The Work of Jesus in The Nicene Creed

August 1, 2017
Darrell L. Bock and Mikel Del Rosario

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Topic Time Codes

00:15
Understanding the section on Jesus in the Nicene Creed
05:01
Uniqueness of Jesus in the incarnation
12:22
Death of Jesus as a substitute for us
18:21
Historical and theological importance of the resurrection
29:11
Ascension of Jesus to the position of authority
31:09
Return of Jesus as the eschatological judge
32:57
Implications of Jesus’ deity
37:18
Implications of Jesus’ humanity

Resources

Nicene Creed Translation © 1988, Faith Alive Christian Resources, Christian Reformed Church in North America

Transcript

Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to The Table, where we discuss issues of God and culture. I'm Mikel Del Rosario, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center. Our topic today is Jesus – the works of Jesus – and specifically the deeds of Jesus that are mentioned in the Nicene Creed. My guest in the studio today is Dr. Darrell Bock, Executive Director of Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center and Senior Research Professor of New Testament at Dallas Seminary. Thanks for being here, Darrell.
Dr. Darrell Bock
My pleasure. It's good to be in this seat instead of that one.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, we are in a series on the Nicene Creed. This is the third part in our series, where we're kinda walking through the things that Christians believe. And many Christians affirm their faith through reciting the Nicene Creed, man people weekly. And we'd like you to help us unpack some of the things that the creed talks about in terms of the works of Jesus. And so let's take a look at these things that Nicene Creed mentions about what Jesus did.

The section we're talking about today starts out like this. For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven. He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end." And so one of the key parts of this creed is all about Jesus, because there was a lot of discussion about who Jesus was and how he's related to God the Father even the Holy Spirit. So this starts out by saying that for us and our salvation was the point of Jesus coming. How do we Jesus' mission presented in the Gospels?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, just to set some context, we're in the second portion of this creed, which is confess that Jesus the Lord Jesus Christ, and he's the son of God. We believe in one God, and then it talks about the Father Almighty, then the son. It goes on to talk about the Spirit. In the first part it's talked about the person of Jesus, because of the challenge of Arianism really in its design to articulate the Trinitarian belief of orthodoxy and place the son in that conversation.

And so this section is part two of the discussion of Jesus. Part one dealt with his person saying things like, "He is uniquely related to the Father as son, that he shares the same essence as the Father, and thus is truly God”. Now that's underscored by the career of his actual ministry. So we start off with this emphasis on where he has come from, that he has become incarnate and has come to Earth.

All this is being done so that we can enter into a restored relationship with the living God. When it says "for us and for our salvation," we're talking about this restored relationship with God that is a core part of what it means to be saved, to be delivered if you will and to be brought back into fellowship with the living God.

Although it's interesting, in the confession there's not anything explicitly about sin, and the cross, and how that works. I mean, it's alluded to certainly in his dying and suffering. There's no specific language about the soteriological details of how that works. This is the affirmation that Jesus is the key to salvation and that our salvation is a direct result of his work on our behalf as the one who takes our place and who bears sin for us.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so for us and for our salvation, we see Jesus coming as a suffering servant?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yes, in part. Yes, he's coming as a suffering servant. He comes as the Messiah. He comes in the creed as the son of God who takes on humanity. Probably in the background here are texts like Philippians 2 where it talks about him emptying himself and taking on humanity in order to do the work of God. Of course, that's part of an exhortation to be humble in the way we live, much in the way God has condescended to take on humanity in the person of his son.
Mikel Del Rosario
And how like the angel told Joseph that Mary'd give birth to a son and he would save his people from their sins.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Exactly. So we've got this emphasis on this divine saving activity. And because this is a creed and it's crisp and short, a lot of the details that go underneath it are not filled in.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, then it starts talking about the incarnation a little bit more. The creed includes the idea that he came down from heaven, and it reminds us of Jesus being the one who descended in Ephesians 4. Where do we see Jesus indicating that he came from heaven?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, the clearest passage really for this probably is John 1, the idea that in the beginning was the word. The word was with God, and the word was God. And then later on it says, "And the word became," there's our verb, "Became flesh." So the idea here is this idea of you had the pre-existent word. He was disembodied, if I can say it that way, who takes on the limitations of incarnations and comes to Earth. So obviously, John 1's important.

