Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 10, 2014 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker (Did the Apostles' Creed Come From?) Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Matthew 14:22-30
Christ is risen, He is risen, indeed, and in Him there is help in the storms of your life and mine. Amen.
The past couple of years have seen devastating tornados tear apart cities in the Midwest and the southern parts of the United States. Just mention the names of cities like Moore, Oklahoma or Joplin, Missouri and a person could be overcome with gut-wrenching stories of heartbreak and the incredible stories of even the miraculous amidst all that. Earlier this year in Mayflower, Arkansas, Becky Naylor and her family sought shelter in a devastating storm. They fled to their storm cellar for refuge, but along the way, they gathered some twenty people to huddle in the storm cellar with them! Family members and strangers alike held the doors closed as a powerful and deadly tornado tried to tear them off. Amidst the destruction, the twenty in the storm cellar survived.
That shelter was real help in the storm! That invitation from Becky's family to join them was real rescue from the storm. In Matthew, chapter 14, the Gospel writer recounts a harrowing night on the Sea of Galilee when the wind whipped waves into a frenzy and tormented the disciples, who were experienced fishermen. They were terrified. It was at that moment--in the early hours of the morning--that Jesus came to this troubled and helpless group of followers as real help in the storm. Matthew 14 says, "The boat (was) beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea" (Matthew 14:24-26).
That's right, Jesus, though off by Himself praying beforehand, when He knew the disciples were in trouble, He, defying all natural laws, He took miraculous action on their behalf. He came to them, walking on water! Regardless of the barrier, Jesus came to them in their time of need. His words, His presence, then, as now, bring real protection and real peace.
Like Becky Naylor in Mayflower, Arkansas, whose invitation pulled strangers from the highway into the rescue of the storm shelter, Jesus still comes to us in times of trouble for real rescue, for your ultimate rescue. He's there amidst your crises. He stretches out His rescuing hand even in the middle of your darkest hour.
In fact, that's the whole point of the Bible. That's the reason Jesus came to this earth. The Son of God wasn't born for the primary purpose of inspiring you with His goodness or assisting you with His advice. He came to seek and save the lost. He came to be God's help in our times of trouble with an eternal answer to all that is against us. He came to save you and me from death--from the eternal death of your soul, a frightening and devastating future. Jesus walked this earth, pleasing God perfectly in your place. He suffered and was nailed to a cross bearing your troubles, failures, and sins. He paid the price for you and me so that we could receive a new life, a restored eternity with God. Jesus' resurrection from the dead--a miracle beyond miracles--removed the obstacle of death and decay in your life and mine. This is the gift of real rescue for you and me when you're battered by the storms of this broken life and this broken world.
In fact, that's who Jesus is, that's who God is! When He came to the disciples that scary night, He said, 'Take heart; it is I. Don't be afraid'" (Matthew 14:26-27).
This is another place in the Bible when Jesus brought heaven and earth together, when He, by His Presence, His actions, literally brought God the Father's protection and blessing near to those in need. That's who Jesus is, that's who God is. In the Old Testament, God identified Himself as the great "I Am." The Bible teaches that the true God has a Name and it tells you who He is, what He does, and what He has in store for all who trust in Him. When God said, "My Name is 'Yahweh," or "I Am," it's a powerful statement of His desire to be with us, to be there for us, to save us for an eternal life with Him. Jesus Himself claims that same identity as "God for us" when He said to His listeners, "I am." He said, "I am the Bread of Life," "I am the Good Shepherd," "I am the Vine." Here in Matthew 14, during the torment and fear of a wild storm, Jesus approached His disciples personally and literally said, "Take heart, I am."
In Jesus, God was present then, He is present now! And, my friend, God is always closer than you think. He is with you in this very moment. He comes to help you in the storms. Do you believe that?
In the text, Peter didn't. After Jesus identified Himself, Peter said, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water" (Matthew 14:28).
How many times does God have to put a billboard answer in front of you, gave you a neon sign of guidance, or hit you over the head with answers to your prayers, but you responded, "God, is that really you? I'm just not sure."
Think about what Jesus did: He walked on the water to come to the disciples. No one can do that. No one has ever done it! What additional proof did Peter need that this was the Master's voice; this was his Teacher; this was his Savior? Peter had already witnessed miraculous healings. He was in a boat not too long before when this Jesus miraculously stilled a storm. Jesus cast out demons and brought a dead girl back to life! He preached the good news and gave His disciples the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. He had just finished feeding 5000 families with only five loaves and two fish. What else did Jesus have to do to convince Peter it was Him; that He was close, that He came to help?
Well, how about you and me? What does God have to do to convince us that He is real, that He is with you, that He is working for you, that He has forgiven your sins, that you can trust Him with your life--even during the season of life you're experiencing now--that He is calling you to be His own? What does God have to do to quell our doubts, to calm our fears, and overcome our hesitance to trust in Him?
