Today we continue our look at Jesus in the Apostles’ Creed by looking at some of the names and titles given to him that define who he is and what he has done. The first name we see is actually the name Jesus. We often take this for granted because it was what people called him but the name Jesus has a meaning. In Hebrew, Jesus is Yeshua which comes from the word rescue or deliver. So Jesus’ name means deliverer and from his birth we are told that Jesus came to deliver people from sin. Matthew 1:20-21.
The angels proclaimed the same thing to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born. Luke 2:10-11. So from the name of Jesus we get one of the titles we give to him – Savior. Jesus came to be our Savior and to save us from sin. So let’s talk about sin.
The word sin is hamartia which means to miss the mark. If sin means we miss the mark in our lives then we have to ask ourselves – what is the mark? What is this path we are to follow or the standard that we fail we live up to? In a word this path or mark is LOVE. We are to love God and love others. In the Old Testament the greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God will all your heart and soul and mind and strength and then Jesus added one more mark for us to hit – love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving God and loving others is the standard we are to live up to and sin means we fail to hit that mark. Sin is anything we do in thought, word and deed that is inconsistent with our love for God and others. Sin is also all the ways we don’t love in thought, word and deed. There is the sin of commission – all the sins we commit but there is also the sin of omission – all the things we fail to do.
I don’t need to tell you about the reality of sin our world – we see it all around us. War, terrorism, poverty, injustice and our deep political divide and they way we speak to and treat one another are things we see every day that reflect our failure to hit the mark. We see sin in the world around us but we also know the reality of sin in us. We experience the pain of those who have sinned against us.
We know the pain of hurtful words and actions but we also know that we are guilty of hurtful words and actions. We think and say and do things that we know fail to show God’s love and compassion for others. Our failure to hit the mark of love has an impact on us and others and keeps the fullness of God’s love and power from shaping our world.
Sin is a fundamental part of the human condition and it is an inherent characteristic in all our lives – we might call this original sin, but God does not leave us in this condition. Jesus came to be a deliverer and to save us from our sin, which is what his very name suggests. As a savior, Jesus did not come to just tell us over and over again that we are forgiven – there is more to it. Jesus came to deliver us from our sinful lives and lead us into a new life – the life God wants for us
In the Old Testament, Moses was a type of savior because he was the great deliverer. Moses helped deliver God’s people from the slavery they experience in Egypt and he led them into a new life in the Promised Land. In many ways, the work of Moses as a deliverer and savior points us to the work of Jesus. Jesus delivers us from the slavery of sin which means that he doesn’t just tell us we are forgiven but he leads us from that life of sin into a life of freedom from sin. This doesn’t happen all at once. Israel wasn’t transported instantly from slavery to freedom, Egypt to the Promised Land, they had to make a long journey into that new life and the same is true for us. God works to set us free from sin but it is a long journey, a lifelong journey of conversion that we call sanctification.
Sanctification comes from the word sanctify which means to be made holy. We are not made holy by our own good deeds and hard work, it is God’s grace and power that enables us to live more in line with the life of Jesus. On our own we cannot love God and others as fully as we would want, but with God’s grace and strength working in us – we can do far more than we thought possible. So it is God who saves us from our sin – both forgiving our failure, delivering us into a new life an then giving us the strength to live that life.
Salvation and sanctification, to be forgiven and made holy restores our relationship with God. While sin separates us from God, it is Jesus who reconciles us to God and this saving work is known at the Atonement. The best way to understand the meaning of this word is to break it down this way: At-one-ment. How does Jesus’ forgiveness and grace make us one with God? If sin is missing the mark so we are separated from God – how does the work of Jesus – especially his work on the cross – make us one with God again?
The traditional view of this is known as Substitutionary Atonement. Jesus was the substitute for us, he paid the price for our sin. Romans 3:25 - God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood to be received by faith. And look at 2 Corinthians 5:21. God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
While this view is certainly what the Bible points to and is the image the early church used to talk about how God saves us, it is not the only idea or image we have for the atonement. Some see the death of Jesus not as a substitute for us but as an example for us of how much God loves us. Here the focus isn’t on God needing justice as much as God wanting to show mercy. God chose to die and rise again in the person of Jesus to show us just how much he loves us and to show us that it is the power of God’s love that forgives and changes us.
Another idea is that the death of Jesus was to teach us about the destructive power of sin and our need to take sin seriously. The death of Jesus shows us how real and powerful sin is and it shows us the consequences of what happens when we allow sin to continue in our lives and the resurrection teaches us the power of God’s love to confront and overcome sin.