I've already alluded to Philippians 2, which says the same thing in a different way. It talks about him not seeking to hold onto – to grasp his deity – but emptied himself in taking on the form of a servant, talking about his taking on humanity. This is in, of course, Philippians 2:6-11, part of what most people regard as a hymn there. And so we've got these texts that indicate that Jesus consciously took on the role of becoming human on our behalf and ministering to the world that needed deliverance.
Mikel Del Rosario
When Jesus says things like, "I have come," does that kinda allude to that as well?
Dr. Darrell Bock
It can. It can just be kind of a mission statement about why he's come. I've come for this reason. But it probably does allude to the idea of why he was sent. There's a ton of sent language, particularly in the Gospel of John. "The Father has sent me." He refers to himself as the sent one, that kind of thing. It has to do with being sent to this – to and for this mission and to accomplish these goals related to salvation that he has come to perform. As well as, of course, he models the way in which someone who's a human being can and should walk with God.
Mikel Del Rosario
So he came down from heaven, hints at pre-existence and deity as well.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's correct. It suggests that he has a heavenly origin. He'd already confessed that he's true God, that he's light, from light, those kinds of things, to make the point. This is a divine figure who's doing this, and then he steps into Earth and takes on the incarnation and the limits of humanity at the same time.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, as we walk on through, it goes on to say that by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man. So here we're talking about how Jesus left heaven to come to Earth…Now for some of our skeptical friends, it's pretty hard to imagine that something like this could actually happen. But if we think about reasons why the church might make something up like this, would it help at all to help the Christian faith win Jewish converts?
Dr. Darrell Bock
No. The background for this – sometimes skeptics will make a point that this is being done on the basis of models coming out of the Greco-Roman world and really is a later development in the church. But I just don’t think that works. You are in the first century. The predominance of believers, at least initially, are coming out of a Jewish background.

They don’t care for anything of the mixture of the kind of mythic stories where you get gods responsible for the birth of great kings, which is usually where the parallel is said to come from. And that's certainly not the way this passage is being conceived. Because in the Greco-Roman world, a human being gets promoted to the level of a god because of the quality of leadership that they give, the way in which they lead. It's a way of honoring someone by saying, "Oh, he watched over us like a god."

And with that promotion, you kind of go to the bottom of the pantheon. You don’t get to sit next to Zeus. But what is being depicted in the Christian faith is not anything like that at all. This is a declaration of God choosing to take on humanity. After all, if he's the creator, if he runs, manages, sustains a creation, he can handle the creation in any way he wants and desires.

He can be as creative with it as anything that allowed the creation to begin with. So that's the backdrop against which this is done. And then he steps in and takes on humanity this way. And Jesus doesn't go to the bottom of any pantheon, 'cause there is in one sense no pantheon to be a member of. There's only one God.

He's portrayed as sitting with God the Father in heaven, being part of this Trinitarian relationship. That's something God does on his behalf. And so the spirit is very involved in the virgin birth from the very beginning. And this is a unique doctrine. It doesn't have connections to either this Greco-Roman pagan background, and it certainly is a stretch for Jewish belief as well.
Mikel Del Rosario
And in fact that was kind of an embarrassment, if I can say it that way. It caused suspicion on Jesus and Mary.
Dr. Darrell Bock
You know, they're creating a doctrine that in one sense steps into very controversial space if it's not true. These very difficult things, sometimes the apologetic is well, the reason they're there is because they were there. You wouldn't invent it this way, 'cause you're creating more problems for yourself than you really need to create for yourself if it isn't a real part of the story.
Mikel Del Rosario
And they didn't go around talking about the virgin birth all the time. It wasn't a key part of their preaching.
Dr. Darrell Bock
No. The two passages I mentioned are the two places where it's most explicitly mentioned. Although there are other places that hint about Jesus being pre-existent and coming to Earth or that emphasize his role as creator and then contrast that with the work that he did on Earth as Redeemer, Colossians 1 being an example of this. And so no, they didn't talk directly about the event itself, but they did talk a lot about the fact that Jesus came from heaven and took on humanity. There are a variety of ways in which that's said in the New Testament.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so what we have coming together here then is Jesus' heavenly origin and his being born on Earth.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's right. This idea that here is – I call it Jesus' in one in a gazillion, and a gazillion's a big number. This is the uniqueness of Jesus, and that is that he is both fully God and fully man now incarnate in a human body. That is contrast by the way to Docetism, which would say that it's beneath God to take on any kind of material characteristics, anything like that.

