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The Apostles’ Creed (Mohler)

(21 posts)

Where Christianity Begins

Tuesday··2020·01·28
As usual, I received a few good books for Christmas. Among them was Albert Mohler’s recent publication, The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits. I began reading it this morning. In the popular culture, we hear much of “faith.” But the object of that faith is usually something less than certain; often, it is simply faith itself, as though simply believing has power to make things happen. In his introduction, Mohler emphasizes a point that bears frequent repetition: “Christianity is not belief in belief.” I believe. These two words are among the most explosive words any human can utter. They open the door to eternal life and are the foundation of the Christian faith. Belief stands as the very center of Christian faithfulness and is where Christianity begins for the Christian. We enter the faith and find eternal life in Christ by responding to the truth with trust—that is, with belief. But Christianity is not belief in belief. It is belief in a propositional truth: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and savior of sinners. We do not believe in a Christ of our imagination but in the Christ of Scripture—the Christ believed in by every generation of true Christians. Furthermore, beyond belief in Christ stands belief in everything Jesus taught his disciples. Matthew recorded that Jesus instructed his disciples to teach others to observe all that he had commanded them (Matt. 28:18–20). Therefore, there is no Christianity without belief, without teaching, and without obedience to Christ. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), xvi.

A Doctrineless Christianity

Wednesday··2020·01·29
Albert Mohler on the necessity of creeds and confessions: The Apostles’ Creed was not written by the apostles, but it does reflect the early church’s effort to express and summarize the faith given by Christ to the apostles. Early Christians called the creed “the rule of faith” and turned to it as they worshipped and taught the faithful. But the question arises: Why today, do we need a book on the Apostles’ Creed? What relevance could it have and what benefit can come from examining it? Some object to the very idea of accountability to old words. Still others claim that Christians are to hold no creed but the Bible and to have “no creed but Christ.” The problem is, of course, that we all need a summary of what the Bible teaches, and the church needs a strong standard for recognizing true Christianity and rejecting false doctrines. What is more, behind some objections to the Apostles’ Creed is something exceedingly dangerous: a desire for a doctrineless faith. Some argue for a Christianity that requires no formal doctrines or doctrinal mandates. The history of Christianity, however, is littered with the debris of many such movements, each of which left behind shattered lives of people whose faith dissolved without the structure of doctrine. The idea of a doctrineless Christianity stands at odds with the words of Christ, who revealed himself to the apostles in explicitly doctrinal terms. Jesus revealed himself in truth claims. He identified himself as the Son of Man and demonstrated his deity, even referring to himself as “I am” repeatedly in the gospel of John—bearing the name God had given himself from the burning bush as he spoke to Moses (Ex. 3:13–16). A doctrineless Christianity also stands in contradiction with what Christ commissioned his apostles to do—to make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey all that Christ commanded (Matt. 28:18–20). This command requires doctrine. Here we have to remember simply that doctrine, as a great historian of Christianity explained it, is “what the church believes, teaches, and confesses on the basis of the word of God.” Any church that believes, teaches, and worships has some doctrine. The question is: Are they the right doctrines, the right teachings? —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), xviii–xvix. The Apostles’ Creed does not contain a complete confession of every necessary Christian doctrine. But, for more than a millennium, the greatest theologians of the church have affirmed the biblical doctrines of this creed. We would be foolish to cast it aside now.

An Ordinary God?

