Listen: Christian Growth with Simon Manchester. (Airs 8am Sundays on Hope 103.2 & Inspire Digital.)
Simon Manchester presents a 10-part series of messages called ‘Confident Theology’. Week by week he takes listeners on a journey through the famous statement of Christian faith known as the ‘Apostles’ Creed’.
Part 2: “And in Jesus Christ” – Col 1:15-23
Good morning, everybody. We are in a series in the morning of 10 Sundays where we are actually going through the Apostles Creed.
It is a little series called “Confident Theology” and my hope is that it will encourage you and make you clearer and bolder and gladder in your Christian life. My fear is that it will be a dry, only doctrinal series, and so I am glad that Sam has prayed for us.
Now we have looked a couple of weeks ago at the first sentence of the Creed which is: “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” and this particular morning we are looking at the second sentence in the Apostles Creed which says, “and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord”.
So our subject today is this massive and wonderful subject of Jesus. I only need to tell you this morning that he is the most impressive and significant person the world has ever seen. Every single day believers are mentioning his name and sadly unbelievers are cursing his name. He is globally loved or dishonoured.
And I read this past week that even a painting of Jesus by Da Vinci which is one that sold two years ago for $643 million, is now hanging in a yacht owned by a Saudi prince, making the yacht 30 to 40 times more valuable – just because there is now a painting on the yacht, on the super yacht, there is a painting of Jesus hanging on the wall.
Now because we say in the Creed “we believe in Jesus the only Son our Lord”, you will realise that at this point when we stand to say the Creed, we part company with the Judaism and Islam of this world because we don’t only believe in God (Allah), we believe in Jesus. And of course Jesus is the one who introduces us to the Father and to the Spirit. Therefore the Apostles Creed is trinitarian – one God – three persons. And the longer section of the Creed has to do with Jesus.
Everything Comes from the Trinity
There is no escaping the Trinity. You may think to yourself the Trinity is some strange word, it is not a Biblical word, and it is a strange and irrelevant doctrine. But let me tell you that the Trinity causes everything. From the Father, Son and Holy Spirit comes everything – creation, salvation and everything. The Trinity shapes the world in which we live.
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Why do we and even unbelievers value relationships? And the answer is because there is a Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a relating Godhead who have made relationships the most important thing in the universe.
And we might say that –
- The Father, Son and Holy Spirit together produced the universe,
- The Father, Son and Holy Spirit produced the Scriptures,
- The Father, Son and Holy Spirit arranged salvation,
- The Father, Son and Holy Spirit enable us to pray to the Father through the Son with the help of the Spirit.
Everything is trinitarian. So we can’t escape the Trinity. You can’t say, “It doesn’t interest me – I am going to put it on the side of my brain”. If you land on a desert island and you have a Bible washup in a proverbial bottle and you begin to read it from cover to cover, you will discover that you are face to face with one God, and then within a little while you are face to face with Jesus, and you have to work out whether Jesus is God. And if He is and then the Holy Spirit – God – you are well on the way to be a trinitarian believer.
So we can’t escape the Trinity, but at the same time we can’t simplify it. One God – three persons – it staggers the brain. It keeps us humble. I quite like this because it reminds me that the Christian faith has not been invented by us but it confronts us and challenges us and comforts us.
Now if you find yourself objecting to the Trinity or you meet somebody who does object to the Trinity, maybe somebody who visits your doorstep, the question that you should ask has four words and it goes like this: Should Jesus be worshipped?
Should we Worship Jesus?
That’s the question – “should Jesus be worshipped?” The Biblical answer is “Yes of course – every knee should bow” (Philippians chapter 2) and he has of course absolute reason to be worshipped.
Now the sentence we are looking at, as I say, is the sentence in the Creed that “we believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord”, which is very similar to a sentence in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 9 which says “God is faithful who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord”. And there are the three phrases, in a different order from the Creed, but still the same three phrases. And I want to look at the three phrases with you – “Jesus Christ” – “only Son” – “our Lord.”
“We actually revered the name Jesus because the name Jesus like Joshua means ‘Saviour’.”
