The Shepherd’s First Assignment

The Apostles’ Creed gives us a syllabus of basic biblical teaching for being rooted and built up in Christ, established in the faith.

“till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13) 

Sheila couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

            “Mormons are Christians.”

            “My father was a kind man. I’m sure he’s in heaven.”

            “Buddha is also God.” 

These statements came from various women who were members of an evangelical church chatting after a Bible study of which Sheila was a part. 

The comments do not necessarily mean that these women were unbelievers. But the remarks could reflect something that is pervasive and pernicious in the church today. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ found in the gospel are not being grounded in the faith. They are not being taught sound doctrine in order to affirm truth and reject error. 

I am the father of four and grandfather of nine, and counting. I love the perspective of little children, so unspoiled by the weight and worries of the world. They exhibit a naivety and wonder to life. But those traits can open them to danger, making them impetuous, oblivious, and susceptible to harm. 

When God causes someone to be born again by His Spirit, granting them faith to embrace Jesus Christ found in the gospel, that person is a babe. God’s design is for that new believer to be enfolded into the visible, local church for growth, protection and direction. The church is to be an incubator for spiritual development. 

A principal means by which a babe in Christ grows is through being taught. Jesus said that in the Great Commission: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them (i.e., enfolding them in the visible church), teaching them.” 

Teaching equips the believer to discern between truth and error. It feeds them with the milk and meat of God’s Word for their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. Instruction in sound doctrine keeps them from being lured away by the candy that appeals to taste rather than truth. 

In the visible church God has given pastors-teachers, or better put, shepherd-teachers to prepare the saints for the work of ministry and to help them mature in Christ. Alongside prayer, the primary responsibility of shepherding is teaching, grounding the sheep in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

That grounding continues throughout the Christian life. Sheep stray and need to be reminded, retrieved (even rescued), and trained in the way of truth and righteousness. But, just like with our children learning to speak or read, it starts with the basics. 

Certainly, the curriculum for teaching is the whole counsel of God, the Bible. But what I am commending as the teaching on which believers cut their teeth is the summary of the faith laid out in the Apostles’ Creed. 

The Creed provides the church a syllabus for rooting and building up the believer in Christ and establishing them in the faith. The Creed arises from Scripture and lays out planks for the platform of the kingdom of God to which citizens of heaven pledge their allegiance of faith. 

I have developed two resources for discipleship using the Apostles’ Creed. The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith (Reformation Heritage Books, 2018) follows the logic of the Creed with its emphasis on the person and work of Jesus Christ and explores its biblical foundations. A companion 68-page Christian’s Creed Workbook (Waxed Tablet Publications, 2019) serves as a study guide to the book and engagement with the Apostles’ Creed itself toward a disciple grounding his or her faith in the faith. 

Digging Deeper

  1. How does teaching promote Christian maturity and unity?
  2. To what threats does a shepherd need to alert the sheep (Eph. 4.14; Col. 2.8)? 

Heavenly Father, Your Word warns of false prophets and teaching contrary to Christ in this world. You speak of those who turn away from truth to myths. Forgive us for not feeding and tending and leading Your sheep, through teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. Restore your church to its role of making disciples.   

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.

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Judgment

Next in order of the works of God is judgment.

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