Friday··2020·01·31
God is not a philosophical construct, malleable to our personal notions of what we would like him to be. He is a real, living being, whose attributes are not only nonconformable to our preferences, but are eternally unchanging. He is who he says he is, and to believe anything else is to believe in someone—or something—else. It is to place faith in fiction. A. W. Tozer brilliantly summarized the entirety of Christian discipleship when he said, “What comes into our minds when we think of God is the most important thing about us.” What the church means when it says the word God reveals everything about our worship and theological integrity If we begin with a wrong conception of God, we will misconstrue the entirety of the Christian faith. This fact is why heretics and false teachers so often begin by rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. If we can reject God as he has revealed himself in Scripture, then we can and will reject everything else. From the time of the apostles onward, the church has taken its stand on the phrase, Credo in Deum Patrem Omnipotentem. I believe in God, the Father Almighty. Notice, the Apostles’ Creed does not begin merely with the words: “I believe in God.” Rather, it goes beyond that simple phrase to describe the identity and character of God. The Christian faith is not established on some abstract deity or on “some god.” We do not confess, “I believe in the numinous. We are here in the name of the supernatural, the sacred, and the divine.” We do not call ourselves together in the name of the “thrice unconditioned,” or some other form of speculation. . . . Our hearts are corrupted to such a degree that we are ignorant without God’s self-revelation. Calvin described the human heart in its fallen state as a “perpetual factory of idols,” constantly producing and processing new idols of the imagination. Sometimes these idols take material form, but in our day, idols usually take philosophical and ideological forms. This fact was demonstrated several decades ago when sociologists in Great Britain conducted a massive study on the religious convictions of British people—specifically of their belief in God. What the survey revealed is that even many who believe in a god do not believe that he is personal, intervenes in human history, or has anything to do with the person and work of Christ. One responder to the survey summarized this view of god quite succinctly. When asked, “How would you describe the god in whom you believe?” he said, “Oh, just an ordinary god.” Many people we interact with in our neighborhoods and work places believe only in an “ordinary god.” Far more hauntingly, even many people who sit next to us in worship believe in “just an ordinary god.” This ordinary god is not the God of the Bible. Our concern with the first article of the creed is not with just an ordinary god or with the god of the philosophers but with the holy God who has revealed himself in Scripture. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 3–5.
The one true God—the God of the Bible—is not an impersonal force, nor is he a disinterested observer of his creation. He is a father to his children, who are personally and intimately loved and enjoy all the privileges of sons and daughters. If properly understood, this Trinitarian relationship—unity in Trinity and Trinity in unity—will inspire and teach us how to relate to the God of Scripture, who is both personal and transcendent. In fact, Jesus was the one who taught us that we could call God “our Father” when he instructed his disciples to pray with these words. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). These words imply that Jesus’ disciples are not only allowed to pray to God, but we are specifically instructed to pray to God as “Father.” Understanding the Trinitarian relationship and the role of the Father is not just a matter of theory but a central pillar in the life of every Christian. As Helmut Thielicke reminded us, the parable of the prodigal son is perhaps better understood as the “Parable of the Waiting Father,” because in this passage we see a picture of God’s personal, saving, and lavish care for those who repent and turn to him. By union with Christ the true Son, we also become sons of God. And as Paul reminded us, if we are sons then we are also heirs of the kingdom of God (Gal. 4:7). —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 6–7.

Only through the Son

Wednesday··2020·02·05
The only way to become a true son of God is through union with his only begotten son. Regrettably, many theologians have used the doctrine of the fatherhood of God to misrepresent his character and promote heretical teaching regarding both God and his redemptive work. Nineteenth-century liberals were particularly guilty of this error, arguing that God’s fatherly love could be claimed by anyone, even those outside of Christ. As many historians have noted, many nineteenth-century liberals had only two principal doctrines: “The Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man.” In one sense we must indeed affirm that God is “fatherly” toward all his creation and exercises a providential care over all humanity. The fact that any human being anywhere exists and lives and breathes is a testimony to a paternal and benevolent relationship between the Creator and his creation. But this does not mean that God is “Father” in a personal and saving way to everybody. Scripture clearly affirms that we become sons of God only as we are united to Christ and thereby adopted into God’s family (Gal. 4:4–5; Eph. 1:4–5). .  .  . The fact that humans have a world to live in along with the gift of food and natural resources is evidence that God sustains humanity as in a fatherly way. Without God’s daily provision all life would rapidly perish. For, “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Life itself is a gift. At the same time, recognizing God as the source and sustainer of humanity does not entail any form of universalism. It is one thing to assert that the Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). It is quite another to affirm that God is obligated to save all because he is Father. In the Bible the path to truly knowing God as Father in a saving sense is through the Son, and only through the Son. As Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), for “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Only through the Son do we come to know the Father. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 7–8.