Let me give you an anecdote. I read recently in a book about Don Bradman that in 1978 when he was 70 he went to a dinner. And near the dinner venue were cricket nets. And because things were slow getting ready for the dinner, Don Bradman took off his coat, the great cricketer, found a cricket bat and walked over to the nets. Geoff Thompson who was at that stage in his 20’s and the fastest bowler found a cricket ball and started bowling to him fast.
And we read that Bradman in his suit without the coat, no gloves, no pads, Geoff Thompson bowling at him quite fast, the guests gathered around to watch the little man bat and somebody said to see those little feet dance down the wicket as he wacked every ball, every ball through his horn-rimmed glasses – bang – it was extraordinary. Why am I telling you that this morning? Because when you get old it’s good! And the Apostles Creed is old and it’s good and we should profit from it as we think about it together. It was a stretch but that was the best I could do!
Three quick phrases –
We Believe in Jesus Christ
First “We believe in Jesus Christ”. Now it isn’t difficult to say this even if you are an atheist, because it is not difficult to stand and say you believe there was somebody who lived in this world called Jesus Christ. I-E, it’s not difficult to say that Jesus of Nazareth really lived. A non-Christian could stand in this church and join the Creed and say “I believe in Jesus Christ” – that’s it. The devil himself could say “I believe in Jesus Christ”. I mean the devil does believe in Jesus Christ, the historical person.
And there are always, sadly, controversial people who want to question the very existence of Jesus and sadly they fool many people. But there are no mainstream historians who would really doubt the existence of Jesus Christ. And there are plenty of historians in the first and second centuries, Christian and non-Christian, who tell us the truthfulness of Jesus’ existence. You don’t get the allegiance of a couple of a billion people by being fiction. Jesus is a real historical person.
But we not only believe in Jesus of Nazareth fully human, as human as we are, somebody who ate and drank and slept and bled. We actually revered the name Jesus because the name Jesus like Joshua means “saviour”. And it’s not an accident that he had the name Jesus because his parents were told to name him Jesus – because he would save his people from their sins. So every word of the Creed is loaded. And when we stand up and say we believe in Jesus, we might well say we believe in the Saviour of Nazareth.
Not Just a Historical Figure
We also say that we believe in Jesus Christ and this is a highly significant word as well. It’s not a surname, it’s a title and it means Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one. And you will remember when Jesus was being baptised and the Spirit anointed him (Mark chapter 1) in order that he might do his ministry and when he was preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke chapter 4, he said, “the Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me in order that I might proclaim and liberate”. So when we stand and say “I believe in Jesus Christ” we are really saying that we believe in the Saviour and we are saying we believe in the Messiah.
Now having said all that – stay with me – I see one person has fallen asleep! Stay with me. When we say these words we must distinguish between natural speech and supernatural. As I say, it’s possible to stand up – even an actor could say these words in a film “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord” – the actor could say the words naturally. The demons in Jesus’ day said ‘we know who you are’. But there was no spirit, there was no supernatural work of God, there was no work of grace causing the person to believe with conviction and joy. And we need to distinguish between that kind of speech which doesn’t reflect the work of God and the speech which does reflect the work of God.
When you stand to say “I believe in Jesus Christ” and you speak as one with conviction from mind and heart, it’s because God has done a supernatural work inside you. You no longer just think of Jesus as being somewhere in the line of history, you now see yourself as belonging to him. You now no longer see that Jesus is kind of like one planet in your universe but he is the centre of your universe and you are privileged to belong to him.
“We are no longer just stopping at the Jesus of history but we are now thinking about Jesus who has welcomed us into fellowship.”
This is what happened to Peter, you remember, when he was walking with the disciples and Jesus said on one occasion “what are people say about me?” and the disciples said “Oh some people think you are a prophet and some people think you are John the Baptist come back from the dead”. Jesus said “what about you?” Peter said “You are the Christ”. And Jesus was genuinely filled with joy at that moment and he said “you know flesh and blood didn’t explain this to you – you didn’t work this out because you are brilliant Peter, it’s not because you went to some clever university. This is the work of God. My Father has revealed this to you”, said Jesus.
