One day, not many moons ago, a friend and I were talking about religion in general, and finally, the conversation drifted to religious creeds in particular. It was agreed that there are divine and human creeds today, with the human creeds being in the majority. We each understood that a creed is simply a “statement of belief.” When one accepts the Word of God as it is, he is governed by the divine creed. However, when one accepts a human creed as it is, he is governed by a human creed.
A Divine Creed
My friend’s difficulty was that he did not see clearly why the Bible was not intended for the entire world, thus providing just one Divine creed for all time. This led us to a discussion of the three dispensations of the Bible—the Patriarchal, the Mosaic, and the Gospel. The Patriarchal dispensation dated from Adam to Moses’ reception of the law at Mount Sinai. The Mosaic dispensation dated from the giving of the law at Sinai to the cross of Christ, and the Gospel dispensation is dated from the cross of Christ until the end of time.
God issued His commandments in these dispensations that men were to obey. Thus, there was a Divine creed in each distinct age. My friend was led to see that he could not be judged by commandments that applied to an age in which he did not live. Neither he nor I could be under God’s creed that applied during the Patriarchal or Mosaic age because we did not live during those periods.
New Testament Creed
A pure creed is unmixed with the doctrines and commandments of men. Such was the kind of creeds God had in the Patriarchal age and the Mosaic age. My friend was led to see that God did not have two different creeds for the same men in effect in any single age. Therefore, before the Gospel creed could be binding on all men, those preceding creeds had to be abolished.
By carefully studying Hebrews 10:9, we learned that by Christ’s death on the cross, the first, or Mosaic creed, was taken away and that the second, the New Testament creed, might be established. This truth was further confirmed by a study of Colossians 2:14-16, 2 Corinthians 3:7-16, Hebrews 8:6-13, and 9:15-17.
It does not take an intellectual giant to see that, after Christ’s death on the cross and the establishment of His church, or kingdom, on Pentecost (Acts 2), Christ is our High Priest, Prophet, and King, and the members of His church are His subjects.
Christ’s Gospel, or the New Testament, is the pure creed that men must accept today. Jesus plainly says, “The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
When alien sinners believe (Rom. 10:10; Heb. 11:6), repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as God’s Son (Mat. 10:32; Acts 8:37), and are buried with their Lord in baptism for the remission of sins (Col. 2:12; Acts 2:38; 22:16), they have obeyed the New Testament creed concerning how to enter into Christ. When people have done this, they do not have to worry about “joining a church,” for in this obedience the Lord has already added them to the right church—His church (Acts 2:41, 47; Mat. 16:18).
As my friend and I studied these truths, and as the light of the truthfulness and simplicity of the Gospel unfolded in his confused denominational mind, his countenance glowed as if a great burden had been lifted from his soul. We studied the importance of giving strict heed to the pure New Testament creed in worship, work, and Christian living, just as much as in faith, repentance, confession, and baptism, emphasizing that there is no need to become saved unless one stays saved.
Charges Against Human Creeds
When my friend saw clearly that Christians are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10) and that through Christ, God has revealed to us in the New Testament, “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17), he began to wonder why men ever wrote human creeds to regulate man’s religious life. Some very negative charges were then made against human creeds.
1. Human creeds were not given by God nor written by Divinely inspired men.
2. Human creeds do not meet the world’s needs, whereas the pure Gospel creed was commanded to be taken to every creature in all the world (Mark 16:15-16).
3. Human creeds are imperfect, but Christ’s Gospel—New Testament teaching—is “the perfect law of liberty” (Jam. 1:25).
4. Being imperfect, human creeds are revised every few years. The Gospel of Christ is perfect, and woe unto that man or group of men who would change it! We read the penalty on such as would pervert the Gospel (Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18- 19).
5. Human creeds teach differently from the Word of God, and with many people, such creeds set aside the Word of God.
6. Human creeds keep people divided over religious matters, a striking proof of which is seen in the Catholic and Protestant worlds.
Since we have the New Testament as a perfect, pure creed, it was plain to my friend that human creeds are both useless and insufficient. When men begin to write creeds, they depart from God’s teaching. In writing their human religious creeds, they declare that they think God has failed in giving us a safe rule by which to be measured.
However, they tell us their human creeds do not set aside the Bible. They claim their creeds are just like the Bible. If the creed is just like the Bible, they do not need it. If the human creed contains more than the pure New Testament creed, it contains too much. If the human creed contains less than God’s creed, it contains too little.