about salvation and who was to be saved and the great evangelist put his foot in it, at least as far as the evangelical right wing were concerned. Gods love is vaster, than mortal man can ever begin to grasp and it seems that Billy Graham a man who has seen at first hand the moving of God's Spirit -perhaps as much as any human being alive today - has drawn some conclusions from that.

Dr. Billy Graham suggested that there was salvation outside of the usual confession of Christ as personal saviour. The simple fact which he commented upon was that some people would be found in heaven who had not believed on the kind of things found in the TULIP doctrines. There are Five Articles or Reformed points of doctrine which are commonly linked to the Dutch flower, the tulip -Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. Essential to this doctrine is the belief that only some people are saved (limited atonement) the rest are punished in hell.

Christians clearly disagree over the extent of the salvation which will occur as a result of the death of Christ. We have to recognise that some Christians will agree to only a limited salvation, whilst others believe in a salvation which is universal. Scripture can be read in different ways, depending upon your position. An example might be seen in the following verse, which is used to justify both. 'For in Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile all things whether on earth or in heaven, making peace through the blood of his cross.' Colossians 1:19

Questions for discussion

1. Who do you think will be saved and why? Consider these examples in your discussion

  • A child grows up in the jungle and never hears the gospel and doesn't know Jesus will he be saved.
  • A child grows up in Queens Park in a Moslem home, has some zealous parents who teach him that Jesus was not the Son of God.
  • A child grows up in a council estate in Luton, with parents who tell him that only posh people go to church

2. This impacts upon the Gospel message. If people are all saved anyway why should we embark upon mission, spreading the gospel?

The resurrection of the body

Since the Christians believed that the body was good and creation was of God, there was no need to think of a destruction of earthly matter. The reign of Jesus would not bring about destruction but rather a rebuilding. Life beyond death was not some disembodied existence but rather a physical

Eternal life

One of the readings used most commonly in funeral services is taken from John Chapter 14. It is worth using it as the basis for our thinking about eternal life.

'Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'

Jesus is speaking to his disciples shortly before he died and since he knew what it was like to cry at the grave of a loved one (John 11:35), he gave them some special words. Jesus would have known the beautiful words of Psalm 23

'Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.'

Perhaps they were an inspiration to him to think of life after death as living in God's house. Death held no power, no fear, for it was only a bridge to be with God. Surely there can be no better place for any one of us than to be with the God who made us in the first place.

In a very special prayer St. Augustine speaks about the origin and the goal of human nature.

'You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you'

We are made by God and we experience a deep sense of longing for Him which only he can satisfy.


8: Dead and Buried