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Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity

There are 109 words in the Apostles’ Creed, 69 fall in the second stanza.  Over 63% of the Apostles’ Creed is found in the second stanza which focuses exclusively on the second member of the Trinity, Jesus.  Why? Let me suggest two reasons. First, it is the person of Christ that makes Christianity so unique. One week after 9/11, I heard the Imam (basically the head Islamic pastor) of Orlando say that Christianity and Islam share about 95% of beliefs in common and that this was a time to hold to those commonalities and work together. The problem with the Imam’s statement is that the 5% about which we disagree – the identity of Jesus – is everything!  Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). This is the most important question that any of us will ever have to answer and all that we believe hinges on the identity of Jesus. John, in his gospel, actually spells that out as the precise reason he wrote. “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

Second, the Creed focuses so extensively on the person of Jesus, precisely because that is the point of doctrine that was most under attack. Interestingly, the comments about Jesus in the Creed emphasize not his divinity, but his humanity. It discusses his birth, his life, his death and his resurrection because the earliest heresies the church had to combat were not attacks on the deity of Jesus – people believed he was God – but his humanity.  They didn’t believe that the God of the universe would actually become a man.  For example, Marcion (yes, the same one who we previously saw as teaching dualism) also taught what is called “docetism,” from the Greek word that means “to appear.”  That is, basically, Jesus was just a ghost. He only appeared to have a body. He denied that Jesus was born of a woman, instead suggesting that Jesus just suddenly appeared in Capernaum one day. Have you ever seen those pictures of Jesus where he hovers just off the ground? Pretty much, that is what Marcion taught as reality. He denied both the incarnation and, thus, the resurrection. If Jesus was never a real man, how could he die and then rise again? Apart from the birth, death and victorious resurrection of Jesus, we have no hope. Paul goes so far as to say that if there is no resurrection, “we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Thus, the Apostles’ Creed stands against docetism, against Marcion, and against attacks on the humanity of Christ. The next couple of blog posts will briefly explore the various phrases of the Creed concerning Jesus.

Interact: Who do you say Jesus is?

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