suffered under Pontius Pilate

(This is part six of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

We’re still talking about Jesus. Mainly because Jesus Christ is the definitive character of Christianity. This entry looks specifically at the line that says that Jesus:
“suffered under Pontius Pilate,”
Like before, we’ll break this passage down into several smaller sections.
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born of the Virgin Mary

(This is part five of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

We’ve covered the Father, Son, and the Spirit in the previous entries. This entry focuses in on something very specific about Jesus; he was:

“Born of the Virgin Mary,”

The interesting thing about this statement is that Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin over 700 years before Jesus was born (Isaiah 7:14). Many people claim that the term used in this verse could also translate to “maiden” or simply “woman.” But what about the narrative in Luke where Mary specifically says she is a virgin in Luke 1:26-37? An angel appears to Mary and tells her she will have a child; Mary is perplexed and says, “How can this be since I am still a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Some people might try to claim that the word virgin here can also mean “maiden.”

My first question is this: Why would Mary be surprised and say, “How can this be since I am a woman”? Does that make any logical sense? I’m pretty sure that, since Mary was engaged to Joseph, she knew where babies came from or at least understood that babies came from women.

Additionally, if you do some homework and look at the literal Greek, Mary says something like “How can this be since I have not known a man” which was an idiom for “How can this be since I have not had sexual relations with a man.” Mary had not “known” a man and that’s why she was surprised that she was going to have a baby.

Another verse that addresses Mary’s virginity is Matthew 1:18, which says that Mary was found to be with child “before they came together;” which is another way of saying they had not had sex. We also read that Joseph and Mary did not have sex until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:24-25).

So why did Jesus have to be born of a woman and of God? Couldn’t Jesus have just floated down from Heaven? I’m going to rip off Wayne Grudem for just a minute here. In his book Systematic Theology (Chapter 26: “The Person of Christ”) he was a wonderful job explaining the significance of the “doctrinal importance of the virgin birth.” He says there are three reasons this is important:

1. “It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord.” As Grudem states here, salvation is not the result of human good works and efforts. Salvation is the direct result of the will and power of God and can only come to us as a gift. This was made possible in the person of Jesus.

2. “The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person.”  While it is possible that God could have sent Jesus to earth in a different way, this is the best way. Jesus could have floated down to earth, fully human and fully God; but then it would have been hard for us to understand how he could have been united with humanity since he had none of the same origins as us. On the other hand, Jesus could have been born of two human parents and then been filled with godliness early on in his life or even in the womb; but then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus could have been fully divine in he had all of the same origins as us.

3. “The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin.” What’s interesting about this is that, according to tradition, original sin is passed from Adam and through the father to the children. Since Jesus did not have a human father, He did not inherit any original sin. (Additionally, although I will readily admit I don’t remember where I read this, in Jesus time you were not considered Jewish unless your mother was a Jew.) From Mary, Jesus inherited full humanity but was free from the legal guilt and moral corruption of Adam.

Was it necessary for Jesus to be fully human? You betcha! Once again Grudem does a great job answering this question, although I won’t go into detail for each point, but Jesus was fully human for representative obedience (Romans 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47), the be a substitute for sacrifice (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:16-17), to be the one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), to fulfill God’s original purpose for man to rule of creation (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:22; Revelation 3:21), to be our example and pattern in life (1 John 2:6, 3:2-3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:21; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 3:10; Acts 7:60; 1 Peter 3:17-18, 4:1), to be the pattern for our redeemed bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49; Colossians 1:18), and to sympathize as a high priest (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16). Just to name a few…

So, to conclude, we find that God united humanity and divinity in the unique person of Jesus Christ. He did this through a woman named Mary, who was considered a highly favored servant of God. Jesus inherited full divinity from His Father and fully humanity from His mother. He did this so that Jesus could be a substitute for our sins, and example for our lives, a preview of our resurrection, and a mediator (literally a “bridge”) between us and our Heavenly Father.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

(This is part four of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

First we looked at God the Father; then we started talking about God the Son; now we’ll look a little bit at how God the Spirit has participated in our redemption with the third line of the Apostles’ Creed:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit…”

This line is fairly simple, so I don’t think we need to break it into segments, but there are at least a few things stand out about this line to me….

First, this line reveals that the Apostles’ Creed is Trinitarian. The first line is about the Father, the second line mentions the Son, and the third line mentions the Spirit. This is not an accident. During the first few centuries of Christianity, the Roman Empire heavily persecuted followers of Jesus. This made it very difficult to iron out any systematic theology, let alone publish and widely circulate Christian doctrine. The Apostles’ Creed was created almost immediately after Roman persecution of Christians ended and was made to affirm doctrinal beliefs in a largely illiterate culture. It’s a condensed version of Christian doctrine that is meant to be easily memorized and passed on and served two purposes. First, it allowed Christians to share their beliefs with non-Christians around them. Second, it helped to prevent the spread of heretical doctrine. One of the most important Christian tenants is Trinitarian Doctrine.

Second, this line is talking about both Jesus and the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit helped Jesus during his ministry. First and foremost, as this line indicates, the Holy Spirit conceives Jesus (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35). The Spirit signals to John the Baptist that Jesus is the Messiah (John 1:32-34). God the Father and God the Spirit endorse Jesus after His baptism (Matthew 3:16, 17; Mark 1:10,11; Luke 3:21-22) and the Spirit descends on Jesus before He goes into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). We find that the Holy Spirit partners with Jesus during his earthly ministry.

Third, if the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus and partners with Him in his earthly ministry, won’t He also conceive us as new creations when we are born again? Won’t He also partner with us during our time here on earth? Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit; this power is also available to us. Ephesians 3:20 states that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. That power is the Holy Spirit. We’ll look more closely at the Holy Spirit in another entry soon…

Dug Down Deep

In an earlier post I talked about the importance of studying and understanding theology. Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl, is releasing a book called Dug Down Deep that I’m looking forward to picking up. For his book he had a short film made that does a great job of explaining why we need to study theology:

Two thoughts on Ruth

This week I read the book of Ruth for one of my classes and wanted to share two things God revealed to me after reading it:

First, I would say this book beautifully illustrates the idea that sometimes God uses the least likely people to accomplish His will; in this book he used a foreign widow who had travelled to Bethlehem with her “bitter” mother-in-law. It’s likely that a man as well respected and important as Boaz could have had any available woman he wanted in such a small town, but he chose Ruth and the her grandson is was King David. From this lineage also came Jesus.

Second, I would say that you never know how your suffering will be used by God to accomplish His purposes in someone else’s life. Naomi lost everything! She was in the worst possible situation women could be in during this era (a widow with no husband or sons to care for her) yet God used the events in her life to bring her back to her hometown, with Ruth, so that the Davidic—and incidentally the Messianic—lineage could continue. The story doesn’t end with Naomi getting re-married, although she does get to hold her grandson, but Naomi was key to this story playing out the way it did. The point is that sometimes we don’t get the happy ending we want, but God uses our life as one small piece in His grand plan.