[B13] The Apostles' Creed: The Name Above Every Name
I believe in Jesus Christ. If we can truthfully, reverently say these words, into what a glorious fellowship they bring us. They bring us into the company of the sainted prophets whose eyes were anointed to see afar off the rising of the Day-star out of Jacob, and the coming of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. They make us brothers of the fearless Baptist, who bore witness that “this is the Son of God.” They open the way into that inner circle where dwelt that other John, who wrote to the end that we “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His name.”
Table of Contents
13. The Second Article. The Name Above Every Name
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. — [Phil.] 2:9—11.
We take a decisive step forward with the subject we take up for consideration today, — the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed. We now stand face to face with the very heart of the Gospel, indeed, of all Revelation, — the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The First Article of the Creed leads us to heights where, so far as the higher reaches of the subject are concerned, no human mind can fully follow. It leaves us there lost in admiration of the greatness and entrancing beauty of God and His works. We, of course, look at God as He is revealed in the First Article, and in the Law, and in nature, with the eyes of Christians; but, if the Commandments and the First Article could be completely divorced from the content of the Second Article, we would still be left to grope our way in the darkness of hopelessness. We would have a certain knowledge of a God, sublime in His nature, awful in His sovereignty, exacting in His demands, wonderful as a workman, a careful provider of temporal needs; but still a God afar off, and unapproachable. And we would be left to feel, all the more, our emptiness, our forlornness, our helplessness.
It is in Jesus Christ that God draws near to men to save them. In Him men first learn really to know God, the wideness of His mercy, the height and depth of His love. In this Second Article we come to know God, not only as Creator and Governor, not as Law-giver and Judge only; but as a compassionate Father, revealing in His Son His yearning for the return of his prodigal sons and magdalen daughters. And not only yearning for their return, but paying their debts, bridging the chasms, burning away the barriers, and providing food for the way, thus making it possible for them to return.
“I believe in Jesus Christ.
This is the thought with which the Second Article begins. The words “I believe” are not found in the opening sentence, but they are understood; for this sentence stands in such close relation to the First Article that the words “I believe” do not need to be repeated after the connective with which the second begins. We ought to remember also that the words “I believe” belong not only to each of the three articles, but to each statement of them.
I believe in Jesus Christ. No more momentous, no farther-reaching words can human language contain, or human lips utter. Indeed, truthfully spoken, this is a sentence which can have its birth only in a soul that the Divine Spirit overshadows, and breathes upon; for “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
I believe in Jesus Christ. If we can truthfully, reverently say these words, into what a glorious fellowship they bring us. They bring us into the company of the sainted prophets whose eyes were anointed to see afar off the rising of the Day-star out of Jacob, and the coming of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings. They make us brothers of the fearless Baptist, who bore witness that “this is the Son of God.” They open the way into that inner circle where dwelt that other John, who wrote to the end that we “might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we might have life through His name.” Indeed, we can not grasp the goodly fellowship of all those whose one binding tie, and urging motive, is expressed in the sentence: I believe in Jesus Christ. Saints Paul and Augustine, Bernard and Luther, Zinzendorf and Wesley, and more than ten thousand times ten thousand others not so well known, many of whose names are lost to human records, but written fair and large on the pages of the book of life; all these found their life, their bond of union, their inspiration, and their joy in this one name, — Jesus Christ.
Let us today, in a general way only, further consider this fruitful subject. We take as our theme:
The Name Above Every Name
Lord Jesus, let our every thought of Thee be a prayer. Oh, Thou before whom the angels stand in wonder touched with amazement, ever desiring to penetrate farther into the glorious mysteries hidden in Thee, what can we poor mortals, with our enfeebled minds, and shortened vision, understand of Thee; what can we, with our tied, stammering tongues, say worthy of a theme so exalted? As of old Thou didst anoint the eyes of the blind and make them to see, so open the eyes of our minds that we may understand what Thou art to us, if we cannot understand all that Thou art. Touch the poor, palsied, withered hands of our spirits so that we may reach them forth, and touch at least the hem of Thy garment as Thou passeth by. And it shall be well with us.
