GENUINE GODLINESS & TRUE PIETY
Worshipping God in Faith, Hope and Love
The Ekklesia Society, 2000
PART ONE: THE CREED
1 Can I believe?
2 The Apostles’ Creed
3 Maker of heaven and earth
4 Jesus Christ
5 Incarnate Son of God
6 Crucified Lord
7 The Holy Spirit
8 Creeds in Worship
PART TWO: THE LORD’S PRAYER
9 Prayer of prayers
10 Our Father in heaven
11 Hallowed be thy name
12 Thy kingdom come
13 Thy will be done
14 Our daily bread
15 Our debts
16 Temptation and evil
PART THREE: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
18 Old and New Law
19 The Four Words
20 The Six Words
21 The Grace of Law
This book has its origins in a series of articles I wrote in 1999 for Mandate, the bi-monthly magazine of the Prayer Book Society of the USA.
It is published with a grant from the same Society and is intended in the first place for members of the Society, their families and their churches. But also it is offered to a much wider circle as a traditional, orthodox exposition of what Christians hold in common concerning faith, hope and charity (love).
My aim is not to say anything new but rather to repeat for the new millennium what Christians have believed, taught and confessed about basic Christianity for two millennia.
If we listen to modem ecclesiastical debate, it may seem that the primary questions for the churches relate to new forms of sexual relations and to other areas of human liberation and rights.
The wisdom of the ages tells us that the primary questions of religion and life are not usually the presenting questions in society or the prominent questions in the media. For while questions about the morality or suitability of same-sex marriages are real questions, they are what we may term presenting or secondary ones.
The fundamental questions are such as these: Who or what is God? How is God made known to us? Is communion with God possible for human beings? Who is Jesus Christ and what is his relation to God? How may I have a right relation to Jesus Christ and to God? Who am I, a human being in a vast universe? What is my purpose and vocation in the cosmos? What is the good life? And so on.
When we turn to the content of the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments we begin to find the Christian answers to these fundamental questions as well as the insights by which we are thereby also enabled to face the presenting or secondary questions.
I write more on the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer than on the Ten Commandments for a simple reason. The theological background to the Law of God of the Old and New Covenants has been provided in the exposition of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
The Rev’d Dr. Peter Toon
The Prayer Book Society
Philadelphia, Pa. 19128-0220
(a) Godliness and Piety
Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
In Christianity, genuine godliness, which may also be called true piety, is worshipping God the Father through Jesus Christ the Lord in faith, hope and love. It is living in such a way as to be prepared humbly to meet the Lord Jesus Christ either when he returns to earth in power and great glory to judge the living and the dead or at death in the spirit when the soul and body are parted.
A traditional way of speaking of such godliness or piety is “the fear of the Lord” or “godly fear.”
A major theme of the Old Testament that became a basic conviction of Christianity is this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
The fear of God deep in the heart is a profound respect and reverence for God, who is our Creator and Judge. It is a fear that leads to right worship of God – the adoring, loving, praising and thanking of him. Further, within this fear is a recognition of not only our weaknesses as creatures, but also of our sins as disobedient servants. Thus the confession of our sins as repentant creatures and servants becomes the beginning of the praise of God. For to confess our sins is both to recognize his holiness and righteousness as well as his rule over us as our Lord and Judge.
True wisdom as we find it in the pages of the New Testament teaches us that we are to worship God with faith, hope and love. “Faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Faith without hope and love is insufficient; hope without faith and love is insufficient, and even love without faith and hope [in this life] is insufficient. All three of these “theological virtues” or graces are required for the worship of God the Father, through Jesus Christ the Lord and with the Holy Spirit. Faith believes, and hope and love pray.
The Christian life begins in faith, believing in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it ends in sight, the vision of the glory of the Father in the face of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ. In this world, Christians are pilgrims walking in the narrow way that leads unto eternal life in the presence of God, the angels and saints. Christians are called to live by faith in the invisible God as they know him through Jesus Christ, the Lord. They are encouraged to hope for the true good promised to them in Holy Scripture by the same Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles; and they are commanded to love God with all their being and to love their neighbors as themselves.
However, not everything that is to be believed is also to be hoped for. Christians believe that God will punish the wicked at the Last Day but they do not hope for this. Rather their hope is for everlasting bliss in the company of the righteous saints and angels serving God in heaven. So we may say that faith believes in good and bad things and does so because belief in God requires belief in what he says he will do – e.g., punish wicked men and angels.
Faith looks in three directions while hope looks only in one. The Christian believes in past events, supremely in the atoning death and glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, he believes in present events, supremely that the same Jesus reigns in glory at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Finally, he believes in future events, supremely that the same Jesus will return to the earth in great glory and power to judge the nations, the living and the dead. In contrast, hope looks essentially in one direction, for those good things that are to come in the future.
But there are common features to faith and hope. First of all, Christians do not see that in which they believe and that for which we hope. Secondly, both faith and hope work by love. Christians love the God in whom they believe and they love the creatures whom God loves even as they also love the good things of God to which they look forward in hope.
Therefore, we may say that there is no love without hope, no hope without love and neither hope nor love without faith. But love remains the greatest because love will remain as a virtue in heaven when both faith and hope are no longer needed. For what has been believed will now be seen and what has been hoped for will be received, but there will be ever a necessity and a joy to love God as the Blessed Trinity of Love and to love him in all his saints and angels.
We must also go on to affirm that the nature and content of faith is set forth in the Creed, the nature and content of hope in the Lord’s Prayer and the nature and content of love in the Commandments. Thus to understand faith, hope and love, by which virtues we are called to worship the Lord our God, the Holy Trinity, in spirit and in truth, we need to examine the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Commandments. In doing this we shall be following a long tradition in the Church of God, as the rest of this Introduction will demonstrate.
(b) Catechism – Instruction by word of mouth
Let him who is taught the Word share all good things with him who teaches (Galatians 6:6).
This statement by the apostle Paul points to the oral teaching, the catechesis, given by Christian teachers to converts to Christianity. The Word taught was both the Word of God as revealed and made known by the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles, and the Word of God written, the Old Testament, as explained and fulfilled by the same Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul’s words also point to the duty of catechumens, being instructed in preparation for Baptism as well as for the godly life as church members, to share their substance with their teachers – that is, to maintain them in housing, food and clothing.
In the Church of the first five or six centuries, the duty of preparing converts to Christianity for full church membership was taken very seriously. Large churches had catechetical schools where converts were expected to attend for instruction in the Faith for up to three years, before being baptized on the Eve of Easter.
As the majority of the population of Europe became [nominally] Christian and infant baptism became the norm, the practice of catechizing adult believers generally ceased, although traces of it remained in the liturgy of Baptism. However, in the medieval period, there were many official instructions given to the parish clergy by bishops and synods to instruct their parishioners, who had been baptized as children, in the meaning of the Creed, the Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Sacraments. Many examples of such instruction have survived.
So it is not surprising that at the very beginning of what is called the Protestant Reformation the reformers should produce in the vernacular (as well as in Latin) catechisms. One of the earliest and most famous of these was the Smaller Catechism (1529) by Martin Luther, the German reformer. Over a century later, there was produced in Westminster Abbey, London, what became known as the Westminster Catechisms, one short and one long, to become the Catechisms not of the Church of England but of the Church of Scotland.
Soon afterwards the appearance of Luther’s Catechism, the clergy of England were required by royal injunctions of Henry VIII to spend time on Sundays instructing their parishioners to learn by heart the Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. And, therefore, it is not surprising that when the first official Prayer Book, The Book of the Common Prayer, was published for the Church of England in 1549, it contained a catechism as part of the service of Confirmation. Its full title is: “A Catechism, that is to say An Instruction to be learned by every child before he be brought to be confirmed of the Bishop.”
At the close of the short catechism is this rubric: “So soon as the children can say in their mother tongue the Articles of the Faith, the Lords Prayer the Ten Commandments, and also can answer to such questions of this short Catechism as the Bishop shall by his discretion oppose them in: then shall they be brought to the Bishop by one that shall be his godfather or godmother, that every child may have a witness of his Confirmation.”
In the editions of 1549, 1552 and 1559 the Catechism within the Book of Common Prayer contained only brief expositions of the Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer in the context of recalling the event of Baptism. In 1604 there was added a section on the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Further, a rubric was added stating that instruction of the young, using the Catechism, should occur after the second lesson of Evening Prayer each Sunday.
This Catechism was reprinted in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) of the Church of England and also became the Catechism of the American edition of the Book of Common Prayer (1789, 1892 & 1928) of the Protestant Episcopal Church, USA.
However, in the American 1928 edition there was added a new service entitled, Offices of Instruction, in which were two offices or forms of public worship. The content is the Catechism together with a new section on “the Church and the Ministry” and with several Collects taken from the Collects of the Prayer Book. These public services were intended not only for those preparing for Confirmation but also to bring to remembrance the basics of the Christian Faith for all baptized Christians.
In the 1960s, when learning “by rote” became unfashionable and when efforts to revise the basics of the faith, morality and worship were in vogue, the use of the Catechism and the Offices of Instruction fell into disuse, even though confirmation classes using other texts continued. With the arrival of a new kind of public prayer book of the Episcopal Church in 1976/79 came a totally new “Outline of the Faith” or catechism. This contained a revised form of basic Christianity whose content was intended to reveal the underlying theological, moral and liturgical principles of the new services of the new prayer book and “speak” to people living in a secular society.
After forty years or more of minimal or no orthodox and traditional instruction in the Creed (what to believe) the Commandments (how to behave to please God) the Lord’s Prayer (how to worship the Lord) and the Gospel Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) there are some indications that the tide is beginning to turn. There is the beginning of a desire not only amongst Episcopalians/Anglicans but amongst other Christians as well for basic instruction in the classic Foundations of Basic Christianity. Some people are now ready to learn by heart and with understanding the Basics and at the same time begin to view critically many of the assumptions (e.g., individualism, subjectivism, consumerism & the human rights agenda) of modern secular society which seem to have been absorbed by the modern secularized church. In short they are willing to be genuine catechumens who are to be instructed in the Word of God and thus in the Lord’s Prayer, the Commandments and the Creed.
This book is intended both to serve as a text-book both for those who wish to explore the content of Basic Christianity (“Mere Christianity” in the words of C. S. Lewis) and for those who desire to deepen the knowledge they gained from their church membership or Confirmation classes.
PART ONE: THE CREED
CHAPTER ONE: Can I believe?
Most people long to have beliefs and convictions that both bring them inner happiness and provide meaning and purpose for their lives. Each of us wants to feel good about himself and his place in the world.
How and what I feel as an “individual” is important to me. In fact sometimes, the way I feel seems to be the only real thing in the world. My emotions are so very much part of me that on occasions they seem to be the whole of me. Yet I know from the experience of living, from my mistakes and from those of others, that I cannot plan and run my life or decide what is right and wrong simply by following my feelings. They are too volatile, sometimes up and sometimes down and sometimes in a whirl.
If I am going to be stable and balanced, my feelings, my emotions, my affections – my inner self – need to be coordinated with what I think, what I believe, what I ought to be and to do and what I intend and decide. This is easier said than done! But it is possible if we begin in the right place in the right company with the right motives ! We need to sit at the feet of the Lord Jesus within the Household of God the Father, with a sincere heart to be taught by him there.
NOT AN “INDIVIDUAL”
BUT AN INDIVIDUAL PERSON WITH RELATIVES
One of the first things that I learn in the school of Christ is that I am not an individual but an individual person. I am not like an isolated pebble on the beach, near to other pebbles and rocks, but not really connected to them. Rather I am like a part of a body, connected to other parts of the body as well as to the brain, nerve center and heart. I am a member of the human race; I am God’s creation, made in his image and after his likeness; I am related to my family by ties of procreation and blood and thus I have relatives. Certainly I have individuality as a person for no one is exactly like me. God has made me like other human beings but with uniqueness as his creature.
The truth of the matter is that I am an individual person connected by God’s ties to God himself as my Creator and to other human beings as his creation.
For Christianity, a key verb is “I believe” or “I trust.” Both in the Old and the New Testaments there is much emphasis upon “believing” and “trusting.” It is assumed that for a normal person believing and trusting involves or leads to right thinking, right feeling and right doing. To trust in the LORD (Heb. YHWH) and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ involves right thinking and right feeling and leads to right action.
To believe in or to have faith in someone involves much more than believing what someone says on this or that occasion. It is possible that I believe what a person tells me about a specific thing (e.g., that the next train is at noon); but, at the same time, I would not trust myself to that person in terms of allowing him to guide me through a tropical forest, to invest my savings, or drive me through the crowded streets of Manila.
To believe in and to have faith in a person means not only to believe what he says, but also to trust him, to be prepared to put one’s life in his keeping. Such trust will involve thoughts concerning why the person should be trusted, the nature of his character and of his track record; further, it will involve thoughts concerning why I need to believe and trust him. Further, such trust will involve mixed feelings including positive emotions of confidence and peace with traces of some hesitating, fear and worry.
Believing in and trusting the LORD, who is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, is similar to, but not identical with, believing in and trusting a human being. The most obvious difference is that Almighty God is the Creator and a human being is a creature. In fact God, the Creator, is also the Redeemer and the Judge of the world and of every human being therein.
Therefore to believe in and trust God the Father, the Creator, Redeemer and Judge, is to commit oneself to the One to whom one owes everything and from whom one receives everything – one’s existence and being and one’s salvation and eternal life.
But why do people resist believing in and trusting the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ? Why does such faith seem unnecessary, irrelevant or impossible today?
A brief and what seems to be a simple answer to this question is this. Such faith seems out of the question because we can never get past the “I” into the rest of the sentence which reads, “believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” We are anchored firmly not only in our individuality but also in our self-centered individualism! We have been taught and encouraged in school and by the media to view and to call ourselves, “individuals.” Around us we read and hear in glittering ways the “truth” at the center of modern culture, “Remember you are you, you are unique, you are an individual.”
Because modern individualism functions as a god whose existence we are often not even aware of, we do not know or feel that in our individualism and self-centered existence we are the enemies of God, the Father. We deliberately plan and live our lives as if he were not the Creator, the Redeemer and the Judge; and as if his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, were not the Mediator between God and man; and as if his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, were not present to help us in our weakness to find a right relation with the Father so that he becomes “Our Father, who art in heaven....”
THE REALITY OF SIN
At the center of the theological word “SIN” is the letter “I.” Modern individualism supposes that “I”, the human ego, – not the infinite and eternal God – is the center of the universe. Further, it assumes that what “I” feel and that “my” opinions are the most important things in the universe as far as I am concerned, and, therefore, that my self-fulfillment and self-realization are paramount for full meaning and purpose in my life.
The “I” of modern, self-centered individualism certainly believes in something! The confession of this “ego” may be rendered as: “I believe in self, in humanity, in the achievements of humanity (sciences, technology etc.) and in God. I use religion to cultivate and to hallow such belief and trust.” Thus religion, eastern or western, Christian or pagan, is so easily turned into a religious psychotherapy where the aim is “to feel good about myself, my religion and my relationships.”
It seems to be the case that in the popular forms of modern western religion of both a “conservative” and a “liberal / revisionist” kind what happens so often is that in practice even if not in teaching and preaching there is the equation, “Christianity = the individual plus God.” Here the “individual” as a member of a voluntary society/group (a “community of faith”) is perceived to be on terms of equality with God in some kind of covenantal or contractual “relationship.” Thus the “I” of the one and of the many remains at the center of things. The effect of this is to change the biblical formula, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” to “the God who belongs to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Or, in New Testament terms, the understanding is that “the God of Jesus and of the apostles and martyrs BELONGS to me and to us.” We want God/deity on our own terms and believe that we have him/it as such.
Such obvious or veiled self-centeredness is in contrast to God-centeredness. It is an understanding of myself not as a human being whose meaning begins in his relation to God, his Creator, but as a being who stands alone as an individual, and, in and from that aloneness, imposes meaning on the world and on “Deity.” It is as though I am one marble in a jar of marbles touching others but not joined to any of them and I see my task as seeking to give names and meaning to all the other marbles and also to the jar!
A self-centered individual who places self at the center of experience may also be a selfish, self-centered individual! But we need to distinguish the two at least conceptually for there can be, and often has been, selfishness even where there is little or no modern, self-centered individualism! There was much selfishness in the world before the arrival of the western Enlightenment in the eighteenth century and the beginnings of modern individualism and the every increasing claims of varied human rights. However, this said, we are much aware today that the combination of old-fashioned selfishness with self-centered individualism is volatile in modern society.
