“And in Jesus Christ, Our Lord – Pt. II”

Text: The Second Article

Today we continue our Lenten study of the Apostles’ Creed. So far we’ve learned from the First Article about God the Father. We’ve learned that He has made us and all creatures, and has given us all we need to support this body and life. And, He still continues to take care of us. He guards and defends us against all evil. We don’t deserve any of these things; God does them because He is love. And, because God is love, the Father sent forth His only-begotten into the flesh to bear our sin and be our savior.

Two weeks ago we looked at the words of the Second Article up to our Lord’s death and burial. For us and for our salvation, Christ our Lord stepped down from His throne on high. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He became both fully God and fully man – but not by changing from one into the other; instead, by taking our humanity upon Himself. For our salvation, He became subject to God’s Law and kept it perfectly. As payment for our transgressions, Christ offered Himself up on the cross and breathed His last. The Son of God did truly die and was buried.

This week we pick up with what happened next. After Jesus died and was buried, He was made alive again. After He had risen from the dead, but before leaving the tomb, Christ descended to hell. He didn’t go there to suffer, nor to release anyone, but to proclaim His victory over death and the devil. On the third day Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to His disciples and others for forty days. He did many things to prove He was alive and taught His disciples about the kingdom of God. After the forty days, Jesus ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God, where He rules all things for our benefit. On the Last Day He will come again to judge both the living and the dead.

I.

In our last look at the Creed we learned that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. In theological talk this idea is called, “The Two Natures of Christ.” It means that Jesus, fully and at the same time possesses, both divine and human natures. In Christ these natures are so united that we can’t separate them without doing great harm to the faith expressed in the Scriptures. We confess that Jesus Christ is fully God because the Scriptures clearly call Him God, they describe His divine attributes, and they show Him doing things only God can do. We confess that Jesus is man because the Scriptures also clearly call Him a man, describe His human characteristics, and show Him doing and suffering things as humans do. Only as man could He take our place, suffer and die. Only as God could His death atone for the sins of the whole world. This is what we mean when we say that Christ is both God and Man, or that He possesses two natures.

Today we’re going to learn another idea. It’s called, “The Two States of Christ,” which are the Humiliation and the Exaltation. All the things we’ve talked about so far have been part of Christ’s humiliation. His humiliation is the time, beginning with His conception, when Christ did not always and not fully use His divine powers. He did use His powers when it was appropriate to His work, but in His humiliation He refrained from the full and total use of His power. St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.”

Christ’s state of humiliation is the time when He did not fully use His divine power. It began with His conception and ended with His death. His exaltation is the time – now – when He always and fully uses His divine power. His exaltation began with His descent into hell, continued in His resurrection and ascension, and still is going today as Christ cares and watches over us from the right hand of God the Father. St. Paul wrote, “[Christ] humbled Himself by becoming obedient unto death…therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.”

II.

The first event of Christ’s exaltation is, as we confess in the Creed, “He descended into hell.” The reason why we believe that His descent is not part of His suffering is because of Jesus’ words from the cross, “It is finished.” Jesus meant that His work of atoning for our sins was complete with His death. Therefore, anything which comes after that is not part of His suffering, but His exaltation. This is how St. Peter frames it, “Christ also suffered once for sins…that He might bring us to God, [having been] put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison.” The word “proclaimed” is understood by its context to mean that Christ descended to hell neither to suffer, nor to offer a second chance to those who were there, but to proclaim to the devil and the souls of the unbelievers that He had conquered. The when of Christ’s descent is after His resurrection but before leaving the tomb. As for the how, we will have to leave that to when we know more in the new creation.

On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. That is the chief confession of our faith. We can leave the narrative of Easter to when we celebrate it again in few weeks. The Scriptures teach that after Christ rose from the grave, He remained on earth for forty days. Scripture gives two reasons for His appearances after the resurrection. It says in Acts 1, “He presented Himself alive to [the disciples] after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking to them about the kingdom of God.” Jesus appeared to the women, to Peter, to the rest of the disciples, to the five hundred brothers at the same time, to James, and to Paul. He allowed them to touch Him and even ate to prove to them that He was alive. Then, as St. Luke writes, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

III.

When the forty days were complete, Jesus led His disciples as far as Bethany and, as the Creed says, “ascended into heaven.” We learn from Scripture that this was a true and literal ascension. Jesus was visibly lifted up into the clouds before the disciples’ eyes. After ascending into heaven, Christ resumed His position at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The Right Hand of God is not one literal location, but it extends everywhere and every place. The Right Hand of God means that Christ now rules and fills all things.

