Jude 3



1.   Have you ever been involved in a discussion with someone who identified himself as a Christian, “just not your kind of Christian?”  As we sink deeper and deeper into the end times apostasy we find more and more people who choose to identify themselves as Christians without believing what Christians have always believed.

2.   People seem more and more willing to buy into the notion that they are within their rights to identify themselves as Christians, while being at odds with what real Christians have held to be true for thousands of years.

3.   Please turn in your Bible to the second to the last book of the Bible, the book of Jude.  A very brief letter, only 25 verses long, I would like you to read verse 3 silently while I read aloud.  Jude 3:  “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

4.   Do you see the phrase “the common salvation” in that verse?  Albert Barnes wrote on this phrase, “The salvation common to Jews and Gentiles, and to all who bore the Christian name.  The meaning is, that he did not think of writing on any subject pertaining to a particular class or party, but on some subject in which all who were Christians had a common interest.”[1]

5.   There is only one plan of salvation devised by God.  There is only one Gospel.  There is only one Savior.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”[2]  Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”[3]

6.   So, there is only one kind of real Christianity, called here “the common salvation.”  The next phrase I want to bring to your attention, which reads “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints,” refers to that body of truth, those doctrines, those facts, which are vital to Christianity and the salvation which only Jesus can provide for sinners.

7.   Here, then, is the dilemma Christians have always been faced with.  How are we to settle disputes between divergent groups who each claim to believe the Bible?  After all, Mormons claim to believe the Bible.  Seventh Day Adventists claim to believe the Bible.  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to believe the Bible.  Pentecostals and Charismatics claim to believe the Bible.  What is to be done about those who claim to believe the Bible, but who simply do not believe what Christians throughout history have always believed to be taught in the Bible?

8.   As I have already suggested, this is not a new problem confronting Christianity.  It is actually an issue that is older than Christianity.  There have always been those who claimed to be Christians, and before that claimed to be “God’s people,” yet they did not believe what God would have us to believe the Bible to teach.

9.   So, what is the remedy?  The remedy, at least in part, has come to be what some people call creeds, or what others label confessions of faith.  Creeds and confessions of faith are really one and the same thing.  One of the earliest known creeds is referred to as The Apostle’s Creed.  You will find it in your bulletin.

10. This morning ’s is the first of three messages I will bring over the next three weeks on The Apostle’s Creed.  The purpose of these messages will be to bring to your attention the drifting of evangelical Christianity away from the orthodox beliefs of the ancient Christians.

11. Why is this important to you?  Because, my friends, Christianity is an ancient religion.  Christianity is a faith that is rooted in history.  Christianity is a system that is based upon an unchanging Bible.  If we cannot trace our roots to the ancient past, over the centuries of time, to men of old who believed the same things that we believe are taught in the Bible, then we are no different from the so-called Restorationists.

12. Restorationists, groups such as Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and various Church of Christ denominations, believe that there essentially was no Christianity for more than 1000 years and that they restored Christianity to the face of the earth back in the first half of the 1800s.  Though most people do not realize it, and though theologians for the most part refuse to face up to the fact, Charles G. Finney was a Restorationist.

13. But they are not who I am concerned with this morning.  My concern is to show you that evangelical Christianity here in the United States , and to show you that Baptist fundamentalism here in the United States , is drifting away and departing from “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

14. How would I know this to be true?  After all, both evangelicals and fundamentalists claim to believe the Bible.  Yes, but the creeds show them for what they really are.  The Apostle’s Creed shows that in some important respects evangelicals and fundamentalists do not believe what Christians have previously believed for almost 2000 years.

15. Before brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song, allow me to raise two issues for your consideration:



Lest you get upset at the very notion of creeds, allow me to define for you what a creed is, and then show you some creeds in the Bible:

1B.    Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines a creed as, “1. a brief statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.  2. a specific statement of this kind, accepted as authoritative by a church; especially, the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.”[4]

1C.   So you see, the Westminster Confession of Faith is a creed.  The First London Baptist Confession of 1644 and the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 are both creeds.  As well, the New Hampshire Baptist Confession and the Philadelphia Baptist Confession are creeds.

2C.   Down through the centuries Christians have always formulated creeds and confessions, not as a substitute for the Bible, but as a distillation of what they held to be the salient points of Bible truth.  Essentially, a creed is a statement by a group of Christians that declares to the world “this is what we believe the Bible teaches.”  A properly written creed can be very helpful in distinguishing those who claim to be Christians from those who really are Christians.

