Apostle’s Creed Pt 6

We are getting to the last few phrases of the creed!

 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth…

and in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

From there He judges the living and the dead.

I believe in Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen!

The creed has hit the first few big parts of the Christian faith. We have talked about how all things started, how Christ was born, how He lived, and that He died. That His life is firmly planted in history. His death paved the only way to God, and now we reach how that death does what it does.

Christ’s death was not the end of the story. Thankfully. Had it been, there would have been a very different world created from it. Christ’s death was only the period, the ending, on one thing – death itself. His death would end the power of death over His people. His death would end the power death had on the world. Christ’s death was not the end of His life. That is what is so amazing about Christ and his promise. His death may have ended death’s ultimate reign, but it would be His resurrection that showed the future for those predestined to eternal life.

Death had lost it’s sting, and Christ had crushed the head of the serpent. God had preordained Christ’s resurrection to be the end of that little escapade with death and  the beginning of our eternal relationship with Him. Christ was resurrected from the dead, to an eternal life, in body, beside the Father. He would be forever like us, in flesh… yet, above us to be that link between a wholly holy God and a wholly unholy creature. He will be providing intercession until He comes back to bring us home.

From His post alongside God the Father, Christ separates the sheep from the goats. The wheat from the chaff. The eternally saved from the eternally reprobate. Christ knows His own, those who He will welcome into His paradise in the last days, and yet the Church is not meant to sit idly by letting things happen. Christ has ordained to use us in this world to He has Willed. As a last statement, I think this is important. Many within the Church feel that mission work, whether at home or abroad, is unnecessary…. this goes against everything that Christ expected of His followers. We are meant to be the hands and feet of Christ now in this world. It may be uncomfortable, and “out of our shell” at times, but it is this that we are meant to do in the world. Being His workers is our beautiful calling – though it can and will be tough at times.

He will bring those to Him that are meant to. He judges the “quick” (living) and the dead. He holds the Book of Life in His hands. This should give us both awe and pause. Awe because He does call some to Him, even knowing how fallen we are… and pause because the Savior of all mankind does call some to Him and some from Him… as in He is the measure of salvation. Not our feelings. Not if we were good or bad people. Not chakras. Not karma. Not the universe… a real, historical person wants to have a relationship with you and me. He desires it. He seeks it Himself, knowing that we are so fallen, we never could (or would want to) reach out ourselves.

This Jesus is the One who conquered death. Who was the first born to true life everlasting. Who knows all men’s hearts, and acts according to the Book of Life that He authored… He wants to know us personally. All He asks is to trust Him, have faith in Him… and what’s even more amazing… He offers that faith freely…Amen?

The Apostle’s Creed Pt1

I havent posted anything for a long time! But this year I would like to try to find time to post once a day – something small just as a reflection. For the next week and a half I will be posting something on The Apostle’s Creed.

 

This creed can be dated back centuries, and is arguably one of the oldest affirmations of what it truly means to follow after Christ. It embodies something that all Christians can confidently affirm, something that ties us all together; regardless of denomination, background, geographical location, et al. It is short, yet powerful. It is simple, yet deep. It is beautiful and poetic. Yet unwavering in it’s biblical foundation.

 

So, let’s start with a recap of what The Apostle’s Creed is:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son – our LORD –

who was conceived by the Holy Ghost/Spirit…

suffered under Pontius Pilate…

was crucified, dead, and was buried…

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

From there He will judges the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost/Spirit…

the holy catholic church…

the communion of saints…

the forgiveness of sins…

and the resurrection of the body. Amen.

Today let us reflect on the first two lines…

I believe in God, the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth…

The word used for believe is more than simply affirming the existence of something. It isnt like saying “I believe it is raining right now,” or “I believe that he/she did this/that.” It is a deep rooted conviction. It is something you stake your life upon. It comes from the word credo in Latin. It means to put one’s trust into. Traditionally “I believe/credo” came before a statement of faith. That is why we have things like The Apostle’s Creed, or the Nicene Creed. They state something known to be true by the speaker.

To believe in God is to say very little. The demons believe in God… and shutter… so it isnt just that we believe in God. God can be wrongly found in many forms in this world. We proclaim that we believe in God the Father Almighty. This God is different than a Zeus, or a Thor, or even Allah. This God is a Father to His people. He is relate-able. We are able to talk to our Father. But this Father is something else – He is almighty. He finds full strength only within Himself. He needs nothing, therefore He lacks nothing. He finds all things within Himself, and is entirely totally self-sufficient. He, as the creed affirms later, is Triune. The three Persons are entirely perfect within themselves and need nothing to complete Themselves.

