We come now to one of the very difficult sections of this Creed to understand. So to help we must look again at last month’s article, stressing the uniqueness of the Christian Faith. The claims made about Jesus by the first Apostles and later followers, have no comparison in any other world Faith or Religion. Neither the Buddha, nor any one of the many Gurus of Hinduism or Sikhism, nor any Hebrew prophet, nor the prophet Mahomet of Islam, are claimed to be Divine: to embody, that is, the very Nature and Being of the Eternal God in a wholly human body.
We use the term Incarnation meaning taking our flesh, to sum this up. The first Christians, who had been so close to their Lord in those early years, having only human language to speak of God and eternal realities, could find no other terms to speak of Jesus, but to call him the unique and only SON OF GOD. It is a truth of faith, and love, and hope of course; a profound mystery beyond our inevitably partial and proximate understanding. In heaven it will all be fully clear in ways beyond our highest imagination now; a delight and joy surpassing the best of present human joys. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10; Romans 8:38-39; and especially 1 John 3:2).
Conscious of the still living, active presence and power of Christ in their lives after the Ascension of Jesus and his return to heaven, those first followers knew and believed that it was God’s Holy Spirit inspiring, guiding and working through them. It was exactly as Jesus had firmly promised; that he would still be with them, and would make fully clear all the truths of our Saving Faith.
The New Testament presents a dynamic, living, and powerful Faith Story, gathering together the inspired thinking and praying of many Apostles, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers; all with strong, open and discerning hearts and minds. And all led by God’s Holy Spirit in trustful faith. It’s a Faith and Way of Life that has stood the test of over 2,000 years of history for countless millions. It is our story too, yours and mine. It will carry us along life’s journey with its many ups and downs, with many opportunities for good; testing us, many challenges indeed, and yes, doubts and fears also. Cling hard to that great Story. God does not deceive us, mock, or sell us short. (Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:16-17 & 16:13-15).
Moving on, I think we should now see a little clearer what this creedal section is saying. It’s presenting a kind of picture or analogy of what I’ll call the Family Life of the Triune God, who is both One and Three: the Father Creator; Jesus the Son our Redeemer; and the ongoing Life-Giving Holy Spirit. Again and again in the New Testament writings the truth is stated that it is through Jesus that all created things are made and have their existence. (Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 1:16; 1 Corinthians 8:6; John 1:3). We could express it this way. The Father Creator has made and given us all that is; the entire Universe and our Planet; all life, and especially all human life, by means of, and through, Jesus his Son because only he can make full sense of it all, and give true understanding of God’s great purposes in Creation. Moreover, that only he, Jesus, can enable us to fulfil that divine plan and purpose.
That must be realised by every human soul, if not in this life, then certainly in the next. (See again John 14, 6). John’s Gospel, in describing Jesus as the “Word made flesh”, is really saying the same thing. Jesus expresses the mind of God, and the Creative-Saving mind, for us. He is God’s Word. (John 1:1 & 14). But more later.
All this was gleaned by the first Apostles and others in an instinctively down-to-earth and very practical way. The life, teaching, dying and rising from death of Jesus, as they saw it, heard it, and touched it, convinced them that without him, we can only go so far in making sense of creation, of life itself and our human existence. As I said in a former article it completes the faith journeys (however good) of all other religions. It adds for them the highest and best possible truth and conclusion. (1 John 1:1-4; a key passage of faith).
Just think about it! Every time you see beautiful flower, a glorious sunset, a sparkling river, or a rugged mountain with grass and trees; and every other living thing you see; and every other human person you meet, is all part of a great Creation designed and made in love by the Father with his Son in mind, and actually brought into its very existence through him. And Jesus not only makes this clear and aids us in the full loving purpose of it all, but comes to our rescue when that good purpose is thwarted, damaged and weakened by human sin and evil. He is truly Saviour, Redeemer, Reconciler, whatever names we use, and this we shall think about later.
The early Church Fathers also wanted to affirm beyond all doubt that there was never a time or age when Jesus did not exist. Many had doubted this in those early centuries, or refused to believe it. Some still do. From eternity to eternity he is the Divine Son, not created or made. (See again the whole lovely poem about this truth in Hebrews Chapter 1). This is why begotten is expressed a second time in this creed, emphasising again the eternal Family Bond of Holy Love between the Father and the Son. The creed links the notion of begotten with creation through Jesus because the life experience of those early Christians dictated such belief. It was true for Peter, Paul, and all those other men and women believers. It is still true today for you and for me. It affirmed for them the plan and purposes of God for all human lives, every man woman and child. That we all are his greatly loved children. That he longs for us to share with the Risen Jesus, and through him alone, the gift of abundant life now, and one day eternal life within the Family of the Trinity in the Family of Heaven. (see John 10:10 & 3:16).
God our Father, amidst the vastness of space you treasure mankind and call each of us by name. You so love our world that, in the fullness of time, you sent Jesus your Beloved Son to live among us. Inspire us each day to live in wonder and appreciation of all that is around us. Help us to see that the very Creation is designed to bring us all to Christ your Son. May your Love, seen fully in your Son Jesus, surround us, and all whom we love, this day and forever. And to him alone, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be all praise and glory. Amen.
Prayer based on Psalm 37:3-5
Dear Lord, nourish us with your truth. In you alone may we trust, and to you commit all our ways. So may our delight be in you alone now and forever. Amen.