When Martin Luther set out to develop a curriculum for how to teach the Christian faith to the congregations which called themselves “the evangelicals” long before they called themselves “the Lutherans,” he wrote a ‘Small Catechism’ to provide the basics of the Christian faith. The heading states, “As the head of the family should teach it…” The essential parts of the Christian faith include, ‘The 10 Commandments,’ ‘the Apostles Creed,’ ‘the Lord’s Prayer,’ and the Sacraments of Baptism, Confession and the Lord’s Supper.
The first question that Luther had to decide was, what is the proper order in which these ‘six chief parts’ should be taught by the head of the family? The church in which Luther was raised included the same elements in its Catechism, but the order was, first the Apostles Creed, and second the 10 Commandments. The theological basis for that order was that in the Apostles Creed, we are given the one, true faith to confess. And now that we are able to confess the faith by which men must be saved, here is how believers are to live – the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments function primarily as a guide for holy living.
Luther however came to see things differently. For Luther, the Scriptures make it clear that the Law of God is written on the heart of man from birth. Even someone without faith in God knows that it is wrong to dishonor parents, murder, steal, lie, and covet. Therefore the 10 Commandments ought to come first. For Luther, the 10 Commandments function primarily as a mirror that shows me how desperately short I fall from the demands that God expects of me. In response to this, the Apostles Creed quickly follows by showing us all that God has done and continues to do for us to save us. In one, incredibly concise statement, the Creed summarizes all of God’s work in creation and human history as it pertains to life and salvation.
The Scriptures direct sinners who cannot justify themselves before God to call upon Him as Father, almighty, who in love has sent His only Son into the world, not to condemn but to save. The Father and the Son together send the Holy Spirit to open the hard and stubborn heart of sinful men and women to believe the incredible good news that the One, true God is a LOVING GOD who is actually ‘for us’ and not ‘against us’ and therefore worthy of our complete trust and faith.
So, when the believer recites the creed, we do so as lost and condemned people who have graciously been found and set free from our guilt and elevated to the highest position of honor – sons and daughters of God. As the words come over our lips, there is an incredulous wonder of amazement in our hearts. For, as Peter puts it, “once you were not a people are now God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10).
No wonder then that Luther would have the head of the household teach his family that “for all this, it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.”
In the 2nd Article we confess, “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord…”
In the very earliest days of the Christian Church immediately after Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the Holy Spirit appearance on the day of Pentecost, the holy apostles of Jesus didn’t have the “Apostles Creed” by which to proclaim the Christian faith. In the earliest days the creedal confession of the one, true faith was simply, “He is Risen!” And could be safely assumed that most would know Who the “He” who “is Risen” was.
But as time passed, that assumption was not so sure. And so the confession went from “He is Risen!” to “Christ is Risen!” And then as more time passed and the news was broadcast further and further away from Jerusalem, more information about ‘the Christ’ who is risen needed to be supplied. He is the One who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died and was buried…. And so forth. Next week we’ll look closely at those benchmarks in the life of the Christ which identify Him as the One who is risen from the dead.
Today, we focus on “I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord…”
“I believe in JESUS…”
The news flash, “He is risen!” is the most earth shattering announcement that this world has ever heard and ever will hear. Someone has actually beaten death and overcome it so that death no longer has the final say in life. But the extent to which this announcement is ‘good news’ all depends on who has risen from the dead. To announce that ‘Hitler’ or ‘Stalin’ or ‘Elvis’ has risen from the dead is not very good news at all. But to hear that ‘Jesus’ has risen is good news.
Jesus is the one has come to ‘save His people from their sins.’ That is what the name ‘Jesus’ means. Mary doesn’t get to name her baby and neither does Joseph. The angel tells both of them, “you shall name Him Jesus.” And to Joseph, the angel explains, “for he shall save His people from their sins.”
The name “Jesus” in Hebrew is “Yeshua,” and in Greek it’s “Jesou,” and in both languages it means ‘to save’ or ‘one who saves.’
“Jesus” is the name by which His mother and Joseph would call him to come to supper, to brush his teeth, to eat his vegetables, to wash behind his ears. “Jesus” is the name by which the other boys and girls in Nazareth would invite him to come and play, and yell at him to pass the ball or ‘tag – you’re it.’ This ‘Jesus’ is an actual Jewish, male of the 1st Century, who laughed and cried, who ran and jumped, who bled and even died.
The point is, we dare not leave out his humanity in a rush to get to His divinity. The fact that Jesus would conquer death by dying is only possible if He is ‘true man.’ And this is the good news for the rest of us ‘true men and women’ who will also one day die.
This is “the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth…” (Phil. 2:10). Peter announces the good news to the Council of Jerusalem that “salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
“I believe in Jesus CHRIST…”
His name is ‘Jesus.’ His title, or at least one of them, is ‘Christ.’ His title tells the office that He holds, as in Donald Trump – president; or Janet Mills – governor. The word ‘Christ’ is the Hebrew word, ‘Massiach’ from which we get “Messiah” and the Greek word ‘Krystos’ from which we get ‘Christ.’ Both words mean the same thing – ‘to anoint’ or ‘the anointed one.’
An ‘anointed one’ is someone who has had olive oil poured down over their head as he is publically installed into the office that he is to fill. The olive oil over the head symbolizes the Holy Spirit has come down onto that person to equip him with the wisdom and authority and power to carry out the office into which they have been called to serve.
In the Old Testament, there were three such offices into which people were ‘anointed.’
One was the office of Prophet. Prophets were Israel’s teachers who spoke for the Lord. “Thus says the Lord.” Prophets were Israel’s ‘messiahs.’ Prophets were Israel’s ‘christs’. They were ‘anointed ones’.
Another office was that of Priests. Priests were those who carried out the sacrifices in the Temple which atoned for the sins of the people. Priests also managed the incense offerings which lifted the prayers of the people up to God. Priests were Israel’s ‘christs’. They were ‘anointed ones’.
The third office was that of King. The office of king was there to maintain a peaceful and orderly society and to defend the citizenship from enemies. Kings were Israel’s ‘christs’. They were ‘anointed ones’.
At His baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus was anointed, not with oil that ‘symbolized’ the Holy Spirit, but with the Holy Spirit Himself who rested upon Him as a dove. When Peter preached Christ to the gentiles, he told them “how God ANOINTED Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power,” the power to carry out the offices into which He has been called to fill. (Acts 10:38)
Jesus is THE ‘anointed one,’ THE Christ, to whom all the other ‘anointed ones’ and ‘christs’ in the Old Testament pointed. He is Prophet from whom we hear the Word of God – ‘truly, truly I say to you…’ He is Priest who gives His own body as the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of the world – once for all. He is King of Kings, who rules over His people and gives them a peace which this world cannot give and defends and protects them from all danger, even the devil himself. He is the CHRIST.
“I believe in Jesus Christ, HIS ONLY SON…”
In the Old Testament, there are very specific laws regarding the distribution of a man’s estate at his death. The law requires that a Father divide his estate between his sons, the oldest son receiving two thirds of the estate and the rest of the sons dividing the other third between them. But when there was only one son, he is to receive his father’s entire estate.
Jesus is the Father’s ONLY SON. And so He declares, “All that the Father has is mine…” (John 16:15). Everything that belongs to the Father belongs to Jesus – His divinity, His power, His ownership, His authority. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” (Matt.28:18)
Therefore, what Jesus has to give to all who will receive from Him, is not a portion of the Father’s power and love – but “all that the Father has is mine…” By his death on the cross for the sin of the world, Jesus has not acquired two thirds of your redemption and you have to go to the Father for the remainder. He has acquired your entire redemption, for “all that the Father has is mine…”
What Jesus sends His disciples to all nations to announce and distribute is not a portion or even two thirds of Kingdom of God and you have somehow get the rest from the Father apart from Jesus, but He sends them to announce and distribute the entire Kingdom of God.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, OUR LORD.
Up to this point in the 2nd Article, we have basically stated the case for the identity of the One of whom we say “He is risen!” His name is Jesus. He is not another anointed one, but THE Christ. He is the ONLY Son of the God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
But now, with all of this data laid out before us regarding who “HE” who is risen is, we respond – He is OUR LORD. Sadly, many will hear all the data and possibly even confess it to be true – but be unwilling to respond, ‘He is our Lord.’
To call Jesus Christ, “Lord” is to confess that He rules over me by His love for me and for all people. And I gladly and willingly submit to His loving rule over me. For the early Christians who were put under great pressure to confess that “Caesar is Lord,” to confess that “Jesus is Lord” had life and death consequences attached to it.
We may not feel the pressure as they did, but the consequences are the same for us as for them. To confess Jesus Christ, OUR LORD, is to acknowledge that He and no earthly Caesar, is the One who delivers us from death and hell. And as the head of the family should instruct his family, “that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”