The first declaration of the Creed states, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” There are two main ideas here, summed up in the words “almighty” and “maker.” That God is almighty means that he is the ruler of all. God is sovereign. He can and will do all he intends to do. He can and will accomplish all that he intends to accomplish. When the Creed declares belief in “God the Father Almighty,” it is establishing God as the true, noble and all-powerful Father, with all earthly fathers and rulers subject to him.
In addition to setting God up as the mighty ruler of all, it also explicitly names him as “maker of heaven and earth.” While creation was truly a Trinitarian act (Colossians 1:16 tells us of Jesus’ active role in creation and Genesis 1:2 places the Holy Spirit at creation), the Apostles’ Creed makes a point to highlight the Father’s role in creation. And the reason here is very important. The Creed is not trying to address all points of doctrine, but it is attempting to clarify points of doctrine that were under attack.
Marcion, who, for these views, was excommunicated, taught that the God, the creator God, is inferior, harsh and evil. He rejected the Old Testament because it presented an evil, wicked God. The New Testament God (Marcion only included in his Bible the books that he liked) was, by contrast, kind, full of love and forgiving. Whereas the Old Testament God was pure justice, the New Testament God is full of grace. He pitted this evil, wicked God against the loving, gracious God. This view, called dualism, is what the Apostles’ Creed is combating by emphasizing that the Father is the maker of heaven and earth. It is the same God who created the earth and who laid out the plan for its redemption in Christ. There are not two gods, only the One.
It may sound like a crazy position to hold to…two separate gods, one in the Old Testament and another in the New Testament, but practically speaking, many people today hold to some form of dualism. We, like Marcion, are much more comfortable with a loving, gracious God than we are with the one who ordered Israel to conquer a piece of land and leave nothing – not a man, woman, child or animal – alive. How could God do something like that? Certainly, we don’t serve the same God today that would issue such harsh orders, do we? I was leading a discussion with some friends about this idea and one of them, a student at the University of Delaware, said that this past fall, he had a professor who said that the Bible teaches two gods – one in the Old Testament and a different god in the New Testament. It was bad theology when Marcion was teaching it and it is bad, though far too prevalent, theology today.
Yes, we serve the same God who in the Old Testament laid out a code of punishment that included the idea of an “eye for an eye.” The danger is when we stop there. The requirements for justice and punishment have not changed since the Old Testament because God has not changed, but, in his love, he sent his Son, Jesus, to take on and bear the punishment for our sins. As Isaiah 53:6 hopefully proclaims, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Christ has taken our iniquities. In Christ, the wrath and justice of God that everyone dislikes, meets the hope and grace and love of that same God. There was not a creator-God and then a better, more loving God. The same God who is the maker of heaven and earth is the same one who gave up his Son that we might have life!
Interact: Is God the Father the mighty ruler of your life?