The Creed (Part 5)
April 28, 2020
by Peter Amsterdam
The Creed (Part 5)
(Points for this article were taken from The Creed by Luke Timothy Johnson.1)
After expressing Jesus’ deity as the Son of God, who is of the same essence as the Father, the creed then moves on to addressing Jesus’ humanity and the events of His life—the manner in which He died, His resurrection, ascent into heaven, and beyond.
For Us and for Our Salvation
The creed states: For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.
The Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who is of the same essence as the Father, entered into humanity with the fullness of divinity.
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.2
Why did He come? For the salvation of humanity. What this is stating, then, is that God, the creator of all things visible and invisible, sent His Son, who is also Himself God, into human history for the sake of human beings. The creed points to the deep love and care that God has shown to humanity in Christ Jesus.
This also tells us that there is something about humans which made it necessary for God to become incarnate and enter this world in order to save humanity. In the book of Genesis we’re told that all of creation, including humanity, is good.
God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.3
In the New Testament we read that all of God’s creation is still good.
Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.4
However, as the apostle Paul explains, because of human disobedience to God, sin entered the world and distorted all that was good.5
It is because humans sin that God entered our world. As humans, we don’t deserve God’s attention and care, but we receive it because of God’s love, mercy, and grace.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.6
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.7
God … saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.8
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.9
For Our Salvation
When early Christians spoke of salvation, they were speaking of an actual experience which they had undergone, and not something which would only be fully realized in the future. They were “saved” in the present.
With the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.10
God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.11
The teaching of the New Testament is that salvation brings change to a person’s life, such as:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.12
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.13
You were called to freedom, brothers.14
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.15
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold.16
Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.17
Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.18
The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.19
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.20
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.21
What thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God.22
Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.23
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.24
Faith, Hope, and Love:
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.25
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.26
Along with bringing change into the lives of believers, salvation also brings them eternal life. The New Testament tells us that we will live with God eternally.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.27
Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.28
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.29
The understanding of eternal life doesn’t only refer to life with God after one dies. It also refers to our present life, in that we have been given a share in God’s own life.
If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.30
This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.31
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.32
This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life.33
Another major aspect of salvation is the forgiveness of sins. This means that God removes everything that stands in the way of full reconciliation between God and humans. The Son of God died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven.
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!34
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.35
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.36
[The Father] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.37
Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.38
He Came Down from Heaven
In the Gospel of John we read of Jesus coming down from heaven, as well as ascending into heaven. Of course, heaven isn’t a physical place, so it’s not possible to identify its location. However, the authors of the creed used language from the Gospel of John where Jesus referred to “descending” and “ascending.”
I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.39
I am the living bread that came down from heaven.40
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.41
In the Gospel of John we’re told that Jesus is the Word of God who physically came into the world. As such, He broke the boundary between creator and creation by entering the world in the flesh and then returning to God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.42
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.43
The apostle Paul wrote:
Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.44
In the book of Hebrews we find reference to Jesus coming into the world:
When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me.”45
We also read,
In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.46
We see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus.47
This language, found throughout the New Testament, was drawn on by the authors of the creed as they stated that Jesus came down from heaven. Jesus, who is God, took on the form and likeness of men, came into the world, and is the heir of all things, though for a little while he was made lower than the angels. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.
(To be continued in Part Six.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 The Creed—What Christians Believe and Why It Matters (New York: Doubleday, 2003).
2 Colossians 2:9.
3 Genesis 1:31. See also Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25.
4 1 Timothy 4:4.
5 Romans 1:18–32.
6 John 3:16–17.
7 Titus 2:11.
8 2 Timothy 1:8–9.
9 Romans 5:7–8.
10 Romans 10:10.
11 Ephesians 2:4–5.
12 2 Corinthians 3:17. See also Galatians 5:1, 13.
13 Galatians 5:1.
14 Galatians 5:13.
15 Acts 4:13.
16 2 Corinthians 3:12.
17 Ephesians 3:11–12.
18 Romans 5:1.
19 Romans 14:17. See also 1 Corinthians 7:15.
20 Colossians 3:15.
21 James 1:2.
22 1 Thessalonians 3:9.
23 1 Peter 4:13.
24 1 Peter 1:8.
25 1 Thessalonians 1:2–3.
26 1 Corinthians 13:13.
27 John 3:36.
28 John 5:24.
29 John 6:40.
30 1 John 2:24–25.
31 1 John 5:11.
32 John 5:24.
33 1 John 5:11–13.
34 John 1:29.
35 1 Corinthians 15:3.
36 Galatians 1:3–4.
37 Colossians 1:13–14.
38 Revelation 1:5–6.
39 John 6:38.
40 John 6:51.
41 John 3:13.
42 John 1:1.
43 John 1:14.
44 Philippians 2:5–7.
45 Hebrews 10:5.
46 Hebrews 1:2.
47 Hebrews 2:9.