03. The triune God
God is a spiritual, perfect, and completely independent being. He is eternal, without beginning and without end. The one God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
When we talk about “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”, we are not referring to three different gods, but rather three persons who are the one God.
Human beings are incapable of fully describing God. However, we know some of God’s characteristics: He is the One God (the only God), the Holy One, The Almighty, the Eternal, the Loving One, the Gracious One, the Righteous One, and the Perfect One.
There is only one God. Belief in the One God is a fundamental profession of the Old and New Testaments, and is thus also fundamental to the Christian faith.
‘Monotheism’ is the designation for the doctrine that there is only a single God. Monotheistic religions include, for example, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
“Thus says the Lord, the King of I srael, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God.’” Isaiah 44: 6
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one...” Mark 12: 29
Holiness is part of God’s nature, being, and activity. Holiness incorporates majesty, inviolability, and separateness from the profane. God’s word and will are likewise holy.
The holiness of God sanctifies the place where He reveals Himself.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah 6: 3
God can do all things. Nothing is impossible for Him. God’s will and activity cannot be limited by anyone. The creation clearly demonstrates that God is almighty. All things have been created through His word alone. He has created everything that exists— including everything that we human beings can see, and everything that we cannot see—from nothing. It will also be through His omnipotence that the new creation will come into being. God’s omnipotence also includes His omniscience and omnipresence.
“But He said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God’.” Luke 18: 27
“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” Hebrews 11: 3
God is without beginning and without end. There are no chronological limitations for Him. God is the Creator of time and is Lord over it.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Psalm 90: 2
Already in the old covenant, God revealed Himself as the Loving One by electing the people of Israel and liberating them from captivity in Egypt. He revealed Himself to all mankind as the Loving One by sending His Son for the salvation of all human beings. Apostle John wrote: “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4: 16).
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you.”
Jeremiah 31: 3
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 3: 16
God turns to mankind in mercy, grace, patience, and kindness (cf. Psalm 103: 8). That God is gracious is demonstrated first and foremost by the fact that He accepts human beings, who are entangled in sin, and forgives sin. Also included here is the fact that God became human in Jesus Christ.
No one can earn the grace of God. It is a gift.
Everything that God does is right. He makes no mistakes. “His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice” (Deuteronomy 32: 4). Human beings can depend on God’s righteousness and reliability: “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5: 24).
Another expression of God’s righteousness are His laws, for example, that human beings reap what they sow (cf. Galatians 6: 7), and that the wages of sin is death (cf. Romans 6: 23).
However, God’s grace stands above everything else. This too is part of His righteousness. Through Jesus Christ, sinners—who have only earned punishment— can receive grace. As a result, God will no longer hold their sins and transgressions against them.
“The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgements endures forever.”
Psalm 119: 160
“Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgements.”
Revelation 16: 7
“[They are] justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 3: 24
God’s works are good and His ways are right. He does not act on the basis of any external necessities or constraints, but solely on the basis of His own perfect will. God is completely free in His decisions.
God’s perfection incorporates truth. With God there is no lie, deception, or uncertainty, nor is there any difference between His will and His actions. Human beings can experience the perfection of God in Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ was the only one on earth who was perfect, that is, without sin, without error, in word or deed.
“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.”
Psalm 18: 30
When we talk about the “triune God”, we mean that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the one God. Here we are not referring to three gods, but rather one God in three persons.
Both the Old and New Testaments contain many references to the trinity of God. It is on the basis of these biblical attestations that Christians believe in the triune God.
The first such reference to the trinity of God is found in Genesis 1: 26: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The use of the plural “Let Us” is a reference to the activity of God in several persons.
God appeared to Abraham in Mamre in the form of three men (cf. Genesis 18). This is understood as a reference to the trinity of God.
It is the same with the threefold blessing (“Aaronic blessing”), which Aaron spoke over the people of Israel (Numbers 6: 24-26).
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Numbers 6: 24-26
When Jesus, the Son of God, was baptised in the Jordan, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. From heaven, the Father attested: “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1: 10- 11). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were thus present together.
The three divine persons are also mentioned in the Great Commission which Jesus issued to His Apostles: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 18-19).
The wording of the benediction recorded in 2 Corinthians 13: 14 likewise refers to the trinity of God: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God [the Father], and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all!”
The trinity of God has existed from eternity. The doctrine of the trinity of God was formulated in the Councils of Nicaea (325 AD) and Constantinople (381 AD).
The doctrine of the trinity of God is among the fundamental statements of the Christian faith.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are names for the three divine persons. Although they are to be distinguished from one another, they are nevertheless the one God.
In Christian tradition, each of the three divine persons is assigned a particular point of emphasis: God, the Father, is the Creator of heaven and earth.
God, the Son, is the Redeemer who became human and gave His life as a sacrifice for the redemption of mankind. God, the Holy Spirit, is the Maker of the new creation: He sees to it that the salvation of God is made accessible to mankind and that the new creation comes to its completion.
When the term “Father” is used in relationship to God, it is associated with divine aspects of creatorship, authority, and loving care. God is the source and sustainer of that which He has created. In this respect, all human beings are able to address God, who is their Creator, as “Father”.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1: 1), both the visible—that is, the material creation— and the invisible. Everything has emanated from God’s creative activity.
God has created from nothing and without any template: “God [...] calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4: 17). He has also fashioned things and living beings from matter He had previously created (cf. Genesis 2: 7-8, 19) and has laid His laws into them. All created things are subject to Him.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. [...] Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.”
Genesis 2: 7-8, 19
The creation and the laws by which it functions bear witness to God’s wisdom, the magnitude of which cannot even be imagined by man. In admiration the psalmist exclaims: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19: 1).
God created the world in six “days of creation”. The term “day of creation” refers to a period of time whose duration is not precisely specified. A “day” in the creation of God is not to be equated with a day according to our reckoning of time.
Genesis 2: 2 states: “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had done.”
“[...] that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
2 Peter 3: 8 (excerpt)
“For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past.”
Psalm 90: 4
The Bible relates that heaven and earth, the light, the shape of the earth, the sun, the moon and stars, the plants and animals, as well as human beings, came into being through the word of God. Everything was very good (cf. Genesis 1: 31).
No. There is also an invisible creation of God. Its mysteries elude human inquiry— like God Himself. Holy Scripture nevertheless contains references to realms, occurrences, conditions, and beings outside of the material creation.
The invisible creation incorporates the realm where God rules, the angels, the immortal souls of human beings, as well as the realm of the dead.
The Devil was originally one of the angels. As such he is part of the invisible creation. This angel rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven and the fellowship of God with his followers owing to his disobedience, envy, and lies.
“For [...] God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell.”
2 Peter 2: 4
“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgement of the great day.”
Angels are spiritual beings created by God. They are part of the invisible creation. In individual cases they can become visible to human beings in accordance with God’s will.
