Augustine’s Teaching on the Apostles’ Creed (Part 2)


Continued from Augustine’s Teaching on the Apostles’ Creed (Part 1).

(6) suffered under Pontius Pilate

A. The historicity of Christ’s Death

“He was in office as governor and was the judge, this same Pontius Pilate, what time as Christ suffered. In the name of the judge there is a mark of the times, when He suffered under Pontius Pilate:”

“Therefore do we believe in Him Who Under Pontius Pilate Was Crucified and Buried . For it was requisite that the name of the judge should be added, with a view to the cognizance of the times.”

(7) was crucified, died, and was buried

A. Who was put to death? What was the means of execution? For Whom was he crucified?

“Who? what? for whom? Who? God’s Only Son, our Lord. What? Crucified, dead, and buried. For whom? for ungodly and sinners. Great condescension, great grace!”

B. The cross serves as an example and encouragement to believers.

“Of His cross what shall I speak, what say? This extremest kind of death He chose, that not any kind of death might make His Martyrs afraid. The doctrine He showed in His life as Man, the example of patience He demonstrated in His Cross. There, you have the work, that He was crucified; example of the work, the Cross; reward of the work, Resurrection. He showed us in the Cross what we ought to endure, He showed in the Resurrection what we have to hope.”

(8) The third day He arose again from the dead

A. Christ’s resurrection was different than Lazarus’ resurrection.

“What the prize? Resurrection without death. Why did I add, “without death?” Because “Lazarus rose, and died: Christ rose again, “dies no more, death will no longer have dominion over Him.”

B. Christ’s resurrection is the first-fruit of the resurrection to come — our future resurrection.

“We believe also, that On the Third Day He Rose Again from The Dead, the first-begotten for brethren destined to come after Him, whom He has called into the adoption of the sons of God, whom [also] He has deemed it meet to make His own joint-partners and joint-heirs.”

(9)He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

A. This is the bodily assumption of Christ

“…that we should believe in the assumption of an earthly body into heaven.”

B. We do not know where or in what manner Christ’s body is in heaven.

“But the question as to where and in what manner the Lord’s body is in heaven, is one which it would be altogether over-curious and superfluous to prosecute. Only we must believe that it is in heaven. For it pertains not to our frailty to investigate the secret things of heaven, but it does pertain to our faith to hold elevated and honorable sentiments on the subject of the dignity of the Lord’s body.”

C. To be seated at the right hand of God is not to be understood literally — for God is not circumscribed.

“We believe also that He Sits at the Right Hand of the Father . This, however, is not to lead us to suppose that God the Father is, as it were, circumscribed by a human form, so that, when we think of Him, a right side or a left should suggest itself to the mind.”

D. To be seated at the right hand of God means to have a position of “supreme blessedness” and to exercise “judicial power.”

“This expression, “at the right hand,” therefore, we must understand to signify a position in supremest blessedness, where righteousness and peace and joy are… And in accordance with this, when it is said that God “sits,” the expression indicates not a posture of the members, but a judicial power, which that Majesty never fails to possess, as He is always awarding deserts as men deserve them (digna dignis tribuendo);”

(10) whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

A. Christ is coming again — there will be a second advent. The reference to the living and the dead in the creed can have two meaning — the living are the righteous or those who are alive when Christ returns and the dead are the unrighteous or those who have already died when Christ returns.

“The quick, who shall be alive and remain; the dead, who shall have gone before. It may also be understood thus: The living, the just; the dead, the unjust. For He judges both, rendering unto each his own. To the just He will say in the judgment, “Come, you blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” For this prepare yourselves, for these things hope, for this live, and so live, for this believe, for this be baptized, that it may be said to you, “Come ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To them on the left hand, what? “Go into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Thus will they be judged by Christ, the quick and the dead.”

(11) I believe in the Holy Spirit,

A. This creedal statement completes the belief in the Trinity

“It follows in the Creed, “And in the Holy Ghost.” This Trinity, one God, one nature, one substance, one power; highest equality, no division, no diversity, perpetual dearness of love. Would ye know the Holy Ghost, that He is God? Be baptized, and you will be His temple.”

B. The Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son and a different person than the Father and the Son.

“The divine generation, therefore, of our Lord, and his human dispensation, having both been thus systematically disposed and commended to faith, there is added to our Confession, with a view to the perfecting of the faith which we have regarding God, [the doctrine of] The Holy Spirit, who is not of a nature inferior to the Father and the Son, but, so to say, consubstantial and co-eternal: for this Trinity is one God, not to the effect that the Father is the same [Person] as the Son and the Holy Spirit, but to the effect that the Father is the Father, and the Son is the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit; and this Trinity is one God, according as it is written, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one God.”

