Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Article IV

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified dead, and buried
He descended into Hell;

The Creed is concrete. The Creed does not speak of feelings but of objective realities. It doesn't talk about how the Lamb makes you feel but what the Lamb did. In the third article the Creed told us of the Lamb's conception and entrance into the state of humiliation. We continue to learn from the Creed about the humiliation that the Lamb suffered for us.

Injustice is everywhere, but no injustice is so great as what the Lamb suffered for us. When you stand before the court for murder, you may be innocent of physical murder but you are a murderer. The Lamb was spotless and without blemish. The Lamb was not guilty in any sense of the word but He was guiltier than anyone. The Lamb bore no sins of His own but He bore the sins of the world. He was judged guilty by the civil authorities in the person of Pontius Pilate and by the judgment of the civil authorities they themselves were judged and found guilty. The civil authorities murdered God. The politician Pilate did not uphold justice but acted in cowardice. He was willing to kill in order to keep his job. The same happens today when politicians support wars and abortions to get elected. The people are not much different either. The population is willing to sacrifice any number of people if it saves their god--the economy. But this was something far worse than any of that. This was the killing of God Himself.

The Lamb was not killed by lethal injection. The Lamb was crucified for us. The Lamb became a curse by suffering on a tree for us. The Lamb was spat upon, suffered a long and painful death, and eventually suffocated for us. But that wasn't even the worst of it. The Lamb suffered God's wrath and abandonment for us! And the Lamb was buried for us. The Lamb did all of this to conquer death for us. The Lamb conquered death through His own death.

The Creed then begins to tell us of the Lamb's exaltation. The Lamb "descended into hell." What does this mean?

Ephesians 4:8-9 Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men." 9 (Now this, "He ascended" -- what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)

1 Peter 3:18-20 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.

"Whether we comprehend it with or without pictures, is an indifferent matter, as long as we don't become heretics and this article remains intact, that our Lord Jesus Christ did descend into hell, battered hell open, overcame the devil, and delivered those who were held captive by the devil." The House Postils,Vol. 1, p. 480 And again: "Christ has crushed hell, opened up heaven,bound and taken captive the devil, and delivered the prisoners." (Martin Luther, The HousePostils, Vol. 1, p. 482.)

The soul, having obtained union with the Word; descended into hell; but using its divine power and efficacy, it said to the ones in bondage, "Go forth!" (St. Cyril of Alexandria, as cited in Catalog of Testimonies VI)

Recognize this, brothers: be glad, brothers, that after the triumph of Christ the prison of the saints has been broken open, and the netherworld no longer exercises any jurisdiction over the saints, since Christ penetrated all the way to the netherworld in order to free the just, not the unjust. Let us realize, brothers, how great a benefit Christ has provided, or rather, how without Christ no one possessed salvation, since, besides the wretched dissolution of their bodies, the souls, too, of the saints were being held in confinement in the underworld. (St. Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 123, par. 7)

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