It is the task of the angels to worship God, fulfil His commissions, and thereby serve Him.
God’s love for human beings is also revealed in that he allows angels to serve human beings. From Matthew 18: 10 we may even conclude that children have special angel protection.
“I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One. [...] For not of any favour of mine, but by the will of our God I came; wherefore praise him for ever.”
Tobit 12: 15, 18
“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 18: 10
No, because angels only act in accordance with the will of God. For this reason it is not to them, but to God alone, that thanks and worship are due.
Angels are “all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.”
Hebrews 1: 14
Man is an entity consisting of spirit, soul, and body (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5: 23). The body is mortal and thus belongs to the visible creation of God. Soul and spirit thus belong to the invisible creation of God. Because soul and spirit continue to exist even after physical death, it is important to concern oneself with the invisible.
The attitude which a person adopts toward God during earthly life will have consequences for his existence in the beyond. This insight can help him resist the temptations of the Devil and lead a life that is pleasing to God.
The significance of the invisible is clarified by Apostle Paul: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18). Occupying themselves with the invisible therefore helps human beings process that which they experience.
They should concern themselves with the invisible by turning to God and worshipping Him.
However, it is against the will of God to occupy oneself with the invisible in the form of necromancy or conjuring the dead (spiritism) (cf. Deuteronomy 18: 10 et seq.; 1 Samuel 28).
“There shall not be found among you anyone who [...] practises witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord.”
Deuteronomy 18: 10-12
Practices of conjuring spirits, especially the spirits of deceased persons, are designated as “spiritism” (Latin spiritus = spirit).
Human beings belong as much to the visible as to the invisible creation because they possess both a material nature (body) and a non-material nature (soul and spirit).
Of all creatures, God conferred on human beings a special position, and thereby brought them into a close relationship to Himself: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1: 26-27).
The term ‘material’ is derived from the Latin word materia, which means “substance”, “content”. That which is visible, substantial, and physically tangible is thus described as “material”. By contrast, the term ‘non-material’ is used to describe that which is spiritual, invisible, and intangible for human beings.
Through His Word God created everything and called man by name. Man has thus been addressed (“You may eat...”) and loved by God. He can listen to God’s address and respond to the love of God.
It is because God addresses man, provides for him, and allows him to share in divine characteristics such as love, reason, and immortality, that man is in the image of God.
God is independent, that is, completely free. He has also given man, who has been created in His image, the opportunity to decide freely for himself. At the same time, the freedom with which he has been endowed makes man responsible for his actions (cf. Genesis 2: 16-17).
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’.”
Genesis 2: 16-17
Yes, man and woman are both created equally in the image of God. Thus they are both like Him in their nature.
No. The fact that man has been created in the image of God does not imply that one can draw any conclusions about God’s nature or form from the person of a human being.
Human beings are dependent on God in their existence.
Human beings have the capacity to recognise God their Creator, to love Him, and to praise Him. Thus human beings are oriented to God, regardless of whether or not they believe in Him.
God has assigned human beings their living environment and given them the commission to have “dominion” over the earth—that is, to shape it—and to protect it (cf. Genesis 1: 26, 28; Psalm 8: 6).
“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’.”
Genesis 1: 28
Human beings are accountable to God, the Creator, for the way they treat the creation. They can deal freely, but not recklessly, with the creation. As the image of God they are to treat all life and their habitat in accordance with the divine nature: with wisdom, goodness, and love.
No. As the Creator, Lord, and Lawgiver, God gave Adam and Eve the commandment not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. In so doing He tested man to see how they would deal with the freedom of decision that had been conferred upon them as the image of God. At the same time He warned them about the consequences of violating this commandment.
Through the influence of the evil one, who came to them as a serpent, the first human beings entered into temptation. They transgressed the commandment they had been given by God. Thereby human beings became sinners.
Separation from God, spiritual death, was the direct consequence of the fall into sin. From then on, human beings had to lead a troubled existence on earth, which would end with physical death (cf. Genesis 3: 16-19).
Since the fall into sin, mankind has been sinful, that is to say, enmeshed in sin and thus incapable of living without sin.
“Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. [...] For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”
Genesis 3: 17, 19
Human beings cannot undo the condition of separation from God on their own. But even as sinners, human beings are not without the comfort and help of God. God does not leave them in spiritual death: with the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death, and resurrection, God has created the opportunity for all human beings to be delivered from spiritual death.
The first reference to the sacrifice of Christ was given to human beings when God said the following to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3: 15).
Spirit, soul, and body are interconnected. They permeate and influence one another.
The body comes into being through procreation and thus shares in the nature and form of the parents. The soul is created directly by God. So it is that God still continues to act in the present as the Creator of every individual person.
Through the soul and spirit, which are not definitively distinguished from one another in the Bible, human beings are able to partake in the spiritual world, to recognise God, and to have a relationship with Him.
‘Soul’ and ‘spirit’: The immortal soul should not be confused with the human “psyche”, which is also more colloquially designated as “soul”. Likewise, the intellect should be distinguished from the spirit.
The human body is mortal, whereas the soul and spirit are immortal. After the death of the body, a human being continues to live on as an entity consisting of soul and spirit. Death does not put an end to human personhood. This personhood is then expressed through soul and spirit.
At the resurrection of the dead, soul and spirit will be united with a resurrection body.
God, the Son, is the second person of the triune God. There is no hierarchical difference between God, the Father and God, the Son, even though the terms “Father” and “Son” might suggest an order of precedence. Father and Son are both equally true God. They are of the same essence.
In Jesus Christ God, the Son, became human and yet remained God. He was born in Bethlehem of the virgin Mary.
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”
Luke 2: 1-14
In the Old Testament we find, among other things, the promise of prophet Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7: 14).
The prophet Micah foretold the place of Jesus’ birth: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5: 2). Isaiah described Jesus with names that emphasise His uniqueness: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6).
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”
Galatians 4: 4
see also Question 4
John the Baptist was the one who prepared the way for Jesus. This forerunner of Jesus promised by God (cf. Malachi 3: 1) preached repentance and proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Redeemer: “I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3: 11).
According to the biblical record, John the Baptist was the first to expressly refer to Jesus as the Son of God and also proclaim this to the people.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.”
John 1: 6-8
“And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”
John 1: 34
When Jesus came to John, the latter said: “‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples, and looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus” (cf. John 1: 29, 35-37).
The designation “Lamb” is intended to introduce Jesus as the Redeemer, and is reminiscent of Isaiah 53: 7: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.” Since ancient times, lambs were considered the sacrificial animals of preference in the Old Testament. The image of the slaughtered “Lamb of God” is a reference to the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
Through His sacrificial death, the Son of God established the way for sinners to be delivered from spiritual death and attain eternal life: “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”
(1 John 4: 9-10).