THE REDEEMED PERSON
The “I” who by the assistance of the Holy Spirit believes and trusts in God the Father Almighty through Jesus Christ the Lord is a person who is not dominated by self-centered individualism but who may still be affected by it. As his personal faith and trust deepens and is tested by the grace of God, his self-centered individualism will gradually be overcome and his true individuality (i.e., his individual personhood and personality) will mature in relation to God and fellow human beings within the fellowship of the Body of Christ, the Household of God the Father.
The “I” of self-centered individualism cannot truly say, “I believe in God” for this “individual” can only believe in himself and in extensions and projections of himself. What he can and does say is, “I believe in myself and God.”
Trusting in and having faith in God the Father almighty is not possible by an individual immersed in individualism. Believing in the Lord our God is only possible by a human being who knows and sees himself as a person – that is, as a person whose existence is formed by relations of order within the creation. Only a human being who knows himself to be really and truly living in relation to God, his Creator, and to human beings as fellow creatures made in God's image, can actually believe in, trust in and have faith in this Lord God.
There is much truth in the claim that I do not really know who I am until I first know who is the Father almighty and who is his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief.”
CHAPTER TWO: The Apostles’ Creed
Credo I believe
ln deum patrem omnipotentem in God the Father almighty
Creatorem coeli et terrae; Maker of heaven and earth;
Et in Jesum Christum, And in Jesus Christ
Filium eius unicum, dominum nostrum, His only Son, our Lord,
Qui conceptus est de Spirito sancto, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Natus ex Maria virgine, Born from the Virgin Mary,
Passus sub Pontio Pilato, Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Crucifixus, mortus et sepultus, Was crucified, dead and buried,
Descendit ad inferna, Descended into hell,
Tertia die resurrexit a mortuis, on the third day he rose again from the dead,
Ascendit ad coelos. Ascended to heaven,
Sedet ad dexteram dei patris omnipotentis, Sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty,
Inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos; thence he will come to judge the living and the dead;
Credo in Spiritum sanctum, I believe in the Holy Spirit,
Sanctam ecciesiam catholicam, the holy catholic Church,
Sanctorum communionem, the communion of saints,
Remissionem peccatorum, the forgiveness of sins,
Carnis resurrectionem, the resurrection of the body [flesh]
Et vitam aeternam. And the Life everlasting.
The Apostles’ Creed was not written by the twelve apostles, each one contributing a line. Its origins are in the church at Rome and it conveys the basic faith of the apostles. It has been a confession of faith for Christians for seventeen or more centuries. In the Church of the West it is used at Baptisms and also recited in the Daily Morning and Evening Prayer.
Each person who truly confesses: “I believe in God the Father almighty” obviously does so as an individual person. Responding to the good news, the Christian Gospel, he has decided to turn away from the sins of the world towards God the Father through Jesus Christ the Lord. His confession is certainly therefore his individual faith which he really accepts, holds and cherishes.
Yet while his first believing and trusting in God was in the solitude of personal decision, this faith and trust immediately moved into a larger context, that of “the communion of saints;” for he also began to confess the Faith as a member of the Body of Christ and of the Household of God. Together with them he said and says, “I believe.”
The Faith as expressed in summary in the Creed and embraced individually and personally by a believing sinner is certainly not an ideology or set of opinions. It is the living Faith handed down in word and in deed within the Church by martyrs and confessors and received and appropriated afresh by every generation, and by each and every believer. Thus the “I believe...” is also and pre-eminently the one Church addressing her only Saviour, the blessed Bride singing to her caring Bridegroom and the Body speaking to the Head of the Body.
THE END OF SELF AUTONOMY
Thus in accepting this Faith the believer seeks not to put his own spin on it and to interpret it so that it is really becomes his opinion. Rather he seeks to enter into its depth, height, length and breadth. He believes in order to understand, to pray and to obey so as to please almighty God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and be in fellowship and communion with the saints in heaven and on earth.
In other words, embracing the Lord Jesus Christ and being embraced by his Father through His Spirit is the end of individualism as usually understood in the West today. It is the end of the autonomy of the self and the doing of one’s own thing. It is the end of individualistic opinions on the identity of God, Christ and salvation. And it is the end of individual rights to press for what one feels one should have or be in the world. In contrast, it is the beginning of being conformed to the mind, the will and the character of Jesus Christ.
It is the beginning of a journey of understanding as one seeks to grasp what the Church has believed, taught and confessed over the centuries. It is the accepting of the duties and responsibilities of a disciple of Jesus Christ in world wherein is much evil. It is a growing into the fullness of right belief presented in the Creed, a growing into the prayer of the Church united to Christ the High Priest via the Lord’s Prayer, disciplined daily prayer and public worship, and a growing into the virtuous life of the saints by obeying the Commandments.
The moment a person really and truly says with conviction, “I believe in GOD” or “I trust GOD” or “I have faith in GOD”, then GOD has become more important to him than himself. The “I”, who believes, trusts and obeys takes second place to the Infinite and Eternal and Transcendent One who is being trusted.
NO EQUALITY WITH GOD
To say, “I believe that there is a God,” can mean that the mortal “I” is more important than, or at least is equal to, the immortal and almighty God. Here the human self appears to assert a mental and emotional priority even as God takes a second place as an object of rational, discursive thought, a topic to be discussed. God is not yet for this “I” the Supreme, Uncreated LORD to be trusted and adored.
In western society most of us appear to believe in “gods” and offer them tokens, symbols and words of worship, as we ascribe to them supreme, or virtually supreme, worth. These gods may be living creatures – e.g., sports heroes, film stars & media personalities. Or they may be dynamic forces at work in the world – e.g., achievements in technology, the attractiveness of consumer products or an ideology like feminism or capitalism. Somehow, in honoring and bowing down to these gods of modernity, modern folks retain their individualism. While such gods cannot redeem human beings they do give some kind of a purpose which can bring temporary satisfaction in this world.
To believe in and to trust the God above the gods, the God who judges the gods and the God who is able to redeem those in the power of the gods, is to begin to lose one’s self-centeredness and autonomy. Such saving faith has the effect of refocusing the human soul, mind, heart and will. It causes one’s mind and heart to find real purpose and vital joy and directs the will into good intention and action.
This God, called the LORD (Hebrew, YHWH; Greek, ho kyrios), is above both the gods and the cosmos. To Israel came these words many centuries ago: “Hear O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4). While polytheism (worship of several or many gods) was common in the ancient near East, there was then, and there is now, and there will be for ever, one true and living GOD, whose self-declared and revealed Name is YHWH, which carries the meaning, “I am Who I am” (Exodus 3:14), the One who is absolutely trustworthy through space and time.
To believe that there is solely and only one GOD, who is above the gods and whose being is separate from the cosmos, is to be committed to monotheism (mono, one; theos, God). Of course, people can be monotheists by culture or education but at the same time not believe in and trust the one, true and living LORD God. We must distinguish between an intellectual assent to the existence of God and a trusting, commitment to God the LORD.
The prophets of ancient Israel, Elijah, Elisha and Jeremiah for example, called the Hebrew people to trust in the LORD, to love him and to serve him. What such love, trust and service meant in real terms for the Hebrews can be found expressed in the prayers, praises, thanksgivings, petitions, confessions and laments in the 150 Psalms of the Psalter. The religion of the Prophets and the Psalmists is a living and a practical monotheism, for it involved a constant rejection of the cult of the gods of the Canaanites, Philistines and other neighbors – the gods associated with the sun, moon and stars, with the cycle of the year and with fertility, and with tribal and ethnic identity.
Christians, as the name implies, follow Jesus, the Christ (= the Messiah), as the Way to, the Truth concerning, and the Life of God, the LORD. According to the New Testament Christians are those who have turned away from idols to worship and to serve the true and living God. In fact the full Name of God for Christians, revealed by Jesus himself, is found within his command to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them: “Baptize them in the Name [= YHWH, the LORD] of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
Through Jesus Christ, and through him alone, we have been taught that the full Name of YHWH is “the Father, together with his only begotten Son and with his Holy Spirit.” God as the LORD God is a Trinity in Unity and a Unity in Trinity. The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, but there are not three Gods but one God. There are Three Persons – the Father, his only-begotten Son and his Holy Spirit and there is one Godhead, one Divinity, one Deity.
In the Bible we hear of God the Father creating the world, preserving the world, judging the world, and revealing himself to the world, and always doing so through his only-begotten Son and by his Holy Spirit. From the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit is the descent of God into his creation. There is also an ascent to God from the creation presented in the Bible. Worship, prayer and sacrificial service rise to the Father, through the Son (the Mediator) and with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is revealed and known in the mission of God into and from his world in his great work of reconciling the world to himself.
GOD IS THE FATHER
In the New Testament, when the word “God” (Gk., (theos) occurs, the normal meaning is “God, the Father, the First Person of the Holy Trinity.” So it is not surprising that the Creeds begin with the words, “I believe in God the Father...” Only rarely does “God” mean “the Godhead” or “Deity” in the New Testament. However, in later Christian writing the word “God” was used to mean both “the Father of the only begotten Son” and “the Godhead” which is shared by the Three Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The only way to begin to understand the doctrine of the Trinity is to follow through the divine revelation. In order to know the LORD to be the holy Father, together with his Son and his Holy Spirit one has to read through the Bible in a disciplined way and to meditate prayerfully, regularly and humbly on its content in the light of the confession of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds.
The Scriptures lead us first to the One LORD who is proclaimed as the God who chose the Hebrews to be his covenant people and who is also declared to be the Creator, Judge and Savior of the whole world. Only as we first know the LORD, who reveals himself through his Word and by his action, can we come to see in and through the existence, identity, work and words of Jesus of Nazareth that the LORD is the Father Almighty whose Word is his Son and whose Spirit is the Holy Spirit.
In the apostolic age, a Jew or a pagan became a Christian as he confessed, “Jesus is the Lord.” That is, Jesus of Nazareth, who died for our sins, has been exalted to the right hand of God the Father and has been given the Name above every name, the Name of Kyrios [YHWH]. At the end of the age all creation will declare that Jesus is LORD to the glory of God the Father. And to confess that Jesus is the LORD is to confess in principle if not in detail the Name and the Work of the Holy Trinity, of God the Father, the Incarnate Son and the Holy Spirit.
To believe in, to trust in, to have faith in the LORD, who is the Holy Trinity, is the means of entry into the kingdom of God and into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God. It is the beginnings and the preparation for a life of believing, trusting, serving, worshipping and obeying the LORD within his Church in this world and then in the life of the age to come.
CHAPTER THREE: Maker of heaven and earth
God’s name of YHWH, “I am Who I am,” proclaims that the LORD God alone exists eternally and infinitely (Exodus 3). His being is Uncreated Being. There is none before him or with him. His Being is unique and is eternally, infinitely and wholly possessed by each of the Three Persons – first by the Father, then by the Son and then by the Holy Spirit – of the Holy Trinity in the one Godhead.
In contrast the being or nature possessed by creatures is an altogether different existence. It is created being and is qualitatively of a wholly different content and nature to the Uncreated Being which is the Deity/Godhead/Divinity of the LORD.
GOD AND THE COSMOS
Thus it is wrong to think of the cosmos, of which we are a part and which exists to glorify God the Father Almighty, as some kind of an extension of the being or nature of God. The cosmos is not to pictured as outside of but yet attached to God – as an arm is the extension of the body. It is also a mistake to think of the physical universe as a manifestation of the God whose true and only existence is as the invisible and universal Spirit existing behind and through matter, inextricably united to it and energizing it. However majestic and vast is the universe, it is not of the same being or essence as God. In fact it is not even of like or similar being to God’s being. This means that portraying God as Creator like a mother who gives birth to offspring – the heavens and earth – which share his/her nature is a misleading false picture.
Then, also, God is not to be the conceived as existing in a kind of symbiotic relation to the universe. That is where both God and the universe are seen as being eternal, each without beginning, and each involved in a process in which each develops in relation to the other through interaction. This is evolution on a grand scale involving not merely creatures but God and the whole universe. While this approach has the merit of seeking to do justice to the vast changes that have occurred over time within the developing universe, it presents an imperfect Deity which is always in flux. In this way of thinking God is not a perfect Being but a Deity in the process of becoming what he will be, and what he will be in himself will be determined by his relation to the cosmos in its evolution.
Therefore, it may be claimed that the ancient philosophy known as pantheism (God is Nature or Nature is God) and the more recent doctrine known as panentheism (the world is IN God but not identical with God) are not Christian doctrines.
The LORD, the Father almighty, is the Maker of the universe, but not in the same sense as a carpenter makes chairs and tables out of wood. God is the Creator in the sense that from nothing he causes there to be something, where something is what we call physical and material existence into which he imparts order and relationality. God’s own existence is eternal and infinite and his being is uncreated being. In contrast, what he brings into existence out of nothing is actually created and finite being for there was a time when that being did not exist; further, its very existence and its actual continuing in existence is always wholly dependent upon the will of God. All created being is contingent being.
Thus the teaching of the Bible and the faith of the Creed cannot be called Deism, which is the doctrine that while God initially made everything he made it to exist independently of him, even as a clock once made, wound up and keeping time is independent of the clockmaker. Deism presumes that the universe is governed by laws that God placed in it at its creation and its continuing existence is governed by these laws. In contrast the Creator presented in the Creed on the basis of the biblical teaching of the Old and New Testaments is both Maker and Preserver, or Creator and Sustainer. God, the LORD, brings the created order into being and sustains it in its own being, and these two acts of creation and preservation are two parts of one whole. If God’s creating and sustaining power were to be removed then the cosmos would disintegrate and return to nothingness.
The name of “Almighty” comes from the Greek noun, pantocrator, which has the primary meaning not of “omnipotent” but rather the active meaning of “all-ruling” and “all-sovereign.” God the Father actively rules the whole of his creation every moment and thus he is no way like the clockmaker of Deism. What the Bible presents is the creation established in contingency and persisting in constancy. The Lord whose Word keeps the cosmos in being is the faithful God who cares for his creation.
Of course, God’s created order over which he actively rules is more than the vast universe of which we are aware through modern telescopes and space exploration. There is what is called “heaven” or “the invisible world” which is the dwelling place of those unique, spiritual creatures whom we call angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim. It is also the home of redeemed souls made perfect by the grace of God. Preeminently it is where the exalted only-begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, is known and adored in his immortalized, supernaturalized and glorified humanity.
The “and” of “heaven and earth” is important. Heaven is not earth and earth is not heaven. God’s total creation consists of visible things and invisible things. God’s first act of creation was to make the invisible world. Thus Christians learn to regard “heaven” as being the first created universe and the cosmos, in which they are live as pilgrims and sojourners, as the second part or sphere of the creation. The first world will endure unto ages of ages but the second has a limited existence in time until the return of the Lord Jesus in glory to judge the living and the dead. Then it will be changed into what the Bible calls “the new heaven and earth.” Thus the Christian hope is the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.
Heaven is not merely unseen it is also invisible. In contrast the earth and indeed the whole cosmos can be seen, even if it requires powerful telescopes to see outer space and powerful microscopes to see tiny cells.
Heaven is by definition invisible and cannot ever be seen by mortal eyes. Only with the eyes of the glorious resurrection body will the faithful believers behold the glory of the Father in the face of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. God’s creation is not therefore limited to its visible aspects or to its “objective” accessibility through scientific technology. It has dimensions to which we have no physical access until by grace we enter into the life of the age to come. However, within the “communion of the saints” believers on earth are united in the Holy Spirit to the Lord Jesus Christ, the angels and the redeemed in heaven.
THE TRINITY AND CREATION
As the Creator and Sustainer of the two worlds of “heaven and earth” the Father’s activity is always in perfect union with the other two Persons of the Holy Trinity. The Father creates and sustains the universe by and through his Son, the Word [Logos], and by his Holy Spirit, and to this the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments witness. In the Nicene Creed this activity of the Holy Trinity is made clear when it is said of the Lord Jesus Christ, “by whom all things were made,” and of the Holy Spirit that he is “the Lord the Giver of life.”
Christians confess that the creation is good, even though they know from personal experience and observation that it is not perfect. Since the Creator is good then what he makes and sustains must be and is good, and the goodness remains even when it is affected by sin and evil. God takes delight in all creatures and especially in human beings who are made in his image and after his likeness. Yet the whole created order is mysteriously entangled in the drama of sin and redemption which begins with the disobedience and rebellion of man against God and the promise of God to man to save from this sin. Thus the apostle Paul speaks of the natural world as groaning like a woman in childbirth longing for the deliverance from sin and suffering at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to judge the living and the dead (Romans 8:22-23). He also confesses that the cosmos only has meaning and fulfillment in and through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:17). Creation exists both to reflect and tell forth the majesty and glory of the Lord and also to participate in the glory of God in the age to come, which will be the Sabbath (rest) of the “new heaven and new earth.”
For a human being to confess, “I believe in God. . .Maker of heaven and earth” is to recognize that he is not a sovereign being, wholly independent of either God or fellow human beings. He is a finite, dependent and mortal being who lives not only in relation to his parents and family but also in relation to his God, the Creator, whose image he bears. As a disobedient and sinful creature, he is offered nothing less than communion with his Creator and adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became Man so that human beings could become what God wants them to be, first in this age and then more fully in the life of the age to come.
Man exists to love the Lord our God will all his heart and soul and mind and strength and within this love to love his neighbor as himself. Man’s purpose is thus to enjoy and glorify God the Father through his Son with the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
Bearing this is mind what then should our attitude to this world be?
“Treat it as if it is all that there is and as if all you need is to be found in it, and it will dangle its gifts before your eyes, decoy you, tantalize you, and finally mock and desert you, leaving you empty-handed and with ashes in your mouth.
Treat it as the creation of God, as truly good because it is God’s handiwork and yet not the highest good because it is not God himself; live in this world as one who knows that the world is God’s and yet as one whose true home is not here but in eternity, and the world itself will yield up to you joys and splendors of whose very existence there mere worldling is utterly ignorant.
Then you will see the world’s transience and fragility, its finitude and its powerlessness to satisfy, not as signs that life is a bad joke with man as the helpless victim, but as pale and splintered reflections of the splendor and beauty of the eternal LORD God – that BEAUTY ever old and ever new – in whom alone [through the Incarnate Son] man can find lasting peace and joy.” [E. L. Mascall]
Already but not yet. Already being “in and with Christ Jesus” believers belong to and experience the foretaste of heaven of which they are truly citizens. But the fullness of heaven is not yet for they have to finish their earthly pilgrimage and experience the redemption of their bodies before they can truly rejoice with exceeding great joy and experience the glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ in the life of the age to come as they are brought by grace from glory unto glory.
CHAPTER FOUR: Jesus Christ
The beginning and the center of Christianity is Jesus Christ. To believe in and to confess Christ is the essence of Christian Faith. Kyrios Christos meaning “Christ is Lord” is the core of all Christian Confessions of Faith (Romans l0:9ff.; 2 Corinthians 4:5). So the Apostles’ Creed declares: “I believe in Jesus Christ his [the Father Almighty’s] only Son our Lord.”
Most Hebrew proper names have a meaning and Jesus, a widely used name by Jews, is no exception. Jesus is from the Greek Iesous which is from the Hebrew, Joshua or Jeshua. In the Jewish Scriptures there are several men of this name but the most important is Joshua the son of Nun, who led the tribes of Israel into the promised land. An Old Testament book is named after and for him.
Joshua/Jesus means “YHWH is Savior” (see Matthew 1:21). The Joshua/Jesus of the New Testament completes the journey of the Joshua of the Old Testament. In and through Joshua/Jesus there begins and continues the new and the final Exodus of the people of God from their sins into the full forgiveness and liberty of the children of God and into the full inheritance of the life of the age to come.
To know God, to understand man, and to appreciate the Church one must first know Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ/Messiah who is the Lord. “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Christos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah” meaning “the Anointed One.” In ancient Israel the priests, some prophets and the kings were anointed with oil as they entered into their offices. Thus the Deliverer promised by God to Israel became known as the Messiah. Of course, other names were used such as “the Son of David” but Messiah was the most popular.
There is no doubt but that Jesus of Nazareth believed himself to be this Messiah. A careful reading of the narratives of his Temptation in the wilderness makes this clear (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). However, because the title of Messiah had been politicized to refer to deliverance from earthly foes (the Roman Empire), Jesus used the name with great caution (Luke 4:16ff; Mark 8:27ff., 14:61ff; 15:2ff.). He preferred the name “the Son of Man” which was also taken from the Old Testament but had not apparently accumulated any political meaning with reference to the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
THE SON OF GOD
Further, Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus is “the Father’s only Son” and “our Lord” according to the Creed. Not only is Jesus the son of his mother (Mary) but also he is the “only Son” of God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.
In the Old Testament, the expression “son of God” is used of the tribes of Israel as a corporate unity, as the elect people of God, chosen by God from all the peoples of the earth. “Israel is my first-born son” (Exodus 4:22) the LORD said to Pharaoh. And speaking through Hosea centuries later, he declared, “When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (11:1). The Messiah as the Son of David was also called God’s son. “The LORD said to me, ‘Thou art my son, today I have begotten thee, ask of me and I will make the nations thy heritage’” (Psalm 2:7-8).
Jesus is presented as the true Israel, a plurality within a unity, one person representing the whole. He fulfills the Law and the Prophets as the new Israel and he is the Elect One, chosen of the Father almighty, and thus the true Son.
His sonship relates not only to his being the Messiah and the true Israel in space and time, but also to an eternal relation with the Father – a relation which existed before Jesus was born of Mary in Nazareth. Anyone who carefully reads the Gospel of John notes that Jesus assumes and teaches a relation with the Father which goes beyond a sonship of election, function, vocation, service and loyalty. Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father in a profound and deep way which goes beyond all forms of relation suggested in the Old Testament.
The relation of the Father and the Son is eternal and ontological according to the Nicene Creed. “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds (ages); God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; Begotten not made; being of one substance (essence) with the Father by whom all things were made...” Here Jesus of Nazareth is presented as having an existence as the Son of the Father before his existence as the Son of Mary.
Further, in that eternal existence and relation to the Father, he shares the one and the same deity or divinity or essence as the Father. The Incarnate Son is homoousios with the Father, meaning that precisely the one and the same identical Godhead of the Father is the Godhead of the Son.
ONE PERSON MADE KNOWN IN TWO NATURES
Therefore, Jesus Christ in his humanity is of the same essence or substance [humanity] as human beings and according to his deity he is of the same essence or substance [deity, Godhead] as the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet he is not two persons but rather he is One Person made known in two natures, a divine and a human nature. And it is because the Son of God has a human nature that human beings truly can be united to him everlastingly unto salvation, in and by the Holy Spirit.
According to the fifth-century Athanasian Creed, also known as the Quicunque Vult, the following is the truth concerning Jesus of Nazareth.
“Now the right faith is that we should believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is equally both God and man. He is God from the Father's substance, begotten before time; and he is man from his mother's substance, born in time. Perfect God, perfect man composed of a rational soul and human flesh, equal to the Father in respect of his divinity, less than the Father in respect of his humanity. Who, although he is God and man, is nevertheless not two but one Christ. He is one, however, not by the transformation of his divinity into flesh, but by the taking up of humanity into God; one certainly not by confusion of substance, but by oneness of Person. For just as rational soul and flesh are a single man, so God and man are a single Christ.”
Because Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father, then those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and are “in Christ” as members of his body are adopted by the Father Almighty as his children. They become his sons who participate or share in the Sonship of the unique and only begotten Son. The Holy Spirit witnesses with their spirits that they are the sons/children of God (Romans 8:14-17; Galatians 4:4-7; 1 John 3:1-3). As sons they share also in the inheritance of the only Son and thus they have a lively and steadfast hope. Further, as sons they pray either together as God’s family, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name...”
The Christian life is described by the apostle Paul as being “in Christ” (an expression he uses many times). To believers he writes: “You have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). These expressions point to the fact that the Christian life of the individual person as well as of the congregation of believers is wholly centered on, lived within and energized by Jesus the Christ. United to Jesus Christ in Baptism by the Holy Spirit and faith, sinners die with Christ, are buried with him and then are raised with him. Therefore, they reckon themselves to be dead unto sin and alive unto God the Father through Jesus Christ, their Lord (Romans 6). United to Christ, believers are also described using the image of the human body – Jesus Christ is the head and baptized believers are the individual members of the Body (Romans 12).
Jesus is not only the Christ or Messiah and the Son of the Father, he is also confessed as “the Lord.” This name, in Greek kyrios, was familiar to those who read the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible for it was the word used to translate YHWH (LORD). Further, it was used in ordinary conversation of such persons as kings and emperors in the Greek and Roman empires. However, from a Jewish and Old Testament background it was a remarkable statement or claim for Christians to declare, “Jesus Christ is the Lord.”
The apostle Paul wrote: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Kyrios can be reduced merely to being a title or honor, but the use of Kyrios of YHWH in the Jewish Bible suggests that the Christian confession also includes an indentification of Jesus with the Father Almighty which is unique. In some sense as the Father is LORD so also the Son is LORD. And as the ascended, exalted and crowned Messiah, Jesus is called “the King of kings and the Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
The Creed states that “I believe” that he is “our Lord.” While it is true that each Christian may say that Jesus the Christ is “my Lord” for he is personally the disciple and servant and worshipper of Jesus Christ, there is here no individualistic relation [a simplistic One on one] to the Lord Jesus. Each believer is personally united to the one and the same Lord by the Holy Spirit and thus he is always “our Lord” – the Lord of all who believe on his name – before he can be claimed by an individual person as “my Lord.”
As the Lord, Jesus Christ is praised, worshipped and adored by his disciples, even as they also magnify and glorify his Father through, with and in him. Further, as the Lord, Jesus Christ is loved and obeyed by his disciples as the supreme Master even as they also do the will of his Father through, with and in him.
Unto his body, the Church of God, he is always “our Lord Jesus Christ” the “only begotten Son of the Father.”
CHAPTER FIVE: Incarnate Son of God
According to the Apostles’ Creed, Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit” and “born from the Virgin Mary.” In the longer Nicene Creed we read that “for us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary.”
These expressions certainly indicate that the origins of Jesus the Christ are twofold – first, in and with God the Father, and the specific mention of the Holy Spirit underlines this. Secondly, in and from a human mother and the specific mention of Mary of Nazareth underlines this.
Thus, in the dual origin, birth and personhood of Jesus, God and humanity stand inseparable, united everlastingly, not merely side by side. To say this is not to say that there is a kind of fifty-fifty equation of equality and that Jesus is half divine and half human. Rather it is to say that he is one hundred per cent divine and one hundred per cent human and yet he is one and one only Person.
CONCEIVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
As the divine Person he who as Man was called Jesus existed before he also received his humanity from the Virgin Mary. He was the Son of God begotten eternally of the Father before he became the son of Mary by the direct action of the Holy Spirit upon and in Mary, the Virgin.
Every human baby may be said to be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in that the law of procreation involving the union of the male semen and the female egg only is effective because that law is empowered by the presence of God in and through the created order. However, with the baby Jesus it was different. There was no intercourse with a man and no male semen. Mary became pregnant by a distinct creative act of the Holy Spirit. Even as the Holy Spirit was present at the creation of the world bringing into being that which had no previous being, so the Holy Spirit by direct action within Mary caused her pregnancy. Thus she is called the Virgin Mary, not merely “the young woman” betrothed to Joseph and called Mary.
Bearing this is mind it is regrettable that modern renderings of the Creeds, used in both the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant denominations, mistranslate the original Latin and Greek by stating that Mary “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.” There is no word in the original of either the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed which can be translated as “the power.” While all other conceptions by women and female animals are rightly said to be “by the power of the Holy Spirit”, Mary’s unique conception was by the actual unique presence and action of the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.
For information about the events surrounding the conception and birth of Jesus, son of Mary, we must turn to the first chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and of Luke. St Luke integrates the account of the conception and birth of John the Baptist with that of Jesus (Luke 1). He also describes the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the visit of the shepherds who had seen a vision of angels (Luke 2). St Matthew explains how Joseph, betrothed to Mary, was told by an angel of Mary’s pregnancy and that he was to marry Mary and call her son (and his by adoption), Jesus (Matthew 1). He also describes the visit of the magi from the East and the terrible slaughter by king Herod of young male children in Bethlehem (Matthew 2).
Other women named in the Bible became pregnant in special circumstances – for example, when it seemed that they were past childbearing age. One was Sarah, mother of Isaac, and another was Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Here, however, the conception was normal in the sense of requiring male semen and a female egg. But they were remarkable births in that they occurred according to God's promise when it seemed that the women could not bear children. Yet, even so, these remarkable conceptions are different in kind from the young virgin Mary’s unique conception of her son without male semen.
While Mary was one hundred percent human, her unique Son is both wholly Man and wholly God. This is because the virginal conception of Mary was also the supernatural union of the eternal Son, the divine Word (Logos), with human nature. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who are under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). The Incarnate Son is Jesus, the Christ. Although the Son of the Father, the Second Person of the holy, blessed and undivided Trinity, existed before Mary conceived, Jesus Christ [the same Son of God considered in his human nature alone] only existed from the conception.
The Early Church called the Blessed Virgin Mary Theotokos which means “the birth-giver of God.” The purpose of the title was to point to the Deity of her Son rather than to recommend that she be worshipped. In the West this title has often been translated as “the Mother of God” which can be misunderstood!
IN COMMUNION AND UNION WITH THE FATHER
Though the conception of Jesus was supernatural, his growth in the womb, from birth into infancy, childhood and young manhood followed the normal development of human beings. As a five-year old he looked like a five-year old, not like a ten-year old. St Luke tells us that, “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). The difference between Jesus and other boys was not in his anatomy, but in his moral and spiritual consciousness of having a unique relation with the Lord God of the Jews, YHWH, whom he, amazingly, called “Father.” At the age of twelve when visiting Jerusalem with his parents he sat amongst the teachers of the Jews asking them questions. When asked about this activity he said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
There is a discreet and holy silence concerning the life and work of Jesus in Nazareth in Galilee from teenage years until the age of thirty or so. It is presumed that he worked with Joseph as a carpenter serving the local town until he was mature in years. Then his connection with John the Baptist, first made when they were both in their mothers’ wombs (Luke 1), was renewed. John began his ministry as the prophet announcing the arrival of the Messiah of Israel. He called the Jewish people to be prepared for the coming Messiah and he urged them to participate in a baptism of repentance, followed by a changed heart and life (Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:1-20).
Hearing of John’s prophetic work as the herald of God’s messianic kingdom, Jesus came to see that his own work as the Messiah must begin. And it must begin by a solemn identification with John, his message and his baptism. Thus Jesus left Nazareth and went to the river Jordan to be baptized by John. When John feeling his unworthiness, hesitated, claiming rather that Jesus should baptize him, Jesus said, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-17). And there by the Jordan Jesus began his saving identification with sinful Israel by being baptized alongside and for his people.
At his own Baptism, Jesus received confirmation from his Father in heaven of his vocation as the “beloved Son” and “the Messiah.” Also he received the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, “who descended like a dove and alighted on him.” He was now ready to face testing and trial and the hands of Satan, the devil, and to begin the work to which his Name, Jesus, pointed – proclaiming the good news of the arrival of the kingdom of God and saving his people Israel from their sins.
GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD
To be the Saviour, Jesus had to be one with God so that what he did was truly and really God’s own work of salvation, redemption, reconciliation and forgiveness of sins. Yet he also had to be one with Man so that God’s own work was accomplished in and through and by a Man for his fellow human beings. Since he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary, Jesus was truly the God-Man who could and did do both God’s own saving work for Man and Man’s own cooperating work for the salvation of the world.
The Incarnate Son of the Father, Mary's unique Son, Jesus, came to fulfill the Torah [Law] and the Prophets of Israel. In a variety of ways, “Immanuel” the Messiah had been promised to the covenant people of God, the Jews. Prophets spoke of his advent and by a variety of types (e.g. persons and sacrifices) the whole of the Old Testament pointed to and longed for his coming as the true Hope of Israel. Thus Jesus is truly the key and the center of the sacred Scriptures. The first part ofthe Canon of the Bible looks forward to him and the second part declares that he has come and what he has done for us and for our salvation.
Therefore, when the Church reads the Old Testament she does not do so as if she were the Jewish people who still look for the “consolation of Israel.” She reads the Hebrew Bible as the people of the Messiah, who has actually fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, bringing out their full meaning and causing their promises and prophecies to come to fruition and realization. Further, when the Church meditates upon and prays the Psalms she does so with and in the Messiah, seeing them as his prayers and understanding them in the light of his incarnation and saving work and his future coming in glory to judge the living and the dead.
The Incarnation of the eternal Son of the Father is a stupendous display and manifestation of LOVE. God as the LORD God is LOVE, holy, infinite and eternal love. The life of the Holy Trinity, the Triune Godhead, is a life of perfect love, of perfect and inexhaustible giving and receiving. To see God is to see Love itself (1 John 4:8,16).
The LORD God, the Holy Trinity, made us not because there was something lacking in his perfection which we could supply, but because He desired others, lesser beings, to share his life and enjoy his love. God loved and loves us still as our Creator and Provider but his love is preeminently revealed in the sending of his Son. “Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
By our union with the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, we are caught up into the love with which the Father and the Son are united in the life of the Holy Trinity, the very love which is the Holy Spirit himself. And, the fact that God has loved and continues to love us provides us with the reason for both loving God with all our beings and loving our neighbors as ourselves. For “the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given unto us.”
CHAPTER SIX: Crucified Lord
Jesus “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, descended into hell” because he was the Christ. The only Son of God as Jesus the Christ truly experienced suffering, crucifixion, death and burial in his humanity
If the Son of God did not become truly human as man, if he did not suffer, if he was not crucified and if he did not die and if he was not buried then there is no Christian Faith. For “what has not been assumed cannot be redeemed” said the early Church. Salvation only becomes God’s gift to man and is only truly a reality for the human race if the Son of God actually really and fully assumed and made his very own our human nature. And then in his real manhood revealed the Father and performed God's saving deeds for us within space and time in human history.
WHY PONTIUS PILATE?
The naming of the profane figure of Pontius Pilate, a Roman procurator and brutal governor (see Luke 13) hated by most Jews, in the Creed is at first glance somewhat surprising. Why does his name appear both in the Apostles’ and in the Nicene Creeds?
The answer would seem to be in order to emphasize and underline that Jesus was really and truly a man and that he was tried before a Roman governor at a specific place and time and by the orders of that governor he was crucified (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19). Jesus was not God in the appearance of a man but he was really and truly the Son of God truly made Man. Further, Jesus was not an angel looking like a man but he was really and truly the Son of God made Man. Thus the naming of Pontius Pilate places the history of God’s saving deeds and man's salvation within the history of the Roman Empire and of Palestine – and thus of the world.
Pontius Pilate is named within the context of the suffering of Jesus culminating in the horrible form of execution, crucifixion. And it is the suffering and death on the Cross which is the means of the salvation of the world. The reconciliation of man to God, the redemption of man from sin and Satan, and the salvation of man from this evil age into the life of the age to come all proceed from, and are only possible because of, the suffering of Jesus Christ in his Crucifixion and death. He suffered as the guiltless for the guilty. What he did and endured was as the representative of and on behalf of others – his fellow human beings. He suffered representatively as the new Israel, as the Messiah, and as the New and Second Adam.
There is truth in the claim that Jesus endured suffering all his ministry, suffering which intensified and reached its climax on Good Friday at Calvary. Always throughout his ministry he was in contest with Satan, sin and death. He felt and saw and overcame the effects of demonic and human sin and this entailed suffering. The suffering was because of his solidarity with his fellow Jews, fellow human beings, in their sins and enslavement by Satan and his demonic hosts. He suffered with the devil-possessed, the lepers, the sick, the blind and the deaf, the helpless, the poor, the bereaved and the sorrowing. To the captives of Satan and sin he proclaimed and brought full relief, God’s salvation.
Jesus also suffered in terms of personal pain. This was caused not only by his opponents (beginning with his having to be taken into Egypt as a child to escape the wrath of king Herod), but also by his disciples, who failed to see and understand his real identity and mission and who even forsook him at the end.
Comfort for Jesus came both from his intimate union and communion with the Father and by his meditating on themes and passages from the Old Testament. In terms of suffering, the poem of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12, was of great importance to him as describing the saving power of suffering endured by the Servant of the Lord. Thus it is not surprising that the Church reads this passage on Good Friday.
AT THE CROSS
Jesus was killed not by being stoned or being beheaded, but by being crucified by the order of a Roman officer. Crucifixion was a method of execution much used in the Roman Empire for criminals who were not citizens. It caused a long, painful and cruel death. It was a horrendous and scandalous way to die. In his total identification with the human race in its misery and sin, Jesus died the way that its worst offenders died. Jesus was crucified! Thus according to Jewish interpretation of the Law of Moses, he was cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Galatians 3:13). And according to Gentile thinking, no decent or good man would be crucified!
The key to the Christian meaning of the Crucifixion is not in the enormity of bodily suffering, great as that was. It is in the love of God, of the Father who sent his Son and of the Incarnate Son who voluntarily faced the death on the Cross “for us and for our salvation.” It is also in the total identification of the Incarnate Son with hopeless and helpless sinners in the depth of their enmity against God and at the extremity of their separation from God. The cry of dereliction from the Cross reveals this identification. Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).
On the Cross Jesus loved mankind to the uttermost. As the Representative and the Substitute not only of Israel but of all humanity, he endured separation from the Father, the cessation of his union and communion, even as (in the words of the prophet Isaiah) he was “smitten by God and afflicted” as “the LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all” and “he bore our sin” (Isaiah 53).
As the Suffering Servant of God who becomes the sacrificial Lamb of God, Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer takes away the sin of the world. This work of salvation and redemption is the work of God, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Father who has sent his Son, receives the offering by his Incarnate Son of himself as the sacrificial Lamb. Jesus Christ, the Son, fulfills the Father’s will in assuming human nature and in being the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. And the Holy Spirit is present to fill the human soul of Jesus, to guide and strengthen him and to maintain his union with the Father in the darkest moments of the work of expiation and propitiation of sin.
A new covenant between God and man is created by the shed blood of Jesus at Golgotha (Calvary). Jesus Christ is the Mediator of this covenant. In his manhood he is one with mankind and in his deity he is one with the Father. Henceforth, from the Cross of Jesus there is only one way to the Father and that is through Jesus Christ, the Mediator. In Christ Jesus, the crucified Lord and Savior, is the forgiveness of sins, the gift of eternal life, the adoption as children of God and the promise of the resurrection of the body. Thus Christian prayer usually is addressed to the Father and ends “through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
All that is said about the centrality of the Cross in the New Testament (“we preach Christ and him crucified”) is said on the basis of the Resurrection of the Crucified One. Had Jesus not risen from the dead there would have been no new covenant, no redemption and no salvation! We preach Christ crucified because he is the Risen Lord.
The Apostles’ Creed confesses that Jesus the Son and Lord was crucified, dead and buried. Then, before moving on to the Resurrection, it declares: “descendit ad inferna” (“he descended into hell”). This is a reference to where Jesus spent the time from his expiry on the Cross to his resurrection from the dead and exaltation into heaven. He entered the underworld, Hades, and according to 1 Peter 3:18f., he “preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey.” Or as St Peter put it, “the gospel was preached even to the dead” (1 Peter 4:6; cf., Ephesians 4:6; Revelation 1:18). The saving work of Jesus extends not only to those alive when he was on earth, but also to those who had died before the Incarnation.
Another way of interpreting the descent into hell is to take it as a way of underscoring and emphasizing the terrible reality of the death of Jesus – his separation from God and his abandonment by God as he bore the weight and the filth of the sins of the world. Christ Jesus descended into the deepest dungeons of human wickedness, godlessness and hopelessness “for us and for our salvation.”
HE WAS EXALTED
The Creed continues: “The third day he rose again from the dead: he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” Having descended to the depths, to the full extent of the sinfulness of man and of the empire of Satan, Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted in his perfected and immortalized manhood to the highest position of honor with the Father, there to rule as the King of kings and Lord of lords until his return to the earth as its Judge.
The Resurrection was a real and true rising from the dead. Once his saving work was completed, Jesus the Christ arose from the dead and was seen by his disciples. Thus the Resurrection is both the Father’s confirmation that his work on earth is done and also the promise to believers that where Jesus is going they will also go. Like him they will be given a resurrected, glorious spiritual and immortal body for life in the age to come.
So with the Resurrection on the first day of a new week, a new era, a new epoch and a new age is born. A new covenant, sealed by the sacrificial blood of Jesus comes into operation. Thus the first day is also the eighth day for it is the beginning of that which belongs outside of space of time even though it is experienced in space and time.
After Jesus the Lord had prepared his disciples for his departure and for their receiving of the Holy Spirit, he left them and ascended into heaven, being received by the Shekinah, the luminous cloud denoting the presence of God (Acts 1). At the Father’s right hand, he is unto his disciples and unto the world, the King, the Priest and the Prophet. He is the One Mediator between God the Father and man. It is through him and for his sake that the Father saves and blesses us and it is through him that we worship and serve the same Father.
Further, it is for the Lord Jesus Christ that the Church on earth looks in hope for “he shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” and to inaugurate the fullness of the kingdom of God of the age to come.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever (Hebrews 13:8).
CHAPTER SEVEN: The Holy Spirit
“I believe in the Holy Spirit” (Apostles’ Creed) is expanded in the Nicene Creed as, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.”
In English we have the two words, Ghost (from the German) and Spirit (from the Latin), giving rise to “the Holy Ghost” and “the Holy Spirit”; the latter seems to be used exclusively now of the Holy Spirit in modern discourse, presumably because ghost is associated not with God or with universality but with the spirits of the departed.
For some people, “the Spirit” is merely a way of speaking of God’s presence and activity in the world or God’s power and influence in the cosmos. For others, God is defined as a Spirit and is seen as being both the life force and the rationality of the universe. Such a view is pantheism.
For the biblically-based Christian who confesses the Faith as declared in the historic Creeds the Holy Spirit is certainly an invisible Spirit present and active in the world but he is more. He is a Person, the third Person of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity.
HE PROCEEDS FROM THE FATHER THROUGH THE SON
Within the Holy Trinity the Holy Spirit is said to proceed from the Father and to do so through the eternally begotten Son of the Father. The original version of the Nicene Creed of AD 381 declared that “he proceeds from the Father” while the later western Latin version added around AD 1000 the word filioque, meaning “and the Son.” Both versions can be understood as declaring that he proceeds from the Father through the Son.
Further, because the Holy Spirit is invisible and works in the world and in the Church both secretly [as far as man is concerned] and invisibly, there is a tendency to take his presence and work for granted, as we name only the Father and the Son as divine Persons. But the work of creation, revelation and redemption by God the LORD is the work of the Three Persons, by the Father through the Son and with/by the Holy Spirit. Likewise the worship, prayer and sacrificial service of the people of God is addressed to the Father through the Son as Mediator and arises and is possible only with the Holy Spirit as the Illuminator, Inspirer, Sanctifier and Energizer of the worshippers.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE CHURCH
Without the Holy Spirit resting upon Jesus and filling his rational soul and humanity, Jesus could not have completed the redemptive work given unto him by the Father. Likewise, without the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the souls of men there would be no salvation.
The Holy Spirit creates and fills the Body of Christ, the Church of God, and unites the faithful members one to another and to the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, for salvation and for worship and service. He makes the sacraments and the preaching of the Word of God to be truly means of grace to the penitent and faithful. He also prepares the heart and mind of sinners for salvation, regenerates the soul [in connection with Holy Baptism], lives as the principle of eternal life in the soul, illuminates, purifies and sanctifies the soul and witnesses to the human spirits of believers that by grace they are the adopted children of God the Father.
In short, the Holy Spirit acts in the Name of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ as the Spirit of Christ, continuing the work begun by Jesus on earth. The gifts, virtues and graces of the Lord Jesus are brought from heaven by the Holy Spirit to God's Church. The Spirit then creates the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of the faithful even as he bestows the gifts of Christ to the same servants of the Lord that they might edify the Church and serve the world.
Because the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Holy Trinity, Christians believe IN him even as they believe IN and trust the Father and the Son.
However, Christians are not called to believe IN the Church; rather, they are called to believe the Church (as they believe a faithful teacher) when She proclaims to the world the Gospel and teaches them the Faith. The Nicene Creed makes this point clearly when it declares: “I believe one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
The Church is holy not because the members are obviously and clearly adorning the Gospel with holiness of life but because of her relation to her Lord, the Holy One, and because of her calling to be holy as God is holy.
The Church is catholic not only because she belongs to heaven and earth, existing through space and time, but also because she stands apart from the false congregations which teach error. In her catholicity she has the vocation to preserve the teaching and the Faith of the apostles. She is called to guard, preserve, translate, teach and proclaim the Scriptures and the Word of God written therein.
Regrettably, while the Church is truly one in Jesus Christ she is not practically united in her existence through space and time. She exists in various jurisdictions (e.g., Orthodox, Roman, Lutheran and Anglican) and in a multitude of denominations, especially in the United States of America. Where the Holy Spirit is present with the people of God giving divine life to the means of grace (e.g., preaching, sacraments, fellowship, service and ceremonies) there in some way is the Body of Christ, whatever be the name of the group to which the assembly of believers belong.
There seems to be little possibility of the Church becoming one in practice here on earth and thus the Lord Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17) will apparently only be fully realized at the Last Judgment and in the life of the age to come.
The Church is of heaven and earth and there is a communion in the Holy Spirit of all those both in heaven and on earth who are in faith, hope and love united to the Lord Jesus Christ and through him to the Father. This is “the communion of saints” and it is a communion which exists through all divisions of language, age, race and sexuality. It unites the children of God in the love of God, which is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto them. Of course, this holy fellowship is marred on earth by sin, but it is nevertheless experienced especially when the Lord’s people are met together for the Eucharist in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day to hear the Lord’s word, to sing his praise and to be fed at his Table with the heavenly banquet of his glorified body and blood.
The Latin phrase, communio sanctorum, which is translated usually as “communion of saints” can also be rendered as “communion in the holy things” because the Latin can be taken as either masculine or neuter in grammatical gender. If this translation is preferred then the Creed is speaking of communion with God and with fellow Christians (created by the presence of the Holy Spirit) in the Lord’s Supper, the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ which are when distributed “holy things for holy people.”
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SALVATION
There is also a reference to the other Gospel sacrament, that of Baptism, in the next phrase of the Apostles’ Creed, “the forgiveness [remission] of sins” (cf. The Nicene Creed, “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins”). In the first recorded sermon of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, Peter called upon the Jewish hearers in these words: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38).
Baptism has both a backward and a forward look or dimension. As the sacrament of regeneration it points to the washing away of past sins, to their remission and forgiveness by God because of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior. It also points forwards as entry into the kingdom of God and into the fellowship of the Church of God. It marks this future with the sign of the Cross and of the Resurrection requiring each and every baptized believer to reckon himself dead unto sin and alive unto God in a daily life of righteousness and holiness.
In the last two statements the Apostles’ Creed turns to the Christian hope – the Resurrection of the body [flesh] and the Life everlasting. Here it is true to the witness of the Old Testament to the unity of man as flesh and spirit, body and soul. It is also faithful to the Incarnation of the Son of God and his resurrection from the dead. When the Creed speaks of the resurrection of the body/flesh of each person at the last day it is not speak also of “the immortality of the soul.” The classic Christian text which both declares and explains the hope of the resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15, which is often read at burial services as a statement of that hope.
In the resurrected, immortal, spiritual and glorified body, each and every member of the Body of Christ will be united in the love of God and in the kingdom of God, enjoying eternal life and beholding the glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.
At the end of his book, The City of God, St. Augustine of Hippo provided this description of the Christian hope of life with the Holy Trinity in the glory of heaven. First, he wrote, “All our activity will be Amen and Alleluia.” We shall be engaged in the saying of “truly, truly” to all God’s words and works, and we shall be also engaged in the praising of his Name, attributes, words and deeds, Alleluia.
Then Augustine wrote: “There we shall rest, and we shall see; we shall see and we shall love: we shall love and we shall praise. Behold what shall be in the End shall never end.”
By rest, he meant God’s own rest, God’s own contemplation of his works and his satisfaction in them (Genesis 1). In heaven, redeemed Christians will rest for they will enter into the contemplation which is a true Sabbath, a true rest. As they rest, they will also see; they will enjoy the beatific vision, seeing the glory of the Father in the face of the Incarnate Son, the exalted Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit. And as they contemplate and see they will love, loving the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit will all their purified minds and their resurrected bodies and in this same love loving their brothers and sisters in Christ within the heavenly company. And as they rest, see and love they will also praise the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity for their unity as one God and for who they are and what they have done for the redemption and perfection of man.
And this totally engaging and fulfilling and glorious experience will be for ever and ever, world without end and unto ages of ages. It shall never end but continue from glory unto glory. Amen and Alleluia.
CHAPTER EIGHT: Creeds in Worship
Why do Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox continue to use Creeds, which were composed many centuries ago, in their public services of worship? Anglicans, for example, recite the Creed at the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer as well as at Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
First of all we use Creeds because to do so is part of our long Christian heritage reaching back to the beginnings of the Christian Church. What we call the Apostles’ Creed is in essence the Creed used for Baptism in the church in Rome from early times. It was not written by the Apostles but it claims the basics of their teaching and it was adopted by many dioceses in the Latin speaking West. What we call the Nicene Creed reached its definitive form at the Council of Constantinople (381) but it had a previous history both before and at the Council of Nicea (325). This is truly the Ecumenical Creed.
In the Western Church the Apostles’ Creed has been used for Holy Baptism and in the Daily Offices, while the Nicene Creed has been used primarily but not only at the Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion.
Entering the Church of God, we are taught the essence of the Faith via the Creed, the essence of how to live before God via the Commandments, and the essence of our relation to the Father via the Lord’s Prayer. All this is found in the Catechism of the classic Book of Common Prayer.
Secondly, we use Creeds in order to proclaim to one another in the congregation of Christ's flock what is the basis and essence of the Faith we hold and live by. Effectively each of us as a member of the Body of Christ, the Family of God, is saying to every other member, “This is what I believe, teach and confess as a baptized Christian.” We are rejoicing together in our common faith and hope.
In the third place we use Creeds in order to be able to proclaim to the world outside the church what is the essence of our belief as Christians. Having memorized the text of, and having understood the meaning of the Creed, we are able by God’s help to explain to all who desire to know what is the Christian Gospel and what is the Christian Faith.
Fourthly, we use Creeds in worship as a means of re-echoing what we have heard from the Lord concerning his salvation and grace. We address the Father through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, repeating what we have learned from him and what he has done for us and for our salvation. And as we all speak to God together as one people we use the first person singular, “I believe,” for we are the Body of Christ united to Christ the Head and we are the Bride singing to her Bridegroom.
Fifthly, we use Creeds in order to implant in our minds a structure of understanding so that by this structure or paradigm we can rightly read the Holy Scriptures with understanding and with profit. The mind is not like a vacuum or an empty city square waiting to be filled. Rather it is like a processing machine which receives and understands material according to its programming. This means that our minds have to be programmed (as it were) with the structure and essence of the Faith so that they can become Christian minds and as such begin rightly to appreciate, read, meditate upon and understand the sacred Scriptures. The Creed implanted in the memory opens up its own depths of meaning as we read and meditate upon Scripture; at the same time the Creed gives us the key to interpret Scripture and thus opens up the Scriptures for us.
Obviously we read and recite and memorize the Creeds in our own language, English. However, the Creeds were originally written in Latin and Greek and therefore we need to know that we have an accurate translation.
The translations in the historic Book of Common Prayer are generally accurate but they are in an older form of English. Some modern translations seek to take note of modern ideologies (e.g., feminism) and adjust the translation to meet their requirements. Other modern translations seek to modify the doctrines of the Creed and make them acceptable to modern sensibilities. Thus before using any modern version great care is needed to verify the general accuracy of the translation.
One example of inaccurate translation that usually goes unnoticed is in the first word of the Nicene Creed. The Bishops who produced this Creed at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381 certainly spoke together and said, “We believe. . .” However, when the Creed went to the churches it was used as a baptismal creed and so began, “I believe...” When it entered the Liturgy of the Eucharist it also entered as the baptismal creed and so began, Pisteuo (Greek) and Credo (Latin), the first person singular. Thus for us today the correct English form when used in a service is “I believe” not “We believe” as in certain modern translations. For as recited or chanted in worship the Creed is the united word of the Bride to her Bridegroom before it is the word of the individual member to the Head and to fellow members.
PART TWO: THE LORD’S PRAYER
CHAPTER NINE: Prayer of prayers
The moral law which we know as the Ten Commandments was written “by the finger of God” (Deuteronomy 9:10). In contrast, the “Prayer of prayers” dropped from the lips of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ and thus has been known in the Church as “the Lord’s Prayer.” Though short it is comprehensive, complete and clear. Christians pray according to God’s will when they pray in faith, hope and charity the words of this Prayer.
The Prayer is found in two places in the Gospels. First of all, it occurs in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is actually talking about genuine, sincere prayer (Matthew 6:5-13). Secondly, it occurs in Luke 11:1-4 in answer to a question from the disciples who impressed by Jesus’ praying asked him, “Lord teach us to pray.”
It may be said that what Jesus Christ, the Son, teaches about his Father in heaven's relation to people on earth is summarized in the Lord’s Prayer. This “Prayer of prayers” is a complete statement of what God’s children, Christ’s disciples, should desire and ask the Father of the Son who by grace is their Father also. And since what they ought to ask of God is a sure indication of what kind of God it is to whom they pray, then we may learn from the Prayer what Jesus knew the heavenly Father to be like and thus what he wanted his disciples to know of his Father.
It may be observed that the Prayer tends to fall into two parts. The first is concerned with cosmic issues while the second focuses on personal issues. Both are presented as being in God's care and control so that the God who governs as the Father almighty the course of world history is the very God, the caring Father, who has time for and ministers to the daily needs, physical and spiritual of individual persons.
1. The heavenly Father who rules the cosmos.
(a) The hallowing of his Name.
(b) The coming of his Kingdom.
(c) The doing of his Will.
2. The heavenly Father who cares for his children.
(a) Provides daily bread.
(b) Forgives sins.
(c) Protects and delivers.
Our Father is here revealed as being concerned with things infinitely great and infinitely small. The will of the Father relates to the total life of man on earth and in heaven and the whole person, the total man, may enter into communion and friendship with the Father. Jesus teaches men about his Father by teaching them to pray to his Father and thereby to submit their whole life to his loving care and purposes.
The Lord’s Prayer has been prayed daily in the Church through the centuries and is still prayed today in the daily offices and in public liturgy. And it is done so usually in exact translation into the vernacular of the form given in the Gospels in Greek. In the period immediately after the apostles, we know from the ancient document called the Didache that baptized Christians, and only the baptized, were urged to pray this Prayer three times a day – morning, noon and night.
In the ancient Church the Lord’s Prayer was a constituent part of the Lord's Supper and everywhere the Lord’s Prayer, together with the creed, was also part of the necessary items in which candidates for baptism were instructed either immediately before or after baptism (usually at Easter Eve). The baptized learned the Prayer of prayers by heart and they were allowed to join in praying it for the first time at the Holy Communion immediately following their baptism. The sense of privilege in using the Prayer is preserved in the ancient, Orthodox Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom where the priest prays: “Make us worthy, O lord, that we joyously and without presumption may make bold to invoke Thee, the heavenly God, as Father, and to say, Our Father.”
From the classic Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Communion, Anglicans pray the Lord’s Prayer in the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, in the service of Holy Communion, in the service of Holy Baptism and at the Burial of the dead. They learn it both at their mothers’ knees and in the Catechism used to prepare them for Confirmation.
Both in liturgical and non-liturgical churches the Prayer of prayers serves as a model and pattern of prayer so that pastors and people create their own private and public prayers based on its structure, content, doctrine and ethos. We may say that both the precise recitation of the original words and their use as a model for prayer are adequately justified by the words in which Jesus provided this Prayer. He said, “After this manner pray ye” (Matthew 6:9). “After this manner” can surely mean either “Use these specific words” or “Let all your petitions be in harmony with the content of this Prayer.”
Of course, if it is not prayed in an appropriate attitude and just recited parrot-fashion then it will be mere words and be without power and comfort. However, what the saints who love God and man have found over the years is that they never tire of praying the Lord’s Prayer. They discover that in praying this Prayer new layers and depths of insight and meaning not previously seen and grasped constantly emerge and thus new dimensions of communion with God develop.
Let us pray the Prayer of prayers with understanding and with reverence and as the adopted children of the heavenly Father and through and in our Lord Jesus Christ.
CHAPTER TEN: Our Father in heaven
The “Prayer of prayers” is not addressed to “the Lord God of Israel” nor does it ask for blessings upon Israel. It seems to be entirely free of Judaistic elements and represents the dynamic nature of the new covenant with the living God brought into being by Jesus Christ, the Mediator. The Son of God as the Word made flesh came into the world as a Jew to be the Messiah: specifically he came unto his own people but they did not receive him. “But as many as received him [Jew and Gentile], to them he gave power to become the sons of God even to them that believed on his name” (John 1:12). Thus as the adopted sons of God (Galatians 4:5; Romans 8:23), Christian believers pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus himself as the Son of God incarnate prayed to Yahweh, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth” (see Luke 10:21; John 17:1). His whole relation to Yahweh is best described as a uniquely filial relation, a communion between the Father and the Son, as the rich contents of the Gospel of John make very clear and John 17 illustrates perfectly. In Matthew and in Luke's Gospels we have the saying of Jesus: “All things are delivered to me by my Father and no one knows the Father but the Son and he to whom the Son wills to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27; Luke 10:21-22).
The disciples of Jesus, who are related to him as servants to Master, share in his filial relation to his Father and thus they pray, “Our Father. . .” Certainly he is the unique, the one and only, eternal, only-begotten Son of the Father who possesses the one and the same deity/divinity/Godhead as does the Father. In contrast his disciples are creatures made to be sons/children of his Father by adoption. He is the Son by right and by nature but they are the sons by the grace of adoption. However, though in a secondary and derivative way, they are most certainly sons, and joint heirs with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7).
Today, regrettably, in the main-line denominations of America there is opposition from those who see what they call patriarchalism, androcentricism and sexism as major evils to the addressing of God as “Our Father.” They hold (erroneously) that the calling of God, “the Father,” arises from the practices of a male-centered culture rather than from the direct revelation of the eternal God through his Son. They believe that in a modern culture committed to the equality of the sexes it is not appropriate to have religious language dominated by what they judge to be masculine names for the Deity.
But, we answer, if the Lord Jesus is truly our Master, and if in fact he did actually bring to the world and to us in his personhood, deeds and his teaching a full and clear revelation of God, then we ought to pay particular heed to what he did and said. Further, if he himself addressed God as “My Father” and instructed his disciples to address his God as “Our Father” then we are duty bound as honored servants to pray in this manner, rejecting the pressure from the feminist or any other lobby.
So that we always remember that Jesus, the Incarnate Son, is the Son of God by nature and right and that we mere mortals are sons of God by adoption and grace, it is good and proper for us always to pray (even when praying alone) “Our Father. . .” For a Christian believer to pray “My Father in heaven” is not wrong, theoretically speaking, in terms of grammar and theology, but it can be so easily misunderstood, in the context of rampant individualism in the culture, as a unique (one to One) relation to God.
In praying to God the Father, you or I, as an individual person, pray to him in and through Jesus Christ, the true Son, and also as one of the many disciples of Jesus Christ, united as one family in God’s household, the Church. Even when I pray alone I am praying to “Our Father. . .” for I do not have a relation to God which is that of an individual to an Individual! I pray as one who is in a personal relation to the Son and in him to the Father and also as one who is also in a personal relation through Christ Jesus to fellow children of God in his one family.
God the Father is not an inhabitant of this world and he does not live in space and time as if he were like us. He is an infinite and eternal Spirit who is the creator of the universe, the visible and invisible worlds. He is above the creation and outside space and time. His abode is “the heaven of heavens.” Together with the only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit, in the unity of the blessed, holy and undivided Trinity, he is worshipped and adored by the holy hierarchies of angels and archangels, who in awe and wonder cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).
Belonging not to God’s own infinity and eternity but to created space and time, Christian believers look to God’s heaven when they worship, for they address the heavenly Father through his Incarnate Son and with his Holy Spirit. Heaven has become their true home for heaven is the abode of the redeemed family of God as well as of the holy angels. Christians are united by faith and the Holy Spirit to Christ Jesus, the Mediator between heaven and earth, and thus in and with him they rise through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit “to seek those things which are above” and “to set [their] affections on things above” (Colossians 3:1-3) for they are “heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14)
Such a wonderful access to heaven brings great joy and elation of spirit but it does so only when the dominant attitude is that of reverential awe before the majesty and glorious nature of God – a sense of amazing wonder, deep humility and profound stillness of spirit. For the Father of all goodness is also the Holy One and the Righteous One, before whom guilty sinners tremble at his wrath against sin whilst forgiven sinners are filled with praise at his justice.
Therefore, even as “we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26) so we pray the Lord’s Prayer in faith with a filial disposition as true believers.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: Hallowed be thy Name
After addressing “our Father in heaven” disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ pray, “hallowed be thy name.” In effect they say: “Let thy Name be acknowledged to be holy, treated as holy, venerated.” They ask that they and rational creatures not only reverence and honor God in speech and attitude but that they also glorify him in deed by obedience to his commandments.
The verb “to hallow” is common in the Old Testament especially in the context of the worship of Yahweh (Jehovah). The temple, the priesthood and all its vestments and implements were hallowed, set apart for holy use (Exodus 29:21). And it was required of the covenant people by their God that “they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and shall fear the God of Israel” (Isaiah 29:23). Thus God declared to his people, “I will be sanctified in you before the heathen” (Ezekiel 20:41) and again, “I will sanctify myself and I will be known in the eyes of many nations and they shall know that I am the LORD (38:23).
“Thy Name” is not a mere periphrasis for God himself. Rather it points to God’s self-revelation of his identity, his nature and attributes and, further, it points to his relation to his covenant people. Thus in Israel to “profane the name of thy God, the LORD” was a terrible sin (Leviticus 18:21). God, the LORD, had commanded, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). On the positive side, Israel prayed, “they that know thy name will put their trust in thee” (Psalm 9:10) and “let them that love thy name be joyful in thee” (Psalm 5:11).
God’s name as revealed to Moses is the LORD (Jehovah, Yahweh) or “I am who I am” and “I am who I was” and “I shall be what I am” and “I am and shall be what I was” (Exodus 3). The holy and glorious “I AM” is also “I AM A TRINITY IN UNITY AND A UNITY IN TRINITY.” The Lord Jesus made this clear when he disclosed the full name of the LORD (Yahweh) – he told his disciples to baptize converts “in the Name [LORD] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). God is a Trinity of Persons, the Father together with his only-begotten Son and with his Holy Spirit.
The angels who sang at the birth of Jesus, the Incarnate Son, proclaimed that God's name be glorified and hallowed in all creation, especially in the invisible world: “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). Earlier the Psalmist had sung: “How excellent is thy name in all the earth” (8:9).
To hallow God’s name is to set his name above every other name. It is much more than to admire him. It is to adore him and to love him uniquely with the whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
In practice we hallow and sanctify God, the Father’s holy name:
(i) When we set him highest in our thoughts and thereby truly honor him. That is we think of God as the most excellent and most wonderful infinite Beauty and eternal Good and in so thinking we adore him as the super-eminent and incomprehensible Being. Further, seeing all things in relation to him for he is the Creator, Redeemer and Judge, we praise him in his works and words.
(ii) When “we trust in his holy name” (Psalm 33:21) and recognize that he is truly worthy of all praise, honor, loyalty and commitment. Thus we offer him our worship (worth-ship). To believe in him, to commit ourselves to him and thus to trust in him is to declare that he is all-wise, all-powerful and the God of all grace and that we are wholly dependent upon him.
(iii) When we always pronounce the holy name with the utmost reverence and awe. “Blessed by thy glorious name, which is exalted above all praise” (Nehemiah 9:5).
(iv) When we offer to him spiritual worship (Leviticus 10:30), worshipping the Father through the Son and with the Spirit in truth (John 4) in the congregation of the saints.
(v) When we gladly obey him: “I delight to do thy will, O God” (Psalm 40:8). “Ye are... a royal priesthood,.., a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praise of him who hath called you out of darkness into light” (1 Peter 2:9).
(vi) When we stand up for his truth, for God’s glory is known in and by his revealed truth (Jude 3). The Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
(vii) When we make converts who, in repentance and true faith, join us in hallowing God’s holy name. It must not be said of us what Paul said of the Jews that “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you” (Romans 2:24).
If we ask the question, “Why did God give us life?” the answer is that by our living we may hallow his name. He gave us minds to admire him, hearts to adore him and tongues to praise him. We exist in order to enjoy and glorify God unto ages of ages. His name is worthy to be praised; his name deserves hallowing; and Christian believers fulfill their vocations when their lives are consecrated to the hallowing of the name of God in all that they are, have and do.
Hallowed be the Name of the Father, and of his Son and of his Holy Spirit unto all ages and world without end.
CHAPTER TWELVE: Thy kingdom come
Disciples of Jesus Christ, addressing the Father, pray for the coming of the Father’s kingdom, of which Christ is the King. At first sight this seems a strange petition when we bear in mind that the kingdom came in, with and through Jesus Christ and that disciples of Jesus Christ are actually in God's kingdom. But on reflection we see that from our human perspective as pilgrims and sojourners on earth it makes perfect sense so to pray. While the kingdom has already arrived with Jesus the King and is present where his Spirit is active as his Paraclete, it has obviously not yet come in its fullness. We actually live in an evil age in mortal bodies affected by sin. In fact disciples would not be instructed to pray, “thy kingdom come” if they were not yet still, at least to some degree, in the kingdom of darkness and open to the temptation of the world, the flesh and the devil.
From the human standpoint the kingdom of God is primarily a future reality. It is that state of affairs which will come into being at the end of this evil age, after the Last Judgment. Then God will not only be fully in control, but everyone and everything will gladly acknowledge his rule and praise him. His future kingdom can be called a realm, a sphere and a rule. In it there will only be goodness and beauty and glory and peace. The kingdom will be the new creation in splendor, full of righteousness and free of all evil and sin and imperfection.
It was to this final perfection and consummation that the prophets of the old covenant looked, describing it, for example, as “new heavens and earth” and “new Jerusalem.” The Lord Jesus used vivid language to speak of this kingdom which he saw as coming in fullness and splendor after his Second Coming and the final judgment of the nations. The kingdom of God will be the sphere in which, under the rule of the Blessed Trinity, the redeemed in their resurrection bodies enjoy the fullness of eternal salvation in God’s service and proceed from glory to glory as with the angels they behold the glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ, the Son, with the Holy Spirit.
Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God made man his presence in space and time in Palestine meant that in him God’s perfect rule and peace, which belong essentially and necessarily to the heavenly and corning kingdom, were present on earth. Thus as he lived as a Jew in holy communion with the Father, doing his will, he proclaimed that the kingdom had drawn near. In him the kingdom of the future was a reality in the present. In him the glory of the age to come was seen in this age, in the rough and tumble of Palestine. Therefore to believe in him and to belong to him meant to be in the sphere and under the influence of the kingdom of God the Father, and thus to be receiving God's salvation here and now. To be a disciple of Jesus was to be a disciple of the kingdom of heaven.
The kingdom was present in Jesus as God’s Incarnate Son on earth but how is the kingdom present in space and time now that he is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. The answer is straightforward. By his perfect life of love, by his atoning death and by his exaltation into heaven Jesus conquered all the enemies of God and man – sin, death, hell and Satan. From heaven the Father through the Son, and for the sake of the Son sent the Holy Spirit to be the Paraclete of Jesus. Thus in and by the presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus, the King, is known on earth and where the Spirit and the King are, there is the kingdom of God the Father. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). So it is not surprising that while Jesus himself preached the arrival of the kingdom of God, his apostles preached the exaltation of the crucified Messiah, in and with whom is the kingdom of God.
When disciples of Jesus pray “thy kingdom come” they pray for the completion of God's redeeming work on earth and the dawn of the future kingdom of righteousness and peace in the age to come. They pray for the demolition of the kingdom of darkness and of the devil. Such a petition necessarily includes prayer for the coming of the kingdom into the lives of human beings as they are moved by the Holy Spirit to look to Jesus Christ for full salvation from all sin. Thus it is a prayer for what may be called the coming of both the present kingdom of grace and of the future kingdom of glory.
We pray that the kingdom of grace may be set up in our hearts, increase and flourish. We pray also that the kingdom of glory may soon come and that we be translated into it. These two kingdoms, or aspects of the one kingdom, differ not in nature but in degree. The kingdom of grace is nothing but the beginning of the kingdom of glory. The kingdom of grace is glory in the seed while the kingdom of glory is grace in the full flower. There is such a relation between the two kingdoms that one can only enter in the kingdom of glory through the kingdom of grace.
God’s kingdom is obviously not of this world or of this age. Thus any social, economic or political goal for the improvement of the human condition may be admirable but it cannot ever be the kingdom of God. Certainly earthly citizens of the heavenly kingdom of God are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world and thus make a difference to the quality of life on earth for all. But to equate any human utopia with the kingdom of God is a terrible mistake.
“Thy kingdom come” is a prayer for “a kingdom not of this world.”
CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Thy will be done
Having prayed for the hallowing of the holy name of God and for the coming of God’s kingdom, disciples of Jesus then pray for the will of the Father to be done on earth even as it is done in heaven. And they do so in the knowledge that the only Person who wholly and totally lived according to the Father’s will in space and time was the Lord Jesus himself and that they are to be like him, to imitate him. In his ministry he often made it clear that “I came to do the will of my Father in heaven” and, as he faced the horror of crucifixion at Calvary, he prayed, “Not my will but thine, O Father, be done.”
When speaking of the will of God, theologians have distinguished between (a) God’s secret will, or the will of his decrees, and (b) God’s revealed will made known to us in God’s Word written, the Holy Scriptures. Here the petition obviously focuses on (b) because (a) cannot be known, being locked up within the wisdom and knowledge of the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity.
God is the Creator of all things visible and invisible, and heaven belongs to the invisible things. Heaven, the dwelling place of the angels and archangels and of redeemed humanity, was given a new center and glory when Jesus Christ, Incarnate God, ascended into heaven. In fact, heaven as Christians understand it only came into being in its fullness with the exaltation therein of the Son of God with his perfected human nature. Now pure angels and perfected men behold the glory of the Father in the face of Jesus Christ and serve the Lord with pure hearts. Since the Exaltation there is greater revelation from God and greater communion with God even in heaven through the gracious presence of the Word made flesh, the Son of God Incarnate, our King, Priest and Prophet.
Always, however, the will of God was perfectly obeyed by the hosts of spiritual beings which serve the Lord God Almighty from age to age, everlastingly. Disciples of Jesus on earth pray that they will obey the Father as did and as do the angels in heaven. We are to resemble them and make them our pattern (Psalm 130:20; Isaiah 6: Revelation 4). Thus disciples on earth called to be holy and to be perfect (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16) do the will of God:
(a) by obeying as God’s word only what God has revealed as his will. This means that they have to be well-versed in the content and meaning of Holy Scripture and be able to discern the will of God from the will of man.
(b) by obeying this revealed will of God entirely, sincerely, willingly, fervently, swiftly and constantly. This means that they have to be indwelt and filled with the Holy Spirit and live by faith which works by love and in faithfulness.
Disciples do not follow the example of the evil angels, led by Satan, who disobey the will of God and seek to thwart his purposes on earth. Rather they pray to their heavenly Father both that his will be done and that they, weak as they are, be given the strength and determination to do that will wholly and to his glory (Psalm 143:10; Ezekiel 36:27).
The Lord Jesus obeyed his Father actively and intentionally in doing what he was commanded to do – active obedience. He also obeyed his Father when he accepted what the Father caused to be laid upon him, chiefly his passion and death on the cross (Matthew 26:39) – passive obedience.
Living in an evil age, where sin abounds, and where sickness, pain and injury are common, the disciple of Jesus often has to suffer physically and emotionally and know persecution, deprivation and poverty of various kinds. In these circumstances passive obedience is required in imitation of our Blessed Lord and of his saints. We are prone to resist affliction of any kind and to grumble and moan when it comes our way. But even when we can say to God, “Thy hand presseth me sore” (Psalm 38:2) and we know that the Lord “multiplies our wounds” (Job 9:17) we are patiently to be submissive to him and his will for “all things work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to his purposes” (Romans 8:28).
Afflictions received as means of passive obedience contribute to our true happiness, our blessedness (Job 5:17). They bring us into deeper communion with God and they make us much more aware of our heavenly pilgrimage and inheritance.
This petition is not only a request that the members of God’s family, his household, the members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church do his will on earth. It reaches to the whole of the created order and requests that God’s will be done everywhere and by all. Thus it is a prayer for the Parousia, the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in glory, to consummate the purpose of God by his judging of the living and the dead and by his bringing into being the new age of the kingdom of God in its fullness and glory. For only at the Parousia will every tongue confess that “Jesus is Lord” to the glory of the Father and thereby God’s will shall be done.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Our daily bread
It is of great spiritual and moral importance that before we pray for our own needs we seek God’s glory and the advancement of his cause. Christ Jesus taught us to petition for that which is supreme before that which is important but yet secondary. And we know that only his true disciples, those who have been born from above and seek the things which are above, can truly pray in sincerity and with fervor in this way, putting God's honor first. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness,” said Jesus, “and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). In this request for bread, disciples pray for part of the “all these things” which is added unto them out of God’s bounty.
The Greek word epiousios, which is often translated simply as “daily,” has been much discussed because it is a rare word. Perhaps the best explanation of its meaning is based on the derivation of it as ep-iousa meaning “that which is coming.” This would mean that here we have a prayer for bread for the coming day. Now the coming day would be the same day if the prayer be offered in the morning and it would be the following day if the prayer be offered in the evening. But there is a further probable meaning. “Bread for the morrow” could also mean “bread for the future” that is “nourishment at the Messianic Banquet of the age to come.”
If the request for the daily and the end-time food are united in intention then we have here a petition for health and salvation for body and soul, as a unity of being, both in this age and that which is to come. We need food for the body and food for the soul now and then in our resurrection bodies of glory we shall be fed at the Banquet of heaven, the Messiah’s table, with the food of eternal life. And the latter food is of course given now, in small quantity, each time we kneel at the Lord’s Table to receive Holy Communion.
All we have is of and from God’s bounteous provision. Even if we plough the fields and plant the seed and reap the harvest, what we obtain is the gift of God. Even if we grind the corn, make the flour, kneed the dough and bake in the oven the bread what we eat is the gift of God. “All things come of thee and of thine own have we given thee,” said David before the Lord.
Since food and clothing and shelter are gifts from God, they remind us that while it is good and right to ask for temporal things (food, clothing, shelter and health) we ought to desire them and use them for spiritual ends, that is as helps in our pilgrimage towards the heavenly city on the narrow way which leads to Life. To pray for temporal and physical things only to satisfy natural desire is not to make progress in the life of faith, hope and charity. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” said Jesus, “but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Even as we prayed “our Father” so we ask for “our bread.” A disciple of Christ can never truly think and act in egotistical or individualistic or selfish ways for he is seeking to love one another as Christ loves him and others. Thus the congregation in unison but also the individual believer in his privacy both pray for “our bread” since they are praying for all and for each others, that the needs of all and every one shall be met by God’s bounty.
God can bless a little and we can do well on a little. We recall that Daniel and the three children ate pulse and drank only water, a very basic diet, and yet they looked healthier on it than those who ate at the king’s table (Daniel 1:12). Thus we look to God who provides it to bless even our bread and water (Exodus 23:25) for we know that simple fare with God’s love is truly angels’ food. “Feed me with food convenient for me” said the wise man (Proverbs 30:8).
Yet God may give us rich food in plenty to eat. With the manna we may be given the quails (Exodus 16:11ff.). Here we must be both thankful and also wary for a full table can be a snare! There are spiritual dangers in prosperity and plenty unless we use these gifts to honor God and to love the neighbor. The golden sands of prosperity are often quicksands and this petition reminds us that God, the Source of our plenty, helps us to be thankful, generous with it and to live in contentment.
We are always to be aware that God often answers the petitions of his children by inspiring and guiding fellow human beings to provide what is being asked for. Thus the church, as the family of God, has seen its duty over the centuries to feed the hungry and provide water for those who are parched (see Matthew 25:31ff.).
To ask for the bread of today and of the morrow and further to ask for the bread of the heavenly Messianic Banquet is to place ourselves where we truly belong, as God’s creatures looking dutifully and thankfully unto our Father as the Giver of all good things.
CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Our debts
Having made petition for the world to see the glory of God, and having asked for what is necessary for bodily sustenance in this age and the age to come, disciples are directed by the Lord Jesus to pray for forgiveness by their heavenly Father as they offer forgiveness to fellow human beings.
Forgiveness makes possible right relations so that there can be communion, fellowship and friendship. God himself does not need forgiveness for he is glorious in holiness, beauty and goodness; but, he is the source of all forgiveness. In contrast, sinful human beings desperately need forgiveness from God and also forgiveness from fellow human beings, who have themselves been touched by God's mercy. Only forgiven man can be in a right relation with God the Father and only a forgiving man can be in right relations with his fellow men.
Jesus gave this Prayer of prayers to his disciples knowing that he would soon become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world by his sacrificial death on the Cross at Calvary. His Father forgives sin because of this Atonement and “we have redemption through his blood” (Ephesians 1:7).
By his disobedience of God, Adam made the whole human race debtors and saddled them with a debt they can never repay. The debt owed is a full and free obedience of creatures to their Creator. As each human being fails to obey his Maker so his debt increases and he has no way of paying it back. This is so because even his best efforts at pleasing God are tainted with human pride or selfishness and therefore fail to be true obedience and so instead of reducing the debt they actually increase it.
To be in a right relation with God and to have communion with the heavenly Father, man as a sinner needs his debt to be canceled. He can never reduce it or cancel it by own effort or negotiations but it is canceled and, as it were, the slate is wiped clean in heaven, when he is united in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. The beginning of discipleship means beginning a new life of grace, free of debt to God the Father almighty. The merit of Jesus Christ pays the debt.
Yet even as a disciple of Jesus Christ, maturing in faith, hope and love, debt is incurred. There is the need for daily forgiveness, for God the Father on the basis of the merits of his Son to cancel the new debt. Thus the petition, “Forgive us our debts/sins.. .” However, God the Father only forgives those in whom the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation is active. So there is a condition to the receiving of God’s forgiveness daily – he who desires God’s forgiveness must himself be prepared to forgive others.
During Holy Week Jesus taught his disciples much. On prayer and forgiveness he said: “And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). The apostle Paul echoed this when he told the Colossians that they were to forbear one another and forgive one another even as Christ forgave them (Colossians 3:13).
If we follow Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer then we find the word “sin” rather than “debt.” Both are translations of the original word used by Jesus, hoba, which while literally meaning “debt” is used in the Targums for “sin” and “transgression.” Sin means “missing the mark” and failing to do what God has commanded. To sin is therefore to transgress God’s holy law and to be under God’s judgment as a transgressor.
So debt points to what we owe to God and sin points to how much we have failed God.
God alone can forgive sins committed against his honor, his justice and his law. Thus only God can cancel the debt of offenses against the First Table of the Law (idolatry, blasphemy, not loving God with the whole heart); and only God can cancel the debt of offenses against the Second Table ( disobedience of the commandments to honor parents, not to lie, not to steal and not to commit adultery). Since the Law is God’s revealed will any offense against the Law is an offense against him.
Where then does forgiveness of man by man come into the picture? He can forgive the wrong done to himself (e.g., forgive the thief who stole from him and the murderer who killed his brother) but not a wrong done to God.
In many human sins, transgressions, trespasses and offenses, there is the primary sin against God and then there is the real sin against man, where man suffers because of the action of his fellow man.
Jesus taught that God the Father is only ready to extend his great mercy to disciples who sin against him by canceling their debt and wiping away their sin if, and only if, they have a forgiving spirit. In fact Jesus also taught: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45).
The origin of “the Peace” in the Divine Liturgy or Holy Eucharist is in the need for disciples to forgive one another and be reconciled to each other before they approach the holy table for the Body and Blood of Christ. “First be reconciled to your brother [who has been offended] and then come and offer your gift” said Jesus (Matthew 5:23-24).
CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Temptation and evil
Disciples are instructed to pray that God their heavenly Father will not cause or allow them to enter into temptation so that they will neither be overwhelmed by, nor succumb to, it. Here temptation can mean “trial” or “test” in the sense of suffering, persecution and martyrdom. It is prayer not for preservation from temptation but rather for preservation in temptation. What is promised to disciples in this evil age is not freedom from temptations but rather God’s help in overcoming them. For no one can possibly obtain the kingdom of heaven who has not passed through temptations.
Since St. James urges, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God tempts not any man” (1:13), then we must conclude that God does not tempt (as the devil tempts) man. God permits sin but does not promote it: God allows his children to be tested by trial and tempted by Satan or their own lusts (James 1:4), but he, himself, by his very nature of holiness, could and would not lead, that is seek to persuade by temptation, anyone to commit sin.
In the second part of this request disciples are told to ask that they be rescued from and protected against spiritual and moral evil in the world until they are released from this world and enter into the life of the age to come, where there is no evil.
There is no escape from temptation in this world for the disciples of Christ. From within their own nature, as sinful creatures not yet finally perfected, evil desires and temptations arise. Then, as they seek to be genuine disciples of Jesus Christ, the great enemy of God, Satan, makes them particular targets of his arrows of temptation. Thus disciples pray that God would not allow them to be overcome by temptation, that is, they ask that they be not left to themselves and their own power so that they fall prey to temptations which are sure to come to them daily.
The whole world is the parish or diocese of Satan, the evil angel, and he is sure to be watching disciples of Christ wherever they are and whatever they are doing. “Be sober, be vigilant,” wrote Peter, “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist...” (1 Peter 5:8). Satan, the devil, has power as a spiritual being to enter the heart, the mind and the imagination. He can stir up the sinful tendencies left within us and he can present to our mind’s eye pleasing but forbidden objects in order to raise desire in us for them. He can blow a spark of lust into a flame! And he is so experienced in his invasion of our inner being that we often do not recognize that he is active. We may even think that what he is suggesting is that which God is inspiring us to think and to do!
Satan is exceedingly subtle! He knows when to tempt, how to tempt and where to tempt us. He tempts when we are at our weakest and in areas where we least suspect and expect temptation. He excels in giving us all kinds of good reasons for not doing our duty in prayer, bible-reading and keeping God’s holy law. He makes the second best seem to be the best and the unlawful to be lawful. He misrepresents true holiness and leads us to love error instead of truth.
If all this is so, why does God allow his dear children to be tempted by the devil?
It has been well said that the devil tempts that he may deceive us but God lets us be tempted in order to try or to test us.
God our Father tests our sincerity in our profession of faith, our love for him and our courage in confessing him before men. Further, he allows us to be tempted in order to keep us from pride and to make us long for heaven where there is no temptation. And, if the saints have not faced temptations how can they minister to and help others in the way when they are also tempted? Finally, we have the example of Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who was himself tempted and who resisted the visitations of Satan and who now lives and reigns to make intercession for us (Hebrews 4:15).
Disciples pray for deliverance from evil, which means primarily the evil of sin but may also include what we call natural evils. That is they pray for deliverance from the evil of their own hearts (Hebrews 3:12), from the evil of Satan, who is the evil one (Matthew 13:19) and from the evil of the world (Galatians 1:4). From any or all of these sources they are able to be led away from the kingdom and from Jesus Christ back towards the kingdom of darkness from which they were delivered.
And as this is the last petition in the Lord’s Prayer, then it surely includes a request for deliverance from anything and everything that may occur at the last days and that may prevent the entry of every disciple into the glorious liberty of the kingdom of God of the age to come.
We do not want to fall away into partial or total ruin or into partial or total apostasy. Thus this petition to be delivered from evil so that we attain unto everlasting life.
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Doxology
Even as the Lord’s Prayer begins by hallowing the name of God, so it ends with a doxology to the Father, to whom belongs the eternal kingdom, the almighty power and the everlasting glory unto ages of ages. The most noble and the purest thing that creatures can do is to praise, worship, magnify and adore the almighty Father through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit.
In the King James Bible of 1611 the Lord’s Prayer as given by St. Matthew ends, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” In the Book of Common Prayer (1662 & 1928) the ending has an extra “for ever” and reads, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” However, when we turn to the Revised Standard Version (1946) and later translations we find that this doxology is either placed in a footnote or is omitted altogether.
The reason why it is omitted from modern translations is that it is not found in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament of which scholars are now aware. The English translations of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used the text of the New Testament which was preserved in the Byzantine Church at the end of the fourth century. Modern translations work with Greek texts from a century earlier and in these texts the doxology is not found either in Matthew’s or St. Luke’s versions of the Lord’s Prayer. In fact it is not found in any of the major Greek texts of St. Luke’s Gospel and is not therefore in the King James Version (Luke 11:1-4).
The first occurrence of the doxology as the ending of the Lord’s Prayer is found in the document called the Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles which belongs to the latter part of the first century. Here, in chapter 8, the Prayer ends with the doxology which we know from Matthew’s Gospel (6:13) and is followed by the instruction, “Three times a day pray thus.”
Is therefore the addition of the doxology in Matthew to be seen as untruthful and false? No, because the Lord’s Prayer would never have been prayed without some closing words of praise to the heavenly Father, our Lord God. No pious Jew or baptized Christian would ever close a prayer to the LORD with the words “and deliver us from evil.” We know that in Judaism prayers were often concluded with what was known as a “seal,” a sentence of praise freely created by the man who was praying.
It is highly probable that Jesus expected this to happen to the Prayer of prayers which he gave to his disciples. Whoever prayed this Prayer or led others in the praying of it concluded it with a “seal,” a doxology to the Father. As time went on a certain doxology became common and this is found in the Didache and was added by scribes to the text of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew but not in Luke.
Thus we affirm that the use of the doxology is according to the mind of Christ and we ought to end the Lord’s Prayer with it.
Here the kingdom is said to belong to the Father but in the New Testament Jesus Christ is called “the King of kings and Lord of lords.” Is the Father the King of the kingdom or is the Son the King of the kingdom?
In the Old Testament Yahweh (Jehovah), the “I am that I am” and the LORD, is both presented as the King of Israel and the King of the universe. What is said of Yahweh, the LORD, in the Old Testament is then said of the Father in the New Testament. Thus the Father is the King of all creation. However, we learn from the New Testament that the Father is not alone for he is the Father of the only-begotten Son and from him the Holy Spirit proceeds: thus God the LORD is the Holy Trinity and the Holy Trinity is the King.
Jesus Christ in his Deity as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity (together with the Father and the Holy Spirit) is truly the King of all creation. Further, as the Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ is the King specifically of what we may call the mediatorial kingdom, that is the kingdom of God as known in space and time in this world for the sake of the salvation of sinners and the regeneration of the whole cosmos. In Jesus, as the Mediator and the last Adam, the kingdom of God was redemptively and creatively present upon earth in space and time. He remains King of this phase or aspect of the kingdom until the Father’s saving, redeeming, reconciling and regenerating work is completed. Then the kingdom will enter its final and never-ending phase and it will be the kingdom of the Father, together with his Son and his Holy Spirit.
After speaking of the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead, St. Paul explained: “Then comes the end when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death . . . And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [the Father] that put all things under him [the Son], that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
Of this final phase of the kingdom of God, St. Augustine wrote: “There we shall be still and see; we shall see and we shall love; we shall love and we shall praise. Behold what will be, in the end, without end! For what is our end but to reach that kingdom which has no end?” (The City of God, xxii, 30).
PART THREE: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Old and New Law
A good owner cares for his dog and a good dog obeys its owner. A good parent loves his child and a good child obeys his parent. A good commander cares for his men and a good soldier obeys his commander.
So it is not surprising to learn that creatures find happiness and fulfill their vocation in life when they obey God, their Creator and Judge, who loves them with an everlasting love.
Written and engraved upon the soul or heart of human beings is the law of God – often called natural law. This endowment is part of man’s being created “in the image and after the likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27). By this law, or light of understanding, the human conscience declares what is right and wrong, good and evil, godly and sinful. In fact without this endowment within human beings it would not be possible to create human community or to have a basis for civil law.
This light of understanding is, however, not as bright and clear in humanity as it could be. The reason is that it is dimmed or distorted by human sinfulness. Because of sin we human beings do not see as clearly as we ought to see what is good and evil, right and wrong, godly and wicked.
To remedy this tragic situation and to make known to mankind the nature of God’s law and the grace available to fulfill it, the LORD God, Creator of the world, revealed his will in history.
The giving of the Law to Israel was the first stage of this Revelation from YHWH. The moral requirements of this Law are set forth in the Ten Commandments (or the Ten Words), the Decalogue (see Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5). And these Ten Words are summarized in the two great commandments, to love God and to love the neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 & Leviticus 19:18). The relation of this moral law to the natural law was well stated by Augustine when he wrote: “God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts” (commenting on Psalm 57:1). By the Ten Words the Israelites knew what it means to love God and to love one’s neighbor.
St. Paul spoke of the Law as holy just, spiritual and good and with the function of a tutor and custodian, to prepare for that which is to come (Romans 7:12 & Galatians 3:24). He also saw the Law as a law of bondage in that because of sin in the heart it can only point out the way but not give the power to go in that way.
Yet St. Paul also speaks of a New Law: “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Then, also, in the Letter to the Hebrews the LORD God is presented as promising: “I will establish a new covenant . . . I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God” (Hebrews 8:8, 10, citing Jeremiah 31:31-4). This New Law is the fulfillment of the Old Law and this fulfillment includes both the full exposition of the meaning of God’s commandments and the gift of the Holy Spirit to obey the same.
The content of the New Law is found in the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, specifically in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) and in his Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6). It is summarized first in the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 (“Whatever you wish that men would do to you do so to them, for this is the law and the prophets”) and then, secondly, in his new commandment that his disciples are to love one another as he has loved them (John 13:34; 15;12). And this is further explained and elaborated in the teaching within the apostolic Letters (see 1 Corinthians 12-13; Colossians 3-4; Ephesians 4-5; 1 John).
The New Law is the very opposite of a law of bondage because those who are commanded to obey it by Christ Jesus are called the children of God, the Father, and are given the internal desire, will and power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, to keep it. Thus they seek to obey it not from a sense of legalism or mere duty but out of a sense of love and freedom. “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
But does the arrival of the New Law and the gift of the Holy Spirit mean that the Ten Commandments are obsolete for Christians? No. The Ten Words remain but do so as they are brought to fulfillment by the Lord Jesus Christ. They become the Commandments of the New Covenant and are thus understood in the context and light of this Covenant of grace.
The Ten Commandments were originally given by the LORD God [Yahweh] to the tribes of Israel as part of the duties of the Covenant which he had established with them. They were given out of mercy in the best interest of the people. Not only was he their Creator but he was also their Redeemer and Lord, and thus it is entirely right, proper and natural that he should impose upon them norms by which they were to live as his people in his world, as a light to the tribes and nations around them.
So the Ten Words were given to Israel (and come to the Church of Christ) with a preface or preamble. “I am the LORD your God which have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” He brought them out of Egypt and made a covenant with them at Mt. Sinai. They are his adopted children and he is the adoptive Father of this people. So they are commanded by him to obey him as their merciful Redeemer and as his adopted children. Such faithful obedience will be for their true and everlasting good.
Since Christ Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets of Israel (Matthew 5:17) Christians read this preface through him. They have been redeemed by his blood shed on the Cross and they have been delivered from darkness into light and from sin into righteousness. So they are called to obey the Commandments as they were fulfilled by Christ’s own words and holy example. Such faithful obedience, assisted by the Holy Spirit, will be for their true and everlasting good.
CHAPTER NINETEEN: The Four Words
And God spoke all these words, saying: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make to yourself a graven image....
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain....
4. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy....
Duties directed specifically towards God who is the LORD (Yahweh) are set forth in the first four commandments. They are to be understood in relation to the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Jesus himself took up this command of love (Matthew 22:37 & Luke 10:27) and also during his testing in the wilderness cited Deuteronomy 6:13, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10).
In the fulfilling of these duties and the obeying of these commandments are the virtues of faith, hope and love. Faith in the one, true and living God, Creator, Redeemer and Judge. Hope for the new order, age and rest of the people of God in heaven (Hebrews 4). Love of God as he is adored, worshipped, praised, thanked, trusted and obeyed.
The First Commandment calls the people of God to be faithful and true in their relation to the Lord their God. There is only one, true and living God, Yahweh, who as the Sovereign Lord says: “You shall have no other gods before me.” There are no circumstances in which it is permissible for the Church as a society of people or any individual member thereof to bow down to or serve any other deity than Yahweh himself.
Christians are not merely to be monotheists, believing in and honoring One God. They are also to be Trinitarian monotheists believing in the One Holy, Blessed and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are to worship the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit. As they sing the trisagion “Holy, Holy, Holy ...” they adore the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity of the Transcendent LORD who comes near by the Holy Spirit.
Thus not only do Christians not partake in modern forms of polytheism, idolatry, magic, sorcery, spiritism and “spirituality”, they also keep far from them.
Therefore, it follows that “you shall not make unto yourself any graven image” to represent either the LORD God himself or any other false god. Israel was forbidden to make any pictorial image of Yahweh (the "I am who I am") and likewise the Church is forbidden to make any icon or image or picture of Yahweh (the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ). Yahweh, the Father almighty, being invisible and above all physical reality and known by his actions and words, is not to be reduced to some artifact made of stone or wood or metal.
There are, however, three (what appear to be) exceptions recorded in the Old Testament to this universal duty. These are the bronze serpent (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-15), the ark of the covenant and the cherubim (Exodus 25:10-22; 1 Kings 6:23-28). Based on these exceptions, the Church developed the use and veneration of icons (giving a clear theological explanation in the decrees of the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicea of 787).
Furthermore, it also follows that "thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain." The name of Yahweh, the LORD, and the name of the Father almighty are to pronounced with reverence, awe and devotion. God’s Name contains and conveys his nature and character and so to honor the name is to honor God himself and to dishonor the name is to dishonor God himself.
Jesus filled out the divine Name when he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the NAME of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18).
All blasphemous, hateful, defiant, magical and careless use of the divine name is a serious sin against God, as also are oaths which misuse the holy name of God.
In making the sign of the Cross and in saying, “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Christians are committing themselves not only to avoid taking the Name of God in vain but also to pronounce it with reverence, awe, humility and gratitude.
Finally, it follows that “thou shalt remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” One day each week is to be set apart when there is a suspension of normal activities and the time hallowed for the worship and service of Yahweh, the Father almighty through his Son and with his Holy Spirit.
Under the Mosaic Covenant that feast day for Israel was the seventh day, Saturday, the day on which God rested after he had made the universe in six days (Genesis 1). “The seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord” (Exodus 31:15). Not only did it recall the act of Creation and God’s “rest” as he contemplated what he had made, but it was also a sign of the covenant which he had made with them and of his liberation of them from the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).
Under the New Covenant, because Jesus the Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, the special day for the worship and service of the Father almighty became Sunday, the first day of the week, the Lord’s Day. It was on the first day of the week that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and thereby created the Christian hope of the resurrection of the dead and the hope of the true Sabbath in the age to come (see Hebrews 4).
Thus Christians are to make their first priority on the Lord’s Day the participation in the Christian assembly for the ministry of Word and Sacrament (Hebrews 10:25).
So we see that in these four Words the exclusive service, worship and obedience of the one, true and living God, Yahweh, the Father almighty, is defined.
We may also note that the primary relation of order in creation is that of the Creator to the creation and to each creature. Within this relation we live and move and have our being. From the creaturely side it may seem a little different for the most obvious and experienced relation of order for an infant is to the mother and father. However, behind the relation of child and parents lies the relation of creatures to their Creator and, while this is not so obvious as that to parents, it is more fundamental. So the Church has taught that the primary vocation of each human being as God’s creature, made in his image and after his likeness (Genesis 1:27) is “to enjoy and glorify him forever.” Thus the essence of Christian worship is for the people of God to adore, praise, give thanks unto, confess to, petition and make intercession before the Father almighty through Jesus Christ the Lord with the Holy Spirit. And the essence of Christian living in daily vocations is to “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:17).
CHAPTER TWENTY: The Six Words
5. Honor your father and your mother....
6. You shall not kill.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness.
10. You shall not covet....
Human beings are designed to live in a right relation to the LORD God, their Creator, Judge and Redeemer. They also are designed to live in a right relation to fellow human beings, first their relatives and then their neighbors and then the larger spheres of tribe and nation. God’s commandments to his covenant people have reference to both these relations of order. Having studied the four commandments within the relation of man to God we now turn to study briefly the commandments within the relation of man to man under the sovereign rule of the LORD our God, the Blessed, Holy and Undivided Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
These six commandments may be said to explain the meaning of the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31). St Paul underlined this when he wrote: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).
“Honor your father and your mother” is addressed not merely to children but also to adults for many adults have a parent alive. Nevertheless, the right habits are to formed early in life and so St. Paul wrote: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1).
The stability and cohesion of the human family is dependent on right activities, attitudes and feelings being shown by all family members to those who are before them and above them by procreation, through marriage and by adoption into the family. And within the family of God, the Christian Church, this command refers not only to biological parents but to older Christians who are in Christ Jesus as mothers and fathers.
At the same time parents and grandparents have a whole range of duties towards their children and honor from children to them will be the easier to form when these duties are being performed by them. So again St. Paul wrote: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
To honor one’s parents is a fundamental duty within the order of creation. Yet there are moments when the love of God and obedience to the call of Jesus Christ intervene and first place has to be given to the Lord. “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). Here it maybe said the first table of the law takes precedence over the second table.
“You shall not kill” clearly means that premeditated murder is a sin against God and man. (Killing in battle or in capital punishment is excluded.) “Do not slay the innocent or the righteous” (Exodus 23:7). The deliberate murder of an innocent person is contrary to the holiness of God himself, to the command to love the neighbor and to the dignity of the human being as God’s creature.
Such a dreadful deed as murder destroys the God-given relations and harmony of the community. Infanticide, fratricide, patricide and the murder of a spouse break natural bonds of the family and are particularly grave. And abortion must also be counted as the murder of an innocent, defenseless person. Likewise euthanasia is also murder.
Jesus Christ showed that this commandment applies to the inner life as well as the external. He said that “whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21-26). God’s holy law reaches into the soul and judges the thoughts of the mind, the feelings of the heart and the intentions of the will.
“You shall not commit adultery” assumes the sacred nature of the relation of man and woman in holy matrimony. And underlying this sacred relation is the order of creation: “God created man in his own image . . .male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Adultery is an injustice. He or she who commits adultery fails to keep a solemn and holy commitment made in the marriage bond and covenant. Also he or she transgresses the rights of the other spouse and also helps to undermine the institution of marriage whose stability is so important for children and for society.
Jesus Christ authoritatively added to this commandment the explanation that to be consumed in lust for another person is also to commit adultery in God’s judgment (Matthew 5:27-32).
By extension this command forbids all forms of fornication whether between a man and woman or between two persons of the same sex. It also outlaws prostitution and raises a very formidable barrier to divorce and remarriage. The law preserves the sanctity of marriage and requires chastity inside and outside marriage.
“You shall not steal” safeguards private property and thus prohibits taking the property of another in order to possess it for oneself. By extension it forbids such things as withholding the tithe belonging to God or the work-time owing to an employer. It relates also to such things as business fraud, forcing prices up by taking advantage of the ignorance or weakness of others, tax evasion, forging checks, charging full price for work poorly done and so on.
St. Paul wrote that “neither thieves, nor the greedy . . . nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:10).
The positive side of this commandment is in terms of the duty to give to the poor so that they too share in the good things of God’s creation (Luke 3:10-14).
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” points in the first place to false witness and perjured testimony in court or in public which threatens the life or reputation of another or others in the community. In the second place, it prohibits all forms of lying and deceit.
Respect for the dignity and reputation of other persons forbids every attitude and form of speech likely to cause them unjust injury to soul or body or possessions.
The purpose of speech is to communicate what is true not to be used for detraction, calumny, rash judgment, flattery, adulation and lies.
For God Truth has a high priority! Jesus Christ is himself “the Truth” and he said that to know the “truth” is to be set free, and, further, his Spirit leads his disciples into all “truth” (John 14:6; 8:32; 16:13).
“Put away,” wrote St. Peter, “all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1). St. Paul wrote: “Putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25).
“You shall not covet” refers to excessive desire or illicit desire to possess that which rightly belongs to another. Inordinate desire often leads on via practical activity to possess that which is longed for. Thus it is often the basis for stealing, fraud and adultery.
This commandment forbids greed and avarice and envy and all “lust of the eyes”.
So Jesus in the Beatitudes said: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God;” and he added: “Where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Matthew 5:8; 6:21).
Those who seek for God the Father through and in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit know what the true treasure is and have their hearts rightly focused. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:3).
St. Paul reasoned “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” and added that “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-5). Only by the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart can there be purity of intention, purity of vision and true chastity of soul. This is not achieved overnight but is the result of disciplined prayer and holy living in the fear and love of God.
We have noted that Jesus Christ and his apostles taught that all these six commandments are covered by and contained within the one commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 & Matthew 22:37). Further, Jesus taught his disciples “to love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35) as a further extension of the basic command to love.
Loving another is not mere positive feeling to another but is an act of the intellect and will intending to do true good to that person. Thus in the story told by Jesus Christ the good neighbor is like the Samaritan who takes the time to care for the man who had been robbed and was injured (Luke 10:30-37). And in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught his disciples to “love your enemies, to bless them that curse you, to do good to them that hate you, and to pray for those them that despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
In his “Hymn of Love” the apostle Paul writes eloquently of the way of love. “Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in inquity but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. . .” (1 Corinthians 13 KJV).
Jesus himself fully honored and obeyed the Law of the LORD. As the new Adam he perfectly obeyed where the old Adam had disobeyed. Jesus fulfilled the Law both in intention and in deed, inwardly and outwardly, so that when he came to offer himself as the sacrifice for sin at Calvary’s Cross he was the pure and undefiled Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In his sacrificial death as the Substitute and Representative of mankind he paid the penalty for sin.
Salvation is not gained from God the Father almighty through sincere attempts to obey his law. There is no salvation by works. Salvation is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ to those who repent of their sin and believe the Gospel. However, true faith is faithful and true faith works by love. Thus those who are saved through union with the Lord Jesus are also those who delight to keep the Law of the LORD.
O Almighty Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech Thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of Thy laws, and in the works of Thy commandments; that, through Thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Grant to us, Lord, we beseech Thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful; that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without Thee, may by Thee be enabled to live according to Thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Grace of Law
“Lord, have mercy upon us and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.”
These words, still familiar to millions of Anglicans in Africa and Asia in their own languages, were once also familiar to devout Anglicans in the North/West when the classic Book of Common Prayer was used for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. They are the final response of the assembled congregation to the hearing of the Ten Commandments at the beginning of the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper.
The same Ten Words were also usually to be seen [and can still be seen here and there] printed in large letters either on part of the wall of the chancel or above the west door or in some other place in older parish churches. They were taught as part of the basic Catechesis [together with the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer] for those who were preparing for Confirmation. Thus all communicants were expected to know them off by heart [not simply by rote], together with their Summary, the loving of God and of the neighbor.
GRACE WITHOUT LAW?
Regrettably there seems to be little teaching of the Ten Commandments these days in the old-line Churches of the U.S.A., including the Episcopal Church. In fact the situation seems to be becoming more common where the message is “Let us sin that grace may abound” and “What our instincts tell us that is law.” Thus there is “Grace without Law.”
And where the Law of the LORD is recited publicly it is usually only in terms of the Summary. However, the Summary, though hallowed, is meant for those who already know the Ten Commandments and who need to know that the substance of the Ten is AGAPE (CHARITY), first the loving of God, the Holy Trinity, and then the loving of mankind, that is our love for the Father through the Son and with the Holy Spirit and for our fellow human beings.
In other words, in the modern permissive atmosphere to speak only of the love of God and the neighbor (and not to declare this love to be the summary of the Ten Words) opens the door for the misunderstanding of what truly it means in practical terms to love God and the neighbor. Love can so easily be devalued and made to be self-serving instead of God-honoring.
We need to hear and to meditate upon the Ten Commandments and the way they are fulfilled by the Lord Jesus and by his apostles.
THE GRACE OF GOD IN THE LAW
We may rightly speak of the Grace of Law for the gift of the Law is a gift of the grace of God, first to the people of the old covenant and then to the people of the new covenant. The Law is given to a redeemed people who have been delivered by the Exodus (at the Red Sea or at the Cross of Calvary) in order that they know what it is to live in covenant with the Lord their God, the Savior and their Redeemer.
The Law of God, reflecting his own holy and righteous nature, condemns all sin, disobedience, immorality and wickedness always and everywhere in God's world. Its clear “Thou shalt not” declares what is forbidden by heaven and what is contrary to the true nature of man on earth.
The Law of God, reflecting his own holy and righteous nature, convicts those with ears to hear of their own sinfulness in breaking the commandments of the Lord. The “thou shalt not” of the Law becomes a personal message from the Lord heard within the soul of the sinner and he begins to have a guilty conscience before God, feeling remorse and the need to repent.
The Law of God, reflecting his own merciful and compassionate nature, constrains sinners with a guilty conscience and feeling the need of cleansing and pardon to flee to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Exalted Savior, for remission of sins. And this journey to the Cross is not a once off visit but a regular pilgrimage for as sinners grow in grace so they are made aware of more sins to be confessed and turned away from. It is a visit made during each participation in the Holy Communion.
The Law of God, reflecting his own merciful and compassionate nature, calls forgiven sinners to the obedience of faith, to the keeping of the commandments in thought, word and deed. “Be holy as I am holy” and “Be perfect as I am perfect” is the continuing Word of God to God’s people. The forgiven and being sanctified sinner rejoices in the provision of the Law and delights to keep it as he lives in the power of the Holy Spirit in imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ, who on earth kept God's law and delighted in it.
Forgiven and being-sanctified sinners do not keep the Law in order to earn merit before God’s judgment – that would be foolish indeed – but rather as part of the obedience inherent in their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Keeping God’s law is faith being faithful and faith working by love; thus the resulting good works are to the praise of the Father in heaven.
We have examined the expression of Christian Faith in the Creed, Hope in the Lord’s Prayer and Love in the Ten Commandments.
We have seen that Faith cannot exist without Hope and Love, and Hope cannot exist without Faith and Love. Yet Charity or Love, however, will exist without Faith and Hope but only in the life of the age to come in the glory of heaven in the presence of the Lord. In this evil age, Love needs Faith and Hope as its foundations and energizers.
These theological virtues are not solely for theologians. And they are not only for clergy. They are God’s gifts to all his children for they exist in the heart as the result of the presence of the gift of his Holy Spirit. It is often the case that the lay members of God’s Church reveal more of these virtues than do the clergy and theologians.
Faith, Hope and Love cannot really be cultivated in isolationism by the individual believer. They only truly grow and mature in souls who are living “in the communion of the saints,” are conscious of their membership in the Body of Christ, and make use of the means of grace as they seek to live faithfully before God.
Of course imitations of the virtues can easily grow and be cultivated. And it is possible for a person to give the impression of having the real thing and deceive most people for most of the time. But, while it is true that God alone truly knows in which persons these virtues and the “fruit of the Spirit” are present, it is also true that, later rather than sooner, many of those who genuinely persevere in these virtues are recognized by their fellow Christians as being mature in the Faith and are called “saints.”
Of course the virtues have to be nurtured and fed. This occurs through what have been called the “means of grace” and through personal discipline, consecration and perseverance. They will not usually or normally grow and mature unless they are found in a soul that is a lively member of a worshipping congregation where the Word of God is preached, the Sacraments administered and discipline exercised. And further they will not grow unless there is a daily walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, with regular prayer, meditation, witnessing for Christ and the loving of God and the neighbor.
Certainly there is a great need in churches for the teaching of the content and meaning of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. Truth received in the mind from these sources as sound teaching will then by the work of the Holy Spirit drop into the heart in order to set the affections (love, joy, desire, hope, peace etc.) on fire for God and to direct the human will into doing what is pleasing to God. Thus faith and good works, orthodoxy and orthopraxis, worship and mission, fellowship and evangelism are united in the providence of God as known in the church of Jesus Christ.
There is one more thing that I need to state and to do so as emphatically as I am able. If a person truly forms his mind, heart and soul by the content of the Creed, Lord’s Prayer and the Commandments, he will have gained what we may call the right mindset or the right mental paradigm by and through which to read the Holy Scriptures with profit.
After all the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God written, are the supreme authority for the Church and thus rightly to hear them and read them is of great importance. But we need to approach the Word of God written with a soul that is rightly prepared to receive what God has to say to us; and there is no better preparation than a structured, reverend and humble mind formed by the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer and the Commandments.
Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and humbly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
APPENDIX: Faith, Hope and Love and the Anglican Formularies
The three theological virtues are seen and known by means of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Commandments.
At the same time the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Commandments are set within a larger context, that of the Formularies of the Church. Only as the Formularies are in place is there the proper context for the faithful teaching of the Creed, praying of the Lord's Prayer and keeping of the Commandments, and thus the worship of the Holy Trinity.
The Anglican Way, like the Roman Catholic Way, the Orthodox Way, the Presbyterian Way and the Lutheran Way, as a jurisdiction of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church has its own particular Formularies. Of course, and importantly, it shares with them the primary and non-reformable Formulary which we call the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God written. It also shares with them the Nicene Creed.
However, the Anglican Way is based on the Holy Scriptures together with its own distinctive secondary English Formularies. The latter have been in place since the mid-sixteenth century when the ancient Ecclesia Anglicana by reformation, renewal and change of primary language became the Church of England, a free national and established Church. The same Church of England has bequeathed to the Anglican Communion of Churches, which have grown from her, precisely the same Formularies, which have in turn been translated into many languages.
These Formularies are the distinctive, unique statements of the Anglican Way and therefore are the doctrinal and liturgical basis of the Anglican Communion of Churches. Only when they are truly in place and operative can the theological virtues of faith, hope and love be evident and prosper in churches of the Anglican Communion.
The Formularies of the Anglican Way are the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Articles of Religion. In principle, these can be in any language, translated from the originals in English (and the scholarly text in Latin), and they exist in oven 150 languages of the Anglican Communion. Further, the Formularies exist in a particular order.
First, came the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 replacing the Latin Service Books. Here the Church of England identified both with the Common [Daily Prayer] Prayer of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and with the administration of the Sacraments, but did so in English and in revised form. Since 1549 the B.C.P has gone through various editions and been translated into many languages. Its most influential edition is that of 1662. By the sincere and genuine use of the services of the Common Prayer Tradition faith, hope and love are nurtured and brought to maturity in Anglican Christians.
Second, came the Ordinal which was produced after the B.C.P. 1549 but from 1550 attached to it. Here the Church of England revealed its commitment to the ancient and threefold ordained Ministry of Bishop, Presbyter [Priest] and Deacon. Since 1549 the Ordinal has been revised only minimally and with the B.C.P has been translated as part of the [enlarged] Prayer Book into many languages. Its most influential edition is that of 1662.
The Ordinal requires that candidates for ordained ministry be men in whom the theological virtues are apparent and show signs of growing and maturing. Further, it requires that they foster these virtues in those whom they serve.
Third, came the Articles of Religion. Significantly, this statement of doctrine was not called a Confession of Faith so that it was instantly identified with the various Confessions of Faith produced by the Lutheran and Reformed (Presbyterian) Churches of that time. It was intended to indicate the adherence of the Church of England to the Scriptures and to the doctrine and tradition of the ancient Church as well as to provide a guide through the controversies between medieval and reformed catholic positions of the sixteenth century. Most but not all of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion have the Articles of Religion in their Constitution.
The religion to which the Articles point is Basic Christianity or Reformed Catholicism which expresses the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
The fact that the Formularies were composed in the sixteenth century is not any more significant as such than the fact that the Nicene Creed belongs to the fourth century and the Athanasian Creed to the fifth century. All human writings, including the holy texts of sacred Scripture, belong to space and time and have a historical context. The context of the Formularies is that of reformation in the sixteenth century when there was a massive attempt underway to seek to recover the doctrine, liturgy and discipline of the Early Church of the first five or six centuries.
Certainly the Articles of Religion have a definite Protestant flavor. But what does Protestant mean here? It means a protest on behalf of the Gospel as that was known, preached, taught and given doctrinal definition in the ancient Church. It is significant that the divines of the late sixteenth century developed the simple way of referring to the foundation of the Formularies of the reformed catholic Church of England, in this manner: One canon of Scripture in Two Testaments, with Three Creeds and Four Councils and Five centuries to provide holy tradition in and by which to read Scripture and to establish the polity and law of the Church.
Following American Independence, the former Church of England in America and now the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States accepted the Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal (a revision of the 1662 texts) in 1789 and the Articles of Religion (revised to take account of the Republic) in 1801. These authentic Formularies remained in place until the 1970s when the (now) Episcopal Church effectively replaced them with new texts.
Obviously, the content of the historic Formularies has to be understood and applied in different situations (as the Lambeth Quadrilateral makes clear with respect to the historic Episcopate and as the translations of the B.C.P into over 150 languages reveals) but the content is always there as the common law of the Anglican Way. Further, the Anglican Churches can and do produce other forms of service than those in the B.C.P and the Ordinal, but when they do so they recognize them to be alternative forms not substitutes and also to be within the doctrinal parameters of the Formularies. Thus new prayer books worldwide (except significantly in the Episcopal Church, U.S.A.) have been called Alternative Prayer Books or [Country-Names] Prayer Books, since they were not intended to replace the classic B.C.P.
To conclude. While it may not be obvious at first sight and by first thought, it is nevertheless true that Basic Christianity is both affirmed and protected by the existence of the Anglican Formularies, which provide the foundation and context in which genuine Faith, Hope and Love in the worship and service of God the Father Almighty can and do genuinely exist and grow.
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