C. The Holy Spirit is not a second Son or a Grandson of the Father.

“With respect to the Holy Spirit, however, there has not been as yet, on the part of learned and distinguished investigators of the Scriptures, a discussion of the subject full enough or careful enough to make it possible for us to obtain an intelligent conception of what also constitutes His special individuality (proprium): in virtue of which special individuality it comes to be the case that we cannot call Him either the Son or the Father, but only the Holy Spirit; excepting that they predicate Him to be the Gift of God, so that we may believe God not to give a gift inferior to Himself. At the same time they hold by this position, namely, to predicate the Holy Spirit neither as begotten, like the Son, of the Father; for Christ is the only one [so begotten]: nor as [begotten] of the Son, like a Grandson of the Supreme Father: while they do not affirm Him to owe that which He is to no one, but [admit Him to owe it] to the Father, of whom are all things; lest we should establish two Beginnings without beginning (ne duo constituamus principia isne principio), which would be an assertion at once most false and most absurd, and one proper not to the catholic faith, but to the error of certain heretics.”

(12) the holy catholic church, the communion of saints,

A. The Church is One and as long as she keeps her love the gates of Hell will not prevail against her.

“For the temple of God is holy,” says the Apostle, “which (temple) are you.” This same is the holy Church, the one Church, the true Church, the catholic Church, fighting against all heresies: fight, it can: be fought down, it cannot. As for heresies, they went all out of it, like as unprofitable branches pruned from the vine: but itself abides in its root, in its Vine, in its charity. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

B. Heretical congregations are not a part of the true Church because they do not have apostolic doctrine, while schismatic congregations, which have apostolic doctrine, are not a part of the true Church because they have broken the bonds of love.

“…we believe also in The Holy Church, [intending thereby] assuredly the Catholic. For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. But heretics, in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself; while schismatics, on the other hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe.”

(13) the forgiveness of sins,

A. A person can not receive forgiveness of sins without forgiving the sins of others.

“Neither ought we only to treat of the difference between sins, but we ought most thoroughly to believe that those things in which we sin are in no way forgiven us, if we show ourselves severely unyielding in the matter of forgiving the sins of others. Thus, then, we believe also in The Remission of Sins.”

B. Baptism brings the remission of all sins — no matter how great the sin.

“Forgiveness of sins.” You have [this article of] the Creed perfectly in you when you receive Baptism. Let none say, “I have done this or that sin: perchance that is not forgiven me.”

C. There will be venial sins after baptism, but they are forgiven through saying the Lord’s prayer. For mortal sins, which should not be in believers, there is penance.

“When you have been baptized, hold fast a good life in the commandments of God, that you may guard your Baptism even unto the end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin; but they are venial, without which this life is not. For the sake of all sins was Baptism provided; for the sake of light sins, without which we cannot be, was prayer provided. What has the Prayer? “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.” Once for all we have washing in Baptism, every day we have washing in prayer. Only, do not commit those things for which you must needs be separated from Christ’s body: which be far from you! For those whom you have seen doing penance, have committed heinous things, either adulteries or some enormous crimes: for these they do penance. Because if theirs had been light sins, to blot out these daily prayer would suffice.”

D. Baptism, the Lord’s prayer and penance are the ways Church remits sins. However, this remittance can only come to the baptized.

“In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance; yet God does not remit sins but to the baptized.”

(14) the resurrection of the body,

A. This resurrection is like Christ’s and not like Lazarus.

“We believe also “the resurrection of the flesh,” which went before in Christ: that the body too may have hope of that which went before in its Head. The Head of the Church, Christ: the Church, the body of Christ. Our Head is risen, ascended into heaven: where the Head, there also the members. In what way the resurrection of the flesh? Lest any should chance to think it like as Lazarus’s resurrection, that you may know it to be not so, it is added, “Into life everlasting.”

B. This is a Resurrection of Body and Soul.

“Resurrection of the Flesh, to wit, not merely that that soul, which at present by reason of carnal affections is called the flesh, is restored; but that it shall be so likewise with this visible flesh, which is the flesh according to nature, the name of which has been received by the soul, not in virtue of nature, but in reference to carnal affections: this visible flesh, then, I say, which is the flesh properly so called, must without doubt be believed to be destined to rise again.”

(15) and life everlasting.

“God regenerate you! God preserve and keep you! God bring you safe unto Himself, Who is the Life Everlasting. Amen.”

Chris Bounds
Chris Bounds
Chris Bounds is Professor of Christian Doctrine at IWU and former Scholar in Residence/Professor of Theology/Gardner Professor for the Promotion of Holiness at Asbury University. He was awarded his M. Phil. in 1994 and Ph. D. in 1997 from Drew University with a focus in systematic theology.