We believe as all believers have
“For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.”
Joel D. Otto
“For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.”
Only 11 words in our English translation, 14 in the original Greek. But this little phrase gets to the heart of the gospel. It is the reason theological controversies raged for several centuries over how to express who Jesus is. Everything finally comes down to the question: Why did Jesus come to earth? Why did the Son of God, “through whom all things are made” (John 1:3), become man and make “his dwelling among us” (John 1:14)?
In one little phrase, the authors of the Nicene Creed boil down numerous Bible passages and in so doing spell out what really makes Christianity different from every other religion. Greek and Roman mythology portrayed the pantheon of gods interfering in human events for their own purposes or to punish those who displeased them. Allah is pictured as an aloof deity who only helps those who have lived rightly according to the tenets of Islam.
Only Christianity reveals a God who loved his fallen creatures—all of them (John 3:16)—so much that he literally stepped into his creation to rescue them from the power of their enemy (Genesis 3:15). He did not leave it up to us to pull ourselves out of the death and hell we have earned with our disobedience. He did not come merely to judge and punish. God himself acted in love and mercy. The Father sent his Son to save (John 3:17). “Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him” (Psalm 98:1).
And he did this “for us”—for us who have failed him at every turn; for us who have disregarded his Word; for us who don’t fear, love, and trust him above all things. He came to do what we could never do. He came to be our salvation by living perfectly under the demands of God’s law (Galatians 4:4) and dying innocently under the punishment of God’s law (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Do you understand what this means? We can be confident that the rescue plan is carried out perfectly and completely because the almighty God has done it. He got his hands dirty and pierced “for us and for our salvation.” Since he did it for the world (1 John 2:2), then each of us can be certain that we are included. We can trust him and confess, “For me and for my salvation, he came down from heaven.” We can echo the words of Isaiah, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).
The next time you confess the Nicene Creed in worship pause for a moment at these 11 words: “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.” Let them wash over you and refresh you. This is how much your God loves you. This is how much Jesus treasures you.
Exploring the Word
1. From what has Jesus saved us (see Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:1; John 11:25,26; 1 John 3:8)?
Jesus has rescued us from the curse and condemnation of our sins. Yes, we daily sin much. But because of Jesus we have forgiveness of our sins. Sin doesn’t control our lives (see Romans 6:5-14).
Jesus has rescued us from the power of death. Yes, death is a reality because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), but Christians do not have to fear death because Jesus has won heaven for us and he will raise and glorify our bodies on the Last Day. We also have been rescued from the spiritual death in which we were born (another way of saying “unbelief”). Through the gospel of Jesus the Holy Spirit has given us new life (see John 3:5; Titus 3:5).
Jesus has rescued us from the power of the devil. Yes, the devil still harasses us and tempts us (1 Peter 5:8), and we daily fall into temptation. But he has lost the power to accuse us, and he already has been crushed by Christ (see Revelation 12:7-12).
2. For what has Jesus saved us (see Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:15)?
Because we have been rescued from the power of sin, death, and the devil, we have been set free to live for Jesus. We can strive to do all things in his name and to God’s glory (see 1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). By the power of the Spirit working through the gospel in Word and sacraments we are new people who can live lives of obedience. Yes, we still have to struggle against our old sinful nature, and we often fall into sin (see Romans 7:15). But Jesus’ victory is our victory so we can say “no” to temptation and “yes” to God’s will (see Titus 2:11-14).
3. What brings you the greatest comfort in this phrase from the Nicene Creed?
Answers will vary. I especially take comfort that the almighty, holy Son of God came to this earth and became a human being for us, for me, for my salvation, to rescue me.
Contributing editor Joel Otto, professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Salem, Milwaukee.
This is the fourth article in a 13-part series on the Nicene Creed.
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Author: Joel D. Otto
Volume 102, Number 2
Issue: February 2015
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