I. The Uniqueness Of His Person
The Name of Jesus Christ is the Name above every Name because of the Uniqueness of His Person.
As we take up this Second Article may we have the grace of the reverent Baptist, who humbly confessed his unworthiness even to stoop and unloose the latchet of the Master’s shoes. May our one motive be, as we pursue these studies, to honor the Savior by gaining a fuller knowledge of Him, followed by a more devoted service.
The uniqueness, the unparalleled character, of the person of Jesus Christ is indicated in the verses preceding our text. They tell us that He was in the form of God, and robbed not God by claiming equality with Him. The ancient heathen sages dreamed of gods, and recounted their virtues and exploits. But in their loftiest flights they never dreamed of anything approaching what we find in Jesus Christ. Here is One who came forth from the ranks of the lowliest, who grew to man’s estate in the obscure village of a province of no good repute, a stranger to the schools and courts of earth, and proclaimed Himself the God who antedated all the ages of history. He declared that He came to set up a Kingdom which, in spite of all the vicissitudes of time, should out-last time, and be the salt of all other institutions. He boldly declared that He was the Light and Life of men, and that without Him men would walk in darkness forever.
Have these and the many other claims of Jesus Christ been made good? Was He what He claimed to be? Did He do, is He doing, what He claimed He was going to do? In answering these questions we are not going to consider, first of all, the testimony of prophet and evangelist. The inspired Word of God settles all these questions for us. It would settle them for us if every human voice in the universe was raised against it. We are not going to appeal to great theologians and Church-workers. We recognize them as the most competent of witnesses, but the world says they are prejudiced in favor of their own cause. At this point we shall consider the testimony of but a few of the many great minds who were not professed advocates of the cause of the King of kings, but have spoken out boldly their views concerning Jesus Christ.
The Jewish nation, as such, rejected Christ, and put Him to death; but many of the most brilliant Jewish minds have confessed admiration for His character. The great Jewish philosopher Spinoza calls Him the symbol of Divine wisdom. A name, by the way, given Jesus by the prophets of old. The great speculative philosophers are generally regarded as fighting shy of yielding anything to the claims of Christ, but Kant and Jacobi both held Jesus to be the symbol of ideal perfection. Schelling and Hegel do not hesitate to pronounce Him the highest realization of the human and the Divine. And the great German genius Goethe boldly declares:
“I esteem the Gospels to be thoroughly genuine, for there shines forth from them the reflected splendor of a sublimity, proceeding from the person of Jesus Christ, of so divine a kind as only the Divine could ever have manifested on earth.”
We have nothing but contempt for the personal character of Rousseau. He certainly knew nothing of Jesus Christ by way of personal fellowship with Him. But as a result of his study of the historic Christ, and His work, he wrote this panegyric:
“How petty are the books of the philosophers, with all their pomp, compared with the Gospels! Can it be that writings at once so sublime and so simple are the work of men? Can He whose life they tell be no more than a mere man? Is there anything in His character of the enthusiast or the ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity in His ways, what touching grace in His teachings! What loftiness in His maxims, what profound wisdom in His words! What presence of mind, what delicacy and aptness in His replies! What an empire over His passions! Where is the man, where is the sage, who knows how to act, to suffer, and to die without display? My friends, men do not invent like this; and the facts respecting Socrates, which no one doubts, are not so well attested as those about Jesus Christ. These Jews could never have struck this tone, or thought of this morality, and the Gospel has characteristics of truthfulness so grand, so striking, so perfectly inimitable, their inventors would be even more wonderful than He whom they portray. … Yes, if the death of Socrates be that of a sage, the life and death of Jesus are those of a God.”
The first Napoleon was a man of iron, of great intellect, and for a time he made all Europe tremble. In the solitude of St. Helena he daily read the Bible with much eagerness and reverence. In conversation one day about the great personages of history, as was oft his custom, he turned suddenly to one of the company with the inquiry:
“Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?”
The officer to whom the question was addressed had to admit that he had never thought much on the subject. “Then I will tell you,” replied the exiled emperor.
