If One Confesses the Apostles' Creed, is this Authentic Faith?
Question from Visitor: Would it be accurate to say that if you believe in the Apostles' Creed, in its entirety, you have authentic faith?
Response: Important Question. The answer is yes, but other similarly important truths must be similtaneously understood and embraced ... truths the framers of the creed would have, no doubt, considered to be a given. That is, the content of the Apostles Creed is sufficient if such a confession springs from a heart that is renewed by the Holy Spirit. What do I mean by this and how can we know if this is the case? Well, consider that many people confess this creed, including no small number of persons whose hearts have not been graciously transformed by the power of the Spirit to trust and love Jesus Christ. The content of the Apostles Creed is certainly a great start since we must unhesitatingly affirm all of those truths if we are to be Christians, but consider there are some things that the creed does not mention but that are necessary for salvation -- There must be a Spirit-wrought change in the heart as a person encounters the Word of God, such that their self-complacency shattered and their self-righteousness renounced. The Holy Spirit must also convict that person of their woeful, guilty, and lost condition; that they justly deserve the wrath of God, save in Christ's mercy alone. Likewise, the Spirit must reveal to them and persuade their heart of the goodness, beauty, loveliness and sufficiency of Christ ALONE to meet their desperate case and by a divinely wrought faith will cause them them to lay hold of and rest upon Christ as their only hope. That all other hopes are vanity.
So while we are often tempted to to narrow things down to systems of either/or, but in this case especially, it is not either/or, but both/and. The facts from Scripture must make their way down to the heart and subjectively change us as the Spirit opens our eyes, ears and hearts to it. So the answer is yes, the Apostles Creed is sufficient for salvation if it is believed as originally intended, that is, if the Spirit opens our hearts to believe it correctly. The framers of the Apostles Creed probably would never have ever imagined that later people's could distort such a clearly articulated confession, but they did. For example, those who are Roman Catholics unequvocally confess the entirety of the Apostles Creed and yet, if they embrace the whole of RCC teaching, their faith in the content of the Creed is spurious because they still refuse to trust in Christ alone for salvation. A belief in Purgatory, among other erroneous Christ-dishonoring doctrines, negates the sufficiency of Christ's finished work and a trust in self to do part of the work of redemption. The framers of the Creed probably assumed that anyone so confessing the Lordship of Jesus Christ would cast off all trust in self-righteousness, but human nature, as it always does, has a tendency to slip in in its attempt to usurp God's authority.
For this reason later creeds were also developed to clarify. For Example, shortly after Augustine, the Council of Orange said of our faith: "If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
As it is, only a regenerate person would confess the Apostles Creed with genuine faith that renounces all self-righteouness and only finds its righteousness in Christ. Such a Spirit generated faith in Christ would save them, but a regenerate person could not simultaneously confess the Creed and then go on believing that Jesus Christ is insufficient, as many erroneous theologies have done.
The Apostles' Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell. [See John Calvin]
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic [universal] church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.