EASTER According to the Apostles' Creed Daniel Whyte III
Easter According to the Apostles' Creed by Daniel Whyte III Cover Design by Atinad Designs ÂŠ Copyright 2015 TORCH LEGACY PUBLICATIONS: Dallas, TX; Atlanta, GA; Brooklyn, NY; London, UK; Luxembourg City; Munich, Germany; Meguro, Japan; All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, except for brief quotations included in a review of the book. The Bible quotations in this volume are from the King James Version of the Bible.
To my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Introduction If you have ever attended a Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, or Presbyterian church, you may have heard something similar to the words which are referred to as the Apostles' Creed. Now, Baptists (I am an ordained minister in the Baptist denomination), as a rule, do not subscribe to any creed. Coming out of the Protestant Reformation, Baptists decided that, unlike other Protestant denominations, they would be non-creedal. Baptists state that "the final authority for faith and practice is the Bible, not words about the Bible." However, while I do not hold any creed to the level of inspired Scripture, I believe that there are some elements from other parts of the church that are good that we should at least be aware of and that we can learn from. The Apostles' Creed is one of those things. What is a creed? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a creed is a "statement of basic beliefs; an idea or set of beliefs that guides the actions of a person or group." Thus, the Apostles' Creed is a statement of what the apostles of Jesus Christ believed. The earliest written version of the Apostles’ Creed is known as the "old Roman creed” (or “old Roman symbol”). According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, it was put in written form by 180 AD. Tradition states that, on the day of Pentecost, the twelve Apostles each contributed one line to this creed to make up the twelve lines of the "old Roman creed" that we have today. It goes as follows: I believe in God the Father almighty; and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord, Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried, on the third day rose again from the dead, ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, whence He will come to judge the living and the dead; and in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh (the life everlasting) According to The Creeds of Christendom by Philip Schaff, “the individual statements of belief that are included in the Apostles' Creed—even those not found in the Old Roman Symbol—are found in various writings by [early church fathers] Irenaeus, Tertullian, Novatian, Marcellus, Rufinus, Ambrose, Augustine, Nicetus, and Eusebius Gallus.” The other versions of the Apostles' Creed are the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. These later versions of the creed came about because the church needed to combat false teachings that were creeping into the church. Thus, the Nicene Creed, which was adopted by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, contains additional text affirming the deity of Jesus Christ as there were some false teachers who claimed that Jesus was not divine. The Athanasian Creed was issued in the late fifth century or early sixth century and includes additional text affirming the Trinitarian unity of the Godhead—that God is Father, Son, and Spirit, yet one God. The following version of the Creed was put in written form some time during the first half of the eighth century AD. Interestingly, it appears to have come from Christians in Spain and France unlike the Old Roman Symbol which was formulated by Christians in Rome. The French King Charlemagne imposed it throughout his kingdom and it was
eventually accepted in Rome. This version is the one most widely used by Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregationalist churches today: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, 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 arose 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. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen. According to an article by David Meager in CrossWay, "The Creed seems to have had three uses: first as a confession of faith for those about to be baptized, secondly as a catechism (an instruction for new Christians in the essentials of the faith), and thirdly, as a â€˜rule of faith' to give continuity to orthodox Christian doctrine." First Corinthians 15:1-4 is probably the closest thing to the Apostles' Creed that is found in the Bible. The first eight verses of I Corinthians 15 are below:
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures; And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. These verses make up a succinct statement telling us what the Gospel is, what it can do, and what we ought to do in response to it. The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the â€œgood newsâ€? that Paul delivered to the Corinthians and that has been delivered to each of us today. That good news is like bringing a jug of cold water to a man who has been tied to a stake in the ground in the desert for a
week without anything to eat or drink. I’m glad, today, that somebody took the time to tell me about the good news. This passage also shows us that the Gospel is what saves us. The Corinthian believers were “saved” by the Gospel. Everyone who is a child of God was saved by this Gospel as well. We were not saved by our own ingenuity, strength, or intelligence. We did not work for it or pay for it. We had nothing to do with our salvation. It is all of the Gospel and the grace of God. Third, this passage shows us how we should respond to the Gospel. The Corinthian believers “received” the Gospel, “stood” in the Gospel, and were commanded to “remember” the Gospel. Receiving the Gospel is an act of our will by which we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ and the saving work that He accomplished on the cross. Just as we received the Gospel, there are many people who have, unfortunately, rejected the Gospel and chosen their own path. Reception or rejection of the Gospel is a choice. After we have received the Gospel, we ought to “stand” in the Gospel. To “stand” in the Gospel is to live according to the Gospel. It is another way of saying that we should live like we are saved. If we are saved, we ought to act like we are saved—we ought to put off the old man and put on the new man, which is Christ Jesus, so we can “walk in newness of life.” We can do this if we “keep in memory” the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This great event ought to be first and foremost in our hearts and minds. That is why we celebrate communion—in remembrance of Him. That is why we celebrate Easter—to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. —Daniel Whyte III
Chapter 1 I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth... We are going to break down this creed and look at the biblical basis for each of these truths that every Christian ought to believe. The first line of the creed reads: "I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth..." From just this first line of the creed, we see three important facts about the God we believe in. The uniqueness of God Isaiah 44:6 says, "Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God." In Isaiah 45:5, God says, "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me." God makes it clear that He alone is God. He alone is in control. He alone is almighty. According to Martin Manser, editor of The Dictionary of Bible Themes, the uniqueness of God means that "no one and nothing is comparable to the triune God in his nature or comparable to him in his character and activity." The statements that God made in Isaiah were delivered during a time when many in the nation of Israel were turning away from God and worshipping idols made of wood and metal. Really, when you think about it, it is absurd how man—who can talk, walk, feel, smell, hear, and see—is able to contort his mind to the point that he—a living, breathing, animate being—bows down to a motionless, lifeless statue. That goes to show you that we humans are not as smart as we think we are.