The designation of Jesus as God’s “only begotten Son” means that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is unique and eternal. The Son of God is not part of the creation like mankind, nor can He be compared to the angels, who have a beginning. He is without beginning and without end. He is God, and thus of the same essence as the Father and the Holy Spirit. Thus He has always been—that is, even before all creation—in fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit (pre-existence).
The term ‘pre-existence’ is derived from the Latin words prae and existentia, which mean “before” and “existence”, respectively. In relation to Jesus Christ, pre-existence means that the Son of God is from eternity, which means that He has always existed, even before the creation and His incarnation.
God created and ordered all things in a meaningful way through the Word (“Then God said...” Genesis 1: 3). Thus the Word is the source, from whom all things emanate.
The designation “Word” (= Greek logos) is also used for the Son of God in the first chapter of the gospel of John. This is a reference to the fact that God, the Son is just as much the Creator as God, the Father and God, the Holy Spirit.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1: 1-3, 14
John 1: 14 states that the Son of God (the “Word”) became “flesh”, that is, a real human being. He was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and learned the profession of a carpenter there. He died in Jerusalem: He was crucified on Golgotha.
Yes, in His human nature Jesus Christ was the same as other human beings. In His human existence He had a body and the corresponding needs. He felt hunger when He was in the desert. He felt thirst when He came to Jacob’s well. He rejoiced at the marriage in Cana and wept when His friend Lazarus died. He also wept when He stood in front of Jerusalem and the people did not recognise Him as the Son of God. He suffered pain from the scourging of the soldiers. However, He distinguished Himself from other human beings in that He came into the world without sin and never sinned. He was obedient to God, the Father, right up until His death on the cross.
No. While on earth He was both Man and the Son of God, that is, true God.
Jesus Christ is true Man and true God: He has two natures, a human one and a divine one.
It was only as true God that Jesus Christ was able to say: “I and My Father are one” (John 10: 30), and thereby express that He is identical in essence with the Father.
At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, a voice from heaven was heard saying: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3: 17). During His transfiguration, the Father likewise emphasised that Jesus is the Son of God: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17: 5). The words of Jesus: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14: 9) also attest that He is God.
The miracles that He performed show that Jesus Christ is true God. Nature was subject to Him because He calmed a storm and walked on the waters of Lake Gennesaret. He showed Himself to be Lord over life and death by healing the sick and raising the dead. When He multiplied the loaves and fish and thereby fed thousands of people, and when He turned water into wine, His actions far surpassed the capacities of any human being. He was Lord over sin and repeatedly forgave sins.
“God was manifested in the flesh.”
1 Timothy 3:16
“This (Jesus Christ) is the true God and eternal life.”
1 John 5: 20
The name “Jesus” means “The Lord saves”.
When the angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus, He also declared the name of the Child. He said to Mary: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1: 31). Joseph was likewise told what the Child was to be called: “[...] and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1: 21). Thus it is already clear from His name that Jesus is the promised Deliverer and Redeemer.
In His deeds, Jesus Christ revealed Himself as the Redeemer (= Saviour) sent by God: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11: 5). That Jesus Christ is the Redeemer is clear especially in the fact that He proclaimed the will of God and gave His life for the redemption of mankind, that is, for their liberation from sin and guilt.
Yes. Redemption is only possible through Jesus Christ. Only in Him is salvation accessible for mankind.
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4: 12
‘Majestic titles’ are names and designations for the Son of God which are used in Holy Scripture to describe various characteristics of His unique person.
The word ‘majestic’ is used to describe a person descended from nobility who has an especially elevated position, for example a king or an emperor.
“Christ” originally comes from the Greek language (Christos) and means “Anointed One” in translation.
In Old Testament times, kings were anointed with oil (cf. Psalm 20: 6). This act signified consecration to a holy service. Jesus is described as the “Anointed One” because He is Lord over all, because He reconciles mankind with God, and because He proclaims the will of God.
The majestic title “Christ” is so closely associated with Jesus that it has become a proper name: Jesus Christ.
The word “Messiah” comes from Hebrew and also means “Anointed One” in translation. That Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ awaited by Israel is stated expressly in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, the designation “Lord” is most often used in reference to God. In the New Testament, this majestic title is also applied to Jesus Christ. The designation “Lord” thus identifies the divine authority of Jesus Christ. It therefore far transcends any other form of respectful address. When Jesus is called “the Lord” it is also intended to express that Jesus is God.
When the term “Son of Man” is used as a majestic title, it is not referring to the son of a man, but rather a heavenly being that judges and rules over mankind.
At the time of Jesus, devout Jews were expecting the “Son of Man” who would assume rule over the world from God. According to John 3: 13, Jesus also identifies Himself as the Son of Man who came down from heaven. As such He has power to forgive sins and save (cf. Matthew 9: 6).
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19: 10
Yes. Holy Scripture mentions other such majestic titles of Jesus: “Immanuel”, “Servant of God”, and “Son of David”. The Hebrew name Immanuel means “God with us”. Jesus Christ bears the majestic title Immanuel because God is manifest among mankind in Him to offer them help.
The designation “Servant of God” is used in Holy Scripture for outstanding persons who stand in the service of God. When Jesus is designated as the “Servant of God”, this is a reference to His service and suffering for mankind. In the New Testament, “Son of David” is a designation for Jesus Christ. Already at the beginning of the gospel of Matthew we read: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1: 1). This means that the promises given to David are fulfilled in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Samuel 7; Acts 13: 32-37).
Jesus Christ acted in the capacity of King, Priest, and Prophet.
When one thinks about a king, one thinks of ruling and governing. In the time of the Old Testament the function of a priest was to mediate reconciliation between mankind and God. A prophet proclaims the divine will and foretells coming events. Jesus Christ performed all of this in perfect fashion.
At His entry into Jerusalem, Jesus identified Himself as the King of peace and righteousness. Even before Pilate, a representative of the worldly power of Rome, Jesus professed that He was King and a witness of the truth.
However, Jesus’ kingship was not rooted in any earthly regency and was not manifest in outward power. The authority with which He acted and the power with which He performed miracles demonstrate that He is King.
The royal dignity of Jesus Christ is also emphasised in Revelation, where He is described as “the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1: 5).
“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘Are You a king then?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
John 18: 37
Significant kings in the history of the people of Israel:
- King Saul
- King David
- King Solomon
- King Hezekiah
The most important task of the priests in the time of the Old Testament was to bring sacrifices to God in order to thereby find grace before God. Jesus Christ is a Priest who stands above all others as He is the true High Priest. He sacrificed His sinless life so that human beings could be saved from spiritual death and attain eternal life.
In Old Testament times, high priests had the function of bringing the sins of the people to God. For this purpose they would enter the holiest space of the temple (the “Most Holy Place”) once each year—namely on the Day of Atonement—and intercede for the people. Unlike the high priests of the old covenant, Jesus Christ had no need to be reconciled with God. Rather He Himself is the Reconciler who forgives sins.