It's an idea that's struggled with in some religions today, for Muslims for example. The idea that God could be human, and go through human functions, and have human limitations is something that they see as an affront to the doctrine of God. But in fact in the Christian faith, it's seen as actually an illustration of how committed God is to participate in his creation, to condescend to it, to be a reflection of it, and to care for those who are a part of it.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, now we move to the death and the burial of Jesus. The creed goes on to say that "For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried." And in Greek it says that this happened hyper hēmas either for us, or because of us, maybe even on our behalf. How do we understand that phraseology?
Dr. Darrell Bock
This is usually understood to be some type of substitution where he bears the penalty for our sin. He takes on that which we're unable to take care of for ourselves. So on our behalf or in place of us is the idea here. Obviously, we benefit from that. It becomes for us. But usually it's the substitutionary idea that's in view here. There's a variety of pictures that are applied to it. But again, the picture of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, "The one who bears our reproach," is a picture of what we're talking about here.

The way in which sacrifices in the Old Testament were undertaken in which an animal suffers in our place. And in some cases, you put the hands on the sacrifice to show the transfer of the responsibility. Those variety of images inform what's going on here. The joke is you always have to wear your yarmulke when you read the New Testament. You gotta think Jewishly on what the Hebrew Scriptures in the Old Testament are saying, because that often forms the background for what's going on.

Mikel Del Rosario
So that's the theological component of this. This historical component of this is sometimes people have questions about the historicity of the crucifixion. But from a scholarly perspective, basically nobody questions. This is one of the bedrock things about Jesus, isn't it?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, you do meet a few people who try and question this. Most people working even in classical scholarship recognize this is actually, for an ancient event, very well attested. Not only do we have the testimony of the Gospels, but we have a snippet of Josephus that most scholars recognize as authentic. It's debated, but some recognize as authentic.

They talk about a death under Pontius Pilate. We have allusions as well in the Roman historian Tacitus in a work called The Annals, which also alludes indirectly – it alludes to the death directly, the death under Pontius Pilate. So it alludes to crucifixion as well. So Jesus is portrayed as having been slain under Pontius Pilate.

And everything about the Jewish response to Jesus in the official rabbinic documents assumes his life. And so those who argue that Jesus is a complete myth who's been made up by the early church, you're dismissing a ton of multiply attested testimonies to the fact that Jesus existed. That even applies to his death.
Mikel Del Rosario
And nobody could've survived the full procedure.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, you're talking about the actual crucifixion itself.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yes, the crucifixion an extremely horrific way to die. It involved terrific suffering. It was so horrific that a Roman citizen could not be crucified. They were protected from this extreme form of punishment. It was a death that was designed to communicate shame and to scare people. This is the death that Jesus actually chose to undertake.

It's his testimony before both the Jewish leadership, in particular before the Jewish leadership, that leads them to take him to Pilate for the charge of sedition. And so Jesus consciously produces the testimony that leads to his own death, because the Jewish leadership doesn't believe what he's claiming about himself.
Mikel Del Rosario
And then it talks about the burial as well. We read about that in Mark 15 and Luke 23 that Jesus was put in this tomb that some people will say, "Well, weren't a lot of people thrown into shallow graves? How do we know Jesus was put in a tomb?"
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well again, I think that you're dealing here with traditions in which there are people still alive who went through some of these events. And so to put forward a tradition that's completely fabricated has nothing to do with the truth is a problem. And you never get any indication from Jewish sources that point to the idea that Jesus was just left to rot on a cross, which is what this alternative theory basically is, that he's taken like any criminal and put in a generic grave. The sense that we have is that he was really buried in a location that was determined – he was buried in a way actually that honored Jewish tradition.

