Apostles Creed 7: Our Lord

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 foundation Christian confession is that Jesus is Lord. We find this at the very beginning, and there is no hope without it. As we have been making our way through the Creed, we have addressed who Jesus is. But what do we mean by Lord?

The Text:
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:
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9–10). “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

This is the confession that is unto salvation. Two organs are involved—the mouth and the heart. If you confess that Jesus is Lord with your mouth, and if you believe in your heart that God raised Him up from the dead, then the end result is that you will be saved. According to this message, salvation is the result of believing something about Jesus and confessing something about Jesus. But what?

Jesus is Jehovah:
First some background. YHWH (or JHVH) is the covenant name of God, the name by which God was known to Israel. These are four consonants in Hebrew known as the Tetragrammaton. The vowels can be supplied in different ways. One common way is to speak of Yahweh. Another is to take the consonants JVVH and combine them with the vowels of Adonai (another name for God), which then gives us Jehovah.

And now it gets interesting. The prophet Joel says this: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32). Joel was obviously written in Hebrew, and the word rendered here as Lord is YHWH. This verse from Joel is quoted by Paul, and is part of our text (v. 13).

Now the Greek word for Lord (kurios) has the same range of meaning that it does in English. It can refer to God, Lord of heaven and earth, and it can also be used of Lord Highfalutin, stone cold member of the aristocracy somewhere. So when we are called to confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, which kind of lord are we talking about?
The answer is straightforward. In Romans 10:13, the word kurios is used to translate the Hebrew YHWH. Whoever calls on the name of YHWH/kurios will be saved. But just a breath earlier, Paul had insisted that we had to confess with our mouth that Jesus was Lord in order to be saved. Piece all this together, and it is most plain that the fundamental Christian confession is that Jesus is Jehovah. Jesus is to be identified with the covenant God of Israel.

Authority in Relationship:
Christ does not wield authority over His people from a remote distance. He has true authority, but He holds this authority in a particular way. His is the authority of bleeding sacrifice. “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:13–14). The fact that Christ washed His disciples’ feet did not detract from His authority; it was the foundation of His authority.

But in case we are tempted to hide our emotional cowardice under the camouflage of something we like to call “servant leadership,” it must be emphasized that servant authority is true authority. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

As we come to imitate the Lord in all that we do, it must be said that feminism comes in many forms, including the kind that pretends to have nothing to do with feminism. We need to take care not to confound sacrificial leading with cowardly following.

Savior and Lord:
Christ is not divided. That means we cannot shop for different aspects of our salvation a la carte. In some fundamentalist circles it is common to hear people saying that receiving Christ as Savior and receiving Him as Lord are two different things—as though someone could be saved by Jesus without paying the slightest regard to what He taught. But half a Christ is no Christ, and no one was ever saved by no Christ.

Our Lord:
It is also worth mentioning that we have confessed our faith in “Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord.” We are confessing the fact that Jesus has been enthroned over absolutely everything that is, which means that His Lordship of Heaven and earth is the basis for my confession that He is my Lord. He is a king who has been crowned and enthroned, and the message has now come to me that it is time for me to bend the knee.

He is a king who has been crowned and enthroned, and the message has now come to me that it is time for me to bend the knee.

It does not run in the other direction. Jesus is not campaigning for president. It is not the case that if we only get enough people to “make Him Lord of their hearts,” then we could really get some momentum going, and then elect Him to something. Jesus is Lord already. This fact is declared to us. It is preached. We believe it, not to make it true but because it is true.

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The Brightest Light & the Blackest Night

In Adam the human race declared war with God. We became a rebel kingdom; sunk in the darkness of the blackest night of hatred toward God. We want to rule ourselves, to determine good and evil by our own reckoning, and worship at the altar of self-glory. Our position before God is that of traitors and rebels. Left to our own devices we will not seek God, nor reconciliation with Him. Yet, we were made to enjoy the fellowship of His glorious presence. We hate this darkness, but we hate the light of God’s holiness more. The good news is that the Son has risen; and His light brings life.

The Text
1 John 1:5-10
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Summary of the Text 
John’s introduction (vs.1-4) is no innocuous greeting. It is laden with theological and philosophical claims regarding Jesus Christ, concluding with the crescendo that this is all written that our joy may be full. The message which John heard from Jesus and declares unto us is that God is light, and there is not a shred of darkness in him (v5). This is followed by five “if/then” statements; these are foundational to John’s later discussion of antichrists (1 Jn. 2:184:1-3) and assurance (1 Jn. 2:3).