The apostles lived in a day and time when people worshipped the Roman Caesar and an entire pantheon of mythical Greek and Roman gods. Yet, the apostles believed in the uniqueness of God and they passed that belief down to us. In Ephesians 4:6, Paul tells us that there is "one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all." The belief of the early Christians in the one, true God, and their refusal to worship Caesar and the Greek and Roman gods caused them to experience a lot of persecution. In fact, when Rome was overrun by the Visigoths, the pagan Romans blamed the Christians for the fall of the Empire because they refused to acknowledge the Roman gods. This led the North African theologian, Augustine, to write his major philosophical work titled "The City of God," in which he explained the difference between the earthly kingdom of Rome and the heavenly kingdom of Christ as well as the relationship between Christianity and the competing religions of that time. The uniqueness of God is the basis for every belief that follows in Christianity. Without the one, true God being acknowledged, every Christian belief falls apart. We must choose to acknowledge God in all of our ways and let Him be the master over us. The eternality of God The first line of the Apostles' Creed acknowledges God as eternally existent. Psalm 90:2 says, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." Job 36:26 says, "Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out."
Just as Christian doctrine hinges on the uniqueness of God, Christian doctrine also hinges on the eternality of God. God promises to give us eternal life. If God is not eternal, how can He give that which He does not have? One theologian said, "For God to be God, He, of necessity, must have always existed. Because God is infinite and exists outside of time, the past, present, and future are all oneâ€”the now to Him." In the New Testament, the eternality of God is affirmed. First Timothy 1:17 says, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3 tells us that the establishment of the church was no sudden action on God's part. Rather, His intent is to show the powers of this world "by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." God had the church in His plans for all of eternity! The realization that you and I have been a part of God's plan for eternity ought to cause us to take the task of carrying our cross seriously. We are eternal beings, serving an eternal God, who has given us eternal life, and will give us eternal rewards if we are faithful to Him. We see the uniqueness of God. We see the eternality of God. Now, we see... The sovereignty of God Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The Old Roman Form of the Apostles Creed states, "I believe in God the Father almighty," and the Nicene version adds, "maker of Heaven and Earth." These statements affirm God's sovereign power which is shown through His creative acts.
In other words, if God created the world, He certainly has "the whole world in His hands," as the children's song says. God is sovereign and in control of every aspect of the universe. Arthur W. Pink wrote these words in his book, The Sovereignty of God: What do we mean by [the sovereignty of God]? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the god-hood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is "The Governor among the nations," setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the "Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords." Such is the God of the Bible. The apostles taught the sovereignty of God in the early church. In Acts 14:15, as Paul is preaching to the people of Lystra, he says, we "preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein." Have you ever had to remind yourself that "God is in control." That is not just something that we should say when we are in trouble, but that is something that we should believe wholeheartedly. If we believe that God is in control, we can face any situation in life. We can bravely march into difficulty because we believe, like the apostles believed, that our lives are not our own. Our lives rest in God's hands.
These three facts about Godâ€”that He is unique, that He is eternal, and that He is sovereign â€”form the foundation of everything we believe as Christians. It is what Jesus' disciples believed. It is what the early church believed. It is what we ought to believe as well.
Chapter 2 ...and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord. The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America (the Conservative branch) sheds some light on why the Apostles' Creed was a necessity for the early church. It says, "In a time when most Christians were illiterate, oral repetition of the Apostles' Creed, along with the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, helped preserve and transmit the faith of the churches." In the second century, there was a wealthy Christian named Marcion who lived in what is present-day Turkey. Marcion was the son of a bishop; he was also a ship owner, and was probably consecrated as a bishop himself later in life. Marcion threatened the church's understanding of Jesus Christ as Lord. He taught that Jesus Christ was not the same Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, he rejected the deity of Jesus Christ, and he proposed getting rid of the Old Testament entirely and even some parts of the Gospels. He began to have some influence in the Roman Church, and the church fathers of that time denounced him. The "Old Roman Form" of the Apostles' Creed was developed partly to refute Marcion. Let's look at the next line in the creed which reads, "...and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord." Let's turn to the Word of God and see the biblical basis for this part of the Apostles' Creed. The promise of Jesus Christ According to Luke 2:11, when Jesus was born, the angels declared to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem, "For unto
you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." The coming of Jesus Christ had been promised for hundreds of years. Ever since the Old Testament prophets predicted that He would come, the people of Israel had been waiting expectantly for their Messiah to arrive. According to Rick Reinckens, "God tells us in Isaiah 44:6-8 and 46:9-10 that He alone knows the future and He tells it to us to prove that He is real and that the Bible is His word. This is called prophecy. The Apostles' Creed contains nine examples of things that were foretold and later happened." The coming of Jesus Christ is one of those things. The Old Testament prophecies regarding the birth of Jesus Christ provided hope for the people of Israel as they lived through the Exile, as they went back to their homeland, and as they waited through 400 years of silence from God. For us, the prophecies of the coming of Jesus Christ form a trail of truth and evidence which verifies the claims of Christ and upholds the real meaning of the Christian faith. If Jesus Christ had not come, we would have no faith, we would have no salvation, and we would have no eternal life. Because most of the members of the early church were Jewish, they were able to appreciate Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah of the Jews and the Savior of the world. We see this appreciation in the reaction of Anna and Simeon when Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the Temple. They both had long-awaited the Messiah and expressed great joy at finally seeing Him. Aren't you glad that God keeps His promises? As the Bible says, "God is not a man that He should lie." The promised Savior came, and each of us today receive benefits and blessings because of Him. The sending of Jesus Christ
All of us are familiar with John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Verse 17 goes on to say, "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." When God saw that man continued to sin and rebel against His authority, He could have very well decided to give up on trying to save us, but, He didn't. He made a personal sacrifice by coming into the world in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. Speaking rhetorically, the writer of Proverbs 30 says, "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?" Of course, at the time when these words were written, no one knew the name of Jesus as the Son of God. But, today, we are blessed to know the name of Jesus Christ and to see God Himself revealed through the sending of His Son. Matthew Henry states, "We must now exalt Christ as one revealed; they [the Jews] magnified him as one concealed, as one they had heard something about, but had very uncertain ideas of." Carnegie Simpson said, "The face of Christ does not show us everything, but it shows the one thing we need to knowâ€”the character of God. God is the God who sent Jesus." When Jesus came to the earth, He came with a purpose in mind. The Bible says, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." That salvation involved suffering and death. Jesus knew that before He came, yet, He came anyway. By Jesus Christ dying on the cross, He took care of everything that would ever be needed for a lost soul to be saved. The once-for-all sacrifice of Christ is the bedrock of Christianity. Without that, there is nothing unique about the Christian faith.
