I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
An explanation from the Book of Concord, Small Catechism, http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php:
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
The First Article.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
The Second Article.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
What does this mean?
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won [delivered] me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, in order that I may be [wholly] His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
The Third Article.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.
Origin of Apostles' Creed. http://cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=e&word=ECUMENICALCREEDS
1. This creed was not formulated by councils of theologians but grew spontaneously out of the needs of the living ch.
2. The tradition that the Creed was composed on Pent. or shortly thereafter by the 12 apostles, each contributing an article, is stated, e.g., by T. Rufinus* ca. 403 in Commentarius in symbolum apostolorum and in the Explanatio symboli ad initiandos, usually ascribed to Ambrose.* This view was embodied in the Catechismus Romanus (see Roman Catholic Confessions, A 3). Some Luths. defended the tradition. The theory was attacked by L. Valla* and D. Erasmus* and ultimately proved false on basis of intrinsic improbability, silence of the Scriptures, silence of ante-Nicene fathers, and various forms extant in the early ch.
3. The Creed grew from NT beginnings (e.g., Mt 10:32–33; Jn 1:49; 6:69; 11:27; 20:28; Acts 8:37: 14:15; 2 Co 13:14; 1 Ptr 1:2). The confession of Peter (Mt 16:16) and the baptismal formula (Mt 28:19) influenced the development of the Creed esp. More developed creedal statements are found in such ch. fathers as Ignatius of Antioch (see Apostolic Fathers, 2) and Justin* Martyr. For a long time the Creed was usually memorized but not written (disciplina* arcani). It was explained to the catechumens in the last stages of their preparation. The ante-Nicene fathers called the early forms of the Creed the “rule* of faith,” “rule of truth.” “apostolic tradition.” and “symbol.” Such “rules of faith” are mentioned by Irenaeus,* Tertullian,* Novatian,* Cyprian* of Carthage, and Origen.*
4. That the Creed developed indep. in different regions is shown by the differences existing among early creeds. The Old Roman creed read: “I believe in God the Father Almighty; and in Christ Jesus, His only (begotten) Son, our Lord; and in the Holy Spirit, the holy church, the forgiveness of sins, (and) the resurrection of the flesh.” A longer form finally became standard in the West. T. Rufinus* gives a Lat. version; Marcellus* of Ancyra gives it in Gk. Later additions were made (“descended to hell” in a 4th c. creed; “catholic” from Eastern usage; “communion of saints” [see Communio sanctorum] in a commentary on the creed by Niceta[s]* of Remesiana) until the present form triumphed in the W (6th–8th c.) as a result of RC efforts.
5. Though secondary in the E Ch., the Apostles' Creed is a strong bond of union bet. all ages and sections of Christianity. It was highly regarded e.g. by Augustine* of Hippo, M. Luther,* and J. Calvin.* Attacking this creed is tantamount to attacking Scripture.