Yet, God the Father Almighty is also Maker of heaven and earth. He, in His infinite wisdom, saw that His glory is best shown when there is Creation to revel in it and sing its praises. He brought creation of all things into existence because it brought Him great joy. He saw that it was very good. He knew that Creation needed to be. So He created it. God brought Creation up from nothing to allow there to be another thing that could enjoy His Truth in existence. Now, as we will talk later, it wouldnt stay like that long.

But this is our God. He is Almighty. He is Maker/Creator/Sustainer of all reality. He is perfect in and of Himself, but found joy in creating us to see His image and to eventually share in His eternity. This is our God. This is who we believe in. This is what we believe.

Amen!

Apostle’s Creed Pt2

Yesterday we looked at the first phrase of the creed:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth…

Today we look at His son, Jesus Christ – our Lord.

Many out there state that there isnt much that separates Christianity from other religions. That other religions have the son of god as a figure head. That there are no overabundance of prophets proclaiming good news. That even the concept of dying for followers isnt only in Christian faith. But when push comes to shove, Christ is the lynch pin in Christianity. Which seems oddly obvious… given the name… anyways…

Christ, one of the Godhead… present since creation… God Himself in flesh form. This is something that is unique. Christ humbling Himself, from omni-everything to a mortal with needs and wants and pain and suffering… that is unique… A man who calls a people to both justice and mercy, in His name… that is unique. But when considered all together, it makes Christ and His ministry one-of-a-kind.

He is our Lord. Lord of our life. We must render it to Him, wholly. And that isnt easy. I really struggle with temptation. Daily. It is something that has plagued me for years. Giving everything over to Christ – to be Lord of all my life – is something I still have difficulties in. My sin nature pulls back so fiercely from the idea. But, it is still something that I know to be true. I know that Christ is Lord of my life, and that in the end my sin will lose that battle. I have my wife, I have friends, I have family, and I have the Church that is there (through God’s grace) to urge my forward. His Lordship demands that I fight, and fight I will.

His Lordship also demands a certain mindset in life. How I deal with people day by day. How I treat those created in His image. How I speak to people, and how I think about them. His Lordship calls me to something above the kindness of Southern hospitality. And that is a calling that He Himself exemplified. He treated people with respect – and in that respect He did not allow stones to be unturned. What was hidden in darkness found its place in the light. We all need that in our lives.

As we finish today, I urge you (I urge ME) to seek Christ. Seek His Lordship in your life. Seek His Truth. Seek His guidance on the path of righteousness – guidance to realize that you NEED Him to move down said path.

Amen!

Apostle’s Creed Pt3

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth…

and in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

From there He judges the living and the dead.

I believe in Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen!

Today we look at the incarnation of Christ our Lord. Mankind is fallen. This is undeniable. So, how could Christ being man be what man needs to overcome sin? Well, thats where the Holy Spirit comes into play. From the dawn of time the Trinity had planned this moment when they would enact their plan to bring mankind back to communion with them. God the Father had set creation into motion, through the Word of God the Son. God the Spirit had hovered over the deep, and then guided God’s people to that present time. Now  the Spirit would use power to bring life where it seemed biologically impossible. His action would fulfill prophesies that He had led men to foresee. His action would set in motion the works of salvation. True salvation. Not the foretaste that we had seen for centuries… no, true salvation had come in the flesh.

And this Person would not have the same inclination towards sin as the rest of mankind does. No. He would still battle with sin in nature. Sin in human nature, surrounding Him at every side. But sin nature would not intertwine in His being as it has in ours. He would stand above it. His words would be kind. His actions Kingdom building. His thoughts always pointed towards His Father. His conception was perfect, as He was perfect.