3C.   “Some have said the creeds are man made and hence should be ignored in favor of Scripture.  Should we then dispose of all sermons, Bible study texts, commentaries, doctrinal outlines, books on theology, devotionals, et cetera?  Certainly not!  The creeds do not masquerade as Scripture and many specifically point out that it is the Scriptures themselves which are ‘the only infallible rule of faith and practice.’  Yet as Christians is it not valuable to consider how the Holy Spirit has spoken to our brothers and sisters over the millennia as they have struggled with various issues, poured over the Scriptures and often fasted and prayed heartily with their fellow Christians in the light of the inspired texts?  Surely, to quote the pulpit prince C. H. Spurgeon to his students, ‘you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound the Scripture without the assistance from the works of divine and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition . . . . It seems odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.’ (Commenting and Commentaries)[5]

2B.    Let me to read some creeds that are found in the Bible.[6]

1C.   Deuteronomy 6.4:  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.”  “This scripture verse is incorporated into Jewish life and used in prayer every morning and evening.  This verse is the core of Judaism’s central belief in the unity of God.  Martyrs through the ages spoke these words as they met their deaths at the hands of their enemies.  It was given to Moses by God Himself 3500 years ago, and has been recited in every synagogue in every country of the world throughout the ages.”[7]

2C.   Philippians 2.6-11:  6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  That’s a good creed.  Amen?

3C.   This third one is also a good creed.  First Timothy 3.16:  “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”



1B.    It is entirely possible to attend a Baptist church for many years without any exposure to anything resembling a creed or a confession.  This is likely the result of a posture toward confessions and creeds running through the ranks of Baptists in the United States that is similar to the view of the Baptist historian of the 19th century, Thomas Armitage, who wrote,

“That the book called the Bible is given by the inspiration of God, and is the only rule of Christian faith and practice.  The consequence is, that we have no creeds, nor catechisms, nor decretals, which bind us by their authority.  We think a creed worth nothing, unless it is supported by Scriptural authority, and if the creed is founded on the word of God, we do not see why we should not rest on that word which props up the creed; we prefer to go back directly to the foundation itself and rest there alone.  If it is able to sustain us, we need nothing else, and if it is not, then we cannot rest upon a creed to support us when that creed has no support for itself.”[8]


2B.    I very much appreciate the contributions made by that wonderful man of God, Thomas Armitage, and I think our Baptists in the United States have greatly benefited overall by his life and ministry.  However, I think he was mistaken in his opposition to the right use of creeds.  Two points will illustrate his error, in my opinion:

1C.   First, Armitage and those who, like him, oppose creeds and confessions seem to not recognize that creeds differ little from commentaries, written sermons, and Bible studies, as aids to learning and as tools that help to clarify doctrinal truths in the minds of God’s people.  Though creeds can be misused and substituted for real faith in Christ and personal study of the Bible, they can also be a very helpful device for the babe in Christ and to clearly define Christian doctrine to those who are not believers.

2C.   For reasons I am not clear about, Armitage and other Baptists of the 19th century did not seem to recall that for some 1700 previous years of Christian history, and for 400 years of English speaking Baptist history in both the United Kingdom and the United States , creeds and confessions were in constant use.  Particular Baptists in England produced two notable Baptist Confessions that I have already cited, and the Philadelphia and New Hampshire Baptist Confessions written here in the United States form the articles of faith for almost every Baptist church in the country.

3C.   I am of the opinion that when Baptists used creeds they were the stronger for it, and I believe there to be some correlation between the disuse of creeds by Baptists these days and their spiritual weakness and doctrinal ignorance.  Baptists these days simply do not know what to believe, which is to say that they don’t really believe much at all.  The proper use of creeds would, I think, greatly help any church that employed them.  This is why our church kids have been taught Spurgeon’s Catechism for several years; just another way to teach them Baptist doctrine.



1.   Let us purpose in our minds not to be afraid of a useful tool just because it is new to us.  Over time our hands will learn to grip the unfamiliar tool and use it to effectively serve God.

2.   Remember, this tool may seem strange for our hands to grip, but it is not a new tool.  Neither is it an untested and untried tool.  Throughout most of Christian history Baptists and others have made effective use of this tool we call a creed.

3.   Do you value it more than God’s Word?  Then you misuse it and make it a shameful idol.  Do you place no value on it whatsoever?  Then you are a craftsman who refuses to use a hammer or a saw, a chisel or a plane, which only increases the difficulty of your task.

