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TEXT: John 1:14
SUBJECT: Apostles' Creed #3: Jesus Christ
This afternoon, with God's blessing, we'll move on in our examination of the Apostles' Creed. The Creed has been confessed in the Church for more than one thousand-five hundred years. It is not inspired by God, but it clearly summarizes what His people believe and it underlines what we think is most important.
The great confession is centered on Christ. Of its one hundred and nine words, seventy of them are about the Lord Jesus. And the ones that are not directly about Him are closely related to Him. Who is God the Father Almighty the Father of? Who is the Head of The Holy Catholic Church? Where do we find the forgiveness of sins? Who guarantees the resurrection of the body? And from Whom do we receive life everlasting?
Many questions with a single answer: Christ! Paul says in all things He must have the preeminence. The old Creed gives it to Him.
Last month, we studied the first article:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
Its big idea may not be what you think it is. It's not there chiefly to affirm the existence of God or to teach the doctrine of creation. These things are implied by it, of course, but they are not why the framers were getting at, it seems to me.
The first article teaches God's relationship to (a) Christ and (b) to everything else. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ-sharing one Divine Essence and equal to His Son in every way. But God is not equal to anything else! Over all things created, He is Lord and Master! The Creed insists on His Lordship and invites us to celebrate it:
Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
The first article, then, is about God. Not the whole Trinity, but the First Person thereof.
The second article brings us to Christ Himself. One sermon is not enough to even lightly touch on all it has to say about Him, and so, we'll limit ourselves to the first few words. But what words they are! Bursting with Divine glory and deep doctrine and comfort in life and death.
I believe.in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
Our Lord did not come to bring peace, but a sword! Not to paper over differences, but to expose and widen them. Not to bring everyone together around a warm campfire, but to,
Set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother in law, and a man's foes will be those of his own household.
He does that personally. And so does His doctrine. The doctrine of God shot through a gauzy lens brings people together. The doctrine of Christ in sharp focus tears them apart.
By calling Jesus Christ God's Son, we break with Judaism, Islam, and all the major cults. But calling Him God's only Son, we take a stand against the Eastern Religions, the New Age, and every brand of Liberalism that makes us all sons of God-in the same way that Christ is the Son of God!
The Apostles Creed is not obnoxious, but it is firm. It does not respect or dialogue; it confesses. With Peter, it says,
Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved!
The lord is called four things in the article: the first of which is.Jesus.
The name is significant. By giving Him a human name-a common one in that part of the world at the time-the Creed affirms His real humanity. A bit later, it gives the details, but for now, it only mentions it in passing. J.I. Packer says:
"It identifies Him as a historical person, Mary's son from Nazareth in Galilee, a Jewish ex-carpenter who worked for three years as a rural rabbi, and was put to death by the Roman authorities about 30 A.D."
When the Creed was first published (in a slightly shorter version), you could find some old people whose parents had met the Lord-who knew Him as Jesus of Nazareth. They knew His mother; they had seen His carpentry; they had heard His sermons; they had watched Him die. And a few of them had seen Him alive after His passion!
He was not a legendary figure or the hero of some myth! He was a Real Man-in most ways, no different than any other man. He ate and drank, worked and rested, prayed and preached, bled and died. The name, Jesus, underscores His humanity and what scholars call His historicity. It means He was really here, in time a space-
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
The name that teaches His humanity, hints at something more. The name, Jesus, is the Greek version of the Hebrew Joshua. The name means God saves! It looks back to a man who did something for his people.
Joshua, the son of Nun, was the right hand man to Moses. When the older man died, his assistant took his place as the leader of God's people. And he gave them something not even Moses could provide. He gave them an inheritance. Joshua brought them into the promised land that God had sworn to give them five hundred years before. And now they had it: humanly speaking, because of Joshua.
What that Joshua did for God's People long ago, this Joshua does for us-only far more. The old Joshua gave one small nation a land flowing with milk and honey and theirs as long as they obeyed God. The new Joshua leads a multitude no man can number out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue. He gives us a portion in heaven and a place in it that cannot be lost!
I did not make up the connection, but I got it right out of the Bible, Hebrews 4:8, to be exact.
Mary and Joseph were good people and deeply rooted in the history of Israel. Yet they were not left to name her son. The angel gave them the name God wanted and told them why:
You shall call Him, Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.
