“Thus far we have heard the first part of Christian teaching (Ten Commandments), and in it we have seen all that God wishes us to do and not to do. The Creed properly follows, which sets forth all that we must expect and receive from God; in short, it teaches us to know him perfectly. It is given in order to help us do what the Ten Commandments require of us.” (LC, Article 2) Having seen the righteous demands of God in the Ten Commandments and how we fail miserably to “be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), Luther rightly directs our attention away from ourselves and to the one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The second chief part of Luther’s small catechism answers the following questions: Who is God? and What does he do? God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That is the Creed’s answer. One God, three persons. And what does God do? He has “created me and all creatures.” (SC, First Article Meaning) He has given me my Body and Soul…and all that I need to support this body and life.” Everything that I have is a gift from God that he richly and daily provides for me.
Even though I am a sinner who deserves temporal and eternal death, still he does not cast me aside, forsake me, or abandon me to it. Rather, “He has redeemed me a lost and condemned person.” How? In the person of Jesus Christ, who was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” Jesus suffered, was crucified, died, buried, descended into hell, rose again, ascended to heaven, sits at the Father’s right hand, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. This is bigger than simply the forgiveness of our sins. Forgiveness finds its place in the large goal of redemption, namely “that I may be His own and live under Him in his kingdom.” In essence, God has joined me in the flesh, so that I may join him in my flesh in eternity where there is no suffering, mourning, illness, disease, sin, or death. Thus, the very thing that we lost after creation, life in God’s presence, is restored to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Until the glorious day of the resurrection, God is still present here and now. The Holy Spirit is at work in the Church, through Word and Sacrament, giving me Jesus and his work on the cross and in the empty tomb. The Holy Spirit is joining us together as the body of Christ, forgiving our sins, and giving eternal life here and now. And “On the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”
Thus the Creed properly follows the Ten Commandments. For it directs us, not to ourselves, but to the one true God who creates, redeems, and sanctifies.