Confessing belief in our Lord Jesus, the Messiah
We return, once more, to the creed which binds together Christendom. We have previously surveyed why we need such creeds in our minds, homes, and churches. Further, we had an introduction to the Apostles' Creed and a look at its first statement. In doing so, we have confessed that "we believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." This is not an insignificant statement as it focuses in on the God in Whom we believe; He is a trinitarian and omnipotent God, sovereign over all of creation. Today's statement will both elucidate that truth and add more specificity to understanding the God in Whom we believe.
The second statement of the Apostle's Creed adds:
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
What a succinct statement, yet full of glory! It begins again with "I believe" ("credo"- Latin for "I believe" see previous week's post). This immediately brings attention to a point that I have meant to make over the past two weeks- we are using the contemporary form of the creed. The traditional form presents the statement in this manner:
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord.
As you can readily see, there is little variance between the two forms. The traditional form implies "I believe" with the conjunction "and", whereas the contemporary specifically states the wording. Either way, the creed makes it clear that what we believe about Jesus is essential to orthodoxy for the Christian church.
So What does it say?
Seeing that we are making a statement of faith about Jesus, what does this Creed confess? It actually confesses a great deal in an economy of words. In order to see this, we are going to walk through this second statement at an almost word-for-word pace. In doing so, we will see that our minds and affections are set upon the "author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). So, once more we are called to believe in...
Jesus is the given name of our great Savior. It was not insignificantly chosen by Mary or Joseph, but a name appointed by heavenly direction. In fact, both parents were commanded through angelic messengers (on behalf of God) in this matter. Gabriel told Mary:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” The Gospel of Luke 1:30-33
There is certainly a great deal to say about this passage, but the key point is that Mary is commanded that this child's name is to be Jesus. This is a statement of obvious importance as the name "Jesus" ("Yeshua" in Hebrew), is of historic and onomastic (the history and meaning of names) significance.
"Yeshua" is a name of great historical importance; it is the name of the great Old Testament leader, Joshua. Immediately, we are struck by interesting parallels. Both figures, Joshua and Jesus, are completing the work of Moses. Joshua, the son of Nun, both succeeds Moses and finishes leading the children of Israel into the land of promise. Jesus, greater than the first Joshua, is the prophet testified to by Moses, himself.
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear" Deuteronomy 18:15
In other words, Jesus succeeds Moses as the great prophet of God, but, as Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us, He does so in a greater way. Jesus is greater than all of the prophets that came before Him. Also, like Joshua, Jesus is leading the people of God into the promise of God. Just as Joshua led Israel into fair Canaan, so Jesus is leading His people into a place of peace and reconciliation with God.
Secondly, "Yeshua" is a name which carries great onomastic significance. It means “savior” or “Jehovah is salvation” (Elwell and Beitzel, 1141). It carries the idea of "deliverance" and "salvation by God, primarily from external evils" (Brown, Driver, and Briggs, 477). Simply put, this is a name which speaks to a deliverance which God alone can offer. It is in this sense that we see the naming command in the Gospel of Matthew. There, the angelic messenger instructs Joseph:
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
Note that not only is the name Jesus offered, but so too the interpretation of the name's meaning- "He shall save His people from their sin." The significance, then, is two-fold; Jesus is not only His given name, but also details the mission for which He came. He came to save His people from their sins!
As is often stated, Christ is not the last name of Jesus; it is actually His title. Christ is the English transliteration of "Christos", which is, itself, the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah. In other words, Jesus Christ is simply saying Jesus Messiah, or Jesus the Messiah. The messianic idea is that of being anointed by God. Jesus is the anointed servant of God pictured throughout the Old Testament.
The Messiah is the fulfillment of the great mediator roles of the Old Testament. The Messiah would be the perfect prophet, greater than those anointed for such service in the Old Testament (Moses, Elijah, etc.). He would be the perfect high priest for Psalm 110 tells us that He will come from an entirely different priestly order. By comparison, if the priests of the Levitical priesthood were anointed with oil, how much greater will be the anointing of the One who comes as the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek? It will be of an incomparable increase. Finally, just as the Davidic Kings were anointed, so too will this Messianic and Davidic King. Still, His rule and reign is greater than David. David was the King of Israel; Psalm 2 tells us that the Messiah will reign over all the nations.
When we confess that we believe in Jesus Christ, we are saying something very specific. We are stating that we believe that this Jesus is the Messiah; that He is the Lord's anointed, long-promised in the Old Testament. We are confessing that Jesus is the Savior of the people of God. Quite simply, we are saying that it is in Jesus that we place our faith to the glory of God the Father.
His only Son
Next, we confess that we believe that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. When addressing this point, we want to be precise. There are ways in which others are referred to as sons of God in the biblical text. Angels, for example, are described in this way, but they are addressed in the plural as sons. As the author of Hebrews clearly demonstrates this is very different than the way that Jesus is addressed. He writes:
For to which of the angels did He ever say:
“You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”?
“I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”? Hebrews 1:5
The singular application of the title Son to Christ is unmistakable. He is the only begotten Son of God.
Christians are, likewise, called sons of God. This is made evident in Paul's epistle to the Roman church; he wrote:
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Romans 8:14
Again, this is not a fiction. Born-again believers in Christ are sons of God, but we are not the singular Son of God. Paul explains the meaning of this, in the very next verse, when he refers to the Holy Spirit as "the Spirit of adoption" (Romans 8:15). That is the explanation of this differentiation. In the redemptive work of Christ, we are reconciled to a holy and righteous God through our justification, yet the conviction and transformation occurs through the person and work of the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that adoption is tied with the Holy Spirit's ministry. In other words, we are sons by adoption. Christ, however, is the Son; He is God's only begotten Son- His eternally begotten Son! When we confess this, we confess the uniqueness of Christ, who has eternally existed as very God- the second person of the Holy Trinity.
Our final description in this second statement is that Jesus Christ is addressed as Lord. Again, this should be recognized for its significance. In fact, the recognition of the Lordship of Christ is one of the attributes that has marked Christians since the earliest days of the church. In this, we simply recognize what the Scriptures say about Jesus. Paul tells the church at Philippi:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11
Paul is using the Greek word "Kyrios" which means "(a title for God and for Christ) one who exercises supernatural authority over mankind—‘Lord, Ruler, One who commands’" (Louw and Nida, p.138). Again, this is an incredible revelation within the word of God. Jesus is Lord and Ruler over all things. Just as the first statement declares that God the Father is almighty, so here the second declares the Son as Lord of all.
So, the second statement of the Apostles' Creeds states:
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
In confessing these words, we openly declare that Jesus is the Savior sent by God to save His people from their sins. Further, we declare that He is the long-promised Messiah and fulfills all of the offices and pictures which thereby applied. Additionally, we declare our belief that He is the eternally begotten Son of God, who is not only truly and fully man, but truly and fully God. That those two natures are perfectly joined in one person without division or confusion. Finally, we declare Jesus Christ to be Lord of all, thus it is fitting that He is to be believed, honored, worshiped and obeyed.
All of that is declared in only ten simple words, yet those words form a statement that is both elegant and glorious. Let us be thankful unto God for these truths. Let us also be thankful for the church fathers who compiled such an elegant truth. Finally, let us memorize these words and declare them openly...that is, if we truly believe them.
Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs
Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 447.
Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Jesus,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand
Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1141.
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament:
Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 138.