If you were a felon, if you were convicted as a felon, you couldn't be buried in a family tomb. And Jesus is not buried in a family tomb. He's buried in the tomb that is provided by Joseph of Arimathea, who's not a family member, but just a fellow Jew. And so that actually honors Jewish tradition. So just as Pilate was gracious in granting the body to Joseph, Joseph buries him in a way that fits with what Jews' tradition says about the way someone who had been crucified should be buried if they're going to get a separate burial.
Mikel Del Rosario
So for us as Christians, we believe these things historically, and we believe these things theologically as well.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's correct. They operate at both levels.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, and so the creed is highlighting both of those things.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's correct.
Mikel Del Rosario
So I think we're starting to see a snapshot of the Gospel that's being presented for us as we take a look at this creed and things that Jesus did.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yes, that's very, very true. We're talking about a death for sin. We're talking about Jesus taking on humanity on our behalf, bearing sin as one who has walked with God perfectly. It's the langue of the Book of Hebrews. And so yeah, so we've set the table. Then all that's left is the vindication part. We've got a dead Jesus after he's crucified.

But on the third day he rises from the dead. The creed moves on to confess this, of course, as we're gonna talk about. And that represents the vindication of God, because Jesus actually announced where he was going before the resurrection happened when he was on trial before the Jewish leadership.
Mikel Del Rosario
Unpack that a little bit more for us, Jesus being vindicated at the resurrection.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, the point here is that there's a huge dispute going on before the Jewish leadership at his trial. The Jewish leaders think that Jesus is blaspheming God, that he is insulting God by the kinds of prerogatives that he claims for himself, things like forgiving sin. And that these claims about the tightness of his relationship to the Father are causes for offense.

Jesus is claiming that God's gonna exalt him so that when the tomb goes empty – basically his answer at the trial when he talks about riding the clouds as the Son of Man and God ceding him as Lord at his right hand – combination of Psalm 110 and Daniel 7 – is God's gonna vindicate me. That vindication is God's vote in our dispute. So when that tomb goes empty, I've told you that God has taken me to his right hand to share in this judgment authority because that's the picture of Daniel 7 – the Son of Man rides the clouds to receive judgment authority. And so you're accountable, not just to the God of Israel, you're also accountable to me.

So you may sentence me to death, but one day this whole scene is gonna be reversed. I will not be the defendant, and you will not be the judges. But you will be the defendant, and I will be the judge. That's not gonna be a good scene if you crucify me. So that's the picture of the claim. So when the tomb goes empty – I often joke about this – Jesus says in effect you can write me at www.righthandofgod.com. I will be alive and will be in communication with the creation. I will be a part of God's rule and of God's kingdom, and we will go from there.
Mikel Del Rosario
I wanna start out this section by talking about and older creed, much older than 325 AD, and this is the creed in 1 Corinthians 15 where the apostle Paul quotes this ancient creed from way before Nicaea, way before the New Testament documents were even written. Part of it says this, "That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. That he was buried, that he was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures."

Now by the time we get to 325, we read something very similar in the Nicene Creed. He's suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. Do you know if this came from the same creed, or what's the connection here?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, no. What's happening in the creed is that in spots it mirrors scriptural language. But it doesn't do it the way we do it today, which is when we do that, we might put in parentheses the verse that it came from. It just mirrors that language. And so that's what you're getting here. You're getting a mirroring of 1 Corinthians 15 language, particularly with the refrain according to the scripture.
Mikel Del Rosario
With a strong continuity, it kinda highlights the idea that this wasn't something the church was making up in 325.
Dr. Darrell Bock
No, the church is summarizing something that it's believed for centuries. It's articulating in very crisp form, the core teachings in this section about Jesus. But in the document as a whole, it's confession of the Trinity. And so this wording, which of course was originally written in 325 and then was updated in 381, is an attempt to allude back and show the scriptural roots. So every now and again you get a phrase, for example the creation of things visible and invisible. Interestingly enough, talking about God the Father – but in the New Testament that's the language that gets applied to the son – is another example of the same kind of thing.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so thinking about Paul receiving this, the church is very careful to be passing on what was handed down by the apostles.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's exactly right. We're dealing here with the very core doctrine that goes back to the very earliest times of the church in terms of what's believed. Now there were a lot of ways in which those beliefs were expressed, a lot of terminology applied to it. And in the case of this creed, there's terminology that's explanatory, that's designed to develop what was believed. So that when we get to the discussion of the person of Jesus earlier on in the creed, we've got technical terms being used with regard to the one in essence with the Father and that kind of thing.

