Theology of Faith: The Creed – Knowing the Son as Redeemer Part One

Steve —  May 7, 2021 — Leave a comment

How to Know God the Son as Lord of Redemption

By Drs. John Frame and Steve Childers

In the Applied Theology series of courses, you’ll learn a Trinitarian theology of faith, hope, and love by understanding and applying to your life what the Bible teaches about: 1) Faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) Hope found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Love found in the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn from God’s Word that:

A mind that is renewed by faith and a heart that is aflame with hope results in a life that honors God by loving him and others deeply and well.

In Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 3, you’ll learn how to know and worship God the Son as Lord of Redemption in his humiliation.

About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.

Read the transcript for Theology of Faith Course: Lesson 3 below!

Knowing the Son as Redeemer in His Humiliation

By John Frame and Steve Childers

To know God means to know who God is and what God does as Triune Lord – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the last chapter our focus was on knowing God the Father as Lord in his work of creation. In this chapter our focus is on knowing God the Son as Lord in his work of redemption. The second and largest section of the Creed presents the person and work of Jesus Christ.

And I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, 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 to the dead, On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

The Person of the Son
A Christian is someone who repents of their sin and believes in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. This requires understanding the meaning of the names and titles: Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, and our Lord.

Jesus Christ
Jesus is the proper name of an historic person who lived in the early first century in Jewish Palestine when it was part of the Roman Empire. The four Gospels tell us his parents were Joseph and Mary from Nazareth in Galilee where he worked as a carpenter. He was a rural rabbi for three years before being put to death by Roman authorities around AD 33.

Jesus’ Greek name Iesous (Ἰησοῦς) is derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua (ישע), meaning “to deliver; to rescue; to save.” Before his birth, an angel told Jesus’ parents to name him Jesus because “he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).

Christ is not Jesus’ family surname. It is a title taken from the ancient Jewish Scriptures that refers to God’s promised Anointed One, the Messiah, the one through whom God promised to deliver his people, Israel. Christ is from the Greek Χριστός (Christos) meaning Anointed One, a Greek translation of the Hebrew title Messiah mashiah (מָשִׁיחַ).

Through the Old Testament prophets, God made a New Covenant with Israel in which he promised that he would forgive them, give them new hearts by his Spirit, and establish his universal kingdom on earth through his Messiah, the Christ.

God’s Only Son
Jesus, who is the Christ, the Messiah, is also described in the Bible as God’s only Son. Throughout the Old Testament, the term “son of God” refers to people who have a special relationship with God, including the first human, Adam (Luke 3:38), the nation of Israel (called God’s “firstborn son” (Ex. 4:22, Hos. 11:1)), and the kings of Israel.

But when the New Testament refers to Jesus as the “Son of God,” it’s referring to a unique sonship that is only shared by the one eternal second person of the Trinity. When the Creed calls Jesus God’s only Son, it’s echoing Scriptures like “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). Jesus’ title as God’s only Son affirms his deity and equality with God the Father – that he is as truly and fully God as the Father is God. 

The Scriptures present Jesus as the eternal, preexistent Son of the Father who shares the same essence and being as the Father. This means that the Son and the Father are One God. Paul teaches that Jesus was God’s Son before his incarnation in the first century (Rom. 1:3-4, 8:3). He is the eternal Son through whom God created all things (Heb. 1:2, John 1:1-3). 

The Bible teaches that God’s only Son, the second person of the Trinity with a fully divine nature, took on a human nature in his incarnation and now has both natures. As the God-man, Jesus Christ will have both natures for eternity. 

Therefore, he is one person who possesses two natures: a divine nature and a human nature. Each nature is inseparably united in his one person, but each nature also keeps its unique properties so his divine and human natures are never fused or blended in any way.

According to his eternal, divine nature, Jesus Christ is always all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present everywhere – like the Father and the Spirit. However, according to his human nature, he also experiences the fullness of his humanity, including not knowing everything and experiencing weakness and temptation. (Luke 2:52, Mark 12:32, Heb. 2:17-18, 4:14-16)

The Nicene Creed was written in response to many theological controversies regarding how best to understand this mysterious biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is both divine and human. Heresies emerged contending that if Jesus Christ is fully God, he cannot also be fully human. And if Jesus Christ is fully human, he cannot also be fully God. To help clarify a biblical view of Jesus divine and human nature, the Nicene Creed includes these carefully chosen words: 

And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, 
begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. 
Through him all things were made.

After centuries of doctrinal controversy regarding the biblical teaching on Jesus’ person and natures, in 451 AD, the historic ecumenical Council of Chalcedon issued the Chalcedonian Definition stating that Jesus is “perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man.”