The Father is He

Thursday··2020·02·06
Is it not strange that, although progressive theologians and “Christians” are enthusiastically following the sex-confused culture that allows everyone to choose his own “preferred pronouns,” they will not acknowledge God’s right to his? I say this with sarcasm, of course, because God does not make arbitrary choices based on his feelings and preferences; he simply describes himself as what he is, always has been, and always will be. Feminists see the title “Father” as evidence of ancient and repressive patriarchalism. Mary Daly most famously said, “If God is male, then the male is God.” That statement, however, is problematic at virtually every level. To say that God is Father is not to say that God has a gender. We simply speak as the Bible speaks. We affirm God is Father, Son, and Spirit. That affirmation does not imply that God has a gender in the same way as his human creatures. As Carl Henry stated: The God of the Bible is a sexless God. When Scripture speaks of God as “he” the pronoun is primarily personal (generic) rather than masculine (specific); it emphasizes God’s personality—and, in turn, that of the Father, Son and Spirit as Trinitarian distinctions—in contrast to impersonal entities. This masculine language is not only written within the warp and woof of Scripture. It is necessary to the understanding of the reality of the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To tamper with this is not merely to be creative in worship; it is to create a false god. We have no right to petition for a change. .  .  . Additionally, others have objected to calling God “Father” because they believe that for many people this term evokes abusive or absent fathers. In light of that sad fact, they argue, this term should be jettisoned. Although it is truly a tragedy that many children have grown up without invested, loving, grace-filled fathers, this fact does not grant us the right to assume that our own negative perceptions of fathers can be mapped onto the fatherhood of God. Rather, we are to see God’s self-disclosure of his own character and his own being in Scripture as the ideal fatherhood. It is God the Father who defines what a human father must be like, not the other way around. The very fact that we know what human fathers ought to be like demonstrates that we know an ideal father does indeed exist. As a result, we will never recover family life and a true understanding of fatherhood until we can affirm without hesitation or mental reservation, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 8–10. I will offer one quibble: Mohler makes the fashionable error of conflating sex and gender, asserting that God has no gender. The fact that God describes himself with masculine pronouns, and the title of Father, demonstrates that he does have a gender: he is masculine (vs. feminine). What he is not is male or female, which is what sex indicates—human biology.

Maker of Heaven and Earth

Monday··2020·02·17
The world is a dark place. We can easily become discouraged and fearful as we observe history unfolding in an undeniably ungodly direction. The culture becomes increasingly hostile toward God and his people. Yet, Christians ought to take comfort in the fact that the “maker of heaven and earth” holds his creation in his hand, is actively working his will, and will, one day, “make all things new.” As the supreme being over all things, God’s primary determination must be to display his own glory. John Calvin claimed that the cosmos is the theater of God’s glory. Calvin is right, for the entire created order exists for one great purpose: to display the glory of God through the redemption of sinners through Jesus Christ the Son. Creation leads to new creation. Thus, God ultimately created the cosmos for redemptive purposes. The agent of creation becomes the agent of redemption. One day, the agent of redemption will become the agent of new creation. Our hearts ache to return to Eden. We ache to return to Genesis 2, as if Genesis 3 never happened, but we do so in vain. Going backward is impossible and would not be for God’s greater glory. Rather, we go forward. We strive for the new heaven and new earth, not the old. We groan with the rest of creation, awaiting the return of Christ and the fullness of God’s kingdom (Rom. 8:22). From Genesis to Revelation we will see the glory of God. Then, finally, one day we will hear him say, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). This promise of new creation ought to bring comfort to the Christian. God takes responsibility for his creation, and he will see it through to glory. God will bring his children home by his providential care. God’s provision is perhaps never more sweetly summarized than in the first article of Luther’s Small Catechism of 1529: I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. Do you so believe? We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 25–26.

The Historical Jesus

Tuesday··2020·02·18
Human ingenuity would not have arrived at the conclusion that Jesus is the Christ. Human investigation could not discern this. We need this reminder because, especially in the twenty-first century, there have arisen movements within institutional Christianity to try to find some other way of defining who Jesus is. Much of this can be attributed to the infamous quest for the historical Jesus that began in the nineteenth century. The idea that we can just dispense with the biblical materials altogether and try to reconstruct a Jesus from history is folly. Christians do not gather in the name of Jesus Christ, whom we have come to know by the means of historical investigation excluding Scripture. That is the futile ambition pursued by those who want to minimize and humanize Jesus so that he is no longer the Christ—the Son of the Living God—but merely Jesus the teacher. Central to this quest for the historical Jesus is a distinction between what is called “the Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” But a dichotomy between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of Scripture is false and dangerous. We are not Christians if we do not believe that the historical Jesus is also the Christ of our faith plainly held out to us in the fourfold testimony of the Gospels. Moreover, we are still dead in our trespasses and sins if the Jesus of history is not the Christ of faith. As Paul would tell us, “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19) if the Jesus of history is not the Christ of faith—raised bodily from the dead on the third day. We live joyfully and we pursue holiness because we believe that the Jesus of history recorded in the Gospels, proclaimed by the apostles, and found in the New Testament is the Christ of faith—Jesus Christ. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 33–34.