We see the promise of Jesus Christ. We see the sending of Jesus Christ. Now, we see... The Lordship of Jesus Christ In John 20:28, when the disciple, Thomas, finally met the risen Savior, he declared, "My Lord and my God!" The Apostles’ Creed says, we believe “in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord.” We often refer to Jesus Christ as the "suffering servant", especially during the Easter season. We often speak of His humility, His tenderness, His love and His care for others, but we must not forget that He is still Lord. In John 13:13, Jesus Christ told His disciples, "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am." The disciples taught the lordship of Jesus Christ in the early church. In Acts 2:36, Peter is preaching before a crowd in Jerusalem just after Pentecost, and he says, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." Before His birth, Jesus Christ—the second being of the Trinity—sat enthroned in glory in Heaven. The Bible tells us that "by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him." However, He chose to make "himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." Jesus did not abdicate His throne when He came to earth wrapped in human flesh. No, He merely set aside His glory for a little while so that He could identify with and save lost humanity. While He was on Earth, He was still God almighty. He was still the Lord of the universe, and He demonstrated that lordship by healing the sick, casting out demons, calming
stormy seas, raising the dead, multiplying food for thousands, opening the eyes of the blind. If the disciples ever doubted who Jesus was from the moment He called them, their doubts were dispelled by Jesus' actions â€”the greatest of which was His rising from the dead. After they each met the risen Savior, they were ready to risk their lives for Him, to go anywhere He told them to go, and to do anything He told them to do. They acknowledged Jesus Christ as their Lord. Jesus Christ is not only Lord over the people who choose to follow Him and call Him their Savior, but Jesus Christ is also Lord over those who do not acknowledge Him. R.C. Sproul Jr., said, "We make the foolish mistake of thinking that when enough souls decide to make Jesus the Lord of their lives, that He will become the Lord of all things. The reality is that Jesus is already Lord over all things. His kingdom, strictly speaking, does not expand, for even now it knows no borders. He does not, therefore, engage in some sort of power sharing arrangement with other pretenders to His throne, whether they be false deities, or those who falsely worship them. His lordship is not something we accomplish. It is something we recognize and submit to. It is not something we negotiate; it is something we proclaim." Paul wrote that one day in the future, "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." This Easter season, we celebrate Jesus Christ as the Savior who was promised, as the Savior who was sent by God, and as the Savior who is Lord over all.
Chapter 3 Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary... The next line of the creed reads, "Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary..." Let's turn to the Word of God and see the biblical basis for this part of the Apostles' Creed. The deity of Christ In Luke 1:35, the angel Gabriel tells Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." For Jesus Christ to be the perfect sacrifice for man's sins, He had to be both God and man—divine and human. Now, that is hard for us to wrap our heads around. Many people are willing to say that Jesus Christ was a man, but they balk at saying that He is God. Some people are willing to say that Jesus Christ was divine, but that when He walked this earth, He was not really human. He just appeared to be human. As we have already seen, part of the reason why the Apostles' Creed was created was to combat those who claimed that Jesus Christ was not really divine. This doctrine of the incarnation—that God became man—can be perplexing. Another doctrine that people often struggle with is the doctrine of the Trinity. They cannot understand the Godhead—how three unique beings are one and the same, and yet still are three distinct beings. As J.I. Packer said, "Here are two mysteries for the price of one—the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus.... Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation."