That's what Kelly Corrigan was struggling with. She was 36 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. Her father was diagnosed with cancer at the same time. He was 74. Kelly wasn't sure about God, but her parents were. They prayed for healing. And both Kelly and her father experienced complete recovery. Kelly wanted to attribute her father's recovery to human ingenuity, but she said, "The urologist to whom I attributed my dad's stunning recovery had told us to brace for the worst. Ten months later, when he declared my father a healthy man, that same doctor said he couldn't explain 'how on earth' my dad was disease-free."
Miracles. Miracles. There were too many miracles under Kelly's nose. God was nudging her closer to belief. She was struggling to believe like many of you might be doing right now. There are many reasons to doubt. Your troubles may drain you. Logic may lock you into the need to explain everything naturally. Your stubbornness can push you to be the one who doesn't need help from the outside. Your pessimism may make you think that there can't be anyone who is truly good, who truly cares about you. Even the poor behavior of so-called religious people could push you into renouncing the existence of God. But even Kelly Corrigan admitted she had doubts about her doubts. And I'm here to tell you that amidst all of that, God comes to give you and me and all of us real hope.
Renowned author and former atheist C.S. Lewis recognized doubt within his doubt too. No matter how hard he pushed against God, Lewis saw that God was "a lion who goes in search of man, hunts him down and embraces him." You see, God's business is to knock apart our doubt and draw us close to Him.
Yes, Jesus, the Lion of Judah, keeps prowling, not to devour, but to save. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, keeps seeking the lost. Jesus, the Friend of sinners, keeps showing up--just as He did when He walked on the raging water to these troubled disciples. And every time He comes He brings His gifts, He heals an illness, provides peace, shows you the beauty of His creation, or delights you with the unexplainable joy of your child's laugh or a majestic sunset, He says to you then, "Now will you believe?"
Our sinful nature pushes against God's provision all the time in our lives. Our self-absorption doesn't want to give God any credit. Our stubborn will wants to deny the miraculous, thinking that God must always make sense to us on our terms. But then Jesus shows up walking on water and blows away our neat and tidy system of how life really works. And then, as now, He invites us to believe in Him!
And just so you know....this walk of faith....it isn't just a state of mind. It's a state of complete reality. When your life is in God's hands, you receive a totally different vantage point on all of your life.
Let's go back to that event that windy night....Jesus comes. Jesus tells them, "Don't be afraid," and still Peter challenged Jesus' identity by telling Jesus to command him to walk on the sea too. Incredibly, Jesus replied to Peter by saying, "All right. Come."
Trust Me, come with Me. That's faith in Jesus. He dares us to live joyfully in Him! Jesus issued inspiring and life-energizing invitations. He said, "Follow me." He challenged, "Go into all the world and preach the good news, My good news, to all creation." He offered comfort to all when He invited, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." And He said to Peter, "Come do the impossible with me."
Jesus' invitations can change your life too because they are based on His actions, His promises, ones you can always count on for real rescue and life! His invitation, His promises, they repair your wounds and then send you out into making a difference you never imagined possible. They give you a certain hope and they launch you into relationships of love, friendship, and sacrifice. When you believe, when you take Jesus at His word, everything changes.
Martin Luther, the father of the reformation and the medieval monk who wrestled with who God really is, he captured the new vantage point of believing as he explained the Apostles' Creed. When you say, "I believe in God the Father almighty," "I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son," and "I believe in the Holy Spirit," your life is changed. Your vantage point is completely made over. Suddenly, in God's grace, you are changed from someone who never has enough to someone who sees yourself as blessed. Suddenly, you are changed from a person who has to make everything happen for yourself to someone who celebrates God's undeserved love--his grace--every day. Suddenly, you are changed from being a person who sees only this moment and only your ability, to one who has a certain hope and who knows that new life from God washes over you every day all the way to eternity.
Luther summarized that vantage point in his explanations to the first two articles of The Apostles' Creed. He said it this way; and I love it: I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; ...He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, guards and preserves me from all evil; and all of this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him.
But listen to what he says about believing in Jesus. He says: I believe that Jesus Christ, true God... also true man.....is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, and lives and reigns to all eternity.
Like Luther, Peter and the disciples of our text are asking us all; will you believe in Jesus? Will you believe that God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit so that you could be saved, having abundant, eternal life in Him?
Those disciples testified for the rest of their lives that life in and for Him changed everything. For their lives, as ours, are in the hands of the Savior who walked on the water many years ago and still comes for us today in time of need.
I know that having such faith may be frightening at first. It may seem very risky. That's what happened to Peter. We hear in Matthew 14: "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and he began to sink, and he cried out, 'Lord, save me.'" And what did Jesus do? Well it said: "Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'" (Matthew 14:30-32).