In Search of the Historical Jesus

Wednesday··2020·02·19
We must be careful not to fall into the same sins as arch-heretics with whom it is easy to find fault. Blind to our own biases, we often commit the same errors, but in more subtle ways. George Tyrrell, speaking of the quest for the historical Jesus, once aptly noted, “The Christ that [these scholars see], looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness, is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.” What Tyrrell was saying was that the “historical” Jesus always ends up reflecting the values and biases of the scholars investigating him. These historically reconstructed portraits of Jesus are refashioned into the image of theological liberalism. This is one of the greatest attractions of heresy—to have a Jesus who is more like us. This Jesus might be more culturally acceptable, but he is certainly not the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The quest for the historical Jesus and its attendant theological liberalism took new shape in a movement known as the Jesus Seminar. . . . Their work proceeded on the assumption that there is no supernatural revelation and that the canonical gospels were historically untrustworthy. But embedded within the gospel traditions are certain historical sources that might be boiled down to something that could finally be understood as the historical Jesus. As incredible as it may seem, these scholars decided they would proceed through the four gospels verse by verse and assign a colored marble to each verse. A red marble meant they believed the statement or action of Jesus was authentic. The black marble represented inauthenticity. The gray marble meant “probably not authentic” and the pink marble meant “probably authentic.” To no one’s surprise there was rarely red on the table. Finally, the Jesus Seminar produced the color-coded publication of the Gospels, which consisted of predominantly black and gray text. In the end the only evaluation that can be made of the Jesus Seminar is that these scholars have figuratively lost their marbles. They have fashioned a Jesus of their own making, one who looks just like them. While it is easy to condemn the Jesus Seminar’s tampering with Scripture, we must remember that we all face the same temptation. We read the Gospels and selectively composite texts that create a Jesus who values what we value. We must confess our complete dependence upon the revelation of God in Scripture lest we preach some other Jesus, some other Christ. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 34–36.

The Glory of the Cross

Tuesday··2020·02·25
To the secular world, the cross of Christ is, at best, foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18–25). To many who profess a form of Christianity, it is an embarrassing, repugnant doctrine that must be explained away. For the disciple of Christ, however, the cross represents the wonderful reality of the salvation that was accomplished there. Paul wrote, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). Paul confessed that his life amounted to nothing apart from the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul exclaimed the glory of losing the world for the sake of gaining Christ (Phil. 3:7–8). The cross meant everything to Paul. Without the cross he had no life, no ministry, no hope, no joy. The cross, therefore, enshrines the true glory of every believer in Jesus Christ. The cross stands not as a tool of execution but as a monument of glory. The cross empties the world of its passing beauty and offers an eternal life with God himself. Through the cross condemnation ends (Rom. 8:1). Through the cross we can partake in redemption (Eph. 1:7). Through the cross God lavishly blesses his people with every blessing of the heavenly realm (Eph. 1:4, 7–8). Jesus on the cross contains a magnificent and indescribable glory that overshadows every earthly ambition and hope. The cross is our glory. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 83.

Τετέλεσται

Wednesday··2020·02·26
There is one short sentence that should frequently occupy every believer’s mind, three words (one in Greek) upon which we can hang all of our hopes. The story begins with crushed hopes, but ends in triumph. The scene could not have been more devastating. All the disciples placed their hope and lives in Jesus. Hundreds and thousands in Jerusalem followed Jesus and believed in his role as the Messiah. Now, their shining hope hung on a cross and would soon perish. Jesus, however, knew how even this would end. He knew that though he hung on a cross, he continued to reign as he fulfilled every promise of the Scriptures and brought to bear the longing of all redemptive history. After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28–30) Tetelestai, “It is finished.” John recorded these last words of Jesus. His final utterance shook the foundation of the earth, tore the curtain in the temple, and thundered across the sky. He had obeyed his Father’s will perfectly. He set his face toward the cross and willingly offered himself up. There, on that cross, he bore the fullness of God’s wrath for the sin of his people. Jesus, the Son of God, had died. No death in the history of the cosmos, however, accomplished so much. There on that cross, when Jesus uttered “tetelestai,” he declared salvation had finally, fully, and forever come. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 85–86.

Jesus Went to Hell?