I do not think that anyone, no matter how educated, will ever be able to fully understand how the Incarnation could take place on this side of eternity. But, we are not required to understand it; we are only required to believe it. And the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ was fully God even as He walked on Earth in human flesh. The Apostle Paul states in Titus 2:13 that, as Christians, we are "looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." Read the following from Matthew Perman: "Another way the Bible teaches that Jesus is God is by showing that He has all of the attributes of God. He knows everything, is everywhere, has all power, depends on nothing outside of Himself for life, rules over everything, never began to exist and never will cease to exist, and is our Creator. In other words, everything that God is, Jesus is. For Jesus is God." The Apostles affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ because the Bible teaches the deity of Jesus Christ. And it is crucial for Christians to believe in the deity of Christ today. The humanity of Christ The Old Roman Apostles’ Creed (commonly referred to as the Old Roman Symbol) says Jesus "was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary." The New Apostles’ Creed says, “Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary.” Both are saying the same thing but I prefer the Old Roman Symbol. His birth of the Holy Spirit shows forth His deity, and His birth of the Virgin Mary shows forth His humanity. Luke 1:26-27 says, "the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary." The great miracle of the Incarnation is that God became man in the form of Jesus
Christ approximately 2,000 years ago. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. When we speak of God becoming man, we do not mean that Jesus stopped being God for a while in order to become human. As one early theologian put it, "Remaining what He was, He became what He was not." Think about that for a moment: Jesus Christâ€”divine, glorious, almighty, everlasting, unlimited by time, space, or possibilityâ€” willingly adds to His nature a human body, a human soul, a human mind, a human will, and human emotions. Why did Jesus do this? Hebrews 2:17 tells us, "Wherefore in all things it behoved him [Jesus Christ] to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." What is this verse saying? It is telling us that Jesus Christ became human in order to die for our sins. Of course, God cannot die, so for Jesus to pay the penalty of death, He had to become really human. Second, it is telling us that Jesus became human in order that He could identify with us, and thus be a merciful and faithful high priest. Don't you hate it when someone talks about you and criticizes you without having walked in your shoes for a while? Well, you will never be treated like that by Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:15 says, "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Jesus truly understands what we are going through because He became a man in order to save us from the punishment of our sins. The hymn writer, Johnson Oatman Jr., said:
Jesus knows all about our struggles; He will guide ’til the day is done: There’s not a Friend like the lowly Jesus: No, not one! no, not one! Jesus is a friend of sinners. He can relate to us because He is God in human flesh. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could he help us? If He is not true man, how could He help us?" Embedded in this third line of the Apostles’ Creed, we see the divinity of Jesus Christ, and we see the humanity of Jesus Christ. Now, we see... The unity of Christ Colossians 2:9 says, "For in Jesus dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." At this junction, it is crucial to point out that Jesus Christ is not a hybrid being. He does not have "two sides." His divinity and His humanity are each fully present— He is 100% God and 100% man. This was a major doctrinal issue for the early church fathers who helped formulate the Creeds which we have today. As Matthew Perman writes, Colossians 2:9 "means that everything that is essential to being God is true of Jesus... [and] everything that belongs to the essence of true humanity is true of Him. He is just as truly human as the rest of us." In AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon was held as more doctrinal disputes arose in the early church. One of those disputes was concerning the unity of the divine and the human in the person of Jesus Christ. The Emperor of Byzantium, Marcian, asked the council to issue a statement on the incarnation. At first, the council balked as they did not believe a new creed was necessary to explain how Christ held
two natures. Furthermore, they believed that a letter sent to the council by Pope Leo I had sufficiently addressed the issue. However, according to the Greek Orthodox Theological Review, "the second session of the council ended with shouts from the bishops, 'It is Peter who says this through Leo. This is what we all of us believe. This is the faith of the Apostles!'" The council ended up issuing an affirmation that makes it clear that Jesus is one person possessing two natures. This creed is known as the "Confession of Chalcedon" or the "Chalcedonian Creed." Allow me to read part of this affirmation to you: We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach people to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
That is probably as close as we can get to expressing the mystery of the Incarnation in human terms. We ought to be grateful for the men of the early church who stood against false teaching and were faithful in "earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." We hold to the truth that Jesus Christ is one person having two distinct natures. Because of the union of deity and humanity in Jesus Christ, all that is needed for the accomplishment of salvation is present. Because Jesus is man, He has experienced the same things that we do. Thus, He was able to die for our sins. Because Jesus is God, He is all-powerful and He cannot be defeated. Thus, He rose from the dead to accomplish our salvation.
Chapter 4 ...who under Pontius Pilate was crucified, and buried. Let's look at the next line of the creed which reads: "...who under Pontius Pilate was crucified, and buried." The longer form of the creed says Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried." Notice three things from the biblical foundation for this belief. The guiltiness of mankind Luke 23:23-25 says, "And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he released unto them him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will." The question has often been raised, who is responsible for the death of Jesus Christ, humanly speaking? Some have blamed the Jews who delivered Him up because of jealousy. Some have blamed the Romans who actually made the cross, the whip, the crown of thorns, and the nails. None of us like the idea of carrying the blame for the death of an innocent man. Pilate famously washed his hands in a bowl in front of the Jews and said, "I am innocent of the blood of this just man." Despite Pilate's attempt to deny any responsibility for the death of Jesus Christ, he is still guilty of Jesus' blood—not because he allowed Jesus to be crucified—but for the same reason you and I are guilty of Jesus' blood. Even though Pilate is mentioned in this Apostles’ Creed, he is not the only one guilty; every human being who has ever been born into the world is guilty of Jesus’ blood. To get to the root of this
matter, we must look at why Jesus died, not how he died or the means by which that death was carried out. Romans 5:6-8 says, "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.... God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Notice the words "ungodly" and "sinner" in these verses. Jesus died because we could not die for ourselves. We are messed up, unrighteous, imperfect human beings. If we tried to make things right with God—even if we tried to offer our lives to God in payment for our sins—we still would not be saved from the punishment of our sins and we still would not be made perfect in God's sight. God's justice demands a perfect sacrifice. Jesus Christ is that perfect sacrifice that is sufficient for the sins of the whole world. As First John 2:2 says, Jesus "is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." It was not the Roman nails but our sins that pinned Christ to the cross. It was not the cruel whip but our wickedness that sliced into Christ's skin and tore at His flesh. It was not the crown of thorns, but the burden of our sins that weighed Christ down. Notice these lines from the hymn, "And Can It Be That I Should Gain?" And can it be that I should gain An interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain— For me, who Him to death pursued? Our sins and our sinful nature is the reason why Jesus Christ had to go to the cross. Without His sacrifice, we would still be
standing guilty before God and on our way to the hell that we deserve. The certainty of Christ's death In First Corinthians 15:3 Paul writes, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures." The death of Christ is extremely important for the Christian faith. Death is the sentence that God laid down for sin. If Jesus Christ did not die, then He did not pay our sin debt. One Christian writer said that she once heard a fellow Christian saying, "Why did Jesus have to die? As a Christian I should know the answer, but I canâ€™t think of any convincing explanation. No exemplar of any other religion that I can think of ended up getting killed because of his beliefs. Why wouldn't it have been possible for Jesus to spread his message and gain adherents like Mohammed, Moses and Buddha? Does Christianity only make sense by God deciding that Jesus had to be crucified?" Well, the short answer is "yes." But, Jesus was not surprised by the cross. He expected to die, and He tried to prepare His disciples for that event as well. Mark 10:32-34 tells us that as Jesus and His disciples were going up to Jerusalem, Jesus "took the twelve, and began to tell them what things should happen unto him, Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him."