He can now be in all places at all times, which is a particular comfort for us in our suffering. Because Christ has ascended into heaven and no longer refrains from using His power, He can be and truly is with us at all times and in all places. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “[God the Father] raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

Finally, in the Creed we confess, “From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.” The Scripture says, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” We believe that on the Last Day – God the Father alone knows the date – Jesus will return. When He returns He will raise the bodies of all the dead and, as our Lord Himself says, “will sit on His glorious throne,” to judge the world in His righteousness. Those who rejected Him and His Word will return, in both body and soul, to eternal torment. Those who believed in Him and His Word will enter into the eternal joy of the new creation.

Now, how may all of this be a comfort to us? We confess that Jesus Christ suffered once for the sins of the whole world. By suffering in our place, He who is both God and Man, secured for us the forgiveness of our sins and the joy of eternal life. When He had risen from the dead, He descended into hell to proclaim His victory. This comforts us because Christ truly has defeated death and the devil; they no longer have any claim over those who are in Christ. He proved throughout those forty days that He was alive. So, too, will those who believe in Him rise from the dead in glorified bodies. By His ascension to the right hand of the Father, Christ continues to be with us at all times and in all places. He is able to comfort us in all distress and provide us with His own body and blood in His Supper. When He returns, He will gather us together with all the faithful to Himself to live in eternal peace and happiness.

Next week we will finish our Lenten devotion by studying the words of the Third Article.

The Mysterious Comfort of the Holy Trinity

** To listen to the sermon, please click here The Feast of the Holy Trinity **

Bulletin: 2016-05-22 The Feast of the Holy Trinity

Text: Is. 6:1-8; Jn. 3:1-17; The Creed

“Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.” Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity – a day set aside to focus not on an event in Christ’s life, but a teaching. Most of the other Church holidays celebrate a part of Christ’s life (such as Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost), but today we focus on a dogma of the Church, a doctrine that has been held by all Christians since Adam.

Just a few moments ago we recited the Athanasian Creed. It’s probably most well known for being the longest of the three creeds. But, it’s also one of the best and most clear opportunities we get to confess our faith in the Triune God, the Living God of the Bible. In our time, because of its length, this creed usually gets confined to Trinity Sunday, but in times gone by it was the regular creed to be confessed on Sundays. In fact, that’s how Trinity Sunday came to be. It’s not celebrated because a bunch of pastors got together and decided to hammer people with one of the hardest teachings there is, but because the lay people wanted to talk and hear about the Trinity. At first, the pastors resisted, but I’m glad the day took root.

The Trinity is not something that we’re going to fully understand this side of heaven. It’s just not going to happen. In the new creation our minds will be restored to what they were created to be in Eden and we will know God fully even as we are fully known, like St. Paul says. Nevertheless, we can still believe and confess the doctrine of the Triune God from Scripture, which is vitally important. It’s important, because as the Creed said, you cannot be saved without believing in the Triune God. It doesn’t say you must totally understand it, but we must believe it, for the Triune God is who is revealed to us in the Scriptures. But, I think there’s another reason why the doctrine of the Trinity is important, and it’s what I’d like for us to take away today. The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the foundation of our faith and it comforts us in every distress.

I.

It is true, however; you will not find the word “trinity,” in the Bible. Not because the doctrine isn’t there, but because the word “trinity,” simply didn’t exist. There were no false teachings floating around that called the Triune God into question, so the Church never had to say anything other than, “We believe in one God: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” But, after Christ, many false teachers popped up – just like He said would happen – and they began to call our belief in God into question, particularly how Jesus was God, and then also the Holy Spirit. This is when the language of trinity started to appear; the word simply means “three.” Or, in the context of the Creed, “three-in-one.” We believe in one God, who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – The Triune God. We get this from Jesus when He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The First Person of the Trinity is the Father. Though all three persons are to be prayed to, we most often pray to the Father. We call Him Father because that is the language that Jesus gives us. For a number of weeks we were in John 15 and 16, where Jesus repeatedly taught that He was going to the Father. Jesus also says after the resurrection, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” There are many other places we could go, but for the sake of time we will leave that ‘till later. As I said in the beginning, the mystery of the Trinity is the foundation of our faith and it comforts us in every distress; so how does our understanding of God the Father comfort us?

As we confess in the Small Catechism, we ascribe to the Father the work of creation and preserving creation. That isn’t to say that the Son and Holy Spirit aren’t involved in those, just that when we talk about the Creator we are often talking about the Father. We confess that it is God our Father who forms us in our mother’s womb. Psalm 139 says that God knits together our inward parts. The Father is the one who provides us with food and drink, house and home, land and animals, and all that we need to support this body and life. Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that we don’t need to be anxious about these things, for our Father in heaven knows what we need and will provide. Why does God the Father provide these things for us? Because He loves us. That is the comfort of believing in God the Father – we have a God that we can call, and truly is our Father, who loves us and takes care of us.

