Creeds, Reubens, and the Faith Once for All Delivered to the Saints
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Jude 3 (ESV)
I like Reuben sandwiches. In fact, I am on a quest to find the perfect one. So far the best one I've ever had is at Valois in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago. If you are ever on Chicago's South Side, I recommend you make trying one a priority.
The problem with enjoying a Reuben is that it isn't the type of thing you go the refrigerator and make for yourself. I also can't walk up to the sandwich line at Drooger's to enjoy my favorite sandwich. It is something I am rarely able to enjoy. At times Subway will have a Reuben as a special option. So when I was near a Subway at lunchtime recently I decided to stop in and have one. Who knows how long the promotion will last? I better take the opportunity because, for a fast food chain, the Reubens there aren't too bad.
I walked up to the sandwich line and ordered a Corned Beef Reuben. The first nice young lady behind the counter asked me what kind of bread I wanted it on. Well, of course, it's a Reuben so I should have it on rye. So that is what I asked her to get from the large, clear bread receptacle behind her. She grabbed the corned beef and before putting on the sauerkraut, she asked if I wanted Swiss cheese on it. Again, I responded in the affirmative. I had, after all, ordered a Reuben. They placed my sandwich in the fancy sandwich toasting box. When it had been sufficiently toasted, the next young lady in the line had a question for me. She asked what vegetables and condiments I wanted on it. I replied that I wanted the thousand island and she kindly put it on my sandwich. I paid and headed to the car.
As I was driving down the road, unable to eat because I knew it would drip all over my tie, I thought about my experience. They had offered me all these options but at what point would my sandwich cease to be a Reuben. What if I had ordered the Reuben but requested the regular white bread? What if there was no sauerkraut and it had American cheese and lettuce? Maybe I would take the sandwich artist up on the offer of pickles, spinach, and raspberry vinaigrette. If I omitted thousand island, sauerkraut, and rye would my sandwich still be a Reuben?
We know the answer, right? The sandwich I described is not a Reuben. It is a sandwich of my own design.
This is why creeds and confessions are important. They help us to know whether the God that we worship and serve is the true God of the Bible. For example, the Apostle's Creed formulates for us what the Bible teaches about the Triune God. If we remove Jesus or the Holy Spirit from their work, we lose the God of the Bible. If we deny the resurrection, we no longer confess what the Bible teaches.
Creeds and confessions help us identify false teaching. A Reuben with ranch dressing, green peppers, asiago cheese bread, spinach, and water chestnuts, isn't a Reuben at all. It is a sandwich of our own design. Creeds and confessions teach us, in a concise way, who God is. They help us to worship the one true God, not a god of our own design.
We want to worship God in spirit and in truth. We desire to adhere to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. To do this we need to know what the Bible teaches about this God we serve. Creeds and confessions help us to know this in a concise way so that we can identify false teaching. They are also a way for us to pass on the faith from generation to generation. As you confess the creeds in worship or study the confessions for personal devotions, you are learning to contend for the faith.