Which took centuries really to sort out in terms of what's the exact way to express what this relationship is? But in this section of the creed where we're basically articulating things that Jesus did in his life and ministry, these you could almost go back to the Gospels and you could say, "Oh, that line is that passage. That line is that passage."
Mikel Del Rosario
And when we think about Paul receiving this material, again he's the persecutor beforehand. Then he has an encounter with Jesus. As we're talking about the resurrection, how does the apostle Paul receiving this tradition, even converting to the Christian faith, how does that help us with the historical case for Jesus' resurrection?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, Paul was originally someone who didn't believe any of this, and who knew what the official Jewish position was against Jesus, and deeply held to it as a deeply held conviction. He got converted to the faith – he saw a vision of God. And actually in his mind, he basically completed what had already been promised to Judaism. So in his mind, it probably wasn't as much a conversion as we tend to talk about it as much as it was a change of mind about Jesus.

Anyway, this experience probably took place somewhere around 18 months after the crucifixion itself and after the resurrection itself. So we're literally on top of the timing of these events with this high Christology that Paul confesses, that he believes that he is drawn to by seeing the risen Lord. We talked about that tomb being empty and what it meant.

So he would've recognized that that – he probably heard some of the preaching of the apostles in persecuting them et cetera, or certainly was aware of what they taught. All of a sudden it dawned on him, that stuff that I'm hearing from those guys, it's actually looks to be pretty true. And he got to spend a couple of days in reflection after that experience and then, of course, became one of the chief theologians with the first century church.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, so it's not the case that only Jesus' friends who missed him so much said they saw him. We have people like Paul who are enemies of the –
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, exactly right. And who knew what was going on in Jerusalem, knew the burial situation, knew what the official Jewish position was 'cause he held it. In fact, he had Christians arrested for what they believed and was responsible for that. Was a witness to the murder of Stephen. He's aware of all that is going on. And even in the midst of being aware of that, he became convinced that Jesus was who he claimed to be.
Mikel Del Rosario
Now on the one hand it was pretty surprising to Jesus' disciples that he would rise from the dead. On the other hand it's almost like it shouldn't have been that surprising to them as Jesus himself actually unpacked that all this was according to the Scriptures. Help us understand that a little bit.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, I think the problem here is that the belief in a Messiah in the earliest Judaism really had the idea that he would come and bring victory. They didn't have any association to the idea that a Messiah would suffer. So they were anticipating what I call the Arnold Schwarzenegger Messiah. It doesn't get as far as "I'll be back." It's just simply this powerful, victorious figure who's gonna conquer everything.

The text says when he announced the fact that he was gonna suffer, and be given over, and rise on the third day, it says the disciples didn't understand this. And I don’t think that means they didn't get his words. They couldn't unpack the language of what he was saying. They couldn't get how that fit into the program. They didn't understand how it would be possible for a Messiah to suffer and rise from the dead. And the other issue here is that there is no view of a resurrection in the midst of history.

Resurrection is something Jews believe happened at the end of history in preparation for the final judgment. So you've got a couple of things that are going on here for which there wasn't the expectation. And sometimes if you don’t have the expectation, you won't see it. That's what I think is going on here. So Jesus would repeat himself. They wouldn't get it. And not only did they not get it, the didn't even get it at the end.