II.

We also believe in God the Son. The Son is Jesus, our Lord and Savior. In our Gospel today we have one of the verses that teaches us about the Second person of the Trinity. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” We have a clear picture of Christ and His work in the New Testament. Repeatedly, He calls God His Father, and teaches that He and the Father are together one God with the Holy Spirit. In John’s Gospel Jesus even shows that He was the one who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. King David speaks the Father’s words to Jesus in the psalms when he wrote, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,’” and again,  “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’” Those words we know from Jesus’ Baptism.

How does the doctrine of God the Son comfort us? Hopefully you answered that question before it finished. We believe that God created all that there is, both visible and invisible. He created everything perfect, but creation rejected Him and fell into sin through the disobedience of Adam and Eve. As a result of the Fall, each and every human being is born corrupted by sin, with the desire to sin and despise the things of God. Since God is holy and righteous and cannot tolerate sin, He has vowed to judge sin and pour out His wrath against all sinners at Christ’s Return. But if God is a God of righteousness, then He is also a God of love and mercy. That is why He sent His Son.

We recognize the Son of God as our redeemer. The Second Person of the Trinity took our human nature upon Himself – not by turning from God into man, but by bringing humanity up into Himself. By becoming man Jesus took upon Himself our frailties and weaknesses, our sinfulness and the wrath and displeasure of God against our sin, and He died on the cross for us. This is our comfort, for because of Christ, we are at peace with God. Our sins are forgiven, and through His blood we will enter eternal life. The doctrine of the Second Person of the Trinity also comforts us because it teaches us that when we suffer in this life, we don’t suffer alone. Our God suffers with us. He is with us in every affliction and trial, every distress and tribulation. And, rather than sit off in the heavens doing nothing about human pain and suffering, our God does something about it. He took on flesh to be one with us in our suffering, so that we can be one with Him in His life.

III.

We also believe in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not just a power, energy, or force, but is fully God and Lord with the Father and the Son. One God in Three Persons. The Spirit should be fresh in our minds. Last week we celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles to preach in many different languages and to the ends of the earth. Before that, we spent half the Sundays in Easter in the chapters of John where Jesus speaks most clearly about the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. The Holy Spirit is spoken of in the Old Testament as being present at Creation, “hovering over the face of the waters,” and speaking through the prophets. King David said on his deathbed, “The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; His word is on my tongue.” St. Peter says that all of the prophets spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And, what did the prophets prophesy about? Jesus.

That’s what the Holy Spirit’s job is, to point us to Christ and God our Father. The Holy Spirit is the one poured out on the Apostles’ to preach the Gospel and on every Christian through the preaching of the Word and in the Holy Sacraments. It’s His job to continually direct us to the Son of God who died for our salvation, and to help us by pointing us to the same. St. Paul wrote these familiar words to the Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us…the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity, an opportunity to confess and praise the name of our Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This mystery is the foundation of our faith and a great source of comfort. For, we do not have a God who is distant or uninvolved or uncaring. We have a God and Father who creates all things and provides for us in every need. We also have His only Son, our Lord, who has redeemed us from our sins and is with us in all trial. We also have God the Holy Spirit who speaks to us and points us to Jesus in the Word, and who comforts us through the Word and the Sacraments. So, as we sang, we have one God in three persons, the blessed Trinity. Blessed be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity: Let us give glory to Him because He has shown His mercy to us. Amen.

The Apostles’ Creed

Today we continue our second week of Catechism study. Last week we focused on the Ten Commandments, about how they are God’s will for mankind, and yet we fail to keep them. We fail the very core of the Commandments, which is to love God and our neighbor. The only one to ever keep the Commandments is Jesus, who instead of claiming the blessing that would come from obedience, bore the curse of the Law and died to redeem us from our sins. If we were able to keep the Ten Commandments, then Scripture would stop at Mt. Sinai and there would be no New Testament, nor anything else in the Catechism to learn. However, today we move on to the Apostles’ Creed.

Martin Luther wrote,

I am also a doctor and preacher; yes, as learned and experienced as all the people who have such assumptions and contentment. Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism…I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so… [for] catechism study is a most effective help against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts. It helps to be occupied with God’s Word, to speak it, and meditate on it, just as the first Psalm declares people blessed who meditate on God’s Law day and night (Psalm 1:2).[1]

For this reason we continue to learn the Catechism today, particularly the Creed. In it we learn what every Christian should and must believe. In history, it has been divided into twelve articles, understanding that each of the Apostles contributed a line. There isn’t necessarily any proof for that, though the Creed is a summary of the teaching of the Apostles. For our purposes, the Creed is divided into three parts, which reflect the Triune God. First, the Father creates; second, the Son redeems; and Third, the Holy Spirit sanctifies.