Significant priests in the Old Testament:
God promised Moses: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18: 18). This Prophet is a reference to Jesus Christ.
As Prophet, Jesus Christ proclaimed the will of God. He shows the way to life and reveals future events. In His farewell discourses He promises the Holy Spirit. In the book of Revelation He unveils the course of salvation history right up to the new creation.
The statements He makes are eternally valid: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mark 13: 31).
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
Matthew 24: 21-22
“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Luke 21: 25-28
Significant prophets in the history of the people of Israel:
- John the Baptist
The four gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the New Testament give an account of the life and activity of Jesus Christ. The intention of the evangelists (authors of the gospels) was not to write a biography of Jesus, however. Rather, they profess the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.
The Son of God was born as a human being of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem. His birth is described in the gospels according to Matthew and Luke. Jesus was born at the time when Herod ruled Judea as king and when Augustus was Caesar in Rome.
Jesus did indeed live. He is thus a personage of world history and not merely some figure from the world of poetry or legend.
The angel Gabriel brought the virgin Mary the message: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1: 31-33).
The angel also explained to Mary that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1: 35).
Mary was the biological mother of Jesus. Joseph adopted Jesus as a son. It is for this reason that Joseph is also mentioned in Jesus’ family tree.
“Now Jesus [...] being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, the son of Heli …”
Luke 3: 23
Caesar Augustus had ordered a census to be taken. For this, each person had to make his way back to “his own” city, in other words, the hometown of his family. For this reason Joseph, who was a descendant of David, went with Mary to the “city of David”, namely Bethlehem. There they were unable to find lodging. So it was that Mary must have given birth to her Son in a stable, because she placed Him in a manger: “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2: 7). From these events it is clear that God became human in very poor conditions.
Angels appeared and proclaimed the glad tidings to shepherds who were watching their flocks in a field near Bethlehem: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 11; cf. also Micah 5: 2).
The gospel of Matthew relates that there was also a star which announced the birth of Jesus. Wise men (magi) from “the East” (the orient) had followed the star and come to Jerusalem in order to worship the “new born King”: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2: 2). They were sent by King Herod to Bethlehem: “And behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was” (Matthew 2: 9).
These events refer to the uniqueness of the birth of the Son of God.
Scholars from the Orient who occupied themselves with interpreting stars and dreams were described as ‘Magi’.
Since King Herod believed a king who would one day topple him from the throne had been born in Bethlehem, he sought to kill the Child. He had all children in Bethlehem aged two and under killed (cf. Matthew 2: 16-18).
Through a dream, God told Joseph, Mary’s husband, to flee to Egypt with her and the Child (cf. Matthew 2: 13- 14). After King Herod died, they moved back to Nazareth in Galilee.
Luke 2: 52 states that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men. In Luke 2: 41-49 we read that the twelve-year-old Jesus had conversations with the teachers in Jerusalem, who were “astonished at His understanding and answers”.
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.”
Luke 2: 52
Jesus allowed Himself to be baptised by John the Baptist in the Jordan. Immediately following His baptism by John, the Holy Spirit descended visibly upon Jesus. In a voice from heaven, God, the Father, then testified: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3: 22). Through this event it was announced to the world that Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus was without sin. Nevertheless, He allowed Himself to be baptised unto repentance by John the Baptist in the Jordan. This act of baptism—which was an expression of repentance—makes it clear that He abased Himself and subjected Himself to the same act that must be performed upon all sinners.
“But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.’”
Matthew 3: 15
Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit “to be tempted by the Devil” (Matthew 4: 1). Jesus stayed there for 40 days and was tempted several times by the Devil. Jesus resisted the temptations and rejected the Devil. Afterward, angels came and ministered to Jesus (cf. Matthew 4: 11).
By resisting these temptations, Jesus already revealed Himself as victor over the Devil before even beginning His public activity.
The first man, Adam, had not resisted temptation. Adam became a sinner, and with him all human beings. In contrast to this, Jesus remained without sin. Thereby He created the conditions required for all sinners to find their way back to God.
Jesus began to teach in Galilee at approximately 30 years of age (cf. Luke 3: 23).
The focal point of His teaching was the proclamation of the kingdom of God: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1: 15).
The “kingdom of God” is not a national territory, nor is it a political sphere of dominion. Rather the “kingdom of God” means that God is present and rules among mankind.
In the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the “kingdom of God” has come to all people (cf. Luke 17: 21). Jesus Christ is the ruler, He creates justice, He grants grace, He turns to the poor and needy, and He brings salvation.
“Kingdom of God” also has a future significance—it will begin with the “marriage of the Lamb” and endure eternally in the new creation (cf. Revelation 21: 1- 3).
The gospel of Matthew uses the term “kingdom of God” synonymously with “kingdom of heaven”.
The term “kingdom of God” is a designation for the presence and regency of God among mankind. It was already possible to experience this in the time of Jesus. Today too the “kingdom of God” is present and perceptible in the church of Christ, in which Jesus Christ is at work—in other words, in word and sacrament. On the other hand, we also await the future “kingdom of God”.
This kingdom will be manifested in the “marriage of the Lamb”, in the kingdom of peace, and in the new creation.
“To repent” means to turn away from evil and turn to God. Those who repent are prepared to change their attitude in order to fulfil the will of God.
“Gospel” means “glad tidings” or “good news”. It is the message of the grace, love, and reconciliation that God grants us in Jesus Christ.
The Mosaic Law was of the highest binding authority for the people of Israel. Its fulfilment was considered a prerequisite for the proper relationship between human beings and God. Jesus made it clear that He possessed greater authority than Moses, and that He was Lord over the Law. He summarised the Law into the single commandment to love God above all things, and one’s neighbour as oneself (cf. Matthew 22: 37-40).
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil.”
Matthew 5: 17
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’ (Deuteronomy 6: 5). This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19 18). On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22: 37-40
Jesus called disciples (cf. Mark 1: 16 et seq.). From among them he appointed twelve, “that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach” (cf. Mark 3: 14).
Disciples of Jesus are those who follow the gospel in word and deed.
The miracles performed by the Son of God are of various kinds and include healing of the sick, casting out evil spirits, raising the dead, miracles of nature, miracles of feeding, and gift miracles.
Jesus performed miracles in order to demonstrate the Almighty and Loving God’s merciful devotion to suffering mankind in Him. These miracles reveal the glory of the Son of God and His divine authority.
The gospels relate that Jesus healed blind, lame, deaf, and leprous people. These healings point to the divine nature of Jesus Christ, who acted as God when He spoke to the people of Israel: “I am the Lord who heals you” (Exodus 15: 26). These miracles of healing were always closely linked to the faith of the affected individuals (cf. e.g. Luke 18: 35-43).