Then Jesus brought him into the boat and the seas became calm. Jesus was right there. Even in the midst of Peter's "tepid" faith, Jesus was more than enough Savior. But Jesus' grace was indeed calling for bolder faith. Can you see the fullness of Jesus as your Savior, your Lord, your Friend? He's everything you need and He walks the waters of your trouble all the way to where you are now...to call you to faith in Him.
Earlier this year, you may have heard the news of the couple that found gold coins in their backyard. The couple was walking their dogs when they came across some rusty cans sticking out of the ground in the shadow of an old tree. Upon further examination, they discovered 1,427 gold coins from the 1800s. The face value of the money is $27,000. The current value is more than ten million dollars!
And all the while, it was right there under their noses. It was right there all the time. Incredible, astonishing? Who would have ever believed it? Yet, that treasure was right there for them all the time if they would only receive it.
So how about you? It's true.....that we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him; but as Luther reminds us, the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and sanctified and kept us in the true faith! So, by the power of the Holy Spirit, today, know that there is real treasure right here, right now for you; the treasure of your Savior Jesus, the love and grace of God. No need to dig, He paid the price to deliver it all the way to you. Right here, right now. Will you believe in Him? Get to know Him in His Word, you'll trust Him too....and that changes everything. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 10, 2014 Topic: Did the Apostles' Creed Come From?
ANNOUNCER: Who came up with The Apostle's Creed? Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer.
SELTZ: Wow! What a great question, Mark. It came from someplace, but before we talk about the origin of the creed, however, I'd like to define what the word "creed" means for our listeners. We're familiar with the word "credo," that's Latin for "I believe." So, the word "creed" just simply means a set of beliefs or statements of faith.
ANNOUNCER: And the creed known as The Apostles' Creed; that's one of the main Christian creeds, right?
SELTZ: It sure is. In fact, it is one of the ecumenical creeds, or the creeds that the whole Christian Church on earth subscribes to. The ecumenical creeds are the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Each creed has a certain focus and spells out specific articles of faith.
ANNOUNCER: Now, for those who may not be familiar with the one we're talking about today, what does The Apostle's Creed say?
SELTZ: First of all, it's very short and very simple. If any listeners want to say it along with us, they can join right in. Ready, Mark? The Apostles' Creed goes like this: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
ANNOUNCER: And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
SELTZ: He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead.
ANNOUNCER: He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
SELTZ: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. And then the church says, "Amen."
ANNOUNCER: And all of this tells us who God is and what He's done for us.
SELTZ: Right. It is believed that this is the earliest Christian creed produced by the church. These words of faith in God; they talk about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; they came together gradually over many years, but they are rooted in the teachings of the Apostles.
ANNOUNCER: So, even though we call it "The Apostles' Creed," it's not like the Apostles got together one day and wrote it.
SELTZ: That's right. It means that the words of the creed express their teachings as found in the Bible. Some of the phrases resemble Biblical phrases like "he descended into hell," from 1 Peter 3:19. The other phrases reflect the simple and clear teaching of the Bible about God, the Creator of heaven and earth, His Son, Jesus, whose life is described in simple detail, and the reality of the Holy Spirit and His gifts today. It may be that this creed was used by people as they prepared to be baptized in the Christian faith.
ANNOUNCER: When did this Creed first appear?
SELTZ: We know that some creedal statements already existed in the first century. Some examples are found in places like 1 Timothy 3:16, in the Bible, where the Apostle Paul says about Jesus, "He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up into glory" (1 Timothy 3:16 ESV).
ANNOUNCER: Another place, perhaps, is Philippians, chapter two. Again, it's the Apostle Paul, talking about Jesus and he says, "Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross..." (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV).
SELTZ: Yeah. That's another great one, too. It's a powerful text that we find in the church and in the Bible.
ANNOUNCER: We believe these sayings were already familiar to Christians and in use by them.
SELTZ: Yes, they were creedal statements. But the text of The Apostles' Creed is not specifically in the Bible. As I said, it is teaching from the Bible and the Apostles, but we don't find that creed referenced by anyone until 390 A.D. It was a letter from Ambrose, an early Christian leader in Milan, and it contains the phrase "the Creed of the Apostles." Ambrose indicates that the church has kept this creed faithfully. So, it sounds like the creed existed already for a long time.
ANNOUNCER: When do we find the complete text in historical documents?
SELTZ: Well, a monk named Priminius wrote a book that contained instructions for missionaries and served as a handbook for Christian doctrine and biblical references. In this book, which was written in the early 700s A.D., we find the complete text mentioned three times.
ANNOUNCER: The Apostles' Creed is an ancient confession of faith. It connects us with other believers across the world and across the ages in the truth of the God who created and cares for us, the God who redeems us, the God who remains with us.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
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