Jesus knew He was going to die. He came with the purpose to die. Even though many people like to argue that Jesus was not divine or that He did not rise from the dead, almost no one denies that Jesus died on the cross. John Dominic Crossan, a Biblical scholar who was highly skeptical of the miracles recorded in the Gospels, wrote in 1995: "That Jesus was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact." British theologian James Dunn states that nearly all modern scholars consider the baptism of Jesus and his crucifixion to be historically certain. He says these "two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent" and "rank so high on the 'almost impossible to doubt or deny' scale of historical facts" that they are often the starting points for the study of the historical Jesus. In their writings, the Apostles showed the guiltiness of man before God and the certainty of the death of Christ. Now, we see... The fulfillment of prophecy Notice how Paul couches his statements concerning Jesus' death and burial in First Corinthians. He says, "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And he was buried, and he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Paul tells us that these things happened "according to the Scriptures." What scriptures is Paul talking about? Paul is referring to the Old Testament writings that predicted the coming of the Messiah. These were passages that were written hundreds of years before the virgin birth. When Paul and the other Apostles looked back into Jewish history, they saw the truth of Jesus' words in John 5:39 when He said, "Search the
scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." After the crucifixion, two of Jesus' followers were walking along the road to Emmaus. Jesus came up behind them, but they didn't recognize the risen Lord. These followers of Christ were saddened about the events that had transpired and they were perplexed by the news that Jesus' tomb was empty. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus tells them: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" The text goes on to say, "Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Jesus' death on the cross was a fulfillment of prophecy. Every time prophecy is fulfilled, God's glory is made manifest, as He is the only one who as Isaiah says, "Declares the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." God accomplished His will on Earth through the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Man was guilty of sin. Jesus Christ came and had to die in order for us to be saved. By being born into this world, living a perfect life, and dying on the cross, Jesus fulfilled numerous prophecies concerning the Savior. This fulfillment of prophecy helped the Christians of the early church to know that they could have faith in God and trust Him for guidance and direction as they fulfilled Christ's command to preach the gospel to every nation.
Chapter 5 On the third day he rose again from the dead, He ascended into Heaven. Let's look at the next two lines of the creed which read: "On the third day he rose again from the dead, He ascended into Heaven." The more recent version form of the creed adds just before that "He descended into hell." Notice three things from the biblical foundation for this creed. The totality of Jesus' death Once again, we turn to I Corinthians 15:3 which tells us that "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures." What do we mean by the "totality" of Jesus' death? Well, we mean simply that Jesus Christ really died. He did not swoon; He did not fake His death. He really, truly, undeniably died. There are some denominations which teach that because Jesus Christ is fully God, it would have been impossible for Him to truly die. However, that is not what the Bible teaches. If Jesus Christ did not really die, then none of the benefits of salvation could be applied to us. First, if Jesus had not died, we would have no mediator in Heaven. Romans 5:10 says, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." If Christ did not die, He would not be able to serve as our mediator in Heaven. He would not be able to stand between God and us and say, 'Father, You have made me the advocate for this sinner. My blood covers his sins.'
Second, if Jesus had not died, we would have no hope for eternal life. In Acts 2, Peter is preaching in Jerusalem, and he says, Jesus, "being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." If Jesus did not truly die, then He could not have truly risen from the dead. If He was not truly dead when Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus laid Him in the tomb, then the resurrection would be a fraud. And it would tell us that death cannot be defeated and, thus, eternal life cannot be gained. Third, if Jesus had not truly died, we would have no salvation. Hebrews 5:7 tells us that when He was on this earth, Jesus "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared." Remember the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus said in Luke 22:41-42, â€œAnd he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.â€? But, God did not provide another way. Jesus had to truly die. By way of explanation, the writer of Hebrews goes on to say, "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." The word "testament" is another word for "will". Think of it this way: Once you draw up your will stating what different members of your family will get when you die, the will is useless and ineffective until you die. That is what Hebrews is saying. The "new testament" that Jesus began at the Last Supper was useless and ineffective until Jesus Christ
died on the cross. "There must also OF NECESSITY be the death of the testator." If Jesus didn't die, we would be in quite a bind. As we saw in the fourth chapter of this book, not only does the Bible state clearly that Jesus died, but scholars and historiansâ€”no matter where else they disagree with Scriptureâ€”have come to the conclusion that if He didn't do anything else, Jesus Christ died on the cross. The necessity of Jesus' resurrection Just as Jesus had to die, Jesus had to rise from the dead. Look again at First Corinthians 15:4. The Bible says that "And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." The reliability of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son is at stake. Jesus predicted that He would rise from the dead before He died. If He did not rise from the dead, then we are in a lot of trouble. First, it was necessary for Jesus to rise from the dead to prove His divinity. Jesus' death on the cross would not in anyway prove that He is God. Many criminals were scourged and nailed to a cross to die. Jesus' miracles even do not on their own prove that He is God. If anything, they were convincing proof that Jesus was indeed a Man of God. Many of the Old Testament prophets worked miracles by the power of God. But miracles alone do not prove divinity. Romans 1:4 says that Jesus was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." Second, it was necessary for Jesus to rise from the dead to prove His power to forgive sins. First Corinthians 15:17 says, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." Remember: "the wages of sin is death." If Jesus Christ
only died, He would have satisfied the Father's wrath, but that would not have provided any of the benefits of salvation for us. We would still stand guilty before God with no hope of getting into Heaven. Third, it was necessary for Jesus to rise from the dead to prove His ability to give eternal life. Romans 6:9 says, "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." Jesus' death and resurrection secured the means by which we will also be raised from physical death and go to live in Heaven with Christ for eternity. Think of it as going to get on a plane, and you don't have to worry about buying a ticket because somebody has already paid for it. When Jesus defeated death and rose from the dead, He paid for our ticket to Heaven. Ephesians 2:6 says that because of the resurrection, God "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Even though we are not physically in Heaven right now, it is just as good as if we were, because Jesus reserved our place by His resurrection. Simply put, without the resurrection, there is no salvation. John MacArthur said, "The salvation of God demanded eternal life, the coming of the Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, ongoing intercession, the bestowing of spiritual gifts, the granting of spiritual power and the outpouring of eternal blessing...and all of that hinges on the resurrection. If Christ doesn't rise, none of it happens...none of it." We have seen the totality of Jesus' death and we have seen the necessity of Jesus' resurrection. Now, we see...
