DOES THE BIBLE APPROVE OF MEN’S CREEDS?
A creed is a brief authoritative statement or formula of religious belief.
Men have written many creeds over the years, the most famous being the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. The older of these, the Apostles’ Creed, was written in the second century, as the earliest historical reference to it is in AD 190. The Nicene Creed was written by a church council convened by the Emperor Constantine in Nicea in AD 325. Since the New Testament was finished no later than about AD 96, both of these creeds came after God had completed His revelation to man (Jude 3).
The Apostles’ Creed stresses the importance of the Trinity, with special emphasis on Christ. It did not actually come from the apostles, however, due to its late date of composition. It has been revised at least sixteen times over the years, which surely would be wrong if it actually did come from the apostles. The Nicene Creed was written to rebuke the teachings of Arius, who claimed that Christ was not equal to the Father or “of the same substance” as the Father. These creeds, and most others men have written, were written with the intention of simplifying basic Bible teachings for common man. The problem, however, is that human wisdom is never adequate to speak where God has not spoken in matters of religious authority.
Benjamin Franklin, a nineteenth century preacher, summed up the problem with man-made creeds, He said, “First, any creed containing more than the Bible is objectionable because it does contain more than the Bible. Second, any creed containing less than the Bible is objectionable because it does contain less than the Bible. Third, any creed differing from the Bible is objectionable because it does differ from the Bible. Fourth, any creed precisely like the Bible is useless because we have the Bible. This covers the whole ground… A creed must contain more than the Bible, less than the Bible, differ from it, or be precisely like it. No man defends his creed on the ground that it contains more than the Bible, less than the Bible, or is precisely like it. If a creed be not defended on these grounds, on what ground can it be defended? Certainly on no moral ground conceivable to mortal man.”
Jesus warned of the hypocrisy of His day, saying, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).
Their worship was vain because they placed the uninspired teachings of mere men over the revealed Word of God. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2nd Timothy 3:16-17).
The Bible itself is the only creed, the only statement of beliefs that we can follow as authoritative. No man-made creed can ever compare to Scripture.
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