The gospels relate that Jesus cast out demons— which according to the understanding of the time were also the cause of various sicknesses—and so healed people. Jesus Christ was even recognised as Lord by the demons (cf. Mark 3: 11).
The New Testament describes ‘demons’ as evil spirits opposed to God, who according to the understanding of the ancient world, caused illness and sought to control human beings.
The gospels describe three cases in which Jesus brought dead human beings back to life: the daughter of Jairus (cf. Matthew 9: 18-26), the young man of Nain (cf. Luke 7: 13-15), and Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha (cf. John 11: 1-44).
The miracles in which Jesus raises the dead make it clear that Jesus Christ is also Lord over death. At the same time they are a reference to the hope that the dead will one day resurrect to eternal life.
Jesus had power over the wind and the sea. They were “obedient” to Him (cf. Matthew 8: 27): when He ordered the storm to be still, the winds ceased and the waters became calm. Thereby Jesus showed His power over the elements. Jesus’ control over the forces of nature underline that the Son of God is just as much the Creator as God, the Father (cf. John 1: 1-3).
All the gospels relate the miracle that Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish (cf. e.g. Mark 6: 30- 44). Beyond that, the gospels of Matthew and Mark tell of the feeding of the four thousand (cf. Matthew 15: 32-39 and Mark 8: 1-9).
These miracles are reminders that God provided food (manna) during the journey of the people of Israel through the desert. Furthermore, these events are a reference to Holy Communion.
Jesus also performed miracles in which human beings received an abundance of earthly gifts. Examples of such gift miracles include Peter’s miraculous catch of fish. The latter had worked all night together with other fishermen, but had caught nothing. At Jesus’ word, the fishermen cast out their nets once again and made such a great catch of fish that the nets began to tear and the boats nearly sank (cf. Luke 5: 1-11).
At the wedding in Cana, Jesus turned water into wine (cf. John 2: 1-11). This too is a gift miracle and thus a sign of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Jesus preached to the people. His best known sermon is the “Sermon on the Mount”, which is recorded in the gospel of Matthew. The “beatitudes” are recorded at the beginning of the “Sermon on the Mount”.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” Matthew 5: 3-11
The “beatitudes” from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount are found in the gospel of Matthew. Here Jesus shows how one can share in the “kingdom of heaven”, which has become present in Him. He designates those people as “blessed” (happy) who live in the manner described there.
In His sermons, Jesus often spoke in parables, which are figurative narratives. These stories are taken from the daily lives of His listeners so that they might better understand them. With these parables, Jesus illustrated the main content of the gospel.
More than 40 parables are recorded in the first three gospels.
“All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world’.”
Matthew 13: 34-35
In these parables, Jesus illustrated major statements about the kingdom of God, the commandment to love one’s neighbour, the attitude of man’s heart, and the coming of the Son of Man.
Jesus explained this in the parable of the mustard seed. Thereby he showed the humble beginnings of the kingdom of God as well as its development and growth.
“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed [...] which indeed is the least of all the seeds, but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened’.”
Matthew 13: 31-33
The parable of the pearl of great price showcases those individuals who recognise the wealth hidden in Jesus Christ, accept it, and give up everything else just to have it. In another passage, Jesus underlines this with the admonition: “But seek first the kingdom of God...”
(Matthew 6: 33).
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13: 44-46
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
Matthew 6: 33
With the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus showed that God strives to help all human beings, even those who seem to be lost. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates God’s love for the sinner.
“So He spoke this parable to them, saying: ‘What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance’.”
Luke 15: 3-7
The greatest of the commandments are to love God and our neighbour. With the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus illustrated who this neighbour is, and that loving our neighbour means that we must not close our eyes to the distress of others, but rather provide help.
“Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you”’.”
Luke 10: 30-35
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector illustrate that it is not those who laud themselves for that which they can do, that which they have, and that which they are, but rather those who come before God seeking grace in humbleness who will be justified.
The parable of the unmerciful servant calls upon those who have received God’s grace to likewise show grace to others. Those who recognise the magnitude of God’s love will feel the need to reconcile with their neighbour.
“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men— extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’.”
Luke 18: 9-14
“Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” so his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.”And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses’.” Matthew 18: 21-35
In the parables of the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus Christ spoke of His return.
In Matthew 24: 37-39 a comparison is made between the time before Jesus’ return and the days of Noah. What is clear from this is that the return of Christ will be sudden and surprising.
This message is also imparted by the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (cf. Matthew 25: 1-13). From this we learn to watch and be prepared for the return of the Lord.
“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in to marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24: 37-39
“Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you now neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Matthew 25: 1-13
The gospel of John contains statements by Jesus which can be described as “images”. Through them, Jesus clearly describes His nature. Seven such striking statements of Jesus begin with the words “I am”. In them He speaks of Himself metaphorically as the “bread of life” (John 6: 35), the “light of the world” (John 8: 12), the “door” to salvation (John 10: 9), the “good shepherd” (John 10: 11), and as the “vine” (John 15: 5). Beyond that, Jesus Christ describes Himself as the “resurrection” (John 11: 25), and as the “way”, the “truth”, and the “life” (John 14: 6). All of this means that Jesus alone can grant access to God, the Father and that Jesus is the source of salvation.
The twelve Apostles were especially close to Jesus and He had a special relationship of trust with them:
- When other disciples failed to understand Jesus and stopped following Him, the Apostles remained with Him (cf. John 6: 66-69).
- Only the Apostles were with Him when He instituted Holy Communion (cf. Luke 22: 14 et seq.).
- By washing their feet, Jesus gave the Apostles an example of humble service (cf. John 13: 4 et seq.).
- It was to the Apostles that He addressed the farewell discourses recorded in John 13-16 before His death, and it was to them that He promised the Holy Spirit.
- It was to the Apostles that He gave the promise of His return (cf. John 14: 3).
- It was to the Apostles that He showed Himself repeatedly after His resurrection (cf. Acts 1: 2-3).
- It was to the Apostles that He, prior to His ascension, gave the commandment: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28: 19, 20).
“To [them] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Acts 1: 3
“[Jesus] rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. [...] ‘For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you’.”
John 13: 4-5, 15
The sufferings of Jesus began with His entry into Jerusalem: “Now when they drew near Jerusalem [...] He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them ‘Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, “Why are you doing this?” say, “The Lord has need of it.”’ [...] Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it. And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11: 1-9). – Despite all this rejoicing, Jesus Christ knew that the mood of the people would soon change and that He would have to follow the way of the cross.
The sufferings of Christ are often described with the word ‘Passion’, which derives from the Latin word passio, meaning “suffering”.
“Foal”: a term used to describe a young donkey.
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Zechariah 9: 9
Jesus cleansed the temple by driving out the merchants and money changers. Thereby He made it clear that the temple, the house of God, is holy, and not a place for conducting business. In Bethany Jesus was anointed with costly oil of spikenard. This transpired in accordance with His own words foreshadowing His impending death, as the dead were often anointed with precious oils in those days (cf. Mark 14: 8).