First, claiming to have fellowship with God, yet continuing in the darkness of error, is evidence that you are a liar like your father Satan (v6, cf. Jn. 8:44). Second, walking in the light results in fellowship with God and His people, and being cleansed from sin through the blood of Jesus (v7). Third, claiming to be without sin is self-deception and is a tell-tale sign of the absence of truth (v8). Fourth, confessing our sins brings the assurance that Christ is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse from unrighteousness (v9). Finally, claims to sinlessness blaspheme God’s holiness, and prove that His word (by which we are born again, cf. 1 Pt. 1:23) is not in the one who claims to be without sin (v10).

God is Light 
This is Jesus’ message, not John’s. John has simply been sent to proclaim. While later on John teaches that “God is love (1 Jn. 4:8),” he doesn’t lead with that. Rather, Jesus’ message is: “God is light!” Light here encompasses all of God’s perfections: His white hot purity of being. All of His divine attributes in perfect concord, no disharmony, no external source. As the hymn states: “Self-fed, self-kindled like the light, changeless, eternal, infinite.” His holiness, wisdom, understanding, and power. All without mixture, defect, or deficiency.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ declared: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (Jn. 8:12).” Following Jesus, then, is man’s only path out of the darkness of sin and into the glorious light of God’s favor in which is found abundant, eternal life. Jesus’ Gospel is quite simple: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (Jn. 3:36).” This is why we confess our belief that Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made.”

Light for the Greek mind would signify knowledge, wisdom, understanding; for the Jew, it would be understood in the context of God’s creating power and thus His holiness as the Almighty God. The Jews’ longing for the promised Messiah who would restore holiness to the people of God, and the Greek longing for true wisdom are found in the light of Jesus Christ: God in the flesh, the eternal Word of Life, and the lone Mediator between God and Man, our only way to fellowship with God (Jn 14:6). The pathway to life was not through the dark promises of the gnostic’s hidden knowledge, nor in the shadowy figures of the Old Testament. The life-giving light of God’s holiness and wisdom shine in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

However, “What communion hath light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?” How can God’s holiness and our sinfulness be reconciled? By a Mediator of the covenant: the man Jesus Christ. While many attempt to exalt the love of God to a place of supremacy within God’s attributes, and while it is a glorious reality that God is love, we must remember God is light and God is love.  Light before love. Holiness which endures no sin subsisting with affectionate charity which grants mercy. John lays the foundation of God’s holiness, in order to reveals His lovingkindness.

If Then 
These if/thens are promise language. You experience the light of God’s holiness, wisdom, and power as either wrath and justice or love and mercy. In order to be saved from God’s wrath we must be convinced of our positional guilt in Adam, and receive the positional righteousness of Christ. False Christology always leads to man’s sin not being dealt with or forgiven. These false gospels explain away sin. Covenant breakers insist on finding in themselves, or in some antichrist, a savior. They always run to one extreme or the other: hedonism or asceticism; intellectualism or sentimentalism; traditionalism or spontaneity; legalism or licentiousness. So they remain under the wrath of God.

New Covenant Saints walk in the light–which is the Lord Jesus Christ–for in His light is the only hope for propitiation of our sins (1 Jn. 2:2) and eternal life (1 Jn. 2:25). Tozer once said: “We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God.” Matthew Henry put it wonderfully: “[Jesus Christ’s] blood applied to us discharges us from the guilt of all sin, both original and actual, inherent and committed: and so far we stand righteous in his sight; and not only so, but his blood procures for us those sacred influences by which sin is to be subdued more and more, till it is quite abolished.”

Do The Truth 
False saviors can only offer false righteousness. Jesus Christ offers cleansing from our unrighteousness. Antichrists command us to do; Christ commands us to rest in His doing. Claiming to have fellowship with God, while walking in the darkness of a false gospel, is the vanity of “doing not the truth (v.6).” They remain blind corpses.

By contrast, if you are to “do the truth,” you must believe in Jesus and all that He claimed to be: the one mediator between God and man. By faith you are united with Him in His righteousness. The light of Christ pierces through the darkness of unbelief, and by grace opens the eyes of your faith to behold in Him your only salvation from sin and means of fellowship with Almighty God (cf. Ps. 36:9 & Is. 45:22). Christ is the only channel whereby eternal life is extended to you, along with the fullness of enjoying the Father’s love. So as you walk in the light of Jesus Christ, you are reckoned righteous and may say with John, “what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God (1 Jn. 3:1).”

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