“Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” – The Athanasian Creed
Over the summer we have been doing a brief overview of several of the Historic Creeds of the faith. We are going to be wrapping up this series with a brief look at the Athanasian Creed. We’ll take a couple weeks to get a birds eye view of what is said here.
This Creed was originally said to be the work of Athanasius, who was one of the great defenders of the faith in the early church. Athanasius spoke out vehemently against Arianism, that heresy we’ve mentioned a couple of times through the summer: where Jesus was not God per se, but was God’s highest creation.
While a lot of what is said here would no doubt have been backed by Athanasius, most scholarship today does not see this as a product of Athanasius’ pen. We still call it the Athanasian Creed though, for tradition’s sake.
What I’d like us to focus on this morning is the first line of the creed. It starts off with a wallop when it says “Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” It also ends with a similar statement: "This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved."
These are sometimes called the “damnatory clauses” of the Athanasian Creed because these statements pronounce an anathema on anyone who does not hold to the tenets of this creed.
I’d like us to think about that for a second. It might sound a little forward to you to say that if you do not hold to everything that is spelled out in this creed, you are damned. As a matter of fact, you might very well be offended that anyone would have the audacity to say such a thing. To our postmodern ears this sounds rather stringent (or even strident). The idea of making any particular document the boundary marker for one’s salvation is something we’re not used to hearing.
But you have to understand what the creed is saying. We do not mean that you have to understand every single iota of what is said here to be saved. Salvation is not by knowledge. Salvation is by grace through faith. But there is a particular God who saves, and it is important that you believe in the right God. If you do not, then you are not saved.
So you might not know exactly what is said here, but if you believe in the one true God, this is the one you’ll believe in. This is the God of the Bible.
Or, maybe a Christian is not educated well enough to speak exactly right about the trinity. Perhaps you speak of God in modalistic terms. Modalism is the belief that God existed in three forms at three different times: he was the Father at one point, then later on he turned into the Son, and now he has transformed into the Holy Spirit. That is a heresy that is corrected by this Creed.
But if you are a young Christian (or one that is not trained well) you might speak of God that way. If you do, it doesn’t means you are damned. It just means you don’t know God well enough at this point in your life.
The creed isn't talking about that kind of ignorance. It is talking about those who outright reject the truth. It condemns those who ought to know better and intentionally follow after another god.
Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness would be an example of who is anathematized by the Creed because they disavow any belief in the Triune God. They specifically reject Trinitarian doctrine and embrace a different god.
Another example would be TD Jakes. Jakes is a modern day preacher who has a huge following. Despite his radical popularity in the church today, TD Jakes confesses to be a modalist. I might clarify by saying he is wittingly a modalist. He does not believe that the Father, Son, and Spirit are eternally existent (as the Creed defines them to be). Rather, he believes that the Father existed for a little while as the Father, then he existed as the Son for a little while, and then he turned into the Spirit. That is a specific and forthright denial of the nature of God.
Such a person stands condemned by this creed, even as the Bible itself condemns the one who would create such an idol. Paul himself said,
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Gal 1:8-9 ESV
Great and precious are your promises, O God, and we thank you that you have chosen to extend those promises to poor sinners like us. Moreover, we praise you that you seal us in them by the powerful working your Spirit.
It is for this reason that we bow our heads now. We pray that we would, by faith, experience the full power of this sacrament. We pray that by these waters you would impress the reality of those promises upon our hearts and confirm us in them. We pray that each of us might be comforted by the gospel and be further assured that you are the Savior of sinners.
Most especially we pray for Dan as he undergoes this rite. We pray that the reality to which this points may enliven his soul and stir him up to greater obedience. We pray that this cleansing would be that which strengthens him in times of temptation, steadies him in seasons of doubt, and encourages him when he does stumble and fall into sin.
Yea, o God, we pray that his baptism would be constant reminder to him of the depth of your grace, mercy, and love.
And this we do ask in the strong name of Jesus; Amen.
I was asked to introduce this part of the service by offering a brief explanation of the doctrine of ordination. And I’d like to do so by beginning with a little illustration that I hope will give you a sense of what is happening here today.
Let’s say you and I are driving down the road. You look over and see that I’m going too fast. So you say to me, “You know, you are speeding. You better slow down.” That would be a very true thing (and a very good thing) to say. And I should listen to you because what you just said is very important. However, it is quite a different thing to have a police officer pull you over and tell you that you were going too fast.
Now, what I want you to see is that both you and the officer said virtually the same thing. But at the same time they were vastly different, weren’t they? Your words might have been true, but they did not have the same weight as the Police officer’s. Why is that? It is because he is a police officer. He has authority that you do not. As a result, his words have a greater gravity to them.
Let me give you another illustration. If I go to Iran and I start talking about some new policies that America is going to be enacting, what I say may be true. It might be good if the Iranian people and the Iranian government to listen to me. But it is a whole different thing if the US ambassador to Iran gets on the Aljazeera TV network and makes a speech. Even though we might say the same thing, there is a huge difference in what is said because the US ambassador has a power and authority that I do not have because he is specifically sent by the United States.
What I want you to see is that these illustrations portray well the meaning and significance of the doctrine of ordination. Up until now, Joe has been going around doing his evangelism, and he has been doing a great job of it. He’s been calling people to repentance and faith, and he has had many opportunities to share the gospel.
But today things are going to change. Even though Joe is probably not going to be doing anything really different when he goes out to do his evangelism. He’s probably going to be saying virtually the same things he has done before. There is going to be a significant change because his words are going to carry a greater weight and power due to his being set apart by God to be an evangelist in this church.
