We have seen before that the first two articles of the Nicene Creed are based on I Corinthians 8:6. There we read, “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things, and we by Him.” Following this pattern the early church confessed in Article 1 of this creed, “I believe in on God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” And now, following the same pattern, the early church confessed in Article 2, “And in one Lord Jesus Christ…by Whom all things were made.”
In this second article the early church first confessed faith in one Lord Jesus Christ.
Quite obviously the church sought to confess here the same truth that Paul was teaching in I Corinthians 8:6. Hence, to explain the meaning and intent of the Nicene Creed at this juncture we turn to this particular passage in Paul’s epistle to the church of Corinth. In this section of his epistle Paul is dealing with the problem of eating meals offered to idols. In verse 4 Paul points out that there is only one God and therefore all the idols of the world are really nothing. The implication is of course that there can be nothing wrong as such with eating meats offered to such idols. In verses 5 and 6 Paul further explains this truth that there is only one God. It is true says Paul that there are many things both in heaven and on earth that the heathen call and recognize as gods. By ways of parenthesis he even adds that the heathen have many gods and many lords. But, concludes Paul in verse 8, to us there is only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ.
We ought to notice the contrast here. The heathen have many gods and many lords. To us there is but one God and one Lord. We find here the many over against the one. The many gods and lords of the heathen refer not to two different groups. They are one and the same. The multitude of idol gods that the heathen recognized were also their lords. The term “lord” here refers to one who rules, who exercises absolute power and authority over others. This is how the heathen saw their gods. They recognized them as rulers. Their gods exercised dominion over them. Before these gods they bowed in humble submission, obeying them in all things. In distinction from this Paul teaches the saints at Corinth that they have only one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things.
This truth, that there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, the early church sought to confess in this second article of the Nicene creed.
There are several elements to this truth.
First, mention is made of Jesus. The name Jesus is the personal name of the son of Mary. It was the name He received when He was circumcised on the eighth day. It was the name He was called as He grew up in Nazareth of Galilee and worked in the carpenter shop of His father Joseph. The name Jesus means Jehovah salvation. These are simply historical facts which no one can challenge and no one has ever felt compelled to challenge either. What follows however has been the source of widespread dispute and controversy among men.
For in the second place we have the name Christ. Christ means Anointed or Anointed One. This is a title rather than a personal name. It is a title which the Scriptures reserve for the One Whom God will send from heaven to save man from his woe and misery. The title itself indicates that one is anointed by God for this work of salvation. This anointing implies two elements. There is first the element of divine appointment. The one to Whom this title belongs has been eternally appointed by God to be the Savior of man. The second element is that of qualification. The Christ has also been qualified by God in every way to carry out the work of salvation.
In this second article of her creed the early church confessed that Jesus is this Christ of God. In harmony with her confession that there is but one God, she acknowledged that there is but one Christ sent from God to man. And this Christ is Jesus of Nazareth.
This confession of the church is based solidly on the Bible. It was the firm conviction of Jesus’ own disciples that He was the Christ. Jesus once asked His disciples, “But whom say ye that I am?” And Peter answering for the rest replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15, 16). Jesus Himself acknowledged before the Sanhedrin at His trial that He is the Christ, the Son of God . (Matt. 26:63, 64). And so do all the inspired writers of the New Testament Scriptures recognize Him as the Christ of God. This is evidenced among other things by the simple fact that He is repeatedly referred to in the New Testament as Jesus Christ.
This truth the early church sought to confess first over against the unbelieving Jews. From the very beginning of His ministry here on earth the vast majority of the Jews, who historically were God’s covenant people and Jesus’ own countrymen, refused to believe that He was the Christ of God. On the basis of His claim to be the Christ, the Jews condemned Him and crucified Him. The Jews claimed to look for the Christ, but refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This rejection of Jesus as the Christ by the Jews as a whole continues down to this day. Over against this unbelief of a people who were once God’s chosen people, the early church sought to confess that Jesus is the Christ of God. And to the unbelieving Jew who may still be engrafted again into the tree of God’s covenant (Romans 11) it is the calling of the church also today to confess that Jesus is Christ.
But the early church also sought to proclaim Jesus as the Christ to the unbelieving Gentile world. Man in general lies under the curse of God. As a result his portion here below is one (of trouble and sorrow. These miseries of man are great. And consequently man is looking for deliverance from his woe. He looks for a Christ. And many christs have emerged throughout history. But they are all false christs. This is only as Jesus Himself said it would be: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4, 5). These false christs come with false claims and promises. They are not able to deliver man from his woe and misery. And this is primarily the case because their salvation is based on the works of man. It was over against these false christs that appeared even at the time of the early church that she sought in her creed to confess Jesus as the Christ of God. And the church that is faithful to God today also makes this her confession.
Finally, we have the name Lord. In this second article of the Nicene Creed the early church also confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord. This certainly is the teaching of the Scriptures. This is especially taught in Philippians 2:9-11, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Implied in this and other passages of Holly Writ is not only the fact of Jesus’ Lordship but also the nature of that Lordship. The title of Lord is one which has been conferred upon Jesus Christ by God. This title was given to Jesus upon His ascension into heaven. It is a title He earned through His perfect suffering and death on the cross. Implied in this title is the authority to rule on the behalf of God. Upon Christ’s exaltation to heaven God the Father clothed Him with all power and authority so that He rules over all of God’s creation. This rule He exercises not for Himself. For He is Lord under God. Hence, He rules all things for the glory of God and on God’s behalf.
In this second article of her creed the early church also confessed that Jesus is the only Lord. Notice, she confessed faith in one Lord Jesus Christ.
The heathendom that still flourished at the time of the Nicene creed acknowledged many lords. As we saw earlier they recognized all of their idol gods as lords who ruled them. Before these idol lords they bowed. When these idol gods spoke, as they did through their priests, the people trembled in fear. The wishes of these idols were to the people as commands. And to appease these lords the people humbly obeyed.
Over against this the early church confessed that Jesus alone is Lord. All the lords of the heathen are nothing. They do not rule. Neither are they to be feared. There is only one Who rules. He is Jesus Christ Who on the behalf of God rules over all. As Lord He demands obedience to the law of God. And that law He strictly enforces by rewarding the well-doer with His blessing and by punishing the evil-doer with destruction.
Acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord, the early church also confessed here her allegiance to Him alone. Before His Word alone she bowed. The word of the idol lords of the heathen which contradict the Word of Christ, she did not honor. Jesus Christ alone is Lord. Him only did she honor, love, and obey.
This confession must also be made by the church of God today. We have seen that idol gods exist even today. They do not appear in the crude form they took years ago. They are not idols of stone and wood and precious metals. Nevertheless, idol gods still exist today. Whatever man places his trust in, other than the living God, is an idol god. From this viewpoint anything can be an idol: money, pleasure, the approval of men, power, influence, insurance, etc. And there are many such gods today. But the striking thing is that these gods are also lords. They tend to rule those who serve them. They make terrible and exacting demands. Take for example one who makes money his god. He will find that his money-god demands that he sacrifice many things before he may have what his god has to offer. He may have to sacrifice his family, his honesty, his reputation, his health, and above all his relationship to God and to Christ. This latter is always the case. No matter what idol god a man will serve, it always requires that he turn from the living God and refuse to bow the knee to Christ. In this context it is the calling of the church today to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. He alone is Lord. Before Him and Him alone we must bow. This the church must confess not only in word but also in actual deed.