A Matter of Faith
Many religions of the world have their own peculiar ethics, life styles, intellectual or mystical forms, as well as more popular manifestations. Such religions include: Judaism, Islamism and Buddhism, among others. So also does Christianity. Yet, except in response to Christianity, these other religions have no creeds, or standard statements of belief, to which orthodox believers are supposed to adhere. And this is one way we can distinguish Christianity from the other religions. Creed is a summary of Christian faith written by the Church in order to confess clearly what it believes.
The formation of the Creed was greeted at every level with different understanding and argument. Thus, it took numerous Councils of Bishops to reach an agreed Statement of Belief. These included Nicaea – AD 325; Constantinople – AD381; and Ephesus – AD 431 to mention but a few. The Nicaea Creed was originally written in Greek in AD 325 when the Roman Emperor Constantine called together the Council of Nicaea in Asia Minor to address the fragmented character of the Christian churches. Fragmentation was due to dispute over whether or not Jesus Christ was fully God.
Besides, the early Christian era was a period of interference and even dominance by the Emperor. The colourful and abrasive personalities of leading Bishops were also a source of bitter antagonism between them and the Emperor. Added to this, technical terms that had no Biblical origin had become key words in authoritative Statements of Belief resulting in Latin-speaking West and the Greek-speaking East misunderstanding and misinterpreting each other. As a result of the above reasons it became necessary to have a standard Creed to work on to ensure uniformity.
For my essay, therefore, I have chosen “For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate” and will try to explore the scriptural, historical and theological background of this Creed. Religious Background: Among the Jews, no form of death was considered more disgraceful than the crucifixion. As a matter of fact, no form of execution was considered more painful and derogatory than to be crucified. Why did Christ have to go through such painful and shameful death? Was He aware that to do the work God sent Him to do will involve such an ordeal?
Creed emphasizes the fact that Death on the Cross was a sacrifice for our sins and was therefore the price for Human redemption. He was crucified for us men and for our salvation. I believe Christ was aware of His mission. Starting at His early age He made it clear to His earthly parents that He must be about his Father’s business. In Luke Chapter 2 verse 49, Jesus asks his parents: “why do you look for me? Do you not know that I must be in my father’s house? ” He reacted vigorously to any one suggesting he bows out or any one trying to dissuade him from what he may have seen as his Mission.
In Mark Chapter 8 verses 31 – 33, he foretold his disciples about his suffering in the hands of the Elders and the Scribes. He said he would be killed. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, but Jesus turning and looking at his disciple said to him: “Get thee beside me, Peter, for you are setting your mind on human and not on divine things. ” In John Chapter One, verse 29, we read: “the next day, he (John the Baptist) saw Jesus coming towards him and he declared: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. This statement was made clearer in Isaiah Chapter 53 verses 5-7 and 11.
“But He was wounded for our transgression, crushed for our iniquity. Upon him was the punishment that made us whole and by his bruises we are healed. He was oppressed and was afflicted. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous and he shall bear their iniquity. ” Jesus knew this scripture, and He fitted into the prophetic saying. From this and every other indication we are made to feel clearly that Christ was aware of His Mission on the Cross.
From the New Testament onward, the church had struggled to adequately explain the significance of the Saving on the Cross through models of atonement. ‘Atonement’ is the process by which reconciliation takes place between God and Man. It all boils down to God’s love for humanity. The Bible assures believers that even though we are all sinners, God still loves us and wants us to be saved and redeemed. For that reason he sent Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, will not perish but have everlasting Life. Some passages in the Bible have been used to explain this great love of God. Because it is a difficult to understand and can not be easily explained in a straightforward manner, different images or explanations were used. For example, the Bible refers to Jesus as: “Obedient Servant” in John Chapter 10 verses 17-18, and in Romans Chapter 5 verses 18 and 19, we read “Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all.
