I believe in Jesus Christ…who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
~Excerpt from the Apostles’ Creed
Dear People of God,
Jesus is at one time both God and a human being. The Augsburg Confession describes the Son of God in this way, “the two natures, the divine and the human, are so inseparably united in one person that there is one Christ” (CA 3:2). When we say in the creed he “was conceived by the Holy Spirit” we are teaching about his divine nature. That Jesus is a divine being is not because he was an especially moral human being or that he achieved some special status. It is a mistake to say that we must climb a ladder to achieve divinity or be close to God.
When we talk about Jesus, we are talking about a God who has reversed the direction, has come down-to-earth, and dwells among us. Simply, Jesus has always been divine and truly is “‘Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:23).
Martin Luther provides a useful insight into what we are confessing weekly with the words “he was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” When he paraphrases the creeds in his authoritative Smalcald Articles he says Jesus, “was conceived by the Holy Spirit without male participation (SA 1:4, emphasis added). It has not been that long since men have openly and without shame treated women as second-class citizens. In the last century there have been improvements, but it is also true the quest for justice for women is far from over.
The fact that when God chose to save humanity by being born of a woman should humble us men. It is not brute power and coercion that God chooses to rescue the world, but it’s opposite—weakness, suffering, and people whom society deems as less than. As St. Paul declares, “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25, emphasis added). For all the ways men have historically and presently conquered the kingdom of heaven isn’t advanced by the powers of men. God made sure of that in the conception by the Holy Spirit.
As I always emphasize, the primary function of the creed is not the human response to them, but their witness to God’s unconditional love made known in Jesus Christ. So even the seemingly small article of “conceived by the Holy Spirit” is a promise. A lot of people both within and outside the Church try to relativize and obscure what is going on here. And in so doing they have made God’s promise shaky. But, as a called and ordained minister of the Church of Jesus Christ I am not called to make God’s promises obscure and unsure. I am called to proclaim the gospel! It is most certainly true that in Jesus Christ God has done everything necessary to restore us to himself—including being “conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Certainty in matters of faith—especially in matters of salvation, is it not hubris. Nor does it lead the faithful to be lazy and indifferent to those in need.
The Spirit always attaches himself to the word and sacraments, and when the Spirit acts in this way you can be certain of God’s faithfulness to you. God does not lie or deceive. And this faith we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, which is itself a gift of God, boldly goes out into the world active in love to its neighbors.
Peace and joy,
Pastor Levi Powers
Mount of Olives Lutheran Church
Rock Springs, WY