Friday··2020·02·28
In the Apostles’ Creed, we confess that Jesus “descended into hell.” This statement has been a subject of confusion and controversy for many. I know I’ve wondered about it, especially in connection with 1 Peter 3:19. Some have suggested that we should omit it from our recitations. Albert Mohler explains why it should be retained (although I would say that an explanation is not enough; we should also correct the language to reflect that explanation). After Jesus died on the cross and his body was buried in the tomb, where was he? This short statement in the creed reminds us that Jesus, having truly died, was in what both the Old and New Testaments describe as the realm of the dead. The Hebrew word from the Old Testament is sheol, and the Greek word from the New Testament is hades. In both cases this refers to the temporary realm of the dead who are awaiting final judgment. . . . the translation of hades into Latin and then into English can confuse us, because the word hades is so often translated as “hell.” This is not so much wrong as it is inadequate. The New Testament Greek also includes the word Gehenna, which is the place of torment. The Bible does not tell us that Jesus went to Gehenna; what it does tell us, boldly, is that Jesus truly died. This phrase of the creed underlines that important fact. Some Christians have wondered about 1 Peter 3:19, which speaks of Christ in the Spirit proclaiming victory to Old Testament saints such as Noah. This is completely consistent with other biblical texts such as Luke 16:19–31, which speak of the rich man who was in torment inhades while Lazarus, also in hades, was comforted in Abraham's bosom—a most honored place. Hades, the realm of the dead, contains both a place of torment and a place of great blessing, consistent with the entire body of holy Scripture. . . . We also turn back to the Old Testament in order to understand the context of this phrase of the creed. The psalmist wrote: For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. (Ps. 16:10) . . . Peter [Acts 2:29–31] said that David was not speaking of himself but of Christ. Even as Christ truly died and his body was buried in the grave, and even as his spirit entered the realm of the dead (hades), Christ was not abandoned nor did his body suffer corruption. Why? Because God raised him from the dead. And so, even as we confess that Christ descended into hell, we get ready to celebrate that hades could not hold him. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 89–91.
On the third day, he rose again from the dead. In his book on the Apostles’ Creed, Albert Mohler highlights 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, noting especially Paul’s use of the words, regarding the resurrection, “of first importance.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the gospel. It empowers every facet of salvation. Christ’s resurrection vindicates his death, demonstrating that his sacrifice was acceptable to the Father, making our justification possible. And it is his physical resurrection that makes our spiritual resurrection possible. [T]he Bible depicts regeneration as the result of resurrection power. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us” and wrote that this power was revealed “when he raised him from the dead” (Eph. 1:19–20). Also, in their union with Christ, the resurrection power transforms the life of the Christian into greater conformity with Christ (Rom. 6:3­5, 8; 1 Cor. 15:20–23; Eph. 1:18–20). Calvin helpfully characterized the resurrection in terms of both justification and regeneration: Sin was taken away by his death; righteousness was revived and restored by his resurrection. For how could he by dying have freed us from death if he had himself succumbed to death? How could he have acquired victory for us if he had failed in the struggle? Therefore, we divide the substance of our salvation between Christ’s death and resurrection as follows: through his death, sin was wiped out and death extinguished; through his resurrection, righteousness was restored and life raised up, so that—thanks to his resurrection—his death manifested its power and efficacy in us. Indeed the New Testament, the source of Calvin’s theology, routinely applies resurrection terminology to the regeneration of the Christian. Peter, like Paul, associated regeneration language with Christ’s resurrection. Christians were made “to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Christ’s resurrection provides the source of new spiritual life—new life is a sharing of Christ’s resurrection life (1 Peter 1:3). —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 99–100.

At the Right Hand of God

Thursday··2020·03·05
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The resurrection of Christ, in importance to his saving work, goes hand-in-hand with his ascension into heaven. Without his ascension, he would not now be sitting at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:11–12) interceding for us (Hebrews 7:23–25). The Father raised Jesus from the dead to seat him at his right hand. This seat represents the place of supreme authority over the entire creation. The largest star and the unseen atom come under the rule of Jesus Christ. Every throne on earth, every king in authority, every power in the cosmos, submits to the reign of the One who conquered the grave. The seating of Christ at the right hand of God underlines Christ’s present reign and his continuing work on behalf of believers. The risen and exalted Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King. As our Great High Priest, he intercedes for believers before the Father. He is eternally and perfectly our Mediator before the Father. As we read in Hebrews 7:25, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” As much as we needed Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross, we also need his intercession before the Father. Our salvation depends upon his faithfulness as our Mediator and Great High Priest—sitting at the right hand of the Father. Paul also wrote of Christ’s exaltation in his rich christological hymn found in Philippians 2:9–11. In that passage Paul wrote that God has “highly exalted” Jesus. His exaltation contains such power that even the proclamation of his name prostrates all creation before his glory and his throne. One day, every tongue, every tribe, every nation, will resound in unity to declare the lordship of Jesus Christ. The ascension of Christ, therefore, serves as a cosmic coronation whereby God the Father confirms Christ’s sacrifice and subjects the universe to his rule. Without the ascension Jesus would not be ruling right now at the right hand of God the Father. After Jesus completed his work and obeyed the will of his Father, even unto death, the heavenly courts welcomed him home in celestial beauty. The Father exalted his Son and seated him on the throne that is above every throne. Jesus declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30), and the Father then raised him from the dead and received him back. This truth establishes the hope of every follower of Jesus Christ. Without his ascension, exaltation, and coronation, Jesus would possess no authority to rule, and ultimately, to reconcile all things to himself (Col. 1:18–20). In short there would be no gospel to proclaim. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 107–108.