And I have watched this wonderfully take place through Christianity Explained. You know you might think that Christianity Explained is some kind of course run by a clever person but it isn’t run by a clever person. It’s run by somebody who opens the pages of Mark’s Gospel and says ‘let’s read this’, and we work out basically who Jesus is and why he died and how we can be confident that he rose and you are watching a person just reading the pages and suddenly the lights go on. And I’ve seen people almost leap out of their seat to come at the end as if I had done something for them because they are so thankful and excited – the work of God.
So when we say “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord” there is a sense in which it is said miraculously. We are no longer just stopping at the Jesus of history but we are now thinking about Jesus who has welcomed us into fellowship. And we are able to say that we not only believe in him but we belong to him – that’s the first thing.
God’s Only Son
Now the second little phrase is the significance of “his only Son”. How important is it for us to say in the Creed “his only Son?” Well, friends, it automatically separates him from us. As soon as we say “we believe in Jesus his only Son” he is unique and supreme. So we find that we are saying something that is worshipful about him.
Now we know that every person in the world is one of God’s creation. We know that every person who has put their trust in Christ is one of God’s children by adoption but only Jesus is God’s Son forever. And this little phrase “his only Son” is a phrase which appears in the New Testament five times, always in John’s writings and it’s the word that means “one and only” or in the old language “only begotten”.
And it most famously appears in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only or his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life”.
So the question we have to ask ourselves and again stay with me, is how long has the Father had a Son? Because if you think the Father gained a Son when Mary delivered a boy, you have made a mistake. The Father has always had a Son but the Son appeared in this world when Mary gave birth to a Son.
We often remind people, don’t we, at Christmas that if they see a baby in a manger on a card or in the window of a shop that they must recognize that Jesus did not begin at that incarnation, that Jesus the Son of God goes back into eternity – but he appeared in this world when Mary gave birth. And he is God’s forever Son, backwards and forwards. So he has no beginning, he is eternal. And it is the strange language of the Prayer Book that he is eternally begotten, but what that really means is that he is eternally belonging or eternally related to the Father. He has always been his Son. He will always be his Son. He is the forever Son of God.
So when you come to put your trust in Jesus and you receive him, the forever Son of God, you become one of the adopted sons and daughters of God – related now and belonging to the forever Son of God.
So of course we are announcing him to be unique and we are announcing him to be supreme and it’s a very worshipful thing to say.
I know that it’s possible to say the Creed and tune out completely. We are all frail, human, wayward, and it’s possible to say the Creed and not mean it. But when we say the Creed with understanding and concentration and delight we are saying we believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son who we are privileged now to belong to.
Jesus Christ Our Lord
Now the third little phrase is “our Lord”. And again you wouldn’t think this required any explanation except that there are a couple of things we need to know.
The first is the word “Lord”. This word “Lord” is an astonishing word. And I’ll tell you why it is astonishing. Because when they were translating the Old Testament into Greek, 2nd and 3rd Century BC, they looked for a word to replace Yahweh into a Greek word, and they chose the Greek word “Kurios” and so they would say “God the Lord”.
Now when they came to write the New Testament and they looked for a word to describe Jesus, they unashamedly chose Kurios, Jesus the Lord in which case there is no clearer indication that they are calling Jesus “God”. In fact the New Testament writers again and again will take an Old Testament promise to do with Yahweh and apply it to Jesus.
So for example,
- Psalm 110 – “The Lord sits at God’s right hand”
- 1 Peter 3 – “Jesus sits at God’s right hand”
- Joel 2 – “Call on the Lord and be saved”
- Romans 10 – “Call on Jesus and be saved”
- Isaiah 45 – “Every knee will bow to God”
- Philippians 2 – “Every knee will bow to Jesus”
The New Testament unashamedly, gladly, confidently and clearly declares Jesus to be God, which of course means that He is on his own in all the religious leaders of the world.
And when we say we believe in Jesus the Lord, we are saying we believe in Jesus as the Son of God. And this of course fits the teaching of Jesus because Jesus would of course again and again use language to indicate that he thought of himself as God.
He called himself:
- The Shepherd, knowing full well that in the Old Testament the shepherd is God.
- The Bridegroom, knowing full well that in the Old Testament the bridegroom is God.