For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. ” In Ephesians Chapter 5 verse 2 Christ is referred to as “Sacrifice”. Jesus so loved us that He gave Himself up for us a “Fragrant offering and sacrifice” to God. I John Chapter 4 verse 10 calls him “Propitiation”. In this role, He is the Christ appeasing the wrath and judgment of God by bearing the punishment of our Sins. In this is love, it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Corinthians Chapter 5 verses 18-21 refer to Him as “Reconciliation”. Through His death on the Cross Jesus brought about the reconciliation between God and Man. All these are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ. Redemption: Christ paid the price by his death to buy us back from the slavery of sin. Victor: Christ through death has conquered Satan and his hold on humanity. For the above images, various theologians and philosophers have tried to develop models or explanation, which were accepted by some and not accepted by others.
Origen for example Believed that through sin mankind has made itself subject too devil. Therefore, the mark for the subjection was death. God in his grace wished to free men but was unable because devils claim was just. Consequently to neutralize Satan’s claim a ransom had to be paid in form of a valuable person over whom Satan had no right, sinless person. Reflecting on this model one would wonder if ransom was paid to Satan to reclaim humanity. Origen’s model was built upon by other theologian’s such as Irenaeus and Gregory of Nyssa. Irenaeus model looked at it from the victory point of view.
He saw the cross and resurrection in terms of conflict between God and all the powers of evil. This explanation took hold for some time before Gregory described God as conquering the devil through Jesus. God chose Jesus as ransom to the devil for those he held imprisonment in death. However one looks at this argument, Christ redeemed us by his death on the cross, which lead to his resurrection. Therefore, devil has no power over him at all and personally, I do not believe Jesus was given to him as ransom. Aberland, was a great scholar, theologian and philosopher of his time. He believed in reasoning.
With other philosophers, they put into logic system what the early Christian writers wrote, the bible, and the teaching of the early Christian writers. his method was based on doubts , he said the way to reach truth is to doubt “by doubting we come to inquire, by inquiring we reach the truth” personally this method might be true with other scientific things but not with faith work , especially the work of the atonement. On the issue of atonement, he questioned the need of a ransom to be paid to God in satisfaction for sin, believing that God could simply forgive sin if he wanted to.
He used model of moral influence to explain the work of atonement. He believed the significance of Jesus’ death, is the effect it has on people. We see his love for us and it leads us to respond in love to God. The cross is seen as the greatest example of love. This is true if one has a yielding heart ,ready to respond. I believe some people may have read about Christs crucifixtion or watched it as film without it having any effect on him or her Aberland rightly said Faith has no merit with God when it is not the testimony of devine authority that leads us to it but evidence of human reason.
I completely agree with this comment . because it shows one can use reasoning to a limited extent,it is only by the devine grace of God and the power of holy spirit that will enable us to have faith, not our human capability. Aberlands belief on reasoning seem to be contradicted by this comment above. Another great theologian Hodges used model panel substitution to explain the work on the cross. He argued that God could not simply pardon sin without satisfaction to justice. God cannot stop being just and therefore his justice demands the punishment for sin.
Through the cross God acts to save sinners from wrath of punishment. Jesus bore our sins and therefore satisfied the justice of God I believe he is looking at the bible through the lens of criminal justice system. afterall God is love that is why He sent His son to die for us so that we do not perish. If Hodges has to look at atonement in our persent day legal system, human being should have paid the price of death. From the discussion it is obvious that the church has never held to just one model or understanding of the cross but has held different ways of understanding and explaining atonement.
Reflecting on this creed I will use one or two scriptures among others to conclude this essay. The Bible says in Romans chapter 3 verse 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God I believe Christ died on the cross to save we sinners Romans chapter5 verse 8 says But God demonstrated His own love towards us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us It is that love that touched Gods heart to save humanity from death and destruction,It still that love that made Christ take on such task to die on the cross for us .
This creedal statement among others touches me most due to such an intense suffering Christ went through. imagine taking responsibility and punishment for what one did not do I disagree with some views that portray Christ as a suffering God rather I see Christ as God who understands the suffering world , who is in the midst of the suffering of world alive and helping us in time of need Christ death on the cross makes me want to have a better relationship with Him. hrough life especially through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. there is an established new relationship between man and God. Christ death on the cross and His resurrection has made our faith as Christians meaningful. There would have been no Christianity if Christ ended up in the grave However any philosopher looks at this creed, it boils down to the love that brought God and human being at-one-ment.
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