Question 31: What do we believe by true faith?
Answer: Everything taught to us in the gospel. The Apostles’ Creed expresses what we believe in these words:
We believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Following a broad outline of Father (section 1), Son (section 2), and Holy Spirit (section 3), the Apostles’ Creed moves from creation (section 1), to the accomplishment of redemption (section 2), to the application of redemption to us (section 3). The brief mention of the Holy Spirit not only reminds us that we worship God who is triune, but it also affirms that the saving work of the Son is applied to each one of us individually by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in us.
As a result of the Spirit’s work in us, we are born again and become part of the church, the new society of God’s people. The creed speaks of “the holy catholic church,” not to refer to Roman Catholicism (which didn’t exist at the time), but rather to refer to the church throughout the world at all times and places. The word “catholic” simply means “universal.” As members of the church, we share in the blessings of communion with our fellows saints, of the forgiveness of our sins, of the hope of a coming day of resurrection, and of eternal life to follow. All of this is accomplished by the saving work of Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father and whose work bears fruit in us by the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a work of the triune God.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: John 3:1-8. What does this passage teach about being born again? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the new birth? What does this passage mean for you?