“I think I understand somewhat of human nature, and I tell you all these were men, and I am a man, but not one is like Him; Jesus Christ was more than man. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded great empires; but upon what did the creations of our genius depend? Upon force! Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this day millions would die for Him. … The Gospel is no mere book, but a living creature, with a vigor, a power, which conquers all that opposes it. … The soul, charmed with the beauty of the Gospel, is no longer its own: God possesses it entirely: He directs its thoughts and faculties; it is His. What a proof of the divinity of Jesus Christ! Yet in His absolute sovereignty He has but one aim — the spiritual perfection of the individual, the purification of his conscience, his union with what is true, the salvation of his soul. Men wonder at the conquests of Alexander, but here is a Conqueror who draws men to Himself for their highest good.”
De Wette possessed one of the keenest intellects to be found in Germany during the first half of the past century. His learning was as extensive as his mind was acute. Unfortunately he was one of the leaders of destructive Biblical criticism. He undoubtedly did much to lessen the faith of many in God’s revealed Word. But he could not overthrow the Christ of the Word. And here is his witness to Him:
“This only I know, that there is salvation in no other name than in the name of Jesus Christ, the crucified; and that nothing loftier offers itself to humanity than the God-manhood realized in Him, and the Kingdom of God which He founded.”
Lord Kelvin, one of the most renowned of British scientists, was once asked what he considered his greatest discovery. As unhesitatingly as it was unexpected, he replied, “My greatest discovery was when I found Jesus Christ.”
Testimonies such as these can be multiplied many, manyfold. Add them all as corroborative evidence, we might say as evidence drawn from reluctant hearts; add this all to the evidence of the Apostles, and seers of the Church; multiply this by the evidence of the innumerable thousands of the lowly of all ages, untrained as to mind and the arts of expression, but whose hearts were touched, and whose lives have borne the strongest witness to the power of Jesus Christ to heal, and comfort, and strengthen and save unto the uttermost, and what a volume of unimpeachable testimony we have to the outstanding, sublimely unique character of Jesus Christ.
We, no doubt, have had our difficulties, our doubts. Who has not? There are still problems concerning Jesus and His work which human mind is not able to demonstrate; and never will be able, at least in this life, to penetrate. He would not be God were this not so. He would not have done a Divine work were this not so. But that Jesus Christ actually lived no one but a fool will question. That He was more than man no informed, penetrating mind doubts. May we all be fully able, because of what He has wrought in our own lives, to say:
“My Lord, and my God.”
II. The Victories He Has Won
The Name of Jesus Christ is the Name above every Name because of the Victories He has won.
To get our bearings, let us recall the Gospel story we know so well. We view the humble birth, the unpretentious life, of Jesus of Nazareth. We review the little band of peasants He gathered about Him; men without wealth or influence. With these men in training to continue His work, Jesus began to proclaim the establishment of a Kingdom which should conquer the earth. What happened? Jesus was Himself taken captive by an angry mob. He was tried and condemned by both Church and State. He was put to death as a malefactor on the cross. His little band was scattered. But after these experiences they rallied. They claimed that Jesus had arisen, that He had given them new instructions, and a new commission.
And now they went forth, this little band of peasants, on their world-conquering mission in the name of Jesus Christ. Their foundation doctrines were that Jesus was the Son of God as well as the Son of man, that He had lived and died in the world for the purpose of taking away the sins of the world; that He had risen from the dead, and was seated at the right hand of God. This doctrine, in all its features, was of a nature to excite either the resentment, or the scorn of the worldly wise, or prejudiced, people. Human wisdom could have prophesied for this little band no more than a struggling provincial existence as a fanatical sect. Everything of the world’s wisdom and pomp and power was against them.