4.   My recommendation is that one use of a creed is as a level would be used, or as a compass would be used, to quickly evaluate whether a doctrine is true to God’s Word as to inclination or direction.

5.   We will use a portion of The Apostle’s Creed in this fashion after brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we sing.  Please stand at this time.



1.   There are a number of ways in which a creed or a confession can be used, without ever using a creed or a confession as any kind of substitute for God’s Word.

2.   Some old English Baptists used Baptist confessions to defend themselves from false accusations.  Other Baptists adopted confessions as rallying documents for others of like faith and practice to agree upon.  Still other creeds were written to stand against dangerous heresies.  Finally, some confessions were written to serve as instructional guides to provide doctrinal training for children and those newly come into the faith.

3.   This morning we will consider The Apostle’s Creed, one of the oldest, certainly the most recognized, of all Christian creeds.



“A creed generally emphasizes the beliefs opposing those errors that the compilers of the creed think most dangerous at the time. . . The Apostles’ Creed, drawn up in the first or second century, emphasizes the true Humanity, including the material body, of Jesus, since that is the point that the heretics of the time (Gnostics, Marcionites, and later Manicheans) denied.”[9]


Around A.D. 180, Roman Christians developed an early form of the Apostles’ Creed. . . . They affirmed that the God of creation is the Father of Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, was buried and raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven, where he rules with the Father.  They also affirmed belief in the Holy Spirit, the church, and the resurrection of the body.

Candidates for membership in the church, having undergone a lengthy period of moral and doctrinal instruction, were asked at baptism to state what they believed.  They responded in the words of this creed.

The Apostles’ Creed underwent further development.  In response to the question of readmitting those who had denied the faith during the persecutions of the second and third centuries, the[y] . . . added, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” . . . In
Gaul , in the fifth century, the phrase “he descended into hell” came into the creed.  By the eighth century, the creed had attained its present form.”[10]




The Apostle’s Creed is important for at least three significant reasons:

1B.    First, the Apostle’s Creed is the most famous of all the creeds adopted by early Christians in response to errors that were creeping into their congregations.

1C.   We see evidence in some New Testament epistles, such as Galatians, Colossians, First John and Jude, that false teachers were confusing believers and attempting to overturn God’s truth and lead them astray.

2C.   While the apostles were still alive they confronted and rebuked those who listened to the heretics, and directed others to do the same, as we see in Titus 1.13, where Paul urges Titus to rebuke Christians who listened to those they should not have listened to:  “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”

3C.   After the apostles left the scene the dangers did not diminish, but a new strategy had to be devised to combat the errors that swept through Christendom.  One of the methods adopted was the use of the creed, the most famous being the Apostle’s Creed.

2B.    Second, the Apostle’s Creed was a means whereby new converts could be indoctrinated with universally accepted Scriptural truths and guarded against succumbing to heresies:

1C.   No two pastors teach their congregations exactly the same truths, or with the same emphasis.  This is due to different life experiences, different training, different spiritual gifts, different people, and so on.

2C.   Nevertheless, there are great truths in the Christian faith about which everyone ought to be agreed.  There are certain things that no one who is an orthodox Christian, a really historical Christian, would ever think of denying.

3C.   When it comes to standing up for the doctrine of the trinity of the Godhead and the humanity of Jesus Christ, The Apostle’s Creed has got to be foremost.

4C.   So, for more than 1700 years The Apostle’s Creed has been accepted by Christians everywhere as a minimum statement of faith, a minimum declaration of belief.  If a supposed new convert could not in good conscience subscribe to the declaration of this creed he was not, and he should not, be welcomed into a congregation as a new believer.

3B.    Third, the Apostle’s Creed was a means whereby Christian orthodoxy could stand together united against heresies.

1C.   I am a Baptist, but it should be recognized that Baptists are not the only ones on earth who subscribe wholeheartedly to the Christian faith.  Saleema, the Pakistani girl I have mentioned so frequently, is almost certainly not a Baptist.  But is she not a young Christian woman of astonishing grace and commitment?

2C.   What about the Anglicans, John Wesley and George Whitefield, and Martin Luther, and John Knox, and Hudson Taylor, the missionary to China ?  These and many others have several things in common with those of us who are genuinely converted.

3C.   First, and most importantly, they have in common with us the Lord Jesus Christ.  Next, they have in common with us the faith once delivered to the saints, as it is expressed in the Bible.  But they also have in common with us several expressions of the essence of our faith, one of which is The Apostle’s Creed.

