For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven:...
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; He suffered death and was buried.
At the center of the Christian message is that Jesus saves humanity from their sins. The Nicene Creed gives us some insight into how that happens.
Sinfulness Is Assumed
Nothing in the Creed addresses why human beings need salvation. This is not surprising when we remember that the primary purpose of its writing was to deal with controversial subjects.
Within the Church, and within Judaism before it, everyone assumed that people were sinners who had displeased God. Both the Old Testament and New Testament are filled with references to this fact. We all came up short of God's expectation for us and deserved his punishment and even death. In their time, even competing religious systems believed something similar.
In the Western world, the Enlightenment movement begun in the 17th century began to challenge this notion. Man was thought of as being essentially good. Any lapses in that could be cured through education and social reform. Today, many in the 21st century hold to such thinking.
In the East, Hinduism and Buddhism have concepts of sin, but believe that karma would bring punishment to those who did evil. Therefore there is no concept of needing salvation from sin.
Christianity asserts that human beings have sinned and their sin pushes them away from God. They need salvation from their sins. This is assumed in the Creed.
Jesus Christ Saves Us
The reason that the Son of God became human in the person of Jesus was for our benefit. In John 3:16-17 we learn, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Jesus is not just one path to salvation; He is the only path. The apostle Peter declared, And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12 ESV).
Saved through His Death on the Cross
It is an historical fact that Jesus was executed by being nailed to a cross. The Son of God did not just appear to die, as some false teachers claimed. The Creed emphasizes that he died and was buried. His death was real.
He had not committed any crime; the religious authorities felt threatened by Him and wanted Him out of the way. Though Jesus was probably not the only innocent man executed ever, what is different is that He is the sinless Son of God. In the plan of God the Father, this death could pay the penalty for the sins of other people. Therefore, we can be saved from the penalty of our sins because Jesus paid that penalty through His death.
What Must We Do to Be Saved
The apostle Paul was asked this question by a man. He answered, Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31 ESV).
It is that simple. There are no years of study or special ceremonies to go through. All a person has to do is ask Jesus to save him or her. There is a lifetime of learning the Christian life afterward, but when someone asks, Jesus saves immediately.
Salvation is available to anyone who calls out to God. Paul wrote, For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13 ESV).
Bob Caldwell, PhD, is Theologian-in-Residence at Network 211.