Because there's no indication that they really thought, "Okay, we'll just count to the third day." They're counting inclusively, each part of a day counts. We'll count on the third day, and then we'll just wait for something to happen. No, the women who went to the tomb went to the tomb to anoint a dead body. They were caught very off guard when they got to the tomb. Their services were no longer required.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, the women, again, a great example of more evidence for the historical resurrection –
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right. You wouldn't make up a story that says, "We're gonna sell a very difficult idea that most of the culture doesn't buy – the idea of a bodily resurrection. The way we're gonna do that is use people as witnesses, as the first witnesses who don’t count culturally as witnesses." Women, generally speaking, weren't viewed as someone whose testimony could or should be honored and approached. There are only very limited circumstances in which a woman's testimony counted in a legal and cultural situation. So you're not gonna make up a story that has a very difficult event that you're trying to prove and have the first people to vouch for it be people who don’t count culturally.
Mikel Del Rosario
That's kinda like the virgin birth thing as well. Why make it harder for the Christian message to be accepted, right?
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's right. The only reason that you got difficulties in it is because the difficulties were there and a part of the story.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. Another question people tend to ask as well – if Jesus rose from the dead, where'd he go? And the next part of the creed actually says, "He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father." We see this language in Mark 14 and Mark 16, but help us understand what it means to actually be seated at the right hand of the Father.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, this is language that comes from Psalm 110:1. It's the language of exaltation. It is put in a context where clearly we're talking about a seating that takes place in heaven. Jesus is sitting with God in heaven. Now again, I alluded to this earlier. You gotta put on your yarmulke for a second. You gotta think Jewishly.

There's only one God. There's only one God who receives honor and glory. There's only one God who's worshipped. There's only one God who runs things. So how is it that someone could sit with God and I say park with God in heaven, and share in his authority and his honor, be worshipped, et cetera? That says something about the person who's seated with God.

And so this right hand of God is talking about the position of authority that God has established for Jesus by raising him from the dead, showing who he is and who he was all along. In the midst of that, Jesus steps into a role of authority that he then exercise from that point on. So much so that the church confessed him as the Lord Jesus Christ, showing this authority that he possesses.
Mikel Del Rosario
And in a monotheistic context, God doesn't share his glory with another. What's going on here?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Exactly. If someone can share the throne with God, can be seated with him, share the perceptions of him, do the acts with the authority that he possesses – I mean you're getting baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are religious rights being carried out in the name of the deity. Then you're communicating something about who you think Jesus is.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, he came down from heaven once. Then he ascended. But the creed says he's coming back.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's right.
Mikel Del Rosario
The creed says, "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end." What are some ways that we see Jesus presenting himself as the eschatological judge?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, the key way that he does it is by the very name that he prefers to refer to himself, which is Son of Man. This is a title that comes out of Daniel 7. It's a unique image in the Old Testament. It's a human being. Son of Man simply means son of a human being, so it's like saying Carol's son, or John's son.

It's a human being. It's a human descendant, but he's riding the clouds. Only God rides the clouds in the Old Testament. So it's a picture of a divine activity possessed by a human being who goes to receive judgment authority from the Father. That's from the ancient of days. So this is a picture of total authority, and this is the way Jesus referred to himself.

And then the church preached, particularly to gentile audiences, that God had appointed one to be the judge of the living and the dead. And so this judgment authority is another responsibility that shows who he is. It points to the fact that he is the eschatological judge, that he will be the one making the call in the end, so it's probably a good idea to be properly related to him.
Mikel Del Rosario
[Laughs] That's right. Well, it reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount where he says, "People are gonna say to me, 'Lord, Lord. In that day,'" which is clearly at the last day. People are appealing to him as the eschatological judge using that term Lord, right?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Yeah, When he responds and says, "Away from me. I never knew you," that's not what you wanna hear.
Mikel Del Rosario
No. [Laughs] So now we wanna talk about some of the implications of these truths that we've discussed together. We see Jesus' humanity and deity coming together in this language that we've been looking at. How does denying Jesus' deity, for example – whether someone in Islam, someone in Jehovah's Witnesses, or even critical scholars who reject Jesus' deity – what does that do to one's understanding of salvation in the Christian view?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, what it does is it disqualifies Jesus from being the Savior, so it kind of discounts that there is a salvation that's on offer from him. So he's able to have the authority to bear sin and to undertake the bearing of sin in part because of the position that he occupies. And then on the flip side, on the eschatological judge side, if he doesn't have the authority to be God, then it puts him in a difficult place in terms of the exercising of judgment. It certainly doesn't make sense at a baptism.