Jesus paved the way for us The next clause in the Apostles' Creed simply states, "He ascended into Heaven." After His last discussion with His disciples on earth, Acts 1:9-10 tells us that "while they [Jesus' followers] beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up..." Isn't it comforting to know that everything we have to face in this life was faced by Jesus Christ? From the pain and suffering that often comes with a life of faith, to death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus Christ has paved the way for us. He has experienced it all and He has given us, in His Word, the encouragement we need to continue following Him as well as the power of His Holy Spirit. Part of the reason why the early church was so committed to Jesus Christ is because they were following the Savior who had gone through so much for our benefit. They could patiently suffer ridicule and mockery because Jesus had suffered the same. They could patiently suffer persecution— being thrown in jail, being beaten, being thrown to hungry animals in the Coliseum—because Jesus had suffered the same. They could patiently endure death—and even welcome it—because they knew that Jesus Christ had faced death and overcome it. Jesus Christ paved the way for us. Many churches sing the song titled, "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High". Here are the first few lines of this song: You came from Heaven to earth To show the way From the earth to the cross My debt to pay
From the cross to the grave From the grave to the sky Lord, I lift Your name on high Each of us has to bear our cross like Jesus did. We must bear our cross all the way until the day we die. And one day, because of Jesus' resurrection, we will make that majestic leap from the grave to the sky where we will live with Jesus Christ forever on high.
Chapter 6 ...He sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead. Let's look at the next two lines of the creed which read: He "sits at the right hand of the Father. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead." Notice three things from the biblical foundation for this belief. The exaltation of Christ Mark 16:19 says, "After the Lord had spoken unto [the disciples], he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." If you have ever wondered where Jesus Christ is right now, this verse provides the answer. After He finished the work which He was sent to do on Earth, He sat down on His throne at the right hand of God in Heaven. After walking among men for 33 years, He picked up the glory that He had laid aside temporarily and ascended into Heaven. Philippians 2:9 says, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name." Every year, we mark Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter on our calendars. But, how many of us mark Ascension Day â€”the day Jesus Christ returned to glory? The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ taught His followers for 40 days after His resurrection and then He ascended into Heaven. (Ascension Day occurs 39 days after Easter Sunday.) Why is this ascension so important? First, the ascension marks not an ending, but a beginning. Acts 1:1-2 says, "The former treatise have I made, O
Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up..." Notice the word "began." Jesus' ascension and exaltation was not a consummation but a commencement of the greatest work ever carried out on earth â€”the work of spreading the good news of salvation to every nation. You and I are blessed to be a part of that work today. Jesus is still working through His church by the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish this task. Second, the ascension marks the beginning of the fulfillment of Christ's kingdom. The Apostles' Creed states that Jesus â€œascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." When Stephen was being stoned for his faith, he declared, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." On the cross, Jesus Christ defeated Satan and thwarted his plan to rule on the earth. Because of His victory, Jesus' kingdom has already begun. Right now He reigns in the hearts of millions of men and women across the globe, and one day, He will reign on Earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Third, the ascension marks Jesus' return to the Father. After His resurrection, Jesus Christ tells Mary, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." When Jesus went back to Heaven, imagine the great homecoming celebration that awaited Him there. He had fulfilled the purpose for which He had been sent into the world. All of Heaven rejoiced as its Hero came home. But, Jesus did not just go back to Heaven to celebrate His victory. He went to Heaven to prepare a place for us and to begin His intercessory work for us before His Heavenly Father. The ascension and exaltation of Jesus Christ is very important for our understanding of the church's role in the world today.
