For 5 years I was the pastor of Trinity International Church in Strasbourg, France. I created this blog with those people in mind. In mid-November 2018 I will become the Senior Pastor of Word of Life Church in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The focus of this blog will therefore shift, but I pray that people from the blogosphere will continue to find it helpful wherever they might be found.
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Friday, September 1, 2017

The Apostles' Creed - Part 2: And in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord

The Apostle's Creed is one of the earliest affirmations of faith. It is acknowledged by all major Christian groups and forms an excellent response to the question, "What do Christians believe?"

The Creed begins by declaring that we believe in the Creator God. We are not atheists. We do not believe that the material universe always existed. God created the universe and everything in it. He created it for a purpose and it is suited for that purpose. We, and all of creation, were created for the glory of God.

But the creed does not stop there. We not only believe that God created the universe, we believe that he sent his Son Jesus Christ. While it is common to say, even in secular society, that "we are all God's children," the creed declares that Jesus Christ is uniquely the Son. Jesus is his "only Son." This immediately separates the Christian from Islam. Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet. It also separates the true Christian from those who would say that Jesus was merely a great moral or religious figure. How could Jesus be the Son of God? The creed will go on to explain that and we will look at that next week.

Jesus is not only the Son of God, the Creed declares that Jesus is the Messiah or "Anointed One." The word "Christ" is not the last name of Jesus, it is a title. Christ is the Greek word for Messiah. The Old Testament spoke of one who would come as a savior and deliverer. This "anointed one" (Messiah or Christ) would be born in Bethlehem and be a descendant of David and would rule his people.

A careful reading of the New Testament reveals something interesting: Jesus is rarely called "Jesus Christ" in the gospels. The authors refer to "Jesus Christ" in their introductions (Matthew 1:1; Mark 1:1; John 1:17). They record conversations where people are speculating that Jesus could be the Christ (Matthew 26:63), but normally he is simply referred to as Jesus rather than Jesus Christ. Jesus was a common name. The angel who met Joseph instructed him to give the baby the name Jesus. He would have been known as Jesus bar Joseph or Jesus of Nazareth, not "Jesus Christ." Still, the fact that he was named Jesus had a special implication: this baby, named "God saves," would save his people from their sins.

Jesus of Nazareth was born to save the people from their sin. The disciple John explains that the whole reason that he wrote his gospel was to demonstrate that Jesus is the Christ (John 20:31). Christ is a title given to Jesus on the basis of his fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, including his death and resurrection. John and the other gospel writers carefully explain how he fulfilled these prophecies, but they only use "Jesus Christ" four times. Acts and the epistles, written to explain the significance and impact of Jesus,  called him "Jesus Christ" so frequently (246 times) that we have come to think of Jesus Christ as his name.

It is worth noting that the first believers were not called "Jesusites," but "Christians." They believed that he is the Messiah. When we call ourselves Christians we are saying that we believe that Jesus is more than a great moralist. We believe that he is the long-promised Savior. We also believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.

The term "Lord" (kurios) refers to one who has power and authority. It was used by servants to address their masters and by commoners to refer to people with governmental powers (Matthew 6:24; 10:24; etc.). When the Creed refers to Jesus Christ our Lord it means that Christians submit to the authority of Jesus. He is our Master and our King.

But the word "Lord" means more than simply one's master. The Greek word kurios is the word commonly used in the Greek Old Testament to refer to God. In fact, it is used over 6000 times that way! There are many contexts in the New Testament where the term kurios must be understood to mean God. I will mention two. First, John the Baptist tells people to "prepare the way of the Lord" and is quoting Isaiah 40:3. John is calling people to be prepared for Jesus, but the reference in Isaiah is explicitly referring to the Lord God coming to his people (Matthew 3:3). Perhaps the most powerful reference is found in the book of Revelation. When Jesus returns he has "King of kings and Lord of lords" written on his robe and on his thigh. To say that Jesus is Lord is to say that we believe that Jesus is God. Jesus himself declared he was in John 8:58: "Before Abraham was, I am!" The phrase "I am" not only claims continual existence since before the time of Abraham, the phrase is the one God gave as his own name to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus is the only Son of God, Christ (the Anointed Messiah), God himself, and the King we submit to. This is what we mean when we say, "We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son our Lord."

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