Because if I baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, but the Son does not have the divine authority to – as the one who portrays what the washing of baptism represents, I've lost something there. So all these activities that the church has that portrayed the authority of Jesus get eviscerated by a denial of Jesus' deity. So Jesus is a divine Savior. He's not a human Savior. This is part of what makes Christianity unique. The reason the creed exists in part is to make the point you cannot believe authentically as a Christian and not believe that Jesus is divine.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so think about if Jesus wasn't divine, then he would be reduced to a good example for us maybe. Certainly not someone who's mighty to save.
Dr. Darrell Bock
Or perhaps a great figure who has been connected to the salvation process. But Jesus in the New Testament doesn't allow you that option. I tell people really there are two options for Jesus in the New Testament. He either is who he claims to be, and so the exaltation really happened and God showed who he was, or he is a blasphemer. He's made claims far beyond what any human being should, and the Jewish leadership is right. Those are the two options on the table coming out of the New Testament.

And the resurrection – and this why it's in all the creeds – the resurrection is God's vote in that dispute, and it reduces those two options down to one. You know CS Lewis has the famous liar, lunatic, or Lord – what's called the trilemma? And I tease people. I say, "That's way too complicated as far as the New Testament is concerned." Jesus is either from above, or he's from below.

Those are the two options. He will not allow you to have him occupy that middle space of being a religious worthy or a great example. He's not a prophet. That's not the category that he's put in. He either is responsible for executing the salvation that the program of the Father has laid out, or he isn't. And those are your two options on the table.
Mikel Del Rosario
So he's not just the greatest man who ever lived.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's right.
Mikel Del Rosario
He's not just an exalted prophet. He's either the Lord of all or not Lord at all.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's correct. And so this is simple math. You got two options. You take one away, you got one left. That's the picture of what you're getting. And the creed is trying to affirm that very, very clearly. The bulk of the creed really is about the Son. There's a one-sentence discussion of the Father at the start. There's a paragraph that covers the spirit and a few implications of the Trinity in the program of God at the end. But the bulk of this creed deals with the person of Jesus Christ on the one hand and the work that he performs on the other.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, it's a very, very Christo-centric creed.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's correct.
Mikel Del Rosario
So Jesus' deity is very strongly affirmed. How does denying Jesus' humanity now – we'll flip it. We'll ask how does denying Jesus' humanity affect the atonement?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, it gets in the way of his ability to represent us, his ability to identify with us, the ability to show that you can go through life as a human being and not sin. You can walk with God. And then to represent us as a perfect sacrifice in our place, all that is at risk if there isn't this connection, this solidarity with humanity that Jesus takes on in the incarnation. And so part of the core of what makes the work on the cross is possible is the fact that Jesus is a human being, dies as a human being to take on the debt that human beings have before God and to take their place as a human being on their behalf.
Mikel Del Rosario
That sounds a lot like what Anselm of Canterbury wrote about in Cur Deus Homo. Why did God have to become a man?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Right. Technically called penal substitution is what we're talking about. That he bears the penalty by becoming the substitution that bears that penalty on our behalf. And in the midst of doing that, our ability to be declared righteous and not be held accountable for sins that we have committed becomes possible. So this is a huge part of the program of God that Jesus be seen as human, and he be seen in taking on this representative role.

It allows Paul to make the great contrast that he does in Romans 5 between people who are in Adam and people who are in Christ. Jesus is portrayed as a second Adam. But you can't be a second Adam unless you have basic Adamic qualifications, which means that you're human.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah, so we see that in Paul as well. So we've kinda walked through the whole Gospel through the second part of the creed. We have who Jesus is, what he's done, and then the implications for us. What would you say would be – just from this portion of the creed – what would the implications be for somebody who's responding to this?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, obviously the key thing that's portrayed here is the sense of gratitude one would have for someone taking on a debt that really is their own responsibility. This is at the core of what grace is, and grace is supposed to be a terrific motivator for faithfulness toward God. I have a gratitude because I understand the debt that has been paid on my behalf.