Walter Elwell said, "Clearly the greatest theological emphasis of the New Testament regarding the ascension is that Christ now regains the glory he had with the Father before the world began, is now able to send his powerful Spirit into the world, and reigns from heaven over every authority and power in heaven and earth." We can be confident that while we are down here, Jesus Christ is up there interceding for us, overseeing His work through us, and preparing a place for us. The expectation of Christ's return After His ascension, two angels appeared to the disciples and said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Perhaps the one thing that has driven Christianity forward more than anything else is the expectation that Jesus Christ is coming again. All other religions worship and follow a dead leader. But Christians worship and follow a living Savior. We don't make pilgrimages to Jesus' tomb seeking guidance and inspiration. We aren't looking to the ground for our deliverance, we are looking up into glory because that's the direction in which our resurrected Savior went. He ascended and we expect Him to descend one day soon and take us to be with Him. David Guzik points out that the way in which Jesus Christ left the earth was different from the way in which He had appeared and disappeared to His disciples over the 40 days after His resurrection. "Jesus was taken up from them, as He was blessing them, slowly disappearing into the sky, surrounded by a cloud. Jesus certainly could have simply 'vanished' to the Fatherâ€™s presence in a secret sort of way." But Jesus wanted to let His disciples know with certainty
where He was going. After Jesus had disappeared beyond the clouds, the disciples stood gazing into the sky, and that is when the angels appeared and told them that Jesus would come back one day and that they needed to get busy right now. We ought to be about our Father's business in this world as well. But we ought to look up in expectation of Christ's return. Scripture shows us the exaltation of Christ and the expectation of Christ's return. Now, we see... The coming execution of Christ's judgment The Apostles' Creed states that from Heaven, Jesus "will come to judge the living and the dead." Paul wrote in Second Timothy 4:1 that "the Lord Jesus Christ shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom." In John 5:22, Jesus Christ said, "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." We like to think of Jesus Christ returning to take us to Heaven to be with Him, but the Bible tells us that the Lord is also coming to execute judgment on the living and the dead. When we pray, â€œThy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven," we are, of necessity, praying for the judgment of sin and evil in the world because, in Heaven, just as there will be no suffering, no pain, no heartache, and no tears, there will be no sin and no evil to cause the suffering, pain, heartache, and tears. When He returns, the Lord Jesus Christ will execute judgment on the Earth, and all of those who remain in rebellion against Him will be destroyed. Brian Tabb said Christ's judgment should infuse believers with "hope for a glorious future. The ascended Lord will
return as judge and king. He will abolish injustice, end suffering, and destroy death and set up his kingdom of truth, righteousness and love. Best of all, we will be with our king forever." The ascension of Jesus Christ is just as important as His coming, His death, and His resurrection. All of it is a part of God's plan. Jesus' exaltation reminds us that even now, He is King of kings and Lord of lords. The expectation of His coming gives us hope for the future. And his execution of judgment on Earth lets us know that He has everything under control, and that one day, His kingdom will fully come and His will will be fully done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Chapter 7 ...in the Holy Spirit, [and in] the holy Church Let's look at the next two lines of the creed which read: I believe "in the Holy Spirit, [and in] the holy Church." The most widely-used version of the creed adds: "in the communion of saints." Notice three things from the biblical foundation for these beliefs. The purpose of the Holy Spirit Before Jesus Christ left this Earth, He told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit. In John 15:26, He said, "When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity through which God manifests Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. We don't understand how that works, but that is the way it is, and we believe it because that is what the Bible teaches. Dr. Wilbur Smith said, "The man who denies the Trinity will lose his soul. The man who tries to understand the Trinity will lose his mind." Our finite minds cannot understand the nature of the Trinity or the Holy Spirit, so let us look briefly at the purpose of the Holy Spirit. Based on Jesus' words, we know that the Holy Spirit came to glorify Christ and to lead believers into the truth. The Holy Spirit comes to live inside of each person who accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and acts as an agent of verification in our hearts and minds. The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives lets us know that we are truly saved. Have you ever been
listening to someone or reading something, and it seemed as though something inside of you was warning you about that person or telling you that what you were reading was not true? That is the Holy Spirit at work inside of you. In John 16:13, Jesus said, "when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth." We learn the truths that God wants us to learn because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Bill Bright said, "The Holy Spirit inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. As you read the Bible, He reveals its truth to you. I read passages of Scripture that I have read many times before, and suddenly, at the moment I need a particular truth, a certain passage comes alive to me. Why? Because the Holy Spirit makes the Word of God relevant and meaningful when I need it. It is a living Book inspired by the Spirit, and only Christians who are filled with the Spirit can understand the true meaning of God's Word." The Holy Spirit also helps us to live pure and God-honoring lives by convicting us of sin. Jesus said, "When he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." Have you ever thought about doing something wrong, or began to do something wrong, and a voice seemed to speak to you telling you not to do what you were going to do? Again, that is the Holy Spirit at work. We cannot live holy lives without the help of the Holy Spirit for as the Bible says, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance." When Jesus finished His work on the Earth, He wanted His followers to know that they had the power to live like Him and to continue the work that He had begun. So, the Holy Spirit was sent to be an inner guide for us as we carry out the Great Commission.
The nature of the church Closely tied to the influence of the Holy Spirit is the work of the church in the world. Galatians 3:26-28 says, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." The Greek word used in the New Testament for church is "ek-kle-sia", which means "called-out ones." The church is made up of those who have been called out of the world and into the family of God. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains the means by which believers become members of the body of Christ. Of course, under the Jewish system, the only way to be considered a child of God was to be extremely observant of the law. Of course, no one succeeded at doing this perfectly. However, because of the cross, we become children of God by putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. As children of God and members of the body of Christ, we have a special relationship with God as a loving, caring Father. Paul goes on to state that traditional dividing lines between Jews and Gentiles are no longer relevant. Those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb stand on equal ground at the cross. Along with Jews and Gentiles, Paul also mentions the divisions between slaves and freemen and male and female, all of which were harsh lines of division during the first century. Martin Luther said, "This list might be extended indefinitely: There is neither preacher nor hearer, neither teacher nor scholar, neither master nor servant. In the matter of salvation, rank, learning, righteousness, influence, count for nothing.â€?
