‘Your Faith and You’ is a series of teachings put together by the ACoM Board of Mission through the Evangelism office to help and strengthen church members in our spiritual journey, especially during these times of challenges and uncertainty.
Fr Nigel takes us through the third session.
Let us begin with a word of prayer.
Holy God, Faithful and unchanging
Expand and Enlighten our hearts and minds with the
knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your faith and love,
that we may truly worship and follow you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.
We begin from where we left off last time in our study of the Nicene Creed, with looking into the next paragraph of the Creed as follows:
who for us men [people] and for our salvation came down from heaven,
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man [human];
This is the doctrine of the incarnation which is core to our faith and which is linked to the doctrine of the virgin birth of Christ which we celebrate at Christmas. God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity, became a human being in Jesus Christ. Through a miraculous conception and birth, He walked the same earth as we do, carrying on His mission to save the whole of humanity from death. Jesus Christ, the uncreated Word through which all things were made, condescended (agreed/chose) to share in our humanity. The Almighty God emptied Himself and took on the form of a slave, to use St. Paul’s language in his letter to the Philippians 2:7.
Jesus Christ was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scriptures tells us that Mary accepted God’s blessing and conceived the baby Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon her. Therefore, the man that we know as Jesus of Nazareth from the Gospel stories in the Holy Bible, is the incarnation or embodiment, of God the Son. In this act of taking upon Himself the nature of a human being, God identifies Himself fully with the human race by becoming one of us. The incarnation of God in Christ is the ultimate act of God’s love because God himself became human. He did not send an angel, or even a good human, to accomplish this redemption and restoration of creation and humanity to himself, but He himself, God himself, became human.
The next major part of the Creed covers the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension, and Second Coming of Christ; the Last Judgment; and, the final establishment of the Kingdom of God, and reads as follows:
and [He] was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried;
and the third day he rose again,
according to [in accordance with] the [prophesies in the Old Testament] Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father;
and He shall come again, with glory,
to judge [both] the living and the dead; whose [and His] kingdom shall have no end.
Our Christian faith proclaims the good news that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world. In the incarnation he identified himself fully with human nature even though humanity is plagued with the conditions of sin and death. This was the sacrifice that God the Son was willing to take. This was the road that Jesus Christ was willing to traverse in his life and ministry for the sake of humanity’s salvation. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians stated that Jesus, the Son, always had the nature of God, but he humbled himself and walked the path of obedience all the way to death, his death on the cross. So also it is that in dying, Jesus took his divine nature down into the grave; and when he resurrected from the dead, he brought human nature out of the clutches of death. Indeed, in ascending into heaven, he took what was formerly the accursed human nature, but which is now redeemed, right up to the throne of God the Father. This paragraph marks one of the most important moments in human history. Our God became one of us!!
In this regard, as Christians and believers, when we identify ourselves in faith with Jesus Christ, and accept him into our hearts and our lives as Saviour and Lord, we are delivered from the punishment of death and are hopeful of the reward of eternal life with God in his heavenly kingdom.
In this paragraph also, we have the doctrine of last things which proclaims the Second Coming of Christ at the end of times, and which will result in the final establishment of the Kingdom of God (and He shall come again, with glory, to judge [both] the living and the dead; whose [and his] kingdom shall have no end). Scriptures tells us that we all have to give an accounting of ourselves before the righteous judge when he shall come again to judge both the living and the dead. In the history of Christianity there are a good number of various – and conflicting – theories as to just when and how the final Kingdom will be established, but what is suffice for us to say here is that we should spend our lives living in readiness and preparation for the coming of our lord because Jesus himself tells us in the book of Matthew 24: 36 that (quote): “No one knows…when that day or hour will come – neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son; the Father alone knows”, and in vs.44: “So…always be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him”.
