THE CREED PART III
“For us men and for our salvation He came down from Heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
Last week we looked at what the Creed says about the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Today we look at what we believe about the Incarnation, when Jesus came to Earth as a human being.
We first say that He came “For us men and for our salvation…” No, by saying “men” we are not saying that He only came to save men and not women. We are saying that He came for all humans. “Salvation” means that He came to save us from our sins and bring us to everlasting life in Heaven. We also say, “He came down from Heaven”. This is to signify that Jesus is God and therefore resides, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in Heaven. To save us, however, He left Heaven to come to Earth. It is worth noting that while we often use phrases like this one that describe Heaven as above us and Hell as below us, we do not believe that either one is a physical place that we can get to by going up or down. Rather, they are both states of being. Heaven is being with God for eternity; Hell is eternal separation from God. So Jesus did not physically “come down” like when an airplane descends, but He did lower Himself, if you will, from being in the higher state of Heaven to becoming like us on Earth.
The second half of the sentence starts by saying that it was by the Holy Spirit that Jesus became human. We know that it was by the power of the Holy Spirit that this happened because of what we read in the Gospel of Luke at the Annunciation. In Luke 1:34, Mary asks Gabriel how it is possible she will have a son when she has not been with a man. The archangel replies in verse 35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
We end the sentence by saying that Jesus “was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man”. This phrase is actually quite significant and there is a lot of theology packed into this one phrase. At the time the Creed was written in A.D. 325, there were some who claimed that Jesus was God, but that He was not really human. Others claimed He was a human that God adopted as His son and was not really God. We have already talked about Jesus as truly God, now we talk about how He is truly human. The word “incarnate” means to take on flesh. This, along with the words, “and became man” means that Jesus was not just God making Himself look like a man. He really was a man with all the flesh, blood, tears, bones, a brain, and emotions. God did not just make Jesus appear out of thin air either. He was born, just like us. That is where Mary comes in. It was not just like any other birth, however. She was still a virgin, not just at His birth, but all her life. No one can claim that God adopted a boy who did not know who His father was. Only God could have been His Father. This is what we believe.