Jesus had many enemies among the Pharisees and Sadducees, which included the chief priests. They plotted to kill Him, and so His situation became more and more menacing.
Oil of spikenard: spikenard is a plant that grows in the area of the Himalayas (e.g. India, Bhutan, and Nepal). A fragrant juice was extracted from its roots, which was mixed with anointing oil. Spikenard was already exported to the Mediterranean region in ancient times. Because it came from so far away, it was also very expensive. Pharisees and Sadducees were representatives of the best known religious groups in Judaism at the time of Jesus’ activity on earth.
The Pharisees strove to observe the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law very strictly in order to thereby gain merit before God through works. This kind of devotion to God is often criticised in the gospels since it can lead to self-righteousness and hypocrisy. It was from the Pharisees that modern Judaism developed.
The Sadducees rejected any belief in angels or the resurrection of the dead. Their ranks primarily included the affluent levels of the population, as well as the priests of the temple in Jerusalem. After the destruction of the temple, the Sadducean school of Judaism was dissolved.
In addition to the Pharisees and Sadducees, there were also the Essenes, a third group within ancient Judaism.
One of the twelve Apostles, Judas Iscariot, visited Jesus’ enemies prior to the Passover feast. “Then [...] Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’” (Matthew 26: 14-16).
These men offered him 30 pieces of silver. This was the amount that was generally paid for a slave. Thereby a prophecy of Prophet Zechariah was fulfilled (cf. Zechariah 11: 12-13): the Lord was, so to speak, placed on the same level as a slave (cf. Exodus 21: 32).
“Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.”
Zechariah 11: 12-13
Jesus was together with the twelve Apostles and celebrated the feast of Passover with them. Judas Iscariot, who had previously visited Jesus’ enemies in order to betray Him, was thus also present. As they sat together at the table, the Lord instituted Holy Communion:
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26: 26-28).
During this meal Jesus identified His betrayer, Judas Iscariot. After this the latter left their fellowship. He went away “and it was night” (John 13: 30).
After the Last Supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane with the eleven remaining Apostles. The human nature of the Son of God became evident in His dread over the impending crucifixion. In humbleness He knelt down
and wrestled in prayer: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22: 42). Jesus thus subjected Himself completely to His Father’s will—He was prepared to bring the sacrifice. After this an angel appeared and strengthened Him (cf. Luke 22: 43), but the Apostles were sleeping. Shortly thereafter, Jesus was arrested.
While Jesus was asking the Apostles to watch with Him, a large group of armed soldiers sent by the chief priests arrived. Judas Iscariot led them to Jesus and betrayed Him with a kiss: “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him” (Matthew 26: 48).
“Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26: 40-41
To protect Jesus, Simon Peter drew the sword and cut off the ear of the servant of one of the chief priests (cf. John 18: 10). Jesus, however, held him back and healed the servant.
Jesus did not make use of His divine power, but allowed Himself to be arrested. Thereupon the Apostles left Him and fled.
Later that same night, when Simon Peter was accused of being a disciple of Jesus, He denied it. He denied the Lord three times.
“Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are saying.’And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ But again he denied with an oath, ‘I do not know the Man!’And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.’ Then he began to curse and swear, saying, ‘I do not know the Man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So he went out and wept bitterly.”
Matthew 26: 69-75
No. Jesus even knew the human weaknesses of His Apostles, but He did not reproach them for these. After His resurrection, He came to them with a greeting of peace.
The high council, the chief priests and scribes, accused Jesus of blasphemy and condemned Him to death. The fact that He claimed to be the Son of God was interpreted as blasphemy.
After Jesus had been condemned to death, Judas Iscariot regretted his betrayal and brought the 30 pieces of silver back to the chief priests. These men no longer wanted anything to do with him. He threw the money into the temple, then went out and hanged himself (cf. Matthew 27: 1-5).
After Jesus had been condemned by the high council—the highest authority in Judea—He was given a hearing before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. The latter was responsible for the area since the Jews were under Roman rule at the time.
Pilate saw no fault in Jesus and thus sent Him to Herod (who was surnamed Antipas), the king of the Jews. Since the Jews were forbidden by the Romans to carry out a death sentence, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate. The latter had Jesus scourged. The people demanded Jesus’ crucifixion and accused Him of having exalted Himself over the Roman emperor as the “King of the Jews”. This offence was punishable by death (cf. John 19: 12).
Pilate thought he knew a way to grant Jesus His freedom: since it was customary for one convicted individual to be pardoned at the Passover feast, the people were to decide whether Jesus or the criminal Barabbas should be released. Stirred up by the chief priests and elders, the people chose Barabbas. In order to bring to expression that he was not responsible for what was to follow, Pilate washed his hands before the people and said: “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person...” (Matthew 27: 24). He had Jesus scourged once again and then turned Him over to the soldiers for crucifixion.
Jesus’ birth occurred during the rule of Herod I. When Jesus was led before Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod I, reigned in Galilee.
Scourging was a means of corporal punishment and torture in antiquity, by way of which a person would be struck with whips, rods, or canes by his tormenters. The gospels tell of the scourging of Jesus, while the Acts of the Apostles record the occasions on which the Apostles had to endure scourging.
Jesus endured all the mistreatment, humiliation, and mocking to which He was subjected. When a crown of thorns was placed upon His head in derision, He endured this with holy dignity.
Jesus was nailed to the cross on Golgotha. Two criminals were crucified along with Him. The cross of Jesus stood between theirs. Here the words of Isaiah 53: 12, namely that the Lord would be numbered with the transgressors, were fulfilled. In other words, He was treated like a criminal. The heavy sufferings of Jesus ultimately led to a cruel death struggle before He finally died, hours later.
Crucifixion was a mode of execution commonly practised in antiquity, by way of which the condemned would intentionally die a slow and tortured death. For this he was either bound or nailed to an upright post, with or without a cross beam.
On account of the Roman governor’s involvement, the conviction and execution of Jesus was no longer only a matter concerning the Jews: Gentiles had also shared in it. All human beings of all time periods are sinners and charge themselves with guilt. Jesus died for the sins of all mankind. For this reason, all human beings also ultimately bear the blame for Jesus death.
Traditionally, the final words of Jesus, which are recorded variously in the gospels, are arranged in the following sequence:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23: 34).
Jesus interceded for all those who had brought Him to the cross and who were unaware of the scope of their actions.
Here the commandment to love one’s enemies was fulfilled in unparalleled fashion (cf. Matthew 5: 44-45, 48).
“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23: 43).
Jesus addressed these words to the remorseful criminal who had asked Him
for grace and professed Him as Saviour. Here “Paradise” was understood to be the dwelling place of the devout and righteous in the beyond.
“Woman, behold your son!”—“Behold your mother!” (John 19: 26-27).