Too much time, ink and resources have been spilt and spent over past centuries and in our own time, over attempts to predict the time, day, week, month or year when the Lord shall return. Friends, let us put more of our time and energy into prayer, fasting, good works and other spiritual exercises so that we may be able to discern God’s will and purpose for our lives. Be ready in vigil at all times for the master to return and claim what is his and take us to his eternal kingdom and everlasting joy, peace and love. This is what is more important for us to engage in, that is “preparation”, for preparation is a mark of Christian discipleship.
We now come to the last parts of the Creed which reads:
And [I believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son, Filioque];
who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;
who spoke by the Prophets?
This paragraph of the Creed affirms that The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity. His equality with the Father and the Son is emphasised in His designation as “Lord”, a name only attributed to God throughout the Scriptures, and as well as in the sentence of this paragraph that states that all Three Persons are to be “worshipped and glorified.” The fact that the Holy Spirit and Jesus the Son are just as much God, as God the Father, is a non-negotiable and core belief and doctrine of Christianity.
This paragraph of the Creed also says that the Holy Spirit gives life to and inspires the prophets who proclaim “in the name of the Lord”. The Holy Spirit “spoke by the prophets”. This in a sense also implies that it is to the Holy Spirit and to his activity, that the work of leading and giving ‘life’ to the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church belongs. The church’s teaching, confession and proclamation of faith, its sacraments, and its ultimate resurrection of everlasting life, belongs to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then is the one who leads the church in its worship and confession of the triune God.
This paragraph of the Creed also states that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father [and the Son]”. This is a very important part of our church history because it the argument over the addition of the clause “…and the Son…” into the Creed (known as the Filioque clause), that was a cause of the schism or split of the previously one Christian church in the year 1054, into two factions known as the Western Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. We will look at this piece of historical background of the early church when we have time in future sessions but for now let us turn to the last bit of the creed which reads as follows:
[And I believe] in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
[and] I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Friends, the Church is one, holy, and “catholic.” In the last session, I pointed out that the word “catholic” here, drawn from the Greek word katholikos, means “full”, “complete”, or “universal” church. In this regard, the Church is meant to be one and universal.
However, there are now many denominations or expressions of Christianity in the world today. What about the oneness? I would like to emphasise that in the collective affirmation of faith in the words of the Creeds, both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, this is where we are one in the faith, expressing our common belief in our One Holy God, and in His Son Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is meant to be one in faith and one in Spirit. St. Paul in Ephesians 4:4-6 emphasises this when he states and I quote: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
The Church is also meant to be apostolic. The leaders of the early church who were appointed by Jesus were known as the Apostles, meaning the “Sent Ones” – namely the twelve apostles. In the expression of the church as “Apostolic” in the Creed, our early church fathers were affirming that the true church is the one that maintains the faith and teachings of the Apostles. Many Christian churches today claim to be “Apostolic” but the controversial question remains: do they all, in fact, maintain the faith of the Apostles?
In terms of Baptism, there are two forms of baptism prevalent among Christian churches today. The Roman Catholics, Anglicans and other major protestant churches practice both infant and adult (or believers) baptism, accepting that both are effective and essential to membership into the fellowship of believers in the Body and Kingdom of Christ, the church universal. Some churches such as the Baptists and a few other evangelical churches practice only adult or believers baptism, believing that believers should come to repentance and acceptance of the faith before they are baptised into the church. Whatever the case may be, and however the argument is over what constitutes the “proper” way to baptise, all of the churches agree that there should only be one “proper” baptism and not more or several.
Finally, the Christian believer affirms the Church universal’s agreement to all that is said/stated throughout the words of the Creed by saying Amen.
To say “Amen”, which means “so be it”, is to affirm our heartfelt agreement to this faith of ours.
In our next edition of “Your Faith And You” we will continue to search for more truths in our Christian faith. Until then God bless us all, as we close with a word of prayer.
Holy God, without you in our lives,
we are not able to know you, nor please you.
Grant us the leading and guidance of Holy Spirit,
So that in all that we think, say and do,
we may glorify and honour your holy name,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Fr. Nigel Kelaepa, ACoM Mission Secretary