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.
Although we haven’t mentioned Jesus until this point in the Creed, in another sense, every word in the Creed revolves around Jesus Christ. The reason for that is something for us to explore now.
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:
“Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:16–17).
We began the Creed by confessing that we believe. Now in Scripture, believing and knowing are intertwined. “But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him” (John 10:38). We believe in Jesus Christ, and this is how we come to know Him. When we come to know Him, we come to know the Father, and the only way this is possible is through the Spirit of Jesus, poured out into our hearts.
But we know Jesus in two senses, both of which are reflected in the Creed. The first is the Jesus of history—or as the Creed puts it, born of the Virgin, Mary, and who died under the term of a Roman provincial prefect named Pontius Pilate. If it had not been for Jesus, he would be as historical obscure as his predecessor Gratus, or his successor Marcellus. This is the Jesus who is the historical figure, as much a man of history as Napoleon, or Attila, or Confucius. But according to Paul in this passage, this same Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, has taken the throne of the cosmos. He is the cosmic Christ. We cannot understand any man without understanding Him.
If Jesus had a last name, the way we have last names, it would have been Jesus Davidson—Jesus ben David. He was born in the house of David, and this was his true human lineage (Rom. 1:3). He had a home town; He had a mother; He went to Nazareth High; He weighed a certain amount; some other men were taller. He was tempted in every point as we are (Heb. 2: 17-18), although keep in mind that this excludes temptations that require a history of sinning behind them.
Remember that Jesus was fully human—not part human and part divine. God did not put on a man suit the way one of us might put on a gorilla suit. He was not “man on the outside, God on the inside.” No, He was fully God and fully man—one person, Jesus of Nazareth, who had two natures, two complete natures. Jesus had a nature that was entirely human, which is our point here, as well as a nature that was fully and completely divine.
I said above that Christ is not the Lord’s last name. The word Christ means anointed, and it is the parallel to the Hebrew word Messiah. The word Christ is a title, like King or Prince. Throughout Scripture, anointing is the rite used to set someone apart to a particular office, and that person assumes the office empowered by the anointing to discharge the responsibilities of that office. The anointing was not so that we would look at Him as the Messiah. The anointing was so that He would do what the Messiah was destined to do, and so that we would recognize Him in His glory.
There were three great offices among men as seen in the polity of Israel—prophet, priest, and king—and men were anointed to all three. “And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room” (1 Kings 19:16). “And the priest, whom he shall anoint, and whom he shall consecrate to minister in the priest’s office in his father’s stead, shall make the atonement, and shall put on the linen clothes, even the holy garments” (Lev. 16:32).
So when Jesus was anointed as the Christ, He was being established in all three of these offices. That is what it means to be called to be the Christ. He is our great Prophet (Dt. 18:15), our Priest (Heb. 3:1), and our King (John 19:19; Acts 17:7). As priest, He died and rose to put an end to the old world, our old way of being human. As king, He rules the new world, the new heavens and new earth. And as our prophet, He teaches us about both worlds. He is the cosmic Christ—not in some New Agey sense, but in the sense that His name and authority overarch absolutely everything. We will come back to this.
Come to Jesus:
So call upon Jesus. Turn to Jesus Christ. Bow before the Lord Jesus Christ. Partake of Jesus. He offers Himself. The Spirit and the Bride say come, and they say the same thing . . . come to Jesus.
Now when I say this to you, when I issue this invitation—which I am authorized to do, by the way—I am doing so because I am not looking at you “after the flesh.” Look carefully again at this passage. Paul here says that a direct result of having a right vision of the cosmic Christ is that we no longer look at anyone in a mundane way. How could we? Christ is risen. Christ is enthroned. More than this—He is here, and summons you to come.