Jesus has a wonderful parable in Luke 7 in the midst of being anointed by the sinful woman, in which he talks about a man who has a small debt and a second man who has a much greater debt. They're both being forgiven, and he asks the Pharisee as he's telling the parable, "Okay, which one do you think would've loved him more?" And the Pharisee answers quite correctly, "I suppose the one who's been forgiven the greater debt."

And so the sense is, the greater my sense of appreciation for the amount of debt that God has canceled on my behalf on the basis of his grace, the greater will be my love, will be my gratitude, and my love, and my responsiveness to God. So I like to tell people if you're having trouble being responsive to God, it may be because you have a sense of entitlement, that God owes you this in some way. And the moment you move in that direction, you actually undercut the way grace works.

Because the way grace works is as I understand, someone has undertaken something for me on my behalf that he didn't have to undertake, and that actually removes me from a deep condition of need and debt, takes it out of the way. I would have gratitude towards that person. The illustration I like to use, imagine you had a huge debt like a house mortgage that you couldn't pay.

The banker, when you couldn't pay, instead of saying, "Well, we're gonna take your house 'cause you defaulted on the mortgage," says, "Here, I'm gonna write a check for the amount of that house. Go cash it, the house is yours." You'd probably tell your neighbors about that banker. That's the picture of the grace of God.
Mikel Del Rosario
Yeah. This snapshot of the Gospel that we see in this section emphasizes Jesus' divinity and humanity. We see how he comes down from heaven, but then he's also born on Earth. Then we see his suffering and dying on Earth as well. But then his resurrection and his ascension shows us that his work of salvation for us is in fact efficacious.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's right. And then of course the latter part of this confession, the creed talks about his return 'cause he's not done. There's a judgment that he's gonna exercise. His kingdom is never gonna end. Once established, it's there forever and ever. And so this is someone to whom you're accountable.

One of the core ideas coming out of the Bible, particularly for people who have no biblical background, who don’t understand Genesis, or Malachi, or Matthew, or Revelation, who really know nothing about the biblical story, the key way into conversation with them in the New Testament in the first century was, "Well, there's a creator, and you're a creature, and you're accountable in your relationship with him. It's an allusion to the idea of being made in the image of God or made for a relationship with God."

We're talking about reestablishing that relationship that has been broken by sin and the accountability that we have. So there's a reminder that at the end, everyone will give an account. You will become quite aware that you're accountable to God. And so you wanna think about how you approach that assessment that's coming one day.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, his kingdom will have no end. The kingdom was a huge part of his preaching. And how do we tie the messianic theme into the kingdom there?
Dr. Darrell Bock
Well, of course the Messiah's the one who delivers. There' s a rule that is anticipated that will cover the entirety of the Earth one day. It will come according to Revelation 20 in the thousand-year reign initially, and then a new heaven and a new Earth eventually. Where he will express his sovereignty across the creation, eventually he will bring us shalom that touches all the creation.

That's part of the program. So the creed is alluding to the consummation of this kingdom promise in the resolution and restoration of the creation that one day is – actually the goal of the entire program isn't just to save individuals. It's actually to restore the creation to fullness and wholeness.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so our response then to Jesus when we respond positively to him – actually we get to enter that kingdom now.
Dr. Darrell Bock
That's right. We get to enter that kingdom now. We get the benefits of forgiveness of sins. We also get the benefit of the provision of the Spirit, which enables us to walk with God. This is the story of Romans. People are dead at the beginning, and they are declared righteous. And then they get the Spirit of God so they can walk with God, and they look forward to the consummation one day. Romans 8 looks forward to the day when creation stops groaning.
Mikel Del Rosario
Amen. Thanks so much for being with us today, Darrell.
Dr. Darrell Bock
My pleasure.

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