I.

The First Article of the Creed confesses, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The First Commandment taught us to have no other Gods before God Almighty, and here we confess who God is, and what is His will and work. By saying God is the maker of heaven and earth, we confess exactly that. All that we see and have is the result of His work. We believe that He gives each of us our body and soul, our eyes, ears, and all our members. In addition to those things, He gives us food and drink, clothing, children, house and home. Besides even those things, He gives what we need to support this life, which include the sun and moon, air, fire, water, the earth and everything in it. To watch over these things, He also gives us good government, peace, and security.

From this we should learn that none of us owns themselves, nor can we preserve or create any of those things we just heard. This is true, whether we’re talking about something as small as a grain of wheat or as big as a jumbo jet. All these things are included in the work of God as Creator. What is more, not only does God give us these things, but He also guards and protects us against all evil. Like a good Father, He diverts danger and misfortune from His children. All of this He does out of Fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness within us.

This article is of one of those things that we all seem to know, and yet we don’t really consider what it means. If we did, maybe we would pride ourselves less in the lake house we just built or the new truck we have, thinking that those come as a result of our own hard work. The world works that way, and so abuses the gifts that God gives by denying Him the thanks and praise that we do owe Him. We know that we sin daily, and often use things that God gave us to sin. If that doesn’t make you shake for a second, I don’t know what will. That is why we must move on to the Second Article.

II.

The Second Article begins, “and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” Here we confess the work of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. After man had received all good gifts from God, the devil came and led the world into doubt, disobedience, sin and death. Because of these things the entire world, us included, was subjected to God’s wrath. But rather than destroy the world, God sent His only begotten Son into the world to be our Lord. Lord, in the sense that the Creed uses it, means to be our redeemer. God the Father is the Creator, and the Son is the Redeemer. He is the one who took on flesh to beat back Satan and rescue us from the powers of sin and death, giving us free forgiveness and eternal life.

The Second Article outlines the things He did to make that so. First, He became man. We learn that, for example, in John 1: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[2] He was conceived without sin and born of the Virgin Mary, as we read in Luke 1, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”[3] Then, as we read in 1 Corinthians, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [that] he was buried, [and] he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”[4] Lastly, as the angels testified at the Ascension, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

These things sum up the work of Christ as our Lord and Redeemer, but now we must move to the Third Article, which confesses how the benefits of Christ’s work get to us.

III.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” There are many kinds of spirits. There is the spirit of man, what Scripture calls heavenly spirits, and evil spirits; but there is only one spirit called “holy,” and that is God’s. It is the Holy Spirit who makes holy and continues to make holy. Just as the Father is the Creator and the Son is the Redeemer, we call the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. His work is done after Christ won for us forgiveness by His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit gives us the benefits of Christ through the Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

First, the Holy Spirit brings us into the Church, the communion of saints. Apart from the work of the Spirit, we cannot know Christ or believe in Him. The Holy Spirit calls us to Christ through the preaching of the Word. If He didn’t, then Christ’s work was in vain. Because we cannot earn God’s favor ourselves, the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit does what His name implies and makes us holy by bringing us into the Church. In church we receive the forgiveness of sins. This comes through the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, through Holy Absolution, and through the preaching of God’s Word. Because we are in the flesh and sin much, we should always continue to gather around Christ’s Word and Sacraments, which reassure us of forgiveness and actually bring it to us.

Though new life has been created in us through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can expect that some day our flesh will die and be buried. This is the result of sin in the world – that our bodies die – yet, we believe that as we are united with Christ in His death, so are we united with Him in the resurrection. What is perishable must put on the imperishable. We confess in the Creed what we learn in Scripture, that we will all be resurrected in the flesh. When we die we are immediately in Christ’s presence, and when He returns He will raise our bodies as well.

This we must always confess. Creation is done, as is our redemption, but the Holy Spirit will continue to work until the Last Day. He is always at work to call us to repentance and faith, to assure us that we have forgiveness in Christ, and to keep us in the one true faith.

This section of the Catechism has been quite different from the Commandments. They taught us what we are supposed to do and what we fail at, but the Creed tells us what God does for us and gives to us freely. The Commandments are not what make us Christians, because we are unable to keep them. Instead, the Creed tells us of God’s grace and favor in Christ. Through faith we learn to love and delight in God’s Commandments as good and wise. In the Creed we are reassured of our gracious God: the Father, who gives us all things; the Son, who gives us His righteousness; and the Holy Spirit, who bestows His grace upon us.


[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 353.

[2] John 1:14, ESV.

[3] Lk. 1:35.

[4] 1 Cor. 15:3-4.