His birth, from the womb of Mary also planted Him in Scripture. Prophesies had spoken on a virgin birth. Of the Son of Man, and how His birth would usher in a new age. Mary was chosen, not because of something she did to deserve it, but rather due to God’s Will. He knew her to be a faithful Jew. One that truly trusted the Lord to be in control, even when things seemed off. She would magnify the Lord, even in knowing that her life as she knew it was over. She, while not pure in holiness, was pure in faithfulness before the Lord. She would fall into temptation through her life – but she knew whose she was, and where she was headed. Her trust was in the hope of salvation that she had read about in Scriptures… and had held in her arms. Emmanuel. God with us. And she had cradled Him as an infant. She had helped to raise Him, and teach Him. Repeating that we believe in the birth of Christ, from a virgin, implants Him in a family – and creates a backstory for Him that shows he lived as we did, yet remained sinless.

Christ… fully God, and yet fully man… His incarnation rang the victory bell for life over death. And we proclaim it as truth. Amen?

Apostle’s Creed Pt5

Today we tackle one of the more controversial statements of the Creed. It is a phrase that many in church refuse to say as they feel it undermines Christ. It is also, in my opinion, a phrase that the Creed hinges on. 

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth…

and in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He rose again from the dead.

From there He judges the living and the dead.

I believe in Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic Church,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen!
I’m going to do an abbreviated post tonight, as it is much later than I wanted – and this phrase of the Creed deserves more emphasis with another post. But I want to be sure to make a point in this article of faith. 
Many want to believe that Christ didn’t actually descend into hell. That hell for bad people, and that God wouldn’t let His Son go there. That it’s either a turn of phrase, or just simply bad theology. To them I say “no!” Additionally, I agree with John Calvin who said:

if it is left out, much of the benefit of Christ’s death will be lost. 

To simply end with the phrase that Christ was crucified, died, and was buried – then skip directly to the fact that He was raised from the dead three days later basically skips the whole intended purpose for His coming. He died to set us free. He died to take upon Himself the wrath that we deserve.Scripture is clear that the wages of sin are death. That sin is sin in God’s eyes, and even the simplest of sins breaks that connection (that was technically broken through Adam’s sin). So to forego the final phrase added due to its complexity is to skimp out on the whole purpose for Christ’s coming. 

He came for you. He came for me. He came to bring an inauguration of His kingdom. And He did that by taking upon Himself the immense weight of the sin of all of His elect. He bore our sin on the cross and underwent punishment for it. He felt pain. He felt spiritual abandonment. It is something we should be eternally grateful and acutely aware of our necessary response. 

Christ going to hell for us should evoke a sense of necessity of living out a life glorifying to the Lord, daily! Remember this truth when you think of how great our God is! 

Amen!

Apostle’s Creed Pt4

I apologize for missing yesterday! I ended the day with a migraine and was not able to do anything … but onward!

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth…
and in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.
The third day He rose again from the dead.
From there He judges the living and the dead.
I believe in Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen!

Now we look at the portion of the Creed that establishes Christ in history. It places Him into a real place and a real time that can be confirmed. Pilate, in the Gospels, is displayed accurately as a Roman procurator. His tentative relationship with the Jewish people, due to him being a Roman oppressor shows in his conversations with them and Christ. All in all, the way we read of him in the Synoptic and Johannine Gospels is accurate. As would be expected from a historical faith!

 

But, what about Pilate outside the Gospels? Can his existence be confirmed there? Yes – yes it can! Two historians from that time period speak of him in their writings. The historian Tacitus, a Roman historian and contemporary to Pilate, and the Jewish historian Josephus. Josephus spoke less highly of Pilate, which is understandable considering he was the figure head of oppression of his people. You can read about Pilate from Josephus in Jewish Antiquities. Pilate would be deposed in AD36.
So, we can confidently conclude that this aspect of the Gospels are historically accurate. I believe it can be further argued from this fact that the Gospels are a historically accurate document. Had Pilate been shown in an untrue light it would not have flown with those that lived when he did. But that can be a conversation for another post!
The second part of the Apostle’s Creed I will discuss today is that Christ was truly crucified, died, and was buried. This is truly a great conversation! Many of those that deny the historicity (the historical accuracy) of the NT or Gospels specifically point to many theories about Christ’s “death.” Namely, that it didn’t happen.

This, too, can be spoken to extrabiblically. But first we have to establish a point of truth. I come from the understanding that the Bible holds truth: historical truth, spiritual truth, divine-pointing Truth. I believe that the claims made in Scripture are accurate, even if they take some contextual nuances that must be explained.

