This is the third post from the series on the Apostles Creed by Tyler Cowden…
The center of Christian faith is, not surprisingly, the person and work of Jesus Christ. Most of the rest of the Creed focuses on Him and His redemptive accomplishments for His people, from His incarnation all the way through to His ascension and some-day return. It is this man of antiquity, Jesus of Nazareth, who is in fact the eternal Son of God come in the flesh, in whom we place our hope. We will speak more of His person in the next post, but here we’ll take some time to discuss the biblical idea of faith: “I believe in Jesus Christ.”
The biblical ideas of faith, belief, and hope are a little different than the ideas we typically convey today when we use those words. It came to my attention a little while ago that United States soccer fans had invented a chant that progressively builds and then repeats the following statement: “I believe that we will win!” But this kind of “belief” is to be contrasted with biblical faith.
On the one hand, U.S. soccer fans had a vague, subjective, and relatively shaky hope that we would win the World Cup. While some may have held a strong belief that we would really win, that belief was not based on anything in reality that would have guaranteed (or perhaps even made probable) that state of affairs. On the other hand, biblical faith and hope is bound up with objective realities that will certainly obtain, because God has promised them.
The objectivity of biblical faith as I am expressing it here does not mean it is something mechanical, or that it only works like a toggle switch. It still involves relatively immature and indeed sinful subjects whose faith waxes and wanes with the comforts and trials of life. But the Person in whom we as Christians place our fluctuating faith is Himself faithful and true. Therefore even on our spiritually worst days, we may have a deep-seated confidence that God’s promises are true and will certainly be fulfilled.
We as New Covenant believers not only have God’s infallible promises in His Word, but we have the inestimable privilege of living after Christ’s coming and having already seen the dawning of the Messianic kingdom. Therefore, if we are committed believers in and followers of Christ, who have been made new by His Spirit, when we say “we believe in Jesus Christ,” we do not mean that we have a vague fondness of a religious fairy tale we were told when we were little, which still gives us comfort and a bit of a moral compass.
We mean instead that we have decided to stake our eternal souls on the truth God has revealed in His Word concerning His Son—the truth that the Son has now truly entered history, died for His people around AD 30 outside Jerusalem, risen again bodily, and ascended into heaven as head over His Church.
To “believe in Jesus Christ” is at one level not complicated; we urge unbelievers to rest their souls in this Person named Jesus who died for sinners, who is really alive today, and who is returning to judge the world. The more we subsequently learn from Scripture, the more richly layered the content of this gospel faith becomes. But in all cases, saving faith in the Messiah, Jesus, is a Spirit-given, bold confidence in who Jesus is and what He has done. It is not a wishy-washy or sentimental “hope” in the sense we have become familiar with in common modern usage.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1, NASB).