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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.
In the creation of Adam as pictured on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, God the Father has a right hand. But the God of the Bible is Spirit, and has no right hand—for He has no body at all. At the same time, with few exceptions (e.g. Acts 7:55), the Scriptures repeatedly tell us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. What does this image mean? What are we being instructed to believe?
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
“The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psalm 110:1).
At the culmination of the Ascension, Jesus came before the Ancient of Days in the throne room of God (Dan. 7:13-14). Upon that entry, He was given an absolute and universal dominion over all things. This is where God invited Him to sit at His right hand until the end of human history. This enthronement of Christ is indicative of His faithful completion of all that the Father had given Him to do. The last day of resurrection excepted, the remainder of the great work of redemption was to be done by a Spirit-empowered Church.
“Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him” (1 Cor. 15:24–27).
This session of Christ, His seating at the right Hand of the Father, is a doctrine repeated over and over in the New Testament, and it is the basis for all our labors. The fact that Christ is seated is an indication of His completed work. As our prophet, priest, and king, He has accomplished the work the Father assigned to Him.
“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
Seated as He is by the Father, Jesus teaches and instructs us through His Holy Spirit. We know that this psalm speaks of Christ because the previous verse (v. 10) is quoted in Acts and applied to Jesus (Acts 13:35). Jesus taught His disciples that His Spirit would come to instruct them, and that instruction is part of the prophetic office (John 14:26; Matt. 10:19-20; 1 John 2:27).
“Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33).
Now using the language of the psalm, Jesus is the one who shows us the path of life. He teaches us. He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). For those who believe in Him, out of their bellies living water would flow (John 7:38-39), referring to the Spirit. The Way is established because the one who lived it perfectly, and who also taught it perfectly, has now been seated at God’s right hand.
“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Heb. 8:1). “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12).
Here we are taught that Jesus completed His priestly work. He died on the cross, once for all, and after He ascended into Heaven, at some point He applied the blood of His sacrifice to the heavenly altar (Heb. 1:3; 9:12), also once for all. And then—because our salvation is complete—He sat down. From that position, as a seated priest, He continues to pray for us. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34).
Notice the gospel logic here. Christ died, rose, and was seated at God’s right hand. He prays for us there. So who is he that condemns?
“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him” (1 Pet. 3:22).
We saw earlier that the appearance of Christ before the Ancient of Days resulted in Him being given universal dominion. This position is one of authority and power.
“Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64; cf. Mk 14 62).
The Great Commission instructs us to bring the nations to obedience. Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the King—the King of kings. We must do as He says.
Prophet, Priest, King
It is hard to cover all the references to this doctrine in just one sermon. There are a number of other passages we don’t have time to address (Mk. 16:19; Acts 2:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 1:13; 12:2). There are many aspects to this, and a multitude of possible applications. But at the end of the day, the charge is this. We are not up and doing because it is all up to us. We stand because Christ is seated.