Let us be a little more specific. Not only were the general tendencies of a corrupt human nature against the teachings and practices of the disciples of Jesus Christ, but the organized forces of the world were against them. There was Israel with its fifteen hundred years of national life and religious history against them. Their national pride, and their religious prejudices, made them antagonists of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And they used not only the arguments of their best trained men, but to these they added the arguments of the prison and the sword. The heathen world naturally looked with contempt on Jewish teachers who came with the strange message of a Jewish Savior, who was going to reclaim the world, when He could not save Himself from the ignominious death of the cross, inflicted by His own fellow countrymen. The Gospel was to them, indeed, foolishness. But the heathen people were generally rather tolerant of opinions so long as those who entertained them were only theorizers. But the Jesus whom the Apostles preached was not a mere theorizer. And the Apostles themselves were not mere theorizers. They proclaimed the Gospel not simply as a message, but as a power. It was to change men’s lives. It presented new principles, new ideals, which were to be wrought into, and change, everything which seriously affected men’s lives. And the preachers of this Gospel showed that it had so affected them. Their faithful converts showed that it had worked a change in them also. The followers of Jesus would offer no sacrifices to the false gods of the heathen, they would take no part in their worldly amusements. The strict moral lives of all the faithful Christians was a constant rebuke to the gross immoralities of the heathen. This challenged attention. As a result the heathen did what the Jews had done, they became opposers.
At first, heathen opposition took the form of an attempted revival of their own religion, an hysterical attempt at revival. Everything which would appeal to any side of the people’s nature was tried. They employed elements of every known religion. Their pride, their love of show and mystery, the sensuality of their unregenerate natures, the sense of meritoriousness; by all these, and more, it was sought to anchor the people to the old forms. When they all failed, every art of the trained controversialist was tried. They tried to beat down the messengers and the message of Christianity by sneers. The wonders of the Gospel were parodied in the places of amusement. Christianity was denounced with all the fire of impassioned rhetoric. It was met with the profoundest arguments, and the most artful sophistries, of the most learned and eager philosophers. When all this failed, the followers of Jesus were beset with the torch and sword. They were hunted like dangerous beasts. Armies were sent against them. Every device satanic ingenuity could devise was employed for their destruction. But when the armies grew tired of blood and pillage, when the arms of the executioners fell from utter exhaustion, the cause of Jesus Christ still lived and flourished. The Truth which had its humble earthly origin in the stall of a cavern stable, the doctrine which embodied the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, and was proclaimed, at first, only by a little handful of Galilean peasants, was more than a match for the combined wit and learning and power of the Jewish and heathen world. The Church which had started out homeless, performing its ministries in the market-places, in the homes of its humble artisan adherents, in the forests, and in the dens and caves of the earth, had triumphed over the costly, magnificent temples at Jerusalem, at Athens, and at Rome. That little band of unarmed followers of Jesus, unpolished by contact with the higher things of the earth, had met a world enraged and in arms, — and won.
How are we to account for these cumulative victories? A series of victories so out of proportion to any mere human estimate which could be placed on the message, or the messengers? It can be satisfactorily explained only in one way. They were won not by any power of man. They were won only by the unique person and work of Jesus Christ. These humble men had gone forth to their work consecrated by Jesus Christ, not only to tell about Jesus Christ, but to bring Jesus Christ to men. By Him whom they brought to men all fear had been burned out of their hearts, through the operation of the Holy Ghost. Instead of the wisdom of the world, they were endowed with that divine wisdom which makes men holy, which makes them not only the bearers of a message, but the living witnesses of the power of Jesus Christ to renew and save. These glorious victories of the Church, of Jesus Christ in and through the Church, were won by the fulfillment of Christ’s promise:
“Lo, I am with you alway.”
III. The Unique Character and Supreme Importance Of His Work
The Name of Jesus Christ is the Name Above every Name because of the Unique Character and Supreme Importance of His Work.
Many great victors have left their mark, for a time at least, on the world. Most of these have been conquerors whose paths have been strewn with ashes and bleaching bones, and commemorated by the broken-hearted cries of bereaved wives and mothers, and the piteous wails of orphaned and suffering children. Jesus Christ, “with His pierced hands lifted empires off their hinges, turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the ages;” but not one heart has He ever broken, save by the touch of a loving hand which has convinced of sin; not one tear has He ever wrung from a human eye, save of sorrow for wrongs done and the joy of loving service missed.
