Summary: Sermon on the beginning of the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed.
“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching... 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:13, 14a). Last week these words of the Apostle Paul reminded us that there is a clearly defined pattern we are to follow when it comes to Christian teaching. You can’t veer from this pattern and call it Christianity any more than you can jump up and down with your hands at your side and call that the Chicken Dance. The Chicken Dance too has a clearly defined pattern, which I will NOT demonstrate for you at this time…or any. Of course if you would rather jump up and down with your hands at your side when the Chicken Dance song is played, go for it. You won’t suffer for doing so; you’ll just get strange looks. However, if you veer from the pattern of Christian teaching we find in the Bible, you may suffer eternally for it. That’s also why Paul urged Timothy to “guard the good deposit” of Christian teaching that had been entrusted to him. That’s what we’re hoping to do these next few weeks – work at guarding the good deposit of sound Christian teaching as outlined in the Apostles’ Creed – that ancient summary of Christian beliefs.
Today we turn our attention to the beginning of the Second Article where we confess: “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, and was buried...” Just as the center of your cutting board bears the most blade marks from knives falling there time and time again to cut through carrots and cucumbers, so this part of the Apostles’ Creed, the teaching about Jesus’ humiliation, bears the most scars from the many attacks it has endured over the centuries. Since what you believe about Jesus – who he is and what he did – will most definitely determine your eternal future, Satan would love to cut this teaching to shreds and our faith along with it. So let’s work at guarding the good deposit this morning. We’ll do so as we learn to say that “Jesus is the Son of God and the son of Mary who suffered and died for me” is to confess: “Jesus’ humiliation is my exaltation and cause for exultation.”
Listen to our sermon text from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:4-7).
Paul wrote these words to the people we learned about last week including the lame man in the town of Lystra whom Paul healed. After Paul left that region, false teachers came in and told the Christians there that it was great to believe in Jesus, but true believers also continued to follow the Old Testament ceremonial laws and did things like refrained from working on the Sabbath. In other words, these false teachers said that forgiveness was something that still had to be earned, insinuating that Jesus hadn’t done enough to win salvation for us. Paul countered by reminding his readers how Jesus is a complete savior. He is God’s Son from eternity, and therefore fully divine. But he also is the son of Mary, and so is fully human.
For starters, does that make sense to you how Jesus is at the same time 100% God and 100% human? It shouldn’t because it’s beyond our comprehension. And so many think that to say, “Jesus is God’s Son and the son of Mary” is like similar to claiming, “My brother is a monkey.” Now, your brother may act like a monkey but if you were to run DNA tests, it would be clear that your brother is 100% human and that’s it. Jesus, on the other hand wasn’t God acting human, or a man who had some supernatural powers. He has 100% human DNA but at the same time remains 100% God. So while as a human being Jesus had to learn that 2 + 2 = 4, as God he fully understood quantum physics even as a two-year old.
Although we will never fully get the “how,” we can, thanks to the Holy Spirit, understand the “why.” Why did Jesus have to be true God and true man? Because only in this way could he secure our salvation. Paul put it like this in our text: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5). God’s Son needed to plunge into humanity and become one of us so he could save us. It’s similar to the way a father will have to plunge into the water if he wants to save a child who has sunk beneath the waves. He can’t do that without getting wet. And like a father in the water who with all his might will push a drowning child up to a lifeboat even if it means that he himself will sink to the depths, Jesus, the Son of God, lifted us all up to heaven while he himself sank down to hell. Jesus’ humiliation is our exaltation. And look at just how far above hell Jesus has lifted us. Paul wrote: “…[Jesus] redeem[ed] those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:5b-7).