Jesus entrusted His mother Mary to the care of Apostle John. This demonstrates the love and care of Christ, who still took care of the needs of others, despite His own need.
In Christian tradition, Mary is interpreted as a symbol of the church. This church was thus commended to the care of the Apostle ministry, represented here by John.
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15: 34).
When death is near, devout Jews address these words from Psalm 22 to God. On one hand, they thereby lament the feeling of God’s distance, but on the other hand also profess their faith in His power and grace. Jesus likewise made use of this statement, which was commonly used by those in mortal agony. “I thirst” (John 19: 28).
In His death struggle Jesus was thirsty and thus wanted something to drink. These words are associated with Psalm 69: 21: “They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink”. This is interpreted to mean that Jesus had to drink the “cup of suffering” in its entirety, in other words, that He had to suffer until the end. “It is finished!” (John 19: 30).
It was about the ninth hour, which is in the early afternoon, that these words were spoken. Jesus had brought the sacrifice for the redemption of mankind.
“Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23: 46).
This makes it clear that, even in the moment of death, Jesus Christ fully trusted in His Father.
When Jesus died on the cross, the earth shook and rocks were split. The veil of the temple, which separated the holiest space (“the Most Holy Place”) from the rest of the temple, was torn in two. This signified that the Old Testament’s sacrificial service was no longer necessary, owing to the death of Christ. His sacrifice opened the way to God.
When the Roman captain and the soldiers guarding Jesus on the cross felt the earth shake, they cried out: “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27: 54). Thereby even the Gentiles professed that Jesus is the Son of God.
Old covenant/new covenant: On Mount Sinai, God made a covenant with the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The mark of the old covenant was circumcision. The old covenant also includes the Mosaic Law, in which the will of God comes to expression. The new covenant was established with Jesus’ sacrificial death. This new covenant no longer applies to the Jews alone, but to all human beings. Anyone can share in the new covenant through baptism with water.
Joseph of Arimathea, who was part of the high council, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, because he wanted to put Him into a tomb. Together with Nicodemus, who had gone to the Lord one night and been taught by Him (cf. John 3: 1-2), he brought the body of Jesus into a tomb that had never been used before, which had been hewn from the rock. A stone was rolled in front of the tomb. The chief priests had the tomb guarded by soldiers to prevent the disciples from taking the body away.
“On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead.” So the last deception will be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.”
Matthew 27: 62-66
God, the Son, became human in Jesus and came into the world in order to take the sins of mankind upon Himself. He brought the sacrifice by His own free will in divine love in order to deliver mankind from death. The power of sin is great, but the power of divine love, which is demonstrated by the fact that Jesus Christ surrendered His life, is even stronger.
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
John 15: 13
The sacrificial death of Jesus is the foundation of a new relationship between mankind and God. Sinful man can now find his way back to God.
Yes. Isaiah 53: 3-5 describes a suffering servant of God who is abased. There it says: “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief [...] Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows [...]. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” These are references to the suffering of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death.
Yes, Jesus made many references to His suffering and death, but also to His resurrection. After Peter had told Him: “[You are] the Christ of God”, Jesus made reference to His impending suffering and death: “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9: 22).
Jesus spoke similar words following the events on the Mount of Transfiguration: “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day” (Mark 9: 31).
Before His entry into Jerusalem He told His Apostles: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20: 18-19).
When He spoke to the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus stated that He would resurrect after three days. Here he recalled the story of the Prophet Jonah: “For as Jonah was three days in and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12: 40).
The significance of Jesus’ sacrificial death is described as follows in 2 Corinthians 5: 19: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” In 1 John 3: 16 it says: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.”
In his arguments with heretics who sought to deny the humanity of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, Apostle Paul made it clear “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15: 3-4).
The cross of Christ is a sign that God has reconciled sinful mankind to Himself. In the ancient world, crucifixion was an expression of defeat: a shameful end for a despised person who had been cast out of human society. In the case of Jesus, however, this apparent defeat is a victory: through His death on the cross, He has achieved a work of salvation beyond compare.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1: 18
After Jesus Christ had died, He entered the realm of the dead. In 1 Peter 3: 18-20 it says that, after His death, the Son of God preached to those who had been disobedient to God in the time of Noah. He did this in order to offer salvation: “For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4: 6).
Just as the Son of God had turned to sinners on earth, so He now turned to the dead. Since He brought His sacrifice, salvation has also been possible for the dead.
“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, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 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.” 1 Peter 3: 18-20
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an act of the triune God:
- On the one hand, the power of God, the Father, is revealed in that He raised Jesus from the dead: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree” (Acts 5: 30).
- On the other hand, the words of God, the Son, were fulfilled: “I have power to lay it [My life] down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10: 18).
- Finally, the activity of God, the Holy Spirit, is also attested: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8: 11).
The power of God over death is shown by the fact that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred without any human witness to the event. Nevertheless, the resurrection of the Son of God is attested in many places in Holy Scripture. One such testimony is the empty tomb. Other evidence includes the various appearances of the Risen One over the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension: these are specifically named individuals to whom He showed Himself and who recognised Him.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not wishful thinking on the part of His followers, but a real event. It did indeed occur.
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the Apostles.”
1 Corinthians 15: 3-7
Jesus Christ is risen. As a result, believers have justified hope in their own resurrection and eternal life: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15: 20-22).
Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is necessary because His resurrection shows that Jesus is the Saviour of the world (cf. 1 Corinthians 15: 14).
The risen Jesus appeared to His disciples on several occasions. Following are some examples:
Mary of Magdala and other women were the first witnesses of the Risen One. “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him” (Matthew 28: 9).
Though unrecognised by them at first, the Risen One accompanied the disciples who were travelling to the village of Emmaus. He explained the Scriptures to them and finally broke bread with them, after which they recognised Him (cf. Luke 24: 13-35).
On the evening of His resurrection Jesus appeared in the midst of His disciples. As the Risen One and Lord over death and sin He gave the Apostles authority to make the forgiveness of sins accessible to mankind: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20: 19-23).
On another occasion the Lord appeared to some of the disciples on the Sea of Tiberias and gave Apostle Peter the commission to “tend” the “lambs and sheep of Christ”—in other words, to care for all the members of the church (Petrine Office; cf. John 21: 15-17).
The Risen Lord also showed Himself to His Apostles “by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 3).
In 1 Corinthians 15: 6, Apostle Paul mentions that the risen Jesus was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once.
“But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher).”
John 20: 11-16
When the chief priests learned of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they bribed the soldiers with money and said: “Tell them, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we slept’” (Matthew 28: 13).
The resurrection body is liberated from finiteness and mortality. It is no longer bound to space and time. The resurrection body of Christ is a body that never becomes sick, never ages, and never dies. It is a glorious body.
