For the next couple of weeks I am commenting on the articles of the Apostle’s Creed. This is for my benefit as much as anything. My remarks are organized only because they are following the outline of the creed. So while they are not systematic, I hope they are not rambling either! I’m giving myself a refresher course and you’re invited to come along. And as you do I trust these few words may contribute something to your understanding of what it is to have faith in the God of Jesus.
The confession of belief in God runs off in as many directions as there are those who make such a confession. Even to confess belief in a God of creation does not really say much. As Martin Luther observed, “God may be in the creation, but is He there for you?” Who is this God that has created a natural world that is both benevolent and, at the same time, has a way of turning on us? How does this God meet us in the precarious historical situation in which we find ourselves in this world, surrounded as we are by powers too great for us, especially death?
The Christian confession of the God of creation finds its’ center in Jesus, who we call the Christ, Messiah, Savior. In making this confession the Church is saying that the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth was the radically singular event in God’s self-revelation and the history of the world. Jesus words and actions were the words and actions of the self-expressing God who was “in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” To confess “… Jesus Christ, His only Son, …” is to say that God and Jesus may be mutually substituted for one another and that they really include one another. Therefore, Jesus is not an open question who points humanity to God. In Jesus God responds to the questions posed by our radically fallen existence fully and unconditionally.
In Jesus God reveals both His saving divine will and grace for the sake of a humanity that is derivative of this same Jesus, the Word made flesh. “All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.” The confession of faith in this Jesus which calls Him ”…our Lord”, is an acknowledgement of trust in the One who alone has the absolute right to judge our lives and demand the radical self-surrender of man and woman, in faith, to the Word of God. This self-surrender, however, is brought about by grace. Whoever is able to make this confession does so by grace (“No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit”). But this grace is not a divine substance. Grace is God Himself, giving Himself in love.
To call Jesus lord is to confess, therefore, that in Him, the crucified and risen One, God has given Himself unconditionally for sinful humanity. And that through this faith I may look forward in hope to the fulfillment of the final possibility of God’s saving purpose as he brings forth a new creation in Christ.
Tomorrow: “Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary…”
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”