Still others see the death of Jesus as an invitation for us to live a life of sacrifice and service as a means of following God. When we follow the example of Jesus on the cross and give ourselves sacrificially we are forgiven and drawn closer to God. Here Jesus isn’t a substitute for us but an invitation for us to live faithfully.
The truth is that exactly how God saves us through the death and resurrection of Jesus and how we are made one with God and brought back into a right relationship with God is not clear, but we believe it happens when we choose to believe in Jesus as our Savior.
There are two final titles given to Jesus that we need to consider. The first is from the last line in this section on Jesus that says he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. Now the word quick is simply an old English word that means living or alive, so Jesus will return to be the final judge of all people, both the those alive when he returns and those who have died. Our understanding that Jesus is the final judge finds its roots in John 5:22 and John 5:27. And the early church affirmed this idea in Acts 17:31.
So Jesus is the one who will judge, but let’s remember that he is also the one who saves at the time of judgment. When our faith is in Christ we don’t need to fear this coming judgement – we can find confidence and peace because of God’s love for us seen in Jesus.
Now the reason that Jesus is the judge is because as the creed states Jesus is Christ and Lord. We believe in Jesus Christ, his only son our Lord. The word Christ means anointed one or a ruler chosen by God and a Lord is one who has authority to rule in both the world and our lives. When we say that Jesus is our Lord we are saying that we are willing to follow where he leads us and live the way he taught us and showed us. Jesus is Lord because Jesus is God in the flesh and in his letter to the Colossians, Paul shares with us the reasons we should call Jesus is Lord. Colossians 1:15-23.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
During his life, Jesus showed us how he was truly the Lord of all things in heaven and on earth when he performed miracles and healed the sick. Jesus spoke and acted with authority so we need to allow Jesus to speak with this same authority to our hearts and direct our lives. To confess Jesus as Lord is not something we should take lightly but something we should do with great humility and gratitude for all God has done for us and with a clear understanding of the commitment we are making to the life Jesus called us to. For the disciples and many others, making Jesus Lord of their lives meant radical change. Matthew the tax collector left his business behind. Prostitutes got up and moved forth to live a new life. Fishermen dropped their nets. Paul left behind a life of religious rules to embrace a relationship of love and grace. Making Jesus Lord of our lives always calls for us to follow Jesus and start walking in some new ways and to make some changes in how we think, speak and act.
Sometimes people struggle to call Jesus Lord because the image of a Lord is not always a good one. We think of people who rule over others with cruel intentions and with an iron fist, but Jesus is not a Lord like we might see in the world – Jesus is a Lord who reigns in love. Just as Jesus will judge with grace and compassion, so will He be a Lord who rules in love.
In many ways the Apostles’ Creed just scratches the surface of what we know about Jesus. It doesn’t answer all our questions and in some ways it even raises questions for us, but the creed points us in the right direction. Jesus is the one who saves us, he is the anointed ruler, the Christ, who has come to rule over us with love and grace and he is the one who will come to be the final judge. As we close this section of the creed on Jesus, let me share what we believe is one of the earliest hymns of the church. Like the creed, this hymn doesn’t answer all our questions about Jesus but it does point us in the right direction. It is also a hymn that contains much of the same material about Jesus that we see in the creed. Jesus is the son of God, the fullness of God in this world whose death and resurrection brings us new life.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very natureof a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
The Apostles’ Creed – Jesus (part 2)
Jesus Our Savior
1. Jesus delivers us from sin. The word sin means to miss the mark. In what ways do you miss the mark of LOVE that God calls us to embrace? Ask God for forgiveness.
2. Jesus also delivers us to a new life. In what ways can God’s strength help you hit the mark of LOVE?
• Identify 2 specific areas in your life where LOVE for God and others is needed.
• What can you do this week to LOVE?
3. Through Jesus we are forgiven and made at-one with God. Reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus and identify how this act brings you forgiveness and new life.
• How is this act an example of God’s love for you?
• Thank God for accepting all of Christ’s work on your behalf.
Jesus Our Lord
1. In what ways would you say that Jesus is already the Lord of your life? What specific teachings of Jesus do you follow? How is the example of Jesus seen in your life?
2. What area of your life do you need Jesus to step in with his grace, power and authority to be Lord?
• What one change do you need to make in order for people to see Jesus more clearly in you?
The Christ Hymn
Read Philippians 2:5-11. What does this hymn teach us about Jesus?
Recite this part of the creed and continue to ask God for the wisdom to understand more fully who Jesus is.