He Shall Come

Friday··2020·03·06
From whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. Though the whole world cries out for justice, human governments, at their very best, can never fully satisfy that need. But justice, full and perfect, is coming. Indeed, Scripture testifies that true justice is coming. This great hope is missing from the horizon of so many Christians. Christ’s judgment will be so perfect that all the judged—whether declared righteous through Christ or not—will agree with the righteousness of the judgment. Those who go to hell will fully know the rightfulness of that verdict, as will those who go to heaven because of what Christ has done on our behalf. . . . This judgment affirms the wrath of God, and if we flinch from speaking honestly about the wrath of God, then we can never speak honestly about the love of God. For the wrath of God is not his loss of temper. It is not an unrighteous anger. God’s wrath is the appropriate and natural response of the Holy One to a rebellion against his perfect righteousness. Heaven and hell will bear witness to the perfect judgment of God. These truths point again to the gospel, for no sinner in and of himself can find survival in this judgment. The only means of survival—the only means of acquittal or salvation—is the loving sacrifice of Christ, our defender and our judge. Christians must live with urgency because we understand that in this present age God will use us to snatch some from the evil one. . . . Our understanding of the future fuels our actions in the present; thus, missions and evangelism are eschatological activities—focused and fueled by the knowledge of Christ’s coming. . . . The fact that Christ is coming “whence to judge the quick and the dead” tells us that we are not going to have our best life now, nor should we look for it. For those who have their best life now are going to face a very different life in the age to come. We sing, we read Scripture, we share the gospel, we preach the Word against the backdrop of the coming kingdom. We can eat, drink, serve, and sleep with confidence only because we have assurance that we know the future. That future is Jesus Christ, and we are safe in him. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 130–132.

He Will Testify

Wednesday··2020·03·11
I believe in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was sent for a purpose. Unfortunately, that purpose is missed by many. When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. —John 15:26–27 A wonderful mystery surrounds this passage as Jesus revealed an order of authority in the Trinity. The order of authority in no way postulates a hierarchy of divinity and power within the Trinity. Each member of the Trinity is consubstantial, equal in divinity and power, very God of very God. The Bible, however, also presents us with the mystery of the triune God, a glorious mystery in which all in Christ will glory forever and ever. In these verses from John, Jesus revealed that the Spirit will come and not bear witness of himself, but of Christ. This essential truth explains why we do not speak of the Holy Spirit with the same language and knowledge we do about the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit comes to bear witness and testify to the person and work of Christ. The Holy Spirit, therefore, exalts the Son and testifies to his accomplished work at Calvary. This amounts to an important reality check for churches across the world: Where you find the Spirit of God present, you do not find so much testimony about the Holy Spirit as you find a testimony about Christ. Where you find, therefore, a bold, biblical, urgent, accurate, enthusiastic, joyful, and life-changing testimony of Christ, you can rest assured that the Holy Spirit is vibrantly at work. This truth protects us from the errors that plague so many churches that place an unbiblical emphasis on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit becomes the center of their faith. The Spirit consumes their thoughts as they try to arouse manifestations of the Spirit in their own lives and congregations. Jesus, however, reminded his disciples what testimony the Spirit will bring: a testimony about Jesus, exalting Christ, and pointing us to the hope we have in union with him. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 140–141.

