We get the word creed from the Latin, credo – which means I believe. A creed is simply a brief statement of belief. In the early days of the Church, creeds were used as a confession of faith when a person was baptized. Because they are concise and easily memorized, they became the basis for teaching new believers about the faith in preparation for their baptism.
The purpose of a creed is two-fold. First, it clearly states the essential beliefs of the Christian faith. Second, it stands in contrast to heretical (or false) teaching. In other words, the trustworthiness of teaching could be measured by whether it conformed to the creeds.
There were variations of wording in the earliest recorded creeds, but eventually these became formalized as what we know today as the Apostles’ Creed, so named because they represented the fundamental teaching of the Apostles.
As years passed, heretical teaching arose on points of doctrine that weren’t clearly addressed by the Apostles’ Creed, so new creeds were crafted to specifically counter these false ideas. The best known of these is the Nicene Creed, composed by the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. The Nicene Creed was formulated as a slightly longer version of the Apostles’ Creed that answered certain points of false teaching that had plagued the Church.
The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds express the Christian faith in a manner that transcends denominational and doctrinal differences. These creeds express the foundational beliefs of all true Christians.
Keep in mind, these creeds are ancient and were not originally written in the English language. Therefore, you will find slight variations in wording as they are updated for contemporary English speakers.