Apostles’ Creed: “…the communion of saints…”

New Warhorn Media post by Alex McNeilly:


Daft laddie question. I have sometimes heard the view that the “Communion of saints” includes, in some way, those saints which have gone before us (ie in glory). Does the Reformed tradition have this view of the “Communion of Saints” as well? I imagine not, but did want to check.

I think there is a real sense in which at least our worship here on earth joins with the worship of the saints now in heaven. We are certainly one people with them, though we do not share direct communication or fellowship with them at this time. The theme of worshiping with departed saints shows up in many hymns:

Let us praise and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high;
Here they trusted Him before us,
Now their praises fill the sky:
“Thou hast washed us with Thy blood;
Thou art worthy, Lamb of God.”
(John Newton, “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder”)

Scripture speaks several times of departed saints living on through their faith and example, as in Hebrews 11:4. Hebrews 12:1 then goes on to speak of our being “surrounded” by a “great cloud of witnesses,” which consists of a bunch of people with dead bodies and yet whose souls have not died.

And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22:31–32)

Departed saints are most certainly not mediators between us and God, as in Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox teaching. We do not pray to them, and we do not kiss their images.

As a side note, the departed saints, though in the presence of our glorious Lord and without sin, are still waiting to be given glorified resurrected bodies, and some of them are even longing for their innocent blood to be avenged:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9–10)


Thanks for this! I have always thought that the image of Hebrews 12, that of our running our races in front of these “clouds of witness”, implies that the saints in glory are not only witnesses for us, but witnesses of us as well. A challenging thought!


I prefer the Apostle’s Creed (in its variations) to the Nicene… or Athanasian… or Westminster… not simply because I prefer hebrew-ish verbs to roman-ish nouns. I prefer the Apostle’s Creed because of how it fosters the communion of the saints via judicious brevity.

Too many words.

Anyone I’ve discipled knows I can go on and on with the best of the after-study senators. I find strength and edification in the wrestling… Not just for me either. I see men grow as they wrestle through controversial implications.

I expect most of us have experienced a pastor go on too long, and felt the room cool when he’s the only one who doesn’t realize it. I expect most of have had the realization that we are the one pontificating.

Like Peter and John supporting the Lord’s brother as leader in Jerusalem, there is a humility in mature leadership.

Adam wrote less than Noah. Noah recorded less than Abraham. Joseph passed on less than Moses.

The more specific a man’s doctrinal clarity becomes, the higher his boundary fence tends to grow… eventually becoming a hurdle to this precious and powerful communion of saints.

I am against neither clarity nor convictions. I want more of both. “Further up, further in!”

Still, for example, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy is a critical clarion trumpet in its first parts . . . unwise toward its middle and less relevant the longer it goes on.

I am grateful for the writings of Paul, Peter, John James and Jude. Paul split from his mentor and coach… his advocate and trainer… over John Mark! Mark who even giving us the testimony of Peter did do with essential brevity.

Did Barnabas write as much as Paul?

Most of their ministry was not writing.

I love the Apostle’s Creed not simply for how it proclaims the truth of the communion of saints, but also for how it models the way to preserve it. We are a brotherhood of reconciliation.

Alive! in Christ,

Hey now. I resemble that implication. :wink:

Brevity and simplicity are wonderful, but don’t forget that the Nicene Creed came about because men who claimed to believe the Apostle’s Creed were denying the Trinity. Likewise the Athanasian Creed was to address more of the same. It’s always tempting to blame those who defend truth for being divisive, but the divisive ones are those who teach false doctrine. And it often takes more words to fight error than to teach it in the first place.

You know what’s short and sweet?

“Love is love.” Try explaining why that’s wrong in 3 words or even three sentences. Yet in those words are bound up the doctrines of demons.

Not everybody is called to write, but let’s not damn Paul and Moses with faint praise. It’s a joy that John Mark and Paul were reconciled later! But if I were going on a missionary journey and had to decide whether to bring a man who had proven himself faithless, no matter the gifts of brevity he might have, I’d be on Paul’s side. Indeed, the whole church except Barnabas was seemingly in agreement with Paul on that.

It’s entirely possible and common to be too persnickety. To be TR. To major in the minors. I’m not about to equate long-windedness with holiness or discernment, but sometimes it takes a lot of words to get to defend the peace.


I began listening to a lecture series by Sam Waldron awhile back on the 1689 LBCF. I didn’t make it through the whole series, but in the first few lectures he discussed the value and necessity of creeds and confessions, in general.

One of the points he made, among several, was that creeds are necessary in order to expose error. He went on to point out how even in the first century, when the pages of the New Testament were still being penned, we observe the confession of the church “growing” as new error needed to be refuted.

Peter gives us what you might say is the “original” confession of the church.

Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” - Matthew 16:16

This is the “bedrock” confession of the Christian faith. Nice and brief, right? The problem is, people can affirm the brief statement, while making it into something demonic.

Fast forward a few short years from Peter, and we get to the gnostic heresy. The gnostics wouldn’t necessarily have denied Peter’s confession. The problem is where they go from there. So by the time we get to John’s epistles, we see that in addition to confessing Jesus as Christ, the Son of God, there is something more that needs to be confessed concerning the Son of God in order to make it clear that there is no solidarity between us and the gnostics.

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. - 1 John 4:2

Fast forward a few more years and you get the Arian heresy, etc. etc. Creeds will always be necessary to draw a hard line against error. When heresy begins to threatens the church, a shibboleth must arise.

It isn’t enough to say “no creed but the Bible.” The Bible is, indeed, the truth of the Christian faith. But it isn’t enough for the Bible to contain the truth. The church must actually confess the truth to the world. It is the church which is the pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), not the Scriptures. In order for the Scriptures to be living and active, the church must confess and insist upon the truth therein.

On a related tangent, what makes the WCF and the 1689 different and difficult for me, when compared to the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, etc., is the fact that they weren’t drafted (so far as I can tell) to combat any particular heresy of the day. Instead, they were attempts to say, “let’s write a comprehensive document that encompasses every and any possible component of the Christian faith, so we can just stick to that.” Then churches join themselves to these documents in such a way that the document itself can tend to become the functional rule of the church ahead of the Scriptures. This doesn’t seem to me to be the way the ancient confessions operated, and I’m unsettled as to whether it’s the right approach to confessions.

Maybe I’ll start a thread on that topic some day. :slight_smile:


Amen and amen, brother!

And I was as aware that my first post was not non-verbose, as I was of how late I kept you and @pdbelcher Wednesday at @projanen’s home. “Oh, the irony of me!”

If anything was intentionally veiled in my first post it was a confession, not an accusation :wink: Overwhelmed with the new powers @radiohead had granted to me, I tried to post on the thread with maximum common ground. :footprints:

I also value the work done at Nicea, and Augsburg and Dordt and Magdeburg and Philadelphia and Danvers and Nashville … and Moscow. But it was Jesus in Mark that broke by heart of stone, and that boy who ran naked wrote the only one of these documents recognized in our sufficient canon.

I look forward to our lunch @jtbayly! I expect we will both find our agreements and disagreements more fortifying than our food. It will be interesting to see how much we cram into the constraining hour.


Amen amen brother @jander !

And in our generation we have multitudes that still haven’t yielded to “God the Father, Almighty. Creator of heaven and earth.”

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