‘I believe … in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord’
Timothy Cross continues explaining the Apostles’ Creed
A Christian is one who belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ and relies on him alone for salvation. The Christian faith is not primarily concerned with a creed or a lifestyle, important though these are. Rather, it focuses on the person and work of Christ.
Christianity is Christ. He is the object of faith, the central subject of sermons, and the one we extol in worship.
This second line in the creed focuses attention on four specific facets of Jesus Christ.
His name and title
Jesus was the human name given to the Son of God. It means ‘The Lord saves’. ‘You shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins’ (Matthew 1:21).
Who he is, is inextricably bound up with what he came to earth to do. His name gives him away as the Saviour of sinners. He said of himself, ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’ (Luke 19:10).
Christ is not a name but a title. It means ‘anointed one’ and is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, ‘Messiah’.
The Old Testament era consisted of one long Messianic longing. Through the prophets God promised to send Messiah into the world to usher in the kingdom of heaven. In Jesus, those promises were fulfilled and all the Old Testament’s messianic longings realised.
A milestone in the ministry of Jesus occurred when Peter confessed to Jesus, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matthew 16:16). In Old Testament times, prophets, priests and kings were all anointed with oil at the outset of their respective ministries. It signified their being set apart by God and endowed with his Spirit for their specific callings.
As the anointed one, Jesus fulfils the three-fold roles of prophet, priest and king in his one person.
He is our prophet, as the Word of God in the flesh. He is our priest by virtue of his sacrifice of himself at Calvary and his continual intercession for his people. He is our king, since he subdued us to himself and is now enthroned at God’s right hand. Also he is coming again to set up his eternal kingdom.
The incomparability of the Christian faith stems from the identity of the one at its centre.
The Apostles’ Creed identifies Jesus as no less than God’s only begotten Son. It affirms here that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; and that he is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity.
The Bible describes Christians as ‘sons of God’. This description is wonderfully true; adoption into God’s family is a synonym for salvation. But the son-ship of Christ is altogether different from the Christian’s adoptive son-ship.
Christ’s son-ship is eternal and intrinsic, not adoptive. He is the eternal Son of God. The one true God has eternally existed in the three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
There are those who say that Jesus did not believe himself to be God’s Son. They haven’t read their Bibles! For example, at the end of his earthly ministry when on trial and under oath, Mark relates that ‘the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed?”
‘And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven”’ (Mark 14:61-62). It was this assertion of divine son-ship which condemned Jesus to the death of Calvary.
In delineating Jesus as our Lord, the creed uses the language of confession and personal relationship.
Biblical times were characterised by slavery. A master would buy a slave and the slave was captive to him and his will. The relationship was binding.
Jesus is the Christian’s Master or Lord. He has bought us. He owns us. We have been ‘ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ’ (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The statement ‘Jesus is Lord’ is believed to be the earliest ever Christian creed. In the first century, the Roman emperor was deified. Christians, however, would not pay allegiance to the emperor and say ‘Caesar is Lord’, for their conviction was ‘Jesus is Lord’. This refusal to bow to Caesar and remain faithful to Jesus often cost Christians their lives.
In the Old Testament, ‘Lord’ is used only of God himself. In Isaiah 43:11 for instance, God pronounces, ‘I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no Saviour’.
In applying this epithet ‘Lord’ to Jesus, both the New Testament and Apostles’ Creed are affirming the deity of Christ and his coequality with God the Father. This truth is more than a matter of collating certain proof-texts. It is in the very fabric of Scripture.
‘For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist’ (1 Corinthians 8:6).
John’s Gospel reaches its climax when ‘doubting Thomas’ worships the risen Christ, and confesses to him, ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20:28). Christians are united in their worship of Christ. They rejoice in Jesus as Saviour and own him as Lord.