And it also fits the behaviour of Jesus. Because Jesus forgave people for their sins against God. And he received worship which is due to God. So not only do we believe, you see, in Jesus the man of Nazareth, human like us but we also believe in the Messiah, the one anointed to do the work of salvation.
We also believe that he is the Son of God, God come into this world and we also believe that he is the Lord, the God that appeared. 100 percent human, 100 percent God – as somebody has said, “The Son of God became a man so that the sons of men would become the sons of God.” Jesus our Lord.
He is Our Lord
This leaves us finally with the last little word which is the word “our” – Jesus our Lord. This word is a most important word because it implies that we are a surrendered people. This is not something that an unbeliever could really say and mean. This is not something the devil could say and mean. I mean there is a sense in which the devil might say – ‘we know he is the Lord but we are against him’ but the believer says ‘he is our Lord, we have surrendered to him’.
And this is of course what God looks for – he looks for our surrender. He is not just looking for our ‘tick of approval’. The day comes where you have to literally or in your heart kneel down and surrender to Jesus. Remember Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that many will say on the last day “Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord didn’t we see all these things and do all these things? We were members of St Thomas, North Sydney” and he will say “I never knew you”. Or even more searchingly he said in the Sermon on the Plain in Luke chapter 6 “why do you call me Lord and not do what I tell you?”
“Thankfully we are not saved by our obedience – we are saved by His obedience.”
That is a question that goes right to the heart because there is none of us who will stand up and say “I always do what he tells me”. And thankfully we are not saved by our obedience – we are saved by His obedience. And we are not damned by our disobedience – he has already taken our damnation for us. But there are new signs of obedience in Christ’s people. So we find ourselves by the grace of God becoming more and more an obedient people. He is our Lord, he is our Lord.
And the huge privilege of saying “our Lord” is that I and you could stand in the Creed (as we will do in a minute and sing it) and we will basically declare that though we are tiny and weak and frail and sinful we belong to somebody who is magnificent, and majestic, and merciful and wonderful – yes we belong to him.
Our Real, Concrete Belief
So I just want to finish by just telling you a few things which should make you say these words – these quite familiar words with some gratitude and joy.
The first is that you are describing somebody who is real, historical, human, divine, unique, supreme. It’s a wonderful sentence.
I have been reading a book of religions recently and I like the book because it summarizes the religion into a three minute read. And for those who have even shorter concentration spans it summarizes the religions into a 30 second read. And for those who have even shorted concentration spans it finds the religion in three seconds – and I like that because I have a very short concentration span!
So here are some religions which I find mind bogglingly confusing:
- Hinduism – God is everywhere
- Sikhism – God is beyond appearance
- Shinto – Calling on nature and deities
- Sufizm – Seeking God through inner experience
- Bahá’í – All faiths, all humanities together
- Hare Krishna – Seeking God consciousness
Now I have to confess to you that without wanting to be unkind I don’t know what to do with any of those sentences. They are just too mystical, they are just too vague. But when I stand and say “I believe in Jesus who came into this world and lived and died and rose and invites and welcomes and keeps and carries home”, I think I am talking about something that makes sense. So we must be thankful for the reality of Jesus Christ.
Secondly when you say “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord” it does remind you that he is different from you in being God’s forever Son and worthily God’s forever Son and we are not. But by grace through the cross we have become his children forever. And therefore those simple words “His only Son” should remind us of the problem – that, is we are separate by nature – and of the solution – that we are joined by mercy.
And the third thing we should be thankful for as we say these familiar words is that when we say he is our Lord we find ourselves, even this small gathering this morning, joining with the believers who stretch back through time for 2000 years, and who stretch around the world. and many who have crossed the river of death and are now face to face with Jesus and we who are yet to meet him, but we are all caught up in this fellowship of “our Lord”, this tremendous global family which he has gathered and is going to deliver for eternity.
So what a wonderful thing to be able to say “I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord”.
We thank you our gracious God for the gift of your Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. Please fill us with gratitude. Please fill us with the confidence in yourself and please fill us with a deep and loving concern for those who are not yet able to say these words with meaning. We ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.