Creed, The Faith, and Faith

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.
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The post from yesterday about creeds and the Bible raises another issue. What is the relationship between creed and faith? That still isn’t where we want to be. Faith can be used in two different ways pointing to two different things (in technical terms, each has a different referent). We will start with each of these terms but in reverse order, then get the order right again.


The referent here is the faith of the individual. This is the most common use of the word, often used interchangeably with “believe.” When Mary says, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” that is a reflection of her own faith. Is this critical from a Christian perspective? Absolutely. Unless the person believes, has faith in Jesus Christ there is no salvation for the person. A good way to state this is: “faith which believes…”

Two examples of this use of faith in the New Testament:

Romans 3:26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Hebrews 11:11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.

The Faith:

The referent in this phrase is not the person’s faith, but what the content of what is believed. It is not dependent on one person or even a group of people. The content of faith is determined by God in his Word. Thus, when Mary says, “I believe in Jesus Christ,” the content of that statement is “the faith,” or “faith which is believed.”

Two examples of this use of faith in the New Testament:

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.

Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.


So how does Creed fit into the above two words (and referents)? The passage from Jude is critical in making the connection. Notice that he says “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” There is a public passing on of the content of the Christian teaching, the content of what is commonly believed.

This leads to the Creed as it developed over the years, not adding content, but refining how we summarize what is the essence of the Christian faith. Not everything is equally important in the Bible. The two sons of Eli play a part in 1 Samuel, but are not the essence of the Christian faith, nothing like the fact of the birth of Jesus.

The Creed then is a public statement of “the faith once delivered to the saints.” It tells us and reminds us of what is important (most important!) when we claim to be Christian. The Creed spans the entire age range of the local congregation. Further, it spans Christians throughout the world. And finally the Creed spans the centuries since the time of the New Testament. The creed connects to the person’s individual faith, by linking it with the bedrock of “the faith.”

So we need faith in Christ for salvation; we need to state the content of the faith, and the Creed helps us in both cases.

Author: exegete77

disciple of Jesus Christ, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher, and theologian

3 thoughts on “Creed, The Faith, and Faith”

  1. Rich, just to be a devil’s advocate, I’m wondering if faith (pistis) might also refer to faith in the sense of a belief or conviction, rather than, a body of doctrine or tradition?


  2. I see that what you are proposing is more in line with the individual’s faith or belief. Don’t necessarily see the distinction you are raising. Can you expand?


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