The Holy Catholic Church

Friday··2020·03·13
I believe in . . . the Holy Catholic Church. One Sunday morning when I was just a wee Lutheran, my family, while visiting relatives, attended their liberal “church.” As I remember it, the liturgy was more high-church than ours but, doctrinally, standard Lutheran stuff—until we got to the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed. What? “the holy Catholic church? I was shocked and dismayed. Surely, this must be part of their liberalism, alongside of biblical errancy and all of its consequential errors. Why else would they change “Christian” to “Catholic”? What I didn’t know, and wouldn’t for some years after, was that it was not Catholic, but catholic—lowercase c—or what that signified. I also didn’t know that it was my church, not theirs, that had changed the word. As a grateful, fully invested son of the Reformation, I still get the willies a little bit when I hear the Creed in its original wording, but I’ve come to wish, like Albert Mohler, we could reclaim the word as it should be understood. Sadly, though, like evangelical and fundamentalist, I fear it is probably beyond redemption. But, even if we can’t save the word, let’s not forget the truth it conveys—and while we’re reciting our modified-for-modern-Protestants version, maybe we can at least think catholicly. The temptation arises, as we confess the Apostles’ Creed, to skip over the designation catholic. Confusion surrounds this word, and some may think they, in reciting this line, are affirming Roman Catholicism or the rule of the pope. But that is not what the word catholic affirms. We need to reclaim the word and confess it boldly and with joy. The word catholic here simply means universal. Thus, wherever the church is found, it is the same church. We believe, therefore, in Christianity, not in “Christianities”; we believe in the gospel, not in “gospels.” This notion of a universal church does not dispense with the rule and affirmation of the local church. Indeed, the book of Acts details the story of a local church in Jerusalem and the founding of other local churches around the ancient world. In fact, a proper ecclesiology particularly emphasizes the fact that every local church is an embassy of the eschatological kingdom. As D. A. Carson explained: Each local church is not seen primarily as one member parallel to a lot of other member churches, together constituting one body, one church; nor is each local church seen as the body of Christ parallel to other earthly churches that are also the body of Christ—as if Christ had many bodies. Rather, each church is the full manifestation in space and time of the one, true, heavenly, eschatological, new covenant church. Local churches should see themselves as outcroppings of heaven, analogies of “the Jerusalem that is above,” indeed colonies of the new Jerusalem, providing on earth a corporate and visible expression of “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” Thus, to believe in the universality of the church affirms a fundamental belief in the authority of the local congregation as well as an expectation of being united to Christ with all believers throughout the ages in the new heavens and the new earth. To confess “I believe in the holy catholic [universal] Church” confesses the universal nature of the church revealed in every local congregation that espouses and holds fast to the gospel and the expectation of a day when the entire universal church will join together at the wedding supper of the Lamb. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 159–160.

The Communion of Saints

Wednesday··2020·03·18
I believe in . . . the communion of saints. The English cleric and poet John Donne (1572–1632) wrote, No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; In that poem, Donne describes the need of the group for each individual member—the loss of one man is a loss to all humanity. “Any man’s death,” he writes, “diminishes me.” A correlating truth is that each individual is in need of the group. For Christians, that group is the church—the communion of saints. Albert Mohler writes, A belief in the holy catholic Church and the communion of saints simultaneously rejects the rugged individualism that has infested American evangelicalism. To be sure, admittance into Christ’s church comes through an individual profession of faith and an individual confession of the truths of the gospel. We must give individual testimony to his transforming effect on our lives. That must not, however, give rise to the notion that we go it alone. We are never alone. The thought that we can walk this Christian life alone carries with it a toxicity and poison that has deeply encumbered the American church. This individualism not only betrays the church, it betrays the gospel. It insinuates that the gospel is about God saving people without pointing to a bigger story of God creating a people. From the Old Testament to the New, the covenants, God’s purposes, indeed the very creation of the world, all point to God’s design of creating a people—a people that will be made up of every tribe, tongue, and nation. By God’s grace we come through faith to Christ and thereby stand united as the whole people of God. When we make this walk of faith about “me,” we forsake the fullness of the gospel. The gospel does not allow us to boil down its glory to a story about “I” and “me.” The story of the gospel encompasses in resplendent unity all the people of God, together, as one people. The gospel is God’s story as he, through Christ, made a people for his pleasure. . . . A great tragedy has besieged so many in this generation. Few Christians live today who cannot tell their story without telling the church’s story as well. A failure of true fellowship has robbed believers across this nation of the riches of all that is contained in the Apostles’ Creed on the subject. If you were asked to tell about your testimony and Christian walk, how central would the church be to your story? We must repent from our anemic ecclesiology and embrace all that the Apostles’ Creed espouses in the belief of the holy catholic Church and the communion of saints. Believers must embrace their identity as a people bought with the blood of Christ. We must seek to live as those who will one day spend all eternity together, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, singing together as one people the glories of our God. We must say, as Paul said, that we should have “the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:2–5). Indeed, may we have the mind of Christ, who descended from his throne to ransom for himself a people, a church, a communion of saints for all eternity. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 165–166.

