It was in the fourth century that Christians in Rome found themselves in the dilemma of persecution. The emperor had ordered all Christian churches be destroyed, books burned and those that failed to swear allegiance to him would be jailed or killed.
The persecution persisted as many lost everything including their very breath. Some swore fealty to Rome succumbing to the pressure thus betraying their fellow Christians. Then as quickly as it came it began to decline and once more Christianity was tolerated.
God was moving as he always is in the hearts and minds of his followers and striving even with those that rebelled or committed evil. If we follow our sin natures and even the most devout Christian can fall back into sin, we will often deny those we consider traitors to our cause.
That predicament presented itself to these Christians as those who betrayed Christ came back into the fold. So what was the church to do? What would we do? Even Christ had said: “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father” (Matthew 10:33). Could betrayers of the faith be forgiven?
As is our use we will overlook the plank in our eye and see the sins of others. These Christians were ready to cast stones, to ostracize their fellow believers. But God had a better way. Considering the grace, mercy and love given us through the cross. The forgiveness by Christ even of his tormentors leads us down a different path.
So we come to The Apostle’s Creed:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit?
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to 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.
I 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. Amen.
First, man, every man, is born in sin, enslaved to sin. “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “No one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12).
We are totally depraved, and our sin deserves the righteous wrath of God. God would not be God if he excuses or overlooks our wickedness. Judgment must come. For all who believe and repent, judgment has already come to pass when the Son of God took upon himself the wrath of God so that the children of God might be reconciled to God. Through Christ, God has “forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13–14).
You and I are born in sin, we were dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1). We must recognize the wickedness and helplessness of our souls apart from Christ.
Then to receive the promise of forgiveness, we must understand ourselves to be wretched sinners. We acknowledge that “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6), that even any good deed we did prior to believing was, in fact, sin (Romans 14:23). In our natural lives apart from God Sin was the air we breathed, and the god we served. And if God had not intervened through Christ, our sins would have dragged us to hell.
So that line was added to The Apostles Creed
We his disciples, even to this day, are given a mission: “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). So we confess and bear witness no matter who you are or what you’ve done or how profoundly or publicly you have failed him you can and will be forgiven in Christ. It is through his blood you are cleansed.
Be aware that no matter what this world and its systems or your own insecurities may say, his blood can surely cleanse you. Forgiveness is possible.
Daily we go to “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our faith rests in “he has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13–14). Because Christ is our intercessor, he will plead our cause. He will execute judgment for us and bring us out to the light where even we can be forgiven.