The Nicene Creed
Baptism, Forgiveness, Resurrection, and World without End
We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins; we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come. Amen.
We come to both the end of the Creed and the end of the Church Year. Tomorrow marks the “First Sunday in Advent” and the season of waiting and expectation for our Lord’s return. But until then…
“We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins.” Once again I tread on ground where our several communions differ, and it is a great sorrow. But I cannot agree that a sacrament, no matter how central to the Christian faith and the Church of Jesus Christ, remits sins in and of itself. Such a view smacks more of magic than of reality. Our sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ of which baptism is an indispensible sign. In other words, if some churches infuse baptism with too much significance, many evangelical churches treat it with too little, as if it were an option or something only done out of obedience. I do not treat baptism as “only” a sign but as a powerful symbol and even a means of grace which it ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.
“We look forward to the resurrection of the dead.” I have treated the resurrection in many places in these devotions. Suffice it to say that the resurrection of the human body at the end of time is a nonnegotiable teaching of the Christian faith. It matters not that it is impossible in man’s estimation; in short, the One who made us is the One who can put us back together. God made us embodied souls and that is the way we shall be in the afterlife—either glorious and fit for heaven or wretched and fit for damnation. We are the hybrids of the universe—soul and body—and if Christ is your Savior, he has saved you one and all. So rejoice that one day your tired body will slough off its infirmities and put on incorruption and immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53-55).
“And the life in the world to come.” And this is the promise that no one can resist, or no one should resist. God’s final word to His people is “life.” And in that one word is bound up all joy, peace, felicity, anything a fully redeemed soul could ever want. And it will be such a life—full of both energy and complacency, fully alive and fully at rest. All needs will be met—no tears, crying, or pain. And best of all, what the ancients and medievals called, “the vision of God,” what the Psalmist so longed for, “to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” (27:4)—this is heaven itself to the one who has completely and totally fallen in love with God, with the one who has discovered that God has made him for Himself and that his heart can only rest in Him. Streets of gold, jeweled gates—it all means nothing without Him. And anything means everything because of Him.
“Amen.” So be it; every bit of it.
It is my prayer that we will all be able to let this vision shape our lives, thoughts, words, and actions. Nothing purifies like the vision of God; hence, our Lord said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).