As we noted a few weeks ago, the Apostles’ Creed is a summary of the gospel because it tells us about the work of God in salvation. Fundamentally, the biblical gospel tells us that only the Creator can rescue people from sin. We cannot make ourselves right by our good works, for our good works are always tainted by sin (Isa. 64:6; Gal. 2:15–16; 5:3). No other being can save us from our predicament, for other “gods” are but demons in disguise (Isa. 44:9–20; 1 Cor. 10:19–20). If human beings are to be saved, the triune God must do all the work. The Apostles’ Creed makes this very assertion in what it does not say: it does not give our works, other gods, past saints, or anything else a role in our redemption. Instead, the creed speaks only of the work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in planning, securing, and applying salvation to God’s people.
God is the perfect Creator and the perfect Savior. To look for salvation anywhere else but Him is to confess by one’s deeds that Jesus, in whom the fullness of deity dwells (Col. 1:19–20), is not a perfect Savior and, therefore, that God is not a perfect Savior. That is why insistence on the work of God in Christ alone for salvation is essential to the Christian faith. Once we start looking for redemption outside of Jesus or add something to His work in our behalf, we detract from the glory that belongs to the Lord alone. No error could be more fatal, for God is jealous for His glory (Isa. 42:8; 48:11). He will not treat lightly those who ultimately “make” Him share His glory with other creatures by turning to creatures for salvation.
Question and answer 30 of the Heidelberg Catechism teach that “those who look for their salvation and security in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere” deny that Jesus is the only Savior. Through the incarnation, the Son of God has made God’s glory to dwell perfectly and fully in Christ Jesus (Col. 1:19–20). This glory has not been given also to our works, the saints, other gods, or anything else, and turning to anything but Christ alone for salvation makes God a liar when He says the fullness of His glory dwells only in Jesus. John Calvin writes, “All that detract from Christ, or that impair his excellence, or . . . take away a drop from his fullness, overturn, so far as is in their power, God’s eternal counsel.”
As Protestants, we are not likely to turn to Mary or the saints of years gone by as mediators who can secure favor with God. As saints who still fight against sin, however, we are likely to believe we have to earn God’s love and that our obedience somehow makes us more worthy of salvation than others. Yet if we do this, we are robbing Christ of the very glory He deserves, which is a very grave sin indeed.