The second article of the Apostles' Creed is all about Jesus. Gather ideas for teaching this section of Luther's Small Catechism with a lens on Law & Gospel.
Article II: And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean? I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten from the Father from all eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord,
Law: Through the course of Christian history persons and groups have presented myriad falsehoods regarding Jesus’ nature: Jesus was only God; Jesus was only man; Jesus is half god and half man; the Son of God entered the man Jesus at His baptism and left at His crucifixion; Jesus only seemed like a man; Jesus’ life began at His birth. All these are rejected in favor of the truth that Jesus, like the Father and Holy Spirit, is eternal, without beginning or end. Jesus took on human flesh in the Virgin Mary, yet was completely sinless. Had Jesus not taken on human flesh, He could not have lived innocently in my place. Were He not God, mere human blood could never wash away sin.
Gospel: As Jesus is fully God, we have absolute certainty that His divine blood made flawless and total payment for the sins of the whole world, including mine. What is more, Jesus, our risen Savior, rules over the universe, abides with me in everlasting love, forgives my sins for the sake of His suffering and death, and stands before God the Father as the everlasting sacrifice for my sins. As Jesus is fully man, He was able to live a sinless human life in my place. This means that through faith, God counts Jesus’ perfect life in place of mine. Jesus lived in a particular place and time, experienced all the challenges of life in sinful world, and so is preeminently able to understand our challenges and minister to us.
Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death,
Law: My sins leave me due nothing but every misery in this life, physical death, and everlasting condemnation in hell. Nothing less than the suffering and death of Jesus Christ will redeem me. In light of the fullness of Jesus’ payment on the cross, we set aside any notion that we could add to or complete what Jesus has done by any innate goodness in ourselves or efforts. What is more, until the Holy Spirit creates saving faith in me through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I exist within the devil’s kingdom and have no choice or power to change this reality.
Gospel: Jesus Christ, in obedience to the Father and all excelling love for me, willingly went to the cross to pay my debt. At every moment possessing the power to end His own suffering, Jesus underwent humiliation, torture, excruciating pain, crucifixion, rejection by friends and even His heavenly Father, and death, all to prevent my eternal doom and instead to earn for me forgiveness of sins and everlasting life in heaven. In doing so, Jesus has made peace between God and sinners, taking upon Himself the judgment, condemnation, and punishment which our sins required. For this reason, we live in peace, certain that God will never ask us to pay part or all of what we owed. Jesus’ resurrection shows us this.
That I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Law: As Jesus is my Lord, I flee from any temptation to fear or love anything or anyone in place of or in addition to Him. Examples include the pursuit of earthly gain to the point of neglecting other areas of life, God’s Word and Sacrament in particular, seeking power and prestige at the expense of others, enjoying God’s gifts outside the boundaries of His intended purpose, and so desiring the approval of other men as to deny Christ. Recognizing the dear price which Jesus paid for my salvation, I, by the power of the Holy Spirit, spurn sin in thought, word, and deed, those things which I have done and have failed to do. With the understanding that obedience to God’s Law and good works contribute nothing to my salvation, I love God and serve others.
Gospel: In Holy Baptism the Lord has placed His everlasting mark of ownership on me. Jesus will never let me go. There is nothing and no one who can separate me from my Lord, Jesus. Although I am daily plagued with sin, I am righteous, innocent, and blessed through faith for the sake of Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death. As God’s redeemed child in Jesus, I am able to serve the Lord and others in freedom rather than obligation. Jesus abides with me each day and gives me the promise of His return and everlasting life in heaven.
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