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Pondering the Creed with William Perkins (6)

"We must touch Christ's precious body and blood by the hand of faith" (William Perkins).

by Matthew Hartline on July 30, 2020

Pondering the Creed with William Perkins (6)

According to William Perkins, the Apostles' Creed distinguishes “the church of God ... from all other companies of men in the world.[1]

In the first section, we confess: “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” Perkins unpacks the significance of this affirmation by considering (1) the title – “Father,” (2) the attribute – “almighty,” and (3) the work – “creator of heaven and earth.”

In the second section, we confess: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord.” Perkins begins his analysis of this section by focusing on the titles. The first is “Jesus.” The angel declared to Joseph: “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). In both the Hebrew and Greek, this name signifies “Savior.” He's “a perfect and absolute Savior … [and] the work of salvation is wholly and only wrought by Him.” He is called “Jesus” because “He saves both body and soul … from hell, death, and damnation.”[2]

Perkins continues his analysis by expounding three points. (1) The first concerns the object of salvation. In brief, Jesus saves His people. For Perkins, this means that the recipients of salvation are the elect from among the Jews and Gentiles. Jesus has made full “satisfaction to God’s justice” for sin, and only those (for whom satisfaction has been made) can receive pardon and forgiveness. (2) The second point concerns the means of salvation. The first is Jesus' merit: “by His obedience to the law and His passion, He made a satisfaction for our sins, freed us from death, and reconciled us unto God.” The second is Jesus' efficacy: “He gives His Spirit to mortify the corruption of our natures, that we may die unto sin and live unto righteousness and have true comfort in terrors of conscience and in the pangs of death.” (3) The third point concerns the result of salvation. Jesus saves us from the evil of our own sins, so that we're freed from “the guilt and the punishment and fault of them all.”[3]

By way of application, Perkins insists that, having confessed “Jesus,” we must see ourselves to be “miserable sinners under the wrath of God, utterly lost in regard of ourselves.” And, as a result, we must “acknowledge” Jesus to be our only Savior. “Every man can talk of Christ, but few acknowledge Him to be a Savior by seeking to Him for their salvation, because they judge themselves righteous and feel not themselves to stand in need of the help of Christ.”[4] Perkins, therefore, urges his readers to come to Jesus – that is, to “touch His precious body and blood by the hand of faith,” “receive and embrace [Him],” “fly to Him for the pardon of all our sins,” and “praise His name.”[5]


[1] William Perkins, An Exposition of the Symbol (or Creed) of the Apostles, in The Works of William Perkins, vol 5, ed. Ryan Hurd (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 98.
[2] Exposition of the Symbol, 98–99.
[3] Exposition of the Symbol, 100.
[4] Exposition of the Symbol, 101.
[5] Exposition of the Symbol, 101–03.

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