It was in this glorious body that the Lord appeared in the midst of His disciples. He walked through closed doors, broke bread with the disciples, showed them His wounds, and ate with them. Thereby He made it clear that He was not a “spirit” but rather that He was physically present with them as Jesus Christ.
“Resurrection” does not signify a return to earthly existence.
“Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut [...] Jesus came and stood in the midst.”
John 20: 19
“‘Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.”
Luke 24: 39, 40
Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. There are eyewitnesses to this event. After He had spoken to His Apostles and blessed them, He was taken up into heaven, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. As they looked into heaven after Him, two angels stood beside them and said: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1: 11).
“I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”
John 16: 28
Jesus Christ returned to the Father and “sat down at the right hand of God”
(Mark 16: 19).
Those who stood or sat at the right hand of a ruler in antiquity shared in the latter’s power and authority. The image that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God therefore points to the fact that He shares in the fullness of the power and glory of God, the Father. Jesus Christ desires to share this glory with His own in the future. It was for this reason that Jesus prayed as follows in the intercessory prayer: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory” (John 17: 24). This plea will be fulfilled when Jesus takes His own unto Himself from among the dead and the living, after which they will be with Him forever.
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17
Yes. Jesus Christ is also present on earth even after His ascension through the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, who is at work in the church in the present. Thereby Jesus Christ has fulfilled His promise: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 20).
Jesus told His disciples: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14: 3). Jesus Christ will come again—this time as the bridegroom.
When He returns as the bridegroom, He will take unto Himself those of the dead and the living who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and have allowed themselves to be prepared for this event. The return of Christ is near.
The event of the return of Jesus Christ is also described as the “day of the Lord”, the “day of Christ”, the “future of our Lord”, the “revelation of Christ’s glory”, the “appearing” or “return of the Lord”, and the “return of Christ”.
This event is not the Last Judgement, but rather the moment when the bride of Christ will be caught up to heaven for the marriage of the Lamb.
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19: 7
The New Testament, and in particular the letters of the Apostles, reinforce the promise of the return of Christ. The Apostle concludes his first letter to the congregation in Corinth with the greeting: “O Lord, come!” (cf. 1 Corinthians 16: 22).
Apostle James calls for patience until the coming of the Lord, “for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5: 8). The letter to the Hebrews also admonishes patience: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry” (Hebrews 10: 37).
The second epistle of Peter (cf. 2 Peter 3: 9) is addressed to all who would deny that Jesus is coming again. This letter rules out even the possibility that the fulfilment of the promise of His return is being delayed.
The Holy Spirit is true God. He is the third person of God, who is worshipped as Lord and God along with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit emanates from God, the Father, and the Son. The Holy Spirit lives in eternal fellowship with them and, like them, is universally active.
‘Universal’: the persons of the Godhead not only work in one place and are not confined in any way, but rather work always and anywhere they wish, both here and in the beyond.
The Holy Spirit shows Himself as a person of the trinity of God by sending
human beings to spread the gospel, just as God, the Son. Acts 13: 4 relates: “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
He stands by those who profess the Lord when they are in distress: “Do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12: 11, 12).
The Holy Spirit teaches the messengers of God: “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2: 10).
The Holy Spirit is also known as the “Spirit of God”, the “Spirit of the Lord”, the “Spirit of truth”, the “Spirit of [Jesus] Christ”, the “Spirit of His Son”, and the “Spirit of glory”. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter and Helper.
Jesus Christ is the Comforter, Helper, and Advocate for His own. In the farewell discourses before His arrest and crucifixion, He promised to send the Holy Spirit as a further Comforter and Helper: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14: 16). The Holy Spirit accompanies the believers. He stands by them in all situations of life.
The Holy Spirit makes clear what is pleasing to God and that which opposes God’s will. As the Spirit of truth, it identifies truth and falsehood. The Holy Spirit sees to it that the message of the sacrificial death, resurrection, and return of Christ is preserved and spread throughout the ages.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
John 15: 26
The designation “power from on high” indicates that the activity of the Holy Spirit incorporates the powerful intervention of God. As the “power from on high” (Luke 24: 49), the Holy Spirit moves and fills human beings, and strengthens them in the endeavour to live in accordance with the favour of God and prepare themselves for the return of Christ.
The activity of the Holy Spirit becomes clear in that God became human in Jesus Christ: the Holy Spirit came upon Mary (cf. Luke 1: 35), and she became pregnant.
We also recognise the activity of the Holy Spirit in that He grants human beings knowledge of divine truth (revelations and insights). Concerning this, Jesus said: “But the [...] Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14: 26). It is in this manner that we today experience the activity of the Holy Spirit in the sermon, especially in that He keeps alive Jesus Christ’s promised return.
The Apostles fulfil their tasks because they are filled with the Holy Spirit. “And when He [Jesus] had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20: 22).
A distinction must be made between the Holy Spirit as a person of the Godhead and the Holy Spirit as a gift of God. The Holy Spirit as a gift of God is a power that emanates from the triune God. The believer who receives this gift is at the same time filled with the love of God.
Baptised individuals who receive the gift of God, thereby also receive childhood in God.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is granted by God through the laying on of hands and prayer of an Apostle. This is shown, for example, in the events that transpired in Samaria.
“Now when the Apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 8: 14-17
Yes. Whenever we read of the “Spirit of God” in the Old Testament, this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. He is not yet portrayed there as a divine person.
Yes. Holy Scripture mentions the activity of the Holy Spirit on many occasions. The Holy Spirit inspired human beings so that they could act as instruments in accordance with the will of God. For example, He was active in the prophets of the Old Testament and spoke through them. Through the Holy Spirit, promises concerning the coming of the Messiah were brought forth.
No. The Holy Spirit only filled human beings temporarily in the time of the Old Testament. It only became possible for human beings to receive the Holy Spirit as a sacramental gift after the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
On the fiftieth day after Easter, namely on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out over the disciples of Jesus gathered in Jerusalem.
The Bible relates the following: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2: 1-4).
The Holy Spirit filled the Apostles and all those who were with them as an enduring gift, as power from on high (cf. Luke 24: 49).
Yes, the Holy Spirit has been active right into our time. This is how we experience the presence of God.
The Lord Himself made reference to the future activity of the Holy Spirit: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; [...] whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16: 13).
The Holy Spirit is active wherever there are people who believe in Jesus Christ, profess Him as Lord, and conduct their lives in accordance with His will.
in the sacraments. Therefore whenever the triune God is active, the Holy Spirit, as a person of the Godhead, is involved. The sacraments are dispensed in the name and power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thereby the sacraments have the power to impart salvation.
The Apostles have been sent by Jesus Christ. Through them He offers mankind redemption. They exercise their ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. This also has its effect in the dispensation of the sacraments, in the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins, and in the spread of the gospel, as well as in keeping alive the promise of Christ’s return. It is in this manner that the bride of Christ is prepared for the return of Jesus Christ.