The Forgiveness of Sins

Thursday··2020·03·19
I believe in . . . the forgiveness of sins. The next phrase of the Apostles’ Creed introduces, for the first time, something to confess about humanity. The creed, up to this point, declared the glorious work of the triune God, the splendor and scandal of Christ’s ministry, the universal and sovereign reign of the resurrected Christ, the promise of future judgment, and the establishment of the church. Now, however, the creed turns to the character of mankind. Humanity finally shows up, and we show up as sinners. . . . It is vital for Christians today to understand, grasp, and apply the doctrines tied to this phrase in the Apostles’ Creed. A withdrawal from a robust and biblical understanding of the horror of sin necessarily diminishes the beauty, power, and splendor of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Contained in the affirmation “the forgiveness of sins” is nothing less than the heartbeat of all our hope as believers. Christians, therefore, must strive to believe every dimension of this quintessential declaration found in the Apostles’ Creed. Failure to glory in the depths of the doctrines that we are about to explore cripples Christian hope, praise, and obedience. Without “the forgiveness of sins,” there is no gospel—there is no hope for the people of God, for there will be no people of God. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 167–168.

Miniature Gods

Friday··2020·03·27
I believe in . . . the forgiveness of sins. Why is it that even Christians tend to view sin casually? It is because, says Albert Mohler, we tend to bring God down to our level. A deficient view of God naturally begets a deficient view of sin. Christians find themselves in a crisis of truth. A deficient grasp of the horror of sin empties the cross of Christ of its splendor. It is necessary, therefore, to understand the total and universal depravity of all mankind. Christians must go where David [Psalm 51:1–4] did. All must see their sin as God himself sees it. The failure to grasp the horror of sin rests in the miniature god Christians have fashioned in their own image. Christians are guilty of diminishing the holiness and grandeur of God’s incomparable glory. We cannot rightly understand the graveness of our offense if we do not behold the glory of the One we offended. Puritan preacher George Swinnock wrote, “If God be so incomparable, that there is none on earth, none in heaven comparable to him, it may inform us of the great venom and malignity of sin, because it is an injury to so great, so glorious, so incomparable a being.” Sin, therefore, must be measured in the depth of its offense against the splendor of the One it offended. If God be so infinitely glorious, more glorious than all the stars of the galaxies combined, then the weight of our sin against this God embodies evil of the highest order. Another Puritan, Jeremiah Burroughs, drew out this implication: So strike at God and you wish God would cease to be God. This is a horrible wickedness indeed. . . . What will you say to such a wickedness as this, that it should enter into the heart of any creature, “O that I might have my lust and, rather than I will part with my lust, I would rather God should cease to be God than that I would leave my lust.” Christian, your sin amounts to nothing less than a desire for God to cease being God. Your sin rebels as cosmic treason. Your sin against God beckons him to step off his throne that you might ascend its steps. Your sin wishes the Creator to relinquish his rightful rule and claim to glory and give way to your will. We fail to grasp the weight of sin because we fashioned a small god to worship rather than the splendid, infinite, supreme, excellent, beautiful, and eternal Creator. We have a shallow view of his glory. Swinnock concluded, How horrid then is sin, and . . . heinous a nature, when it offendeth and opposeth not kings, the highest of men, not angels, the highest of creatures, but God, the highest of beings; the incomparable God, to whom kings and angels, yea, the whole creation is less than nothing! We take the size of sin too low, and short, and wrong . . . but to take its full length and proportion, we must consider the wrong it doth to this great, this glorious, this incomparable God. If Christians are to glory in the riches of the forgiveness of sins, then they must first cast down the inglorious, unholy idols they have fashioned and called “god.” Christians must come and behold the terrifying and awesome glory of God in order to grasp the horror of sin. Failure to see God in all his glory necessarily leads to a diminished view of sin. An anemic view of sin will give way to a cheap gospel, a pointless cross, and a Messiah who need not to have shed his blood. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 173–175.

The Gift of Guilt

Wednesday··2020·04·01
I believe in . . . the forgiveness of sins. Today’s gospel often strives to relieve sinners of their feelings of guilt. This is a great error, for without the consciousness of guilt, we can never find hope. Christians who fail to understand the true notion of sin deny themselves the only hope they have in Jesus Christ. False teachings on sin will inevitably lead to a works righteousness, a cheap gospel, and a Christ senselessly murdered. God’s plan of redemption through Christ need not have happened if sin is easily conquerable by human initiative. The dread of sin and its consequences leads all to the need for God’s grace through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the great paradox of the Christian life. The world longs for us to run away from our guilt. Guilt is seen as an enemy that must be killed. Self-help books fill the shelves of bookstores as people ruthlessly try to squash the inner feeling of guilt. For the Christian, however, guilt is a gift. That feeling of unquenchable, unyielding guilt, leads us to the only hope we have. Sinners must embrace the infinite guilt they live in if they are to find the infinite grace of God. As we embrace our guilt, then and only then can we come to that crimson fount of hope, the blood of Jesus that washes us dean. —Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed (Crossway, 2019), 180–181.

@TheThirstyTheo



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