4C.   Thus, while not everyone who subscribes to The Apostle’s Creed is genuinely converted, it can be most emphatically declared that those who do not subscribe to The Apostle’s Creed are simply not Christians as Christians have always been and as Christians have always believed.

5C.   The Apostle’s Creed, then, is a very important line of demarcation drawn in the dirt.  Stand on this side of the Creed and you may very well be a Christian.  Stand on that side and you most definitely are not a Christian.



Want to know what kind of people refused to subscribe to the Apostle’s Creed in days gone by?  I have already mentioned Gnostics, Marcionites and Manicheans, so let me tell you a little more about these three groups.

1B.    First, there is Gnosticism.  Gnosticism was “An early Greek religious movement of broad proportions that was particularly influential in the second-century church.  Many bible interpreters see in certain NT documents (such as 1 John) the attempt to answer or refute Gnostic teaching.  The word gnosticism comes from the Greek term gnosis, meaning ‘knowledge.’  Gnostics believed that devotees had gained a special kind of spiritual enlightenment, through which they had attained a secret or higher level of knowledge not accessible to the uninitiated.  Gnostics also tended to emphasize the spiritual realm of the material, often claiming that the material realm is evil and hence to be escaped.”[11]  “Gnostics were ‘people who knew’, and their knowledge at once constituted them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status was essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, did not know.”[12]

2B.    Next, there is Marcionism.  “The movement began with Marcion in the second century, which rejected the validity of the OT witness for Christians because the God of the OT was believed to be incompatible with the loving God revealed through Jesus.  Often persons who focus on the NT in their preaching or teaching and who overlook the OT as the ‘cradle’ for Jesus and the Christian faith (and hence who fail to give proper credence to the ‘Jewishness’ of Jesus and the early church) are accused of Marcionism.”[13]

3B.    Third, there were the Manicheans.  “At its peak, Manicheism could be found from Spain to China . . . . Manicheism originated in lower Mesopotamia , . . . in the third century A.D.  To Christians, Mani [the religion’s founder] proclaimed himself the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit in the form of the Helper, whose coming had been predicted by Jesus in the Gospel of John.  But he rejected the Old Testament. . . Spreading into central Asia and eventually into China , the teaching of Mani there emphasized ties to Buddhism. . . At the end of the seventh century Manichean teachers appeared at the Chinese imperial court. . . .”  Augustine, who had been a Manichean for nine years before his conversion to Christ, became a fervent opponent of that heresy.[14]

With such errors as Gnosticism, Marcionism and Manicheism affecting churches everywhere, the Apostle’s Creed was formulated to concisely state those Christian doctrines which were under attack by those groups.  The Creed proved to be a very effective tool in blunting the assault of these Satan-inspired groups on Christian congregations.



To this point I have spoken about the Apostle’s Creed.  Now we will actually examine it.  We haven’t the time remaining to examine the entire Creed, so I would like to concentrate on the first of its three parts.  Please look at the back of your bulletin, where the Apostle’s Creed is reproduced.

I would like to warn you about three modern day departures from the Christian faith related to God the Father:

1B.    First, notice how each of the three assertions of the Creed begin:  “I believe in God . . . And in Jesus Christ . . . I believe in the Holy Ghost . . . .”

1C.   I will not prove it to you, since it is such a widespread disease that you cannot help but see it yourself, but will only remind you of it.  People these days believe that belief without any connection to something or someone believed in is either appropriate or somehow beneficial.

2C.   There is even a so-called Christian song with words that go something like, “Only believe, only believe.  All things are possible if you only believe.”  Such a view of faith is utter nonsense.

3C.   I am reminded of the senior citizens in a bus accident on the way back to San Francisco from a gambling trip to Reno some years ago.  One of the riders was quoted in the newspaper as saying, “I told everyone that it would all turn out okay if we only believed.”  But who or what to believe in?  That’s the question.

4C.   Contemporary Christianity has departed from historical orthodoxy, has removed itself from our 2000 year old faith, because modern day evangelicals, and even fundamentalists, are of the personal conviction that faith, in and of itself, faith, without the triune God for its object, is somehow beneficial.  No, it is not.  To think that faith without the triune God as its object is in any way beneficial disagrees with the Creed, showing the one disagreeing is not a Christian.

2B.    Next, notice that the Creed affirms the First Person’s fatherhood of the Second Person:  “I believe in God the Father . . . And in Jesus Christ his only Son . . . .”