The wonderful thing about this service is that we all have opportunity to participate in this tremendous event. In just a few moments we as elders will be laying our hands on Joe. This little act is a way of publicly testifying to the fact that God has called and equipped Joe for this work. In our doing this we are as a church body confirming to Joe, each other, and all the world that God has set Joe apart for the work of evangelism, and that he joins us in leadership for this purpose.
But this ceremony is certainly not limited to Joe and those of us who lay our hands on him. All of you who are members of this church have an active role to play. Each of you participates to some degree. As we lay our hands on Joe, you personally must agree to what is being done here today, and you must personally affirm Joe & his new role. As you sit here today, you must in your own heart pledge both your support of him and your submission to his authority as a minister of the gospel.
So as we enter into this part of the service, let us all remember the depth of what happens here today and praise God for it. The kingdom of Satan today shudders because God has raise up a gospel evangelist. May we be equally grateful as they are fearful, and may we all unite together in one heart to join God in the sending forth of Joe.
As part of our outreach effort, I'm starting to send out letters to people in our community. I have been going through the phonebook and addressing personal, hand written letters to each household.
In these letters I introduce myself as a local pastor and say that I would like to offer them any pastoral services I can, such as prayer and/or pastoral counsel.
I got the idea from our prayer stand. We've had such success with it that I thought I would try offering it on a broader scale.
I tell them that I will keep everything in the strictest confidence and that they can contact me whenever they would like.
Along with it I include a gospel tract and our church's contact information.
If anything, this might be a cheap form of advertising. I pray though, that it might truly be effective for showing our concern for the souls of Ashland.
My friend Joe and I have been doing some street evangelism through the summer here in Ashland and over in Mansfield. We've had so many opportunities to share the gospel and are praying that fruit may come of it. Here are a few pics of some of our outings:
All this is to say that Providence Church, unlike many other churches today, won't be dying out anytime soon.
What I also like is that this picture displays something of our church's unity. These families came forward on Sunday for a child dedication. They took vows to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and I had the great opportunity to close this part of the service by praying for them.
Sure, I would have prefered that they baptize the children too. I believe that paedo-communion is Scriptural. As a matter of fact, I think it is quite a serious thing to "neglect or contemn" this rite. They don't though. So we have to deal with it. In the midst of our diversity, we seek to love each other. We accept each other in the Lord despite our quibble over water's application.
These two dynamics of our church home here in Ashland is just some of what makes it such a great place to worship.
Providence Church is a dual confessional church, which means we allow for either infant baptism or infant dedication if the family is of a credo baptist persuasion. This morning we had a child dedication. This was the prayer that I offered for the occasion:
You sent your own Son into this world as the child of Mary and Joseph. And in the same way you commit to us the joy of raising children.
We thank you for the life of Josiah and Nevin, which now have been entrusted to the care of these parents. Help us to remember the weight of this great privilege and to assist them as they raise them in the fear and admonition of your name.
Grant Matt & Rachel and Mike & Renata all grace and fill them with your Spirit, so that they may love these precious gifts and help them walk in the way of God. Equip them with the patience, strength and wisdom to impart our most holy faith at all times. Guide them to speak what is in accord with sound doctrine, to use the rod of discipline with the most affectionate skill, to exemplify repentance, and to hold forth the gospel in all its purity.
And in so doing, may Josiah and Nevin grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. May they hold fast to Christ all their days and seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. May there never be a day that they did not know Christ as Lord and Savior. And may you shine the light of your love upon them even now.
For we ask this in the strong Name of Jesus.
Providence's evangelism team recently purchased this prayer stand to assist in our outreach to the area. Joe and I gave it a "test drive" yesterday and we were blessed in our time out on the town.
Joe picked a perfect spot to set it up: just outside the municipal building in Mansfield, a place where people were definitely interested in having prayers offered for them! We were there from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm and enjoyed a steady flow of people passing by.
We got to pass out a goodly number of tracts, and many of them were read as people walked away or sat around waiting for their court hearing. More significantly, we had opportunity to talk to a couple people who wanted prayer.
One such person was Dora. Dora was 8 months pregnant and going in to court because her boyfriend had beaten her. She requested prayer for the case and her pregnancy. We talked with her, prayed for her, and gave her a gospel tract.
Ben was our most intriguing contact. He was on his way to an AA meeting up the street and, as he sped past, he asked that we pray for his sobriety. He came back after his meeting and we talked for about 1/2 hour about the gospel and how it applies to addictions. Ben expressed that he had recently made a profession of faith. So we encouraged him to continue trusting Christ for the power to overcome these addictions. Then we concluded our time with prayer.
All in all, we loved the addition of the prayer stand. For one, it is a good "marker." It helps people know what we are out to do. It also makes others more inclined to approach us as most people are willing to have prayers offered for them and would avoid someone who is out doing straight up evangelism.
As mentioned above, Joe and I had a great time out on our trial run. We are looking forward to doing this on a more regular basis. It is our plan to be in both Ashland and Mansfield on a weekly basis through the spring and summer months.
My good friend and parishioner, Raylene Hlavaty, deserves recognition for her gospel work. It might not seem like much to many, but in her own way she is holding forth the banner of Christ.
For the last several years Raylene has been involved chautauqua style acts. One of her characters is the great hymnist, Fanny Crosby. Raylene dresses in full costume and narrates Crosby's life story. She also integrates some of Crosby's hymns into the half hour presentation.
Raylene has performed many times throughout the Mid-Ohio region. Each time she does she has opportunity to witness to Christ through the faith of Fanny Crosby.
To find out more about Raylene's acts or to schedule a program, visit her website: Timeless Voices Ohio.
Our church did an evangelism outing this past week. I was out of the country, so I didn't get to participate. But they made this fantastic video I wanted to share.
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