Leon Morris said, Paul "is not writing about a unity that comes about as a result of human achievement. He is saying that when people are saved by Jesus Christ they are brought into a marvelous unity, a unity between the saved and the Savior and a unity that binds together all the saved.â€? In His divine providence, God saw fit to open the doors of salvation to everyoneâ€”not based on what we have done, but based on what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Thus, when we kneel at the cross, every vestige of self is torn away. Our achievements, our pride, our social status mean nothing. We are all sinners saved by grace. And, as saved and called out ones, we join in the wonderful unity between God and man that only comes through the mediator, Christ Jesus. The fellowship of the saints Not only is the church united with Christ, but Christians are united with each other through Christ. Hebrews 10:25 says, "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." As believers, we are blessed to be in fellowship with other like-minded individuals who have been washed in the blood of Christ. The church is the lasting institution which Christ left behind after His resurrection. It began in the upper room in Jerusalem, and shortly thereafter spread like wildfire across the Mediterranean world. And now, today, there are groups of believers in innumerable locations around the globe. Some meet in expansive, beautiful structures, and others meet in storefronts; some meet in homes and others meet in huts; some meet in prisons and others meet under the open sky. But we are all a part of the body of Christ. One of the purposes of the church, which is carried out by the fellowship of the saints, is to be a reflection of Heaven on
Earth—to show the world what true peace, harmony, and unity is like. This true fellowship is shown through the loving, giving, sacrificial service each believer strives to show to others. David Guzik said, "Many people go to church if they feel they 'need it' at the time. But our motivation for fellowship must be to obey God and to give to others. We can go to church looking to encourage someone who needs to hang in there against a tide of discouragement." Just as Jesus Christ comforted and encouraged His disciples, we as believers ought to do the same. All believers have a hope to look forward to—the second coming of Christ. That is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to when he mentions "the day approaching." That day is the day when all believers will be called, not just out of the world, but up into the sky in order to meet Christ in the air. As we finally join Him for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, our fellowship will reach its climax. The fellowship of the church will be the fulfillment of Revelation 7:9—"a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, standing before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands."
Chapter 8 the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting. Amen. Let's look at the last three lines of the creed which read: I believe in "the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting. Amen." What does the Bible tell us about these beliefs? The fulfillment of forgiveness Psalm 32:1 says, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered." Sin is the problem that has plagued mankind since the beginning of time. God, in His grace and mercy, decided not to destroy us immediately, but to do everything in His power to draw us back to Himself. But, since God is just and holy, sin has to be paid for. Jesus Christ became the payment for our sins. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can receive forgiveness today. Acts 10:43 says, "all the prophets give witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." The Greek word translated "remission" means: "release from bondage or imprisonment; forgiveness or pardon of sin; letting them go as if they had never been committed." Until Jesus Christ came and paid for our sins on the cross, no man had ever experienced complete forgiveness from God. God, in His grace and mercy, had overlooked sins. God also allowed His wrath to be satiated or satisfied by the sacrifice of animals on altars. But, complete forgivenessâ€” being proclaimed as innocentâ€”had never been done before. In Luke 7, Jesus Christ told the sinful woman who came to wash His feet, "Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at
meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?" In Mark 2, when a group of men tore through the roof of a house where Jesus was teaching and set a man who was "sick of the palsy" down before Him, Jesus said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." The Bible goes on to say, "But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" Jesus responds by saying, “Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” You see, when Jesus Christ came on the scene, He began to declare forgiveness of sins (which He can do because He is God). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can be declared as innocent before God. John Piper said, “The glory of God's grace is seen not just in the fact that God overlooks the sins of believers but also in the fact that it gradually and finally and victoriously eradicates those sins.“ Through Jesus Christ, we can be seen as perfect, as innocent, as sinless in God’s sight. Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about the fulfillment of forgiveness. The promise of the resurrection In John 5:28-29, Jesus Christ said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Just as Jesus Christ was physically raised from the dead, everyone will be physically raised from the dead one day. We often emphasize
that death is not the end for someone’s spirit, but the Bible teaches that death is not the end for our bodies either. This Easter, we celebrate the most astounding event in all of history—the power of Death, which had claimed countless billions of lives across the centuries, finally being broken by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The great English writer, J. R. R. Tolkien, coined a new term to describe such an event. He called it a “eucatastrophe”—that is a sudden reversal of a certain catastrophic ending. All of us who place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ will take part in the resurrection unto life. We will one day rise from our graves. Just as Death could not hold Him, it will not hold us. In John 6:39, Jesus Christ said, “This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, forgiveness has been fulfilled. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, our resurrection has been promised. This leads us to... The assurance of eternal life In John 10:28, Jesus Christ said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” With so much uncertainty in the world, isn’t it wonderful to have this assurance? We may not be able to say that we are certain about much in our temporal lives, but we can say that we are certain about eternal life because the assurance of eternal life rests in Jesus Christ and Him alone.
First Peter 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” On Earth, food has an expiration date, machines wear out and get rusty, houses become victims to mold and decay, money dwindles, and our bodies grow weaker with age. But in Heaven, we are promised an inheritance that cannot be corrupted and that never fades away. We who are saved by faith and kept by the power of God will receive this eternal inheritance and be able to enjoy forever. David Guzik said, “We cannot experience this inheritance unless we are born again. It would be like rewarding a blind man by showing him the most beautiful sunset or taking him to an art museum. Unregenerate man does not have the capacity to enjoy this inheritance.” This wonderful eternal life with eternal rewards is reserved only for those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Because of sin, man fell under the curse of death—physical death and spiritual death. But, Jesus Christ came to deliver us from the power of death and give us eternal life. Because He lives forever, we can be assured that He can give us what He has promised. Every Easter, we rejoice because of the fulfillment of forgiveness and our being able to stand as innocent before God because of Jesus Christ. We revel in the promise of the resurrection because Jesus Christ rose from the dead and has promised that we will rise as well. We rest in the assurance of eternal life, knowing that nothing can take away from us that
which Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose from the dead in order to give us.
Do You Believe? This book has explained in detail the beliefs that are held dear by those who follow Jesus Christ. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Savior, I want to give you the opportunity to trust Him today. Here's how: First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death…” Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Also, the Bible states in Revelation 21:8: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Now that is bad news, but here’s the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live forever with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today to save your soul, and He will. Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that
God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be savedâ€Ś For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen. If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to GospelLightSociety.com and read "What To Do After You Enter Through the Door." Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."