"I Believe in God the Father Almighty"
Confessing Belief in our Heavenly Father
As we begin our journey through the statements of the Apostle's Creed, it is my prayerful hope that we will remember what each of these statements represent. As we have previously mentioned, "creed" comes from the Latin "credo" which means "I believe" or "I am believing". This term pictures more than a simple statement of fact, though it is certainly not less than a statement of fact. It is a statement of fact in which one places their trust. The difference between merely believing a fact as opposed to faithfully trusting in that fact is established by James in the Holy Scriptures. James writes:
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! James 2:19
In other words, the demons believe (know) certain theological facts as truth, yet that knowledge offers no deliverance. We are called to know facts about God because our salvation is rooted in factual knowledge about God. However, knowledge about God is not alone sufficient for saving faith. We must love and trust in the very God described by those facts. In that way, we are called to biblical faith- a trusting relationship toward God based on the truth of Scripture.
While our salvation is rooted in the person and salvific work of Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the creed does not begin there. It begins with a statement affirming our belief in the first person of the Holy Trinity. It says, "I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth". As Christians, of course, we affirm this; sometimes, we do so without much thought. What does it mean to confess this first statement? Let us briefly consider that question.
We might point out that a belief in God's existence is immediately set forth in the creed. Yet, it never leaves us clinging to some undefined idea of God. In this way, the Apostles' Creed stands against the long-standing cultural tide which strives to offer a variety of gods in which we might find satisfaction. "No!" declares this creed definitively, there is but one God in Whom we must believe. It is this God, and Him alone, set before us in this text. Further, there is much that can be understood concerning Him in what is presented.
One clear and immediate implication of this declaration is that it is trinitarian in nature. Here, we find the Creed addressing God as Father. The truth of this statement is only realized as we continue through this creed to see God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit likewise addressed as fully divine. By noting the person of God the Father, the creed is already reminding us of the persons of Son and Spirit. Therefore, the faithful confessor of this creed is reminded of the uniqueness of our triune God. In other words, even while speaking of the Father, we are reminded of the trinitarian nature of our holy and righteous God.
Still, what does it mean to actually call Him Father? On one level, we would be reminded of a multitude of texts that speak of God as the Father of His people. In the model prayer, believers are encouraged to pray with recognition of God the Father as "our Father who art in heaven." While an extensive study on such references can certainly be done, I believe that the Creed is intending another emphasis. This Creed's use of Father is in service to distinguishing among the persons of the Trinity; it is, therefore, appropriate to recognize it along the same line of reasoning. God the Father, the first person of the Holy Trinity, is father because He eternally begets the Son (the second person of the Trinity). While this is a difficult concept, it is the language the church has used. While the Father begets the Son, it is unlike human notions of begetting (which are temporal). The Son is eternally begotten.
Second, God the Father is spoken of as "almighty". This is not an insignificant description. God the Father, as fully God, is omnipotent, which is to say that He is all-powerful. There is no rival to God; Our God, alone, is omnipotent. There is no force that can put to doubt His sovereign plan. Again, He is an omnipotent God. What our God declares shall be accomplished. In fact, this is the very reason that we can have utter confidence in the promises of God. If He has declared them, they shall come to pass.
Third, this first statement of the Apostles' Creed declares that God the Father is the Creator of heaven and earth. This is a truth attested to in the Word of God. The very first verse of the very first book of the Bible states that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). While this is unquestionable in its veracity, there is an important point to be added. What is attributed here to the person of the Father is true of the triune God. God is creative, thus the creation of the heavens and earth is attributable to the Father, but this should not be taken to infer that the persons of the Son and Spirit were uninvolved. The Scriptures of the New Testament make this clear. It is through Christ that the Father created the universe [Hebrews 1:2 ( click for a sermon on this text)]. This is confirmed by the Apostle Paul:
"All things were created through Him and for Him." Colossians 1:16
Likewise, when the Father is spoken of as almighty, this does not argue that the Son and Spirit are not almighty. As the Athanasian Creed states on this precise point:
Similarly, the Father is almighty,
the Son is almighty,
the Holy Spirit is almighty.
Yet there are not three almighty beings;
there is but one almighty being.
Again, omnipotence is an attribute of God, thus it describes all persons of the Trinity. Likewise, being creative, or Creator, is descriptive of God, thus all three persons within the Godhead. Here, they are being used to describe God the Father almighty, the first person of the Holy Trinity.
That is the first point of our confession. We declare that God exists and that He exists in one essence, yet three persons. We believe in God- the holy and glorious Creator- who is omnipotent and without equal. We confess that we believe in the person of God the Father, who is declared to us in the Revelation of Scripture. It is this almighty Father, righteous and gracious, who sent forth His Son, Jesus Christ. It is by this Son's person and work that we can be reconciled to the Father by faith. Finally, we believe that our reconciliation to the Father through Christ means that we can call God the Father our Father by adoption. All of this surrounds the truths summed up in this first statement of the Apostles' Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.