Editor’s note: This post is part of a series featuring outstanding excerpts from student papers at the BibleMesh Institute, which offers affordable online training for local churches, schools, and ministries. The author’s name has been withheld for privacy and security purposes. She is preparing to serve as a missionary overseas.
“Who is Jesus?” This question has been asked around the world over the past 2,000 years. There are a variety of responses: teacher, prophet, good man, example for humanity, God, etc. Working through a section of the Apostles’ Creed phrase by phrase can provide a clear starting point to teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ.
“I believe in Jesus Christ…” “Christ” is from the Greek Christos, which comes from the Hebrew Mashiach, meaning “anointed one.” This is a reference to Jesus in his office as the “Christ” or “Messiah,” the long-awaited deliverer of Israel, an end-time king who is prophesied in the Old Testament.
Son of God
“I believe in Jesus Christ, [God’s] only Son…” God identified Jesus as his Son at his baptism and at his transfiguration. At his baptism, God said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:21-22). At the transfiguration, God said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Lk 9:28-36). The belief that God is one substance yet three persons is one of the central doctrines of mainstream Christianity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are Persons one, two, and three, respectively.
“I believe in Jesus Christ… our Lord.” YHWH (the Hebrew name for God) and the more general title Adonai were usually translated in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the New Testament, as Kyrios or “Lord.” Referring to Jesus as Lord conveys the weight of his divine authority. Jesus is divine as the Father is divine. When Paul wrote, “…that every tongue [will] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” (Phil 2:11), he was identifying Jesus as “Lord” and emphasizing the status and authority given to Jesus by the Father.
“[Jesus] was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.” The virgin conception relates to Jesus’ incarnation, the hypostatic union of humanity and divinity. He was not partially but fully each. He was born from the Spirit’s work (Mt 1:18, 20), and the Spirit animated his entire ministry (Luke 10:21). Jesus is the preexistent and eternal Son of God made flesh. Jesus is not a created being, but “comes forth” from the Father through the Spirit, incarnated through Mary. He shares fully in the Father’s divinity and our humanity, to be God with us and God for us.
“[Jesus] suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” What looked like Roman brutality was actually the means by which God restored Israel’s covenant and reconciled the nations to himself. By submitting himself to the powerlessness of the cross, Jesus revealed the kingdom of God coming in power (Mk 9:1). God didn’t even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all (Rom 8:32), and was starting to make all things new (Is 42:9). God deals with the problem of human sin and restores humanity to a relationship with himself through the cross of Jesus. The cross brings all who were far off from God into a state of oneness (atonement) with God by faith in Jesus as their Savior (Rom 10:9).
“[Jesus] descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.” Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the divine sign that he was given all authority in heaven and on earth, as the Son of God (Mt 28:18). He defeated death through his own death and resurrection. Jesus’ work of atonement means that those who choose to follow him will receive salvation and eternal life (Rom 6:23). Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, proof of what will happen at his final return: all people found in him will be brought to life (1 Cor 15:22-23).
Ascension & Enthronement
“[Jesus] ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” Jesus, after being resurrected and appearing to many for 40 days, ascended bodily to heaven and now sits at the right hand of God (Mk 16:19). Jesus, the Son of God, was not only raised to heaven, but also exalted and enthroned beside God the Father and therefore worthy of the same honor and worship given to him. Jesus ascended as a human being and remains in this glorified state for the rest of eternity. The enthronement of Jesus therefore restores and fulfills the task that God always intended for humanity: to reign over the created world on behalf of God, the original commission for the first humans, Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28).
Return & Judgment
“[Jesus] will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Jesus made the promise to all of his followers that he is going to prepare a place for them and will return to take them there (Jn 14:3). His return is the fulfillment of our longing for divine intimacy: to be with God and enjoy him forever. His first coming was in humility to bring redemption, and his second coming will be in glory to bring God’s redemptive purposes to consummation. Jesus will return to save his people, to rule in righteousness, and to usher in a new heaven and a new earth, at which point his Lordship will be made fully known. At his return, he will exact judgment: those who are not found in him must bear the wrath of God, while those who are found in him will receive eternal blessing and inheritance (2 Thess 1:5-10).