1C.   There is a serious error moving about Christendom these days, and it is propagated by the MacArthur Study Bible.  It is a denial of the eternal sonship of Jesus Christ.  And though John MacArthur now claims that he no longer holds to the error of denying that Jesus has always been the Son of God from eternity past, he did not so believe when the MacArthur Study Bible was printed.

2C.   Let me read Psalm 2.7 to you:  “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”  Now, let me read MacArthur’s footnote on that verse:  “This recalls 2 Sam.7:8-16 as the basis for the Davidic king.  It is also the only OT reference to the Father/Son relationship in the Trinity, a relationship planned in eternity past and realized in the incarnation, thus a major part of the NT.”[15]  [Emphasis added]

3C.   This footnote implies that Jesus was not the Son of God before the incarnation.  That would mean God did not send His Son, but someone who would become His Son.  By denying that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, it is also denied that the First Person is also the eternal Father of the Son.  But what has the contemporary Christian community said about MacArthur’s Study Bible note?  Virtually nothing.

4C.   I hold in my hand a copy of The Eternal Sonship Of Christ, by George Zeller and Renald Showers, one of two small, but very good books, I know of, written on the subject.  But by and large evangelicalism is absolutely silent on this.  No objections and no outcries.  Fundamental Baptists are also silent on the subject, with one pastor of a very large church starting a Bible college without knowing where he stood on the subject when I brought it up to him.  Imagine!  Starting a Bible college and yet not knowing whether or not he believed in the eternal sonship of Jesus Christ.

5C.   Back in the days when the Creed was more widely used, not only would that fellow not have been able to start a Bible college, and not only would he not have been able to pastor a church, . . . he would not then have been allowed to join a church!

6C.   So, is it safe to say that evangelical Christianity has fallen short of the mark, and that even Baptist fundamentalists are wide of the mark, if these examples are typical?  I would say so.

3B.    Finally, notice that the Creed says, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

1C.   Throughout history this assertion would have been unanimously accepted as a testimony to the accuracy and precision of the Genesis account of creation, that God created the heaven and the earth in six literal days.

2C.   But now we have a phenomenon sweeping the country called theistic evolution, which believes that each day in Genesis chapter one actually refers to hundreds of millions of years.  This theory, which is strongly advocated by a fellow named Hugh Ross, an astronomer supposedly converted to Christianity, rests upon the existence of death and destruction in God’s creation before the Fall of mankind into sin, completely overturning what the Bible teaches about God’s creative work.

3C.   Yet who do we see on the back cover of one of Ross’ books in support of his theory?  Bill Bright, president and founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, David Hocking, former pastor of the Calvary Church in Santa Ana and nationally known author, the late Harold Lindsell, former editor of Christianity Today, and Earl Radmacher, former president of the Western Conservative Baptist Seminary.

4C.   Folks, these are some of the most notable Christian leaders in America , yet they are endorsing a book which repudiates the Biblical account of creation.  To put it another way, they are going along with a book that stands against God’s work of creating the heaven and the earth as He says He did it in the Bible. 



1.   Christianity is going through a dark hour of apostasy, when even the most conservative Christians stand at odds with the Apostle’s Creed, a Christian confession that could be 1800 years old!

2.   When you decide where you are going to stand, who will you stand with?  Will you stand with the compromising evangelicals of the 21st century, or will you stand with Christians down through the ages who believed the Bible, and knew the Bible well enough to describe what they believed?

3.   To get saved from your sins you have to have faith, but it must be a faith which is fixed in a proper Object.  God’s Word shows us that the proper Object of faith is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

4.   As well, the relationship between the First Person of the triune Godhead and the Second Person of the triune Godhead is now, and always has been, from eternity past, one of Father and Son.  To save sinners from their sins, the Father sent His Son, not someone who would change into His Son.  This is what is meant in Malachi 3.6:  “I am the LORD, I change not.”  And this is what is meant when Hebrews 13.8 declares, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”

5.   Finally, it is important to believe the Genesis account of creation, that God is the Maker of heaven and earth, and that He made the heaven and the earth the way He said He did in Genesis chapter 1.  Is God’s word true?  Can God be relied upon to know what He did before any of us were born?  I think so.  I know so.

[1] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, ( Bronson , MI : Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[2] John 14.6

[3] Acts 4.12

[4] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 428.

[8] Thomas Armitage, “Baptist Faith and Practice” in C. A. Jenkyns, Ed., Baptist Doctrines (Chancy R. Barns: St. Louis, 1882), page 34.

[11] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 56.

[13] Grenz, page 75.

[15] See footnote for Psalm 2.7 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1956.

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