What we now know as the Apostles Creed descended from an earlier form of the creed, known as the Old Roman Symbol. The beginning of the creed dates from as early as the second century. We do not have any direct evidence that it was penned by any of the apostles, but it is an admirable summary of the apostolic teaching.
So we begin the Creed with the statement “I believe.” Believe in what or whom? We do not believe in a generic deity, with details to be filled in later. We begin with the confession that we believe in a personal God, identified by name, and revealed in His Son. I believe in God the Father.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Summary of the Text:
This phrase in the Creed is not a stand-alone name. It is defined and filled out a moment later when we add that we believe “in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.” In other words, we are not confessing our faith in a Deity who is in some vague metaphorical sense like a father. No, we believe in God the Father of Jesus Christ. This is a confession that is most specific.
The Structure of Salvation:
Speaking of the new unity between Jew and Gentile, the apostle Paul admirably summarizes the structure of salvation within the compass of one brief verse. “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Eph. 2:18). In a paraphrase, we would render it this way. “Through Christ we have access to the Father by means of one Spirit.” If I might employ something of a homely metaphor, the Father is the place we are driving to, the Son is the road, and the Holy Spirit is the car. The Father is where we are all going, Jesus is the way we get to Him, and the Spirit is the power that enables us to take that way to Him.
And this is why Jesus spoke of Himself in this way, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). Jesus is the way (hodos)—road or path—and the Spirit empowers us to travel on that road. We do not walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:4). We are instructed to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), and then again (Gal. 5:25). The Father is where we go, the Son is the way we go, and the Spirit is how we go.
When We Pray:
This is why, when Jesus taught us to pray, He taught us to pray to the Father (Matt. 6:9). This is how Christian prayer is supposed to function. We pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, in the power of the Spirit.
We are not neglecting the Son or the Spirit because we are not addressing them directly. It is a travesty of prayer when we separate out the persons of the Godhead and create factions in the church according to our separations. In some ways, this is far worse than “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos.” Liberals says they believe in the brotherhood of man, fatherhood of God (BOMFOG). But if you don’t have the Son, you don’t really have the Father (1 John 2:23), whatever you say. And charismatics focus on the Spirit—but the Spirit points away from Himself. It is the Spirit’s task to glorify Son (2 Cor. 3:18), whose task it is in turn to glorify the Father (John 17:1). Evangelicals focus on Jesus—but Jesus came to bring us to the Father.
In our glib unbelief, we say things like this—“We all have experience with human fathers, and so our ancestors naturally enough invented a ‘sky father,’ who would protect us, terrify us, provide for us, etc. But we have grown past that stage where we project our image into the heavens.”
In our arrogance, we think we have created God in our image. But the Scriptures say that God created us in His image (Gen. 1:27).
If there is no God, we are an inchoate mess. We are a shapeless lump of protoplasm, and have no image to project. We are what these chemicals would always do under these conditions and at this temperature. We cannot project our image onto the screen of the heavens because we have no projector, and no movie. We are nothing.
In our arrogance, we think that we have fashioned a heavenly Father out of our earthly fathers. But again, it is the other way around. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14–15). We derive our faint reflections of masculinity and fatherhood from Him, and most emphatically not the other way around.
Fatherhood as Ultimate Reality:
The central point of all reality is ultimate, infinite, absolute masculinity. Fatherhood is at the center because the Father of Jesus is at the center. But this overwhelming. We cannot handle absolute Fatherhood. He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16). We would crater under the slightest glimpse of it.
We cannot have the Father “raw,” but we must have the Father. What are we to do? Remember, he who has the Son has the Father. Remember what Jesus said to Philip. “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” (John 14:9).
But we preach Christ, not as a stand-in for the Father, but as the appointed and divinely fashioned way to the Father.