We shall not at this time attempt to enlarge on Christ’s relationship to all fundamental world-problems. Creation, world-government, the intellectual, moral, and spiritual progress of humanity, down to the most minute social problem, are bound up in the question of the relationship of Jesus Christ to the world. This is so profoundly true that no one can approach any of these problems in the right way who lacks this vision. But this is too extensive a subject for present treatment. We can give but the briefest statement of the distinctive work Jesus came to do, and of the structure reared on this foundation during the ages since. This work is variously stated in Holy Writ. The angel of the Lord, who came to dispel the gloomy thoughts of Joseph, expressed the whole compass of the Lord’s work in the significant name he gave Him:
“Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sins.”
Many great hearts have given themselves to the task, the ever-present, the ever-pressing task of relieving the wants of men. Many are today engaged in this work. They are seeking to give men better living conditions, better government, a better outlook on life. But when all that was dreamed of yesterday becomes the reality of today there are wants still. And the deepest, the most insistent, still remain. And if we could succeed in establishing a material paradise, where men never knew the blasts of winter, or the parching heat of summer; where hunger and thirst never came, save in sufficient measure to enhance the delight in partaking of the abundance at hand; if there was no oppression on the part of the powers that be; if there was no material desire ungratified: man would still be a creature of want. His origin, and especially his destiny, would trouble him. The specter of wrongs done would haunt him. He would want peace of conscience, not that which comes by drinking of the waters of Lethe; but the peace which comes from drinking of the fountain of living waters, which gives true vision of life, while it cleanses the soul, and restores the palsied faculties of man.
This is the work Jesus Christ came to do, which He alone can do. He is the real animating spirit of every movement which has any actual good in it for the children of men. But first of all Jesus came to be a Savior from sin. Not by saying there is no such thing as sin, or by speaking lightly of its nature and destroying power; but rather, by contrast with the snowy whiteness of His own life, and by the detestation He showed, in word and deed, for sin, to paint, in its true colors, its hellish blackness; and then, by the greatest of sacrifices, the surrender of His own precious life, to free us from its curse and power.
We can, in a general way, measure the work Christ has done in the world by enumerating the institutions established and transformed by the spirit He has given; by calling to mind the agencies for securing man’s good He has been instrumental in setting in motion; by noting the upward trend of every feature and department of the complex life of men where the spirit of Christ measurably reigns. But no human intelligence is capable of even approximating, in any direction, the extent of what Christ Jesus has done in the world, or is doing today. Perhaps one of the best ways of getting an idea of what the presence and operation of Christ means to the world is to try and picture to ourselves what this world would be without Him.
There is still much of filth and vice in the world, but what would it be without the sanctifying presence of Him who knew no sin? There is still much of selfishness in the world, what would it be without the brotherhood taught by that loving elder Brother? We have not by any means reached the point where social relations are what they should be; but what would they be without the birthright the God-man brought to childhood? without the gentleness and virtue He has given to womanhood? without the shield He has thrown around the sanctities of home-life? What would life be worth here if generation after generation had to come and go not only without hope for the present, but without hope for the future? if we had to live in a state of society where might was right, where selfishness reigned supreme, and the end a gaping grave into which no ray of light or hope ever entered? This would be the state of things had Christ no part in life. It is the condition where He does not truly rule men’s lives. To change all this He came to earth. And all that is best in human life is the result of His work. One of America’s leading men said, recently, in a public address:
“Jesus Christ started the mightiest revolution of all time.”
This is true, but it was a peaceful revolution. Whenever any other forces than those of love and truth have been used, it was contrary to Christ’s will. His way is to touch and transform the individual human life. And as the number of transformed human lives increases it leaves its impress on every department of social life. Lecky, the great rationalist, admits that Christianity has been the main source from which has come the moral development of Europe. Thinking men need no better apologetic for the worth of Christianity, which means the worth of Christ, than what He has been doing in the world these nineteen hundred years. And the time will come when, in very truth, every knee shall bow before Him, and every tongue confess Him Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- Author: “Golladay, Robert Emory”
- Title: “The Apostles’ Creed”
- Originally Published: 1917 by Lutheran Book Concern, Columbus, Ohio.
- Lutheran Library Edition: 2020
- Copyright: CC BY 4.0