What we now know as the Apostles Creed descended from an earlier form of the creed, known as the Old Roman Symbol. The beginning of the creed dates from as early as the second century. We do not have any direct evidence that it was penned by any of the apostles, but it is an admirable summary of the apostolic teaching.
The word crux helps us understand when we need to express the importance of getting to the crux of a matter—and crux comes from the Latin word for cross. Nowhere is this more important that in discussing the death of Jesus, the salvation of the world.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and born of the virgin, Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hades. On the third day He rose again from the dead, ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Summary of the Text
“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
The death of Jesus was an historical event, as we emphasized last week. But if the death of Jesus were simply one more historical event, situated among numerous others, then this determination of Paul’s to emphasize that event alone would be curious and nonsensical. Why talk about this one thing, when there are so many other things that have happened?
The answer has to do with the radical nature of Christ’s death. The word radical comes from radix, which means root. The root principle is the cross, the intersection at the crossroads is the cross, the foundation and cornerstone is the cross. It is therefore possible to talk about Christ and Him crucified in relationship to absolutely anything else in the world and to do so without changing the subject. It is possible to move from the death of Jesus to any subject whatever, and to do so without lurching.
Died, and Was Buried
Let me begin with the aftermath of the cross—the death of Jesus. Jesus had a true human body, capable of dying. When He was nailed to the cross, He was in the process of dying. He died. He was not an apparition that seemed to die. He was not a true human being who only appeared to die, fainting from the torture. He was a man who could die, and who under those circumstances did die. The phrase that He was buried underscores this fact. His death was a true death. He was dead and buried. He was buried for three days. This exclamation point is part of the gospel as the apostle Paul recounts it. “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose . . . ” (1 Cor. 15:3–4).
There are four aspects of this momentous death which we must consider. We will define and consider each of them in turn. They are redemption, propitiation, co-crucifixion, and reconciliation. These are all described as happening in the cross. We will discuss another aspect of our salvation—justification—when we come to the resurrection (Rom. 4:25).
Redemption is the result of having been purchased or ransomed. Propitiation is the turning aside of wrath. Because of union with Christ, co-crucifixion is how we die when Christ dies. Reconciliation is the establishment of peace where before there was hostility. And the Bible describes all four of these as occurring in the cross of Jesus Christ.
The Bible talks about the blood of Jesus as a purchase price, or as a ransom payment. With His blood Jesus purchased men for God (Rev. 5:9). Jesus referred to His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). We have redemption through His blood (Eph. 1:7). Jesus died as a ransom to set us free from the sins we had committed (Heb. 9:15). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13).
Why? He redeemed us so that we could have the promise of the Spirit (Gal. 3:14), so that we might have forgiveness (Eph. 1:7), so that we could have liberation from sexual lust (1 Cor. 6:18-20), and so that we could be freed from actual slavery (1 Cor. 7:13).
The Bible talks about the death of Jesus as absorbing the blow that the wrath of God delivered. When people try to escape the Bible’s teaching on the substitutionary death of Christ, it is this element that often bothers them the most. But Scripture is clear. God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17, ESV). “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). In order to be just and the one who justifies, God sent Christ to be a propitiation (Rom. 3:25-26).
The word propitiation refers to that which satisfies the wrath of God.
The Bible talks about the death of Jesus as somehow accomplishing a death, a most necessary death, for us. “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor. 5:14). Paul confesses that he was crucified together with Christ (Gal. 2:20). We are not to boast in anything, except in the cross which crucified the world to us and us to the world (Gal. 6:14). Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh, and all its longings (Gal. 5:24). If we have been baptized, we were baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3), so that we might be freed from sin (Rom. 6:6-7).
The Bible talks about how the death of Christ effected a reconciliation between us and God. “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Col. 1:21–22). God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing our trespasses to us (2 Cor. 5:18ff).
Because the wrath of God fell on us in Christ (propitiation) as the curse of the law, this means we were ransomed from the curse of the law (redeemed) so that we would be separated from everything that came before (co-crucifixion), with the end result that we now have peace with God (reconciliation).