The Creed says, I believe in.Jesus.
But it doesn't leave it there. It goes on to name Him, Christ. This is not a family name like Smith or Jones. It's a title in Greek that has a Hebrew equivalent. Christ means anointed. If a man was chosen for a high office or a special work, he was set aside by the ceremony of pouring oil over his head. The oil symbolized the Holy Spirit who was necessary to him and any success he would have.
In this way, prophets, priests, and kings were, well, christs or the Lord's anointed. The Hebrew brings them all together one man: Messiah.
Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah or the Christ. Many New Testament confessions can be named here, but the ones I like best are two of the earliest: the confessions of Philip and his friend, Nathanael:
We have found Him whom Moses in the Law, and also the prophets wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel.
The Lord was always chosen by God-there was no other candidate. But He was publicly anointed at His baptism, when the Holy Spirit came down on Him in the shape of a dove.
Because Jesus is the Christ, He is also our Prophet, Priest, and King. His offices correspond to our needs. As our prophet, He dispels our ignorance; as priest He reconciles us to God; as king, He rules us in love and protects us from our enemies.
While others in His day took Him for a good man or a fine teacher or even a great prophet, Peter knew He was more than these things: You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!
It is on this confession that the Church is built. Take this out and you can have a Bible college, a social club, or a gathering of people who want to serve the community. But you've got no Church unless you confess the Christ!
HIS ONLY SON
The Creed then calls Him God's Only Son. By calling Him, God's Son, it means He is fully Divine. Christ shares in all the traits of Divinity. He is as eternal as the Father is; and equally holy, just, merciful, wise, and so on. God's Son is another way of saying, God.
Then it adds that He is God's Only Son. I went into all this last time, so I can only breeze over it now. The Bible uses the term God's son or one like it, in at least six different ways: The angels are God's sons in one way; all men are in another; Adam was the son of God in a third sense; Israel was God's son in another way; the king of Israel was His Son, too, and, of course Christians the children of God.
Yet the Bible that uses the term son or sons of God so loosely, is very strict on Christ as the only begotten Son of God. His One and Only Son, you might say.
This means Christ is the Son of God in a way that Christians aren't; the Jews weren't; angels aren't; Adam wasn't; all men aren't; and the king of Israel wasn't. They are sons by creation or adoption or dignity, but only Christ is Begotten of the Father; only He is God's Son by nature and right-and not only by grace.
Of Christ, Ambrose of Milan wrote the great hymn,
The Word in God the Father one,
The Father imaged in the Son.
He got that right out of the Bible.
He is the Image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
No man has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.
In an age of diversity and equality and self-esteem, the Church is tempted to blend everything together. After all, we don't want to be narrow-minded bigots; we want people to like us. But we mustn't allow our wishes to take the sharp edges off the Apostles' Creed-and the Bible it summarizes.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son.
The Lord is nobody's colleague; no one's equal. He is God's Only Son.
Finally, the Creed calls Him, our Lord. This follows from what has already been said. Being the Son of God, the Christ, and the Savior means Jesus is Lord!
In recent years, the old article has been denied or watered down by men famous for their conservative, Bible-believing orthodoxy. Though their arguments are complicated and subtle, they can be stated quite clearly in the tired cliché: You've made Jesus your Savior, now make Him your Lord. As though He might not be the believer's Lord.
The argument for this position is so childish that I don't want to waste your time with it. Suffice it to say that the preaching at Pentecost and throughout the book of Acts had a lot more about His Lordship than about His Saviorhood. In fact, His saving work is a branch of His Lordship. Look it up for yourself: Lord and Savior-often; Savior and Lord-never.
The basic confession in the New Testament and the Early Church was not Christ died for me. It was Jesus is Lord. This is why the Romans burned our forefathers-not because they looked to Jesus as Savior, but because they called Him Lord. And in the Empire, only Caesar had that title. But the Christians were willing to die for saying otherwise.
Jesus Christ, God's only Son, is our Lord. It is part of "The Sinner's Prayer" (cf. Romans 10:9); it is fundamental to the Church's Confession; and it's a privilege believers give thanks for and no believer resents. How dear that word is-Our Lord. Let others have their lords and masters, but we want our Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ!
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