The Apostles Creed (4) I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord

The Apostles Creed (4) I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord

It may surprise you to know that for 300 years in theological colleges throughout Europe people have questioned whether Jesus actually ever lived and whether the Gospel stories are true. Herman Reimarus (1694 - 1768) denied the supernatural elements in the New Testament and held that the disciples stole Jesus’ body, invented the story of his resurrection, circulated the promise of his return and preached for converts to this new false religion. This reflects Matthew 28 : 12/13 ‘When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep’. Bruno Bauer (1809 – 1882) was a German theologian and philosopher. He dismissed any truthfulness on the part of the four Gospel writers and decided that Jesus never actually existed. He was also an associate of Karl Marx. The most notorious of these scholars if we can call them that was Rudolph Bultmann (1884 – 1976), His view was that nothing could be true or certain about the life of Jesus. For him the Gospels were unreliable, He was not an atheist as such though. For him the 20th century mind was greater than the given revelation in the Bible. What did not accord with contemporary learning was simply wrong. In recent times there was David Jenkins the former Bishop of Durham and the feminist writer Daphne Hampson. These kinds of people still exist today, notably in Scotland, Richard Holloway, the apostate Episcopalian, favourite of BBC Scotland and of aspiring agnostics and atheists.

We know for sure that Jesus existed. The Roman historian and senator Tacitus (56 – 120AD) referred to Christ, his execution by Pontius Pilate, and the existence of early Christians in Rome in his final work, Annals. The manuscripts of the book Antiquities of the Jews, written by the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus around 93–94 AD, contain two references to Jesus of Nazareth and one reference to John the Baptist. Josephus lived from 37 – 100AD and he was present at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD by the Roman General and future Emperor Titus. This destruction fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy recorded in Matthew 24 : 1 ‘Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.’

The question for us then is whether we accept the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul as being credible, honest and true. Then we may ask, ‘Why do the miraculous kinds of things that are described in the New Testament not happen today?’. The answer is that they do. They have happened continuously in Scotland for more than 1500 years, though more infrequently now. They happen in the Christian churches in Africa, Asia and South America, frequently and often. But they do not make the evening television news anywhere. This is hard for us to understand because our prayers are not answered that often. People here are fearful for the survival of the congregation and they have no idea what to do about it. But God has not left himself without witnesses anywhere in the world and that will never happen here.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. I take my stand on Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.

Christ means ‘Messiah’. So what we are saying is this ‘I believe that Jesus was the long-expected Messiah of the Jews and of the Old Testament Scriptures’. We are saying ‘I take my stand on Jesus the promised Messiah’. Now we know that Jews to this day while regarding Jesus highly as one of their own, do not accept that Jesus of Nazareth was their Messiah. In the middle ages hatred arose between Christians and Jews in Europe. The text most used to justify this hatred was Matthew 25: 25 at Jesus’ trial by Pilate. All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Jews were condemned for having demanded Jesus’ death. But St Paul took a much more conciliatory attitude towards his own people the Jews in Romans 9,10 and 11. ‘Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved’...‘I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people... I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved’. Islam teaches that Jesus is the second last prophet before Muhammad who superseded Him. Islam does not allow Jesus his leading place as Messiah fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies, especially those of Isaiah 52 and 53 concerning the Suffering Messiah which actually happened.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. In Hinduism there are many gods and goddesses and many claimed incarnations of them. The most important deities are Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. Vishnu alone has 10 incarnations. In Greek religion there were many gods and goddesses Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite and Hermes among them. Similarly in Roman religion there were Jupiter, Mars and Venus, Diana, Mercury and others.

God’s only Son is to distinguish Jesus from all other claims. Jesus was and is the only incarnation of God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. In Jesus the fatherhood of God is confirmed, that intimate relationship, that joining of divine and human. Jesus is the obedient loving Son who gives himself entirely to his Father’s will for the redemption of the human community for all time. This is his uniqueness. Mark 1: 9-11 reads ‘At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” John may have recognised Jesus as God’s only Son but his contemporaries by and large did not. Jesus even struggled to convince the disciples. John 14:11 reads ‘Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves’. It was Jesus’ claim to be the unique Son of God that led to his crucifixion. He didn’t look the part. He didn’t act the part. He did not fulfil expectations. His death was the visible denial of his claim. But Jesus’ is God’s only Son to be resurrected. That is the confirmation of his status and relationship. Moses and David and Jeremiah were not resurrected. So Peter was emboldened to preach on the day of Pentecost. ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear’. (Acts 2 : 32-33). Paul took the argument forward in Galatians 3 : 26-29. ‘So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’. Jesus was an only child. Our Maker’s only child among us. No-one before like him, no-one after like him. I believe in - I take my stand on Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. Why did the first Christians think it was necessary to call Jesus ‘Lord’? Doubting Thomas may have been the first to do it. ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20 : 28). Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:3 ‘No-one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except through the Holy Spirit’. ‘Lord’ here is the equivalent of the Old Testament word for Yahweh or Jehovah. It is completing the circle, from Jesus to Christ, to God’s only Son, to our Lord. Jesus resurrected and ascended is Himself God. Sovereign and ruler always and forever. Describing Jesus’ eternal relationship to us and to the world. Thus was formed the Trinity.

How many Church of Scotland people ever say in their normal conversations that Jesus is Lord? Most Kirk folk struggle to articulate their faith, tongue-tied and embarrassed if asked what they believe? Even though they made profession of faith some even resent the topic being raised. Can you imagine a supporter of Cumnock Juniors never mentioning Cumnock Juniors? That is where we are though in the Kirk, and it is a significance cause of decline. Can you say ‘Jesus is Lord’ ‘Jesus is my Lord’? Could you shout it from the rooftops? Maybe you just do not have that inner liberation. Maybe you do not have the Holy Spirit sufficiently. People do here and there bring the term ‘The Lord’ into conversations. Kirk Session meetings can pass without any such reference however. Even the arch politico, narcissist and ultra- liberal former Moderator Andrew McLellan once was heard to say during a long committee meeting at 121 George Street. ‘We have been here for two hours and no-one has mentioned God’.

Confessing Jesus as Lord is the central creed of Christianity. It is our motto, our catchphrase, our advertising slogan, our creed. We manage to sing it collectively. But can we say it personally, individually? It means a lot in Christian terms, it speaks of a surrendered life to Jesus Christ. It speaks of conversion, of obedience, of love of Jesus, of growing Christian life.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. I take my stand on Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.

‘Jesus is Lord! Creation's voice proclaims it For by His power, each tree and flower Was planned and made Jesus is Lord! The universe declare it Sun, moon and stars in heaven Cry,"Jesus is Lord!"

Robert Anderson 2017

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