(This is part eleven of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)
This entry looks at the next line of the Apostles’ Creed where it says that Jesus:
“is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 is one of my all-time favorite Bible passages. I’ve written about it in 2009 and in 2010, so I guess this will be the time in 2011 that I write about it. For this entry I want to look specifically at what Hebrews 12:2 says: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Because this passage is so stinkin’ amazing, it’s easy not to pay attention to the fact that it says Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God.” What, if anything, does it mean that Jesus sat down?
Well, think about it for a minute. If you walk into a work area and everyone is sitting down, what does that tell you? Let’s suppose you work at some warehouse where people are supposed to be loading merchandise into boxes, boxes onto pallets, and then pallets into trucks. You walk into the warehouse area and everyone is sitting down. It tells you that all the work is done. There’s nothing left to be accomplished. As Jesus put it in John 19:30, “It is finished.”
Hebrews 10:1 paints a picture of the Old Testament sacrificial system when is says that the Law “can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” This verse is describing an endless cycle, repeated year after year, of sacrifices that did not take away guilt, but served as a reminder of guilt (Hebrews 10:3). In fact, Hebrews 10:4 says that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” In this system, there is no sitting down; there is always more work to be done. Hebrews 10:11 paints this picture by saying that “every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” The priests would stand in their service because their job was never finished; sin was never taken care of once and for all. This is the heart of religion; religion is a system that shows us what we must do for God.
Contrast this with Hebrews 10:12, where is says “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Why did Jesus sit down? Because, on the cross, Jesus finished His work “by a single offering” (Hebrews 10:14). Jesus now has the honor of sitting down and basking in a job well done. His work is complete. His work is sufficient.
This is exactly why a Gospel of “Jesus plus nothing” is the only Gospel there is. If anyone tries to add anything to Jesus, they are suggesting there is something more to be accomplished. They are suggesting that Jesus’ work is incomplete and insufficient. But Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus as the “author and perfecter” or the “founder and perfecter” of our faith.
When you read this phrase, think of bookends. Jesus is the alpha and omega of our faith; He started it and He completed it; He is the author and the perfecter. Faith is a gift that God gives us and it’s something that God completes for us. That is why it is a gift. This is the heart of Christianity; it’s not about what we can do for God, but what Christ has done for us.