Full Text for Confessions 2- Volume 53 - Christ's Descent into Hell (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS LC2 53 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800 825 5234 www.captionfirst.com *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> JOSH: Even as a little child, the statement in the Apostle's Creed that Jesus descended into hell seems strange to me. I've been to other churches that use the Apostle's Creed but they leave that statement out. Why do Lutherans confess this. And what do they mean by it? >> DR. RAST: Josh, that's a really good question. And, you know, your experience as a child similar to what my experienced when I was a kid. I always wondered why are we saying this? And what does this mean? Well over time I came to realize that that in fact, was not a statement that was included in all versions of the Apostle's Creed. In fact, during the history of the early church as the creed was developing, there are places where we see it is not present in early versions of the Creed while it's present in other early versions of the Creed. Because of that in modern times some churches have decided not to incorporate that into their particular use of the Creed. But Lutherans historically have incorporated this and have been very specific and intentional in their incorporation of this. So first off, why do we use that particular statement? Why do we affirm the descent of Christ into hell? Secondly, why do we look at that text and see it as a biblically based statement? And then, thirdly, what does all this mean for us? Well, very simply, with regard to the first point, what Lutherans see in the descent of Christ into hell is the first action of his state of exaltation. Very pointedly, they see it as Christ proclaiming his conquest of sin, death, and hell. Where do they base this on? A number of scripture texts. The one that comes most readily to mind of course is 1 Peter chapter 3 versus 18 and following. "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous that he might bring us to God being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison." Now, folks have wondered what does Peter mean by this particular phraseology, Christ going to preach to the spirits in prison? Some is said well that was the Old Testament patriarchs, he revealed the Gospel to them, gave them the opportunity to believe. Others have seen this as kind of a suffering on the part of Christ, his last act of humiliation. But Lutherans have understood this differently. They've seen this as a key point in the work of Christ for us. Again, all things being considered in that respect. First of all, and understanding it Christologically, the question was what does this mean in terms of the person of Christ And here in the epitome of the Formula of Concord, Article 10, the formulators write this: "Among some theologians committed to the Augsburg Confession, there has been some dispute regarding this article. When and in what manner the Lord Christ descended into hell according to our simple Christian creed and whether it took place before or after his death. Also, whether he descended only in his soul or only in his deity or with body and soul, bodily and spiritually. Also, whether this article of faith belongs to the suffering of Christ or to his glorious victory and triumph." Now that's a bunch of questions for a very short phrase. Where do the Lutherans come down on this? First off, Christologically, not surprisingly, in the context of our study of article 8 and the unio personalis (ph) the personal nature of the two unions in Christ, the Lutherans affirm very clearly that when Christ descended into hell, he descended according to his one person, as God and man. Not according merely to his human nature, not according merely to his divine nature. But instead according to his entire person as the divine human Christ. When and how he did this as they question, as they asked here and as some were speculating about, they simply do not take that up. Rather they say what we have in the text of the scriptures is a limited statement about what this means. And we shouldn't speculate beyond what the scripture clearly reveals. What it does reveal to us, two things, one is that obviously Christ had to descend according to both natures. One person. That we've already seen. And secondly, they said, as we've already noted, that when he descended, he did so in his exaltated state, not in his humiliated state. So the descent into hell is not the last act of Christ's humiliation. It is the first act if you will of his exaltation. That is to say, when Christ spoke the words on the cross, "It is finished," the work of his humiliation, his work for our salvation was completed. His exaltation began. And in his descent to hell, he proclaimed his victory over Satan, his victory over death, