************ Sermon on Nicene Creed ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 24, 2012
Nicene Creed 07
1 Timothy 1:12-17
1 Timothy 1:15
"For Us and Our Salvation He Came From Heaven"
Today, we continue our study of the Nicene Creed by looking at why Jesus came. The Creed puts it this way,
For us and for our salvationDoesn't this sound a lot like our text from 1 Timothy 1:15?
he came down from heaven
Paul writes, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." What does this text mean? In answering this, I want to look at the who, where, what, and why.
I Who - Christ Jesus
Who is Paul talking about. Paul is talking about "Christ Jesus." Let me remind you of what we have confessed about Christ Jesus so far. With the church of all ages, we have said,
We believe ... in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
[remember all the repetition that follows?]
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
What is the Creed saying? And, what are we confessing when we say the Creed? We are making the point, with Nicene, that we believe Jesus is divine. That Jesus was not created. That Jesus, like God, did not have a beginning. That Jesus shares fully in the life of God. That Jesus not only is like God but is God in every way.
This is the Jesus that Paul is talking about in our text. The Jesus Who is divine. The Jesus Who is one with the Father. The Jesus Who is "begotten, not made." The Jesus Who eternally is the Son of God.
II Where - The World
A Our second question concerns the "where"? Paul tells us Christ Jesus "came into the world." The Greek word for "world" has two basic meanings. First, it can mean the universe, the sum of all that is created, the heavens and earth and everything that is in them. Seen this way, Paul is reminding us that Jesus physically entered into the universe when He was born. Or, as John puts it, He "became flesh and made His dwelling among us" (Jn 1:14).
The Old Testament has a word for this: "Immanuel," which means "God with us." When Jesus entered the physical universe God became one with us in the flesh. Think of what this means: the almighty, ever-glorious, eternal God took on frail, humble, human flesh. That is like you and I becoming a slug or a worm.
Christ Jesus "came" into the world. Christ Jesus "came" from heaven and to earth. Paul has the incarnation in mind.
The Creed makes the same confession about Jesus. We are told,
he came down from heaven;
he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit
and the virgin Mary,
and was made human.
What is the Creed saying? And, what are we confessing when we say the Creed? We are making the point, with Nicene, that we believe Jesus is human. That Jesus is fully and completely man. That Jesus not only is like man but is man in every way.
"Christ Jesus came into the world." We are saying the eternal Son of God took to Himself a truly human nature.
B The Greek word for "world" also has a second meaning. It can also mean that part of the universe that lies under sin and death. It means that part of the Creation that was shattered by the fall and stands under the judgment of God.
Our text tells us that "Christ Jesus came into the world" – a world of sin and fallenness and evil. Think of what this means: the pure, righteous, and holy God entered our sinful world and took on our sin. The Apostle Paul speaks of this when he says,
(2 Cor 5:21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.That's like you and I going to prison and taking on the identity of the worst criminal – one of the 9/11 masterminds, for instance. That is not a nice thought, is it?! Yet, that is what Christ did when He "came into the world."
III What - Sinners
A Our third question concerns the "what"? What was Jesus concerned about? What was His target? Paul tells us Christ Jesus came into the world for "sinners."
In our Scripture reading Paul calls himself the "worst" of sinners. He tells us exactly why he calls himself this: "I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" (1 Tim 1:13). Before his conversion Paul hated Jesus Christ and His church, he persecuted Christians, and he was at the forefront of those who stoned them to death. Paul thought nothing of cursing Christ. This certainly makes Paul a sinner.
Paul is thinking not only about his sinful past but also about his sinful present. You know what he writes in Romans 7:
(Rom 7:15,19,21) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do ... (19) For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing ... (21) So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.Paul clearly identifies himself as one of the sinners Christ Jesus came to save. In fact, he was so aware of his sin, of the evil in his life, of his fallen condition apart from Christ, that he called himself "the worst of sinners." Very few people, today, would ever say that about themselves.
If Paul calls himself the "worst" of sinners, what are you and I? After all, Paul was one of the Apostles, a real saint of God, someone who agonized over his relationship with the Lord. I think you see my point. If Paul is the "worst" of sinners, then you and I must be the vilest sort of sinners.
Did you notice how Nicene includes you and me in this? "For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven." For us. For our salvation. We are the sinners for whom Christ came. We and our sin are what is wrong with this world.
B Now, what is a sinner? A sinner (and this may sound a little simple to you) is someone who sins. But now we need to ask, "What exactly is sin?" We hear about sin often enough, but do we really know what it is?
The Bible has many words to describe sin. Sometimes it is described as unfairness or injustice or iniquity when you don't treat others as equals. This is the sin of a rich man who kills a poor man's single lamb.
Sometimes sin is described as trespassing or transgressing. God's holiness is pictured as a piece of land. When we step across the border of it, we trespass. We tread on holy ground. We go beyond our limits. This is the sin of Adam and Eve who took the forbidden fruit and tried to be like God.
Sometimes sin is pictured as missing a target, or stumbling and falling, or getting all dirty, or wandering off the right path and getting lost.
C When it comes right down to it, sin is disobedience. It is disobedience against God. This is a reminder that all sin is sin against God. Yes, we may sin against our wife or husband, our children or parents, our neighbor, our church, our friends. But ultimately, all sin is sin against God. Think of Joseph when confronted with Potiphar's wife panting to take him to bed. This was sin against Potiphar, and Joseph knew that. But he knew this was first sin against God. So he said to Potiphar's wife, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Gen 39:9). Or, think of King David after his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah. He cried out to God:
(Ps 51:4) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
D "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." We need to remember that sin is not just something man does but it is also something man is. You see, some might say men are sinners because they sin; but the truth of the matter is that men sin because they are sinners. Sin is something man is born with. It is something all men inherit. It is something that corrupts from within so that words, thoughts, and deeds are all infected. In other words, Jesus came for me and you and everyone else in this building, for we all are sinners.
IV Why - Save
A Our fourth question concerns the "why"? Christ Jesus came into the world to "save" sinners. Why did Jesus come into the world: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! But, what does this mean? What is it that Jesus does for us? To put it plainly, Jesus brings salvation. He brings salvation from sin.
Now, the Bible uses as many words for salvation as it uses for sin. Sometimes salvation is described as reconciliation. Think of a lost son who returns home and is greeted with a kiss. Or, think of a husband and wife who make up after a big argument. In saving us, Jesus reconciles us to God. He removes the anger and the hatred and the enmity that exists between us and God.
Subtopic: Examples of Human
There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.
On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
Sometimes salvation is described as redemption. To redeem something is to pay a ransom. Think of a slave who is bought so the master can set him free. In saving us Christ has redeemed us from evil, sin, death, emptiness, and the powers of this world.
Sometimes salvation is described as satisfaction. In saving us Christ satisfied the demands of God's justice. In saving us Christ satisfied God's demand for obedience and holiness.
Sometimes salvation is described as forgiveness. Forgiveness means the sin is not allowed to come between us and God; further, it means God will not accuse us on the basis of the sin; finally, it means God will not dwell on the sin, nurse it, or harbor a grudge on account of it.
Topic: ForgivenessAlthough this example is certainly an imperfect one, the ending is worth noting. Full confession, full pardon – and a promotion! That's just what God has done for us because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Subtopic: Examples of Human
An officer in the army of Russian Czar Peter the Great was involved in a plot against the ruler. But though tortured terribly, the officer refused to confess. Realizing that pain would not break him, Peter went up to the man, kissed him, and promised him that if he confessed he would receive not only a full pardon but a promotion to colonel. The officer was so unnerved by Peter's tactic that he embraced the czar and made a full confession. True to his word, Peter forgave the man and made him a colonel!
Finally, sometimes salvation is also described as acceptance. All of us hunger for acceptance. And, we are willing to do all sorts of things to gain acceptance. When Christ saves us He makes us acceptable to God. When Christ saves us God accepts us.
When we think of salvation in the light of how Paul views himself as the "worst" of sinners, we see a miracle of grace. If God can save Paul, the worst of sinners, then He can save anyone. The message here is that no sin is too big, no sinner too sinful, no conscience too stricken, and no guilt too great to be beyond the reach of Christ's act of salvation. Isn't that wonderful and comforting?!
B Using almost the same language as Paul, the Creed simply says, "for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven."
These words do not just express a bare theological truth. Instead, they offer the Gospel. They are the sweet words of God's love that warms the hearts of those who hear them in faith.
Notice the location of this phrase. Above it is Jesus as the eternal Son of God. Below it is Jesus who took on our flesh and suffered and died. So, I want you to notice what the Creed does: it uses "us and our salvation" to join together Jesus as the Son of God to Jesus as the Lamb of God.
"Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." "For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven ... and was made human."
Do you notice what the fathers of Nicea did? They confessed Jesus is fully God. They confessed Jesus is fully man. They confessed both, at the same time, about the same person? Why? Because they kept salvation firmly in view. You see, they knew something that many today tend to forget. That Jesus had to be God to save us from our sins. That Jesus had to be man to save us from our sins. That Jesus had to be fully God and fully man to be our perfect Savior.
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