I believe that when it says that Adam’s sin pervades even today – then it does. When it says that Balaam’s donkey spoke to him- then it did! If Christ was killed, truly killed dead on a cross – then He was. Period. Now, obviously there are places in Scripture that I won’t tackle today that raise questions, all of which I can discuss – but right now I want to clear up that when the Bible, when the Creed says that Christ was crucified, that He died, and that He was buried – it happened.

For the Apostle’s Creed to include this section is to stand in stark opposition to centuries of heresies that claim the opposite. Whether heresies within, or heresies without – to say that Christ didn’t really die on the cross is to state (in my opinion) two things:

  1. That Christ’s birth, ministry, and supposed death are meaningless. To state that is to confirm what Paul stated that we are a people to be “most pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:9) Where we find power the world sees foolishness.
  2. That either the Romans were NOT good at their job – killing people as a profession. OR the even never happened.

Let’s tackle the first assumption: Christ is meaningless. His work was at best a sham, at worst the work of a purposefully deceitful person. And Christians have been duped for millennia by fake words.

I would argue that such a position takes a rather bad view on history, assuming that people are lying from the beginning. That, maybe not the apostles but, those that came after fabricated this Jesus character that we worship today. It is evident through extrabiblical works, and contextual clues that the Gospels and most epistles were finished before roughly AD70. If you want citations I’ll find them.

So that means that the writers, and readers would be personally familiar with Christ, and His merry men. Luke actually writes that he did tons of interviews to collect his Gospel data. All that to say two things ( I know, I like bullet points):

  1. The earliest followers of Christ knew Him personally, and many died for their affirmation of His life, work, and death. They had every reason to deny him at the point of death. Not one recorded instance of someone recanting exists from that period.
  2. Many, many people could have stepped forth and put an end to false  data being sent out. The early church was flooded with Jesus’ direct followers.

Had the Gospels or Epistles been untrue, they would have been found out pretty quickly. Christ’s followers believed what they wrote – what they taught – and spread through the Middle East. These men, and women, had many reasons to wish Christ was who He said He was. Roman oppression probably wasn’t awesome. They knew a Messiah was coming – their prophets foretold it. But it was more than that. Jesus is more than that.

His disciples saw who He truly was. The Son of God. The Christ. He was the Messiah foretold. And when He was crucified, His Spirit was poured out on them after He had met with them face to face after His resurrection. They knew He was the real deal – so to say. So when faced with oppression, with arrest, with death… they knew His Truth, the spread of His Kingdom was worth it 10x over! If you’ve done any research into the deaths of the apostles and disciples they weren’t peaceful or sweet… they were deaths that demanded a recalling of any evangelism they may have done. But only if it wasn’t true… and they knew it was. It’s a pretty astonishing thing to think of dying for Truth.

On the other side is the fact that had they just been straight lying people would have called them out. Simple as that. “Christ rose from the dead!” “No he didn’t… he’s right here…” ” Christ is the true Messiah!” “Yea, I don’t think so… we have his body, your group has disbanded, and we’ve killed your leaders. This revolution is over.” But that didn’t happen. The Truth they spoke of couldn’t be refuted. It could be attacked. They could attempt to silence it, but they couldn’t disprove it. That’s powerful.

So, all of that was in response that Christ’s ministry was meaningless and the followers of Christ are the most pitiable. This second point is that the Romans weren’t efficient killers. And that just doesn’t make sense! Hah! These men were trained killers. Fighters to the nth degree. They were trained in the art of warfare. Their soldiers were told to guard prisoners with their lives. Those oppressing regions lived like kings. They knew how to suppress a rebellion. When a single middle aged Jew decides to “go up against the empire” and they are ordered to crucify him – they do that. And they do it with ease. At the event of the crucifixion we read of two others suffering the same fate. Plus the guards were gambling over the clothes of Christ. That’s how little the act of killing someone affected their mind. There is no argument from the angle that they simply “didn’t actually kill Jesus.” He was beaten, flogged, pierced. Had He somehow survived… after three days in a tomb there is no way that man would have restarted a movement…

So – was crucified, He died, and He was buried. Everyone knew the place of His burial. That was no secret. Especially guarded by Roman guard. Christ lived a historical life. With historical counterparts. His followers wrote His life down. It was true to the actual events, and Christ’s resurrection has historical ties (Nazareth Inscription is one). In the end, we recite this portion to remind ourselves that our faith is historical. It is grounded in real, traceable history. God is a God of reality, who works in the world and plans on shaping it into something new for the betterment of all!

Amen!