Our Lord 
Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, is also given the title Lord in Scripture. Lord is the personal, covenant name of God that tells us that God speaks with supreme authority, he is in sovereign control of all things, and his transforming love and presence is always with us as his covenant people. Perhaps the most fundamental affirmation of Christian belief in the New Testament is the statement “Jesus is Lord.” (Rom. 10:9, 1 Cor. 12:3) 

Similar to his title as God’s only Son, his title Lord is another strong affirmation of Jesus’ deity. The good news Peter proclaims at Pentecost is that because of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension, God made him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

The Humiliation of the Son
The first phrase, I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, describes who Jesus Christ is, his person. The remaining affirmation describes his work, what Jesus Christ did for us and for our salvation.

And I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, 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 to the dead, On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

The work of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord can be described as his humiliation and his exaltation. His humiliation includes his birth, life, and death. His exaltation includes his resurrection, ascension, and coming return. 

His birth
The next phrase in the Creed describes the Son of God’s first act of humiliation: “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.”  In the first century, the eternal Son of God entered this world in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and by an act of supernatural power called the virgin birth. (Isa. 7:14)

Something miraculous happened in the first century. The eternal Son of God entered the world he created and took on the fullness of humanity by assuming both a human body and a human soul. Now the resurrected and ascended Christ is at the right hand of God the Father as the God-man with two natures and one body forever.
His virgin birth confirms that Jesus, though not less than human, was more than human – he was also divine. It also affirms that Jesus, as God’s only Son, did not inherit the original sin of Adam, so he was completely free from all sin.

His life
So far in the Apostles’ Creed, there has been no mention of original sin or the Fall of man that resulted in a corrupt humanity and world that is ruled by Satan and hostile to God. (John 12:31, 14:30, 2 Cor. 4:4, 1 Jn. 5:19) But now we read the words: He suffered under Pontius Pilate.

Under Roman occupation, the Jewish authorities could not execute Jesus. So after they condemned him for confessing that he was the Christ, God’s anointed Savior-King, they passed him on to their governor, Pilate, to carry out his execution. 

Although the apex of Jesus’ suffering was when he was put to death on a cross under Pontius Pilate, the Scriptures teach that Jesus suffered for us throughout his whole life.

Paul presents Jesus as the second man and the last Adam. (1 Cor 15: 45-47) When the first man, Adam, was tempted in the garden, he failed to obey God, resulting in eternal death for humanity. (Rom. 5:12-14) But when the second man, Jesus, was similarly tempted throughout his life (see especially Matt. 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13) he perfectly obeyed God resulting in eternal life for humanity. (Rom 5:18-19)

Jesus did battle with every spiritual enemy that defeated us and held us captive. He faced every kind of temptation known to humanity from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But unlike us he never sinned, so that through his suffering to obey, he could earn a perfect righteousness for us before God, completely obeying all of God’s commands in thought, word, and deed.

His death
When describing Jesus’ death, the Creed says, He was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. This affirmation echoes Paul’s teaching that seems to be a standard summary of the good news in the first century: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [and] that he was buried” (1 Cor. 15:3-4a).

Paul includes the death and resurrection of Christ as being “of first importance” in understanding the heart of the Christian gospel. Jesus’ crucifixion was the means of his death and Jesus’ burial was its proof. The central message regarding Jesus death is that it is “for our sins,” meaning that Jesus died as our substitute, in our place.

Paul adds to his phrase “Christ died for our sins” the phrase “in accordance with the Scriptures” referring to God’s promises revealed to Israel in the Old Testament Scriptures to rescue his people and the world after Adam and Eve sinned. Through the prophet, Isaiah, God promised a Suffering Servant who would rescue his people. (Isaiah 53:6-11)

As God’s promised Suffering Servant, Jesus willingly offered himself up to God for us as not only our substitute in his life, but also in his death. (Acts 2:22-23, Rom. 5:9, Gal. 3:13, Phil 2:8, Heb. 9:11-12) When Jesus died on the cross, he did not simply experience the pain of physical suffering and death. He also suffered God’s curse for us, the full wrath and punishment of God that we deserve because of our sin. (2 Cor. 5:21)

The Scriptures also present Jesus as our Victor through his death for us on the cross. Soon after the Fall of humanity into sin, God promised that he would send the “seed of the woman” (Christ) to deliver a fatal blow to Satan and his rule over humanity and the world. (Gen. 3:15) Through his death on the cross, Jesus crushed Satan under his feet accomplishing for us a great victory over all the powers that held us in bondage: Satan, sin, and death. (Matt. 4, Luke 10:19, Rom. 16:20, 1 Cor. 15:51-56, Eph. 6:10-17, 2 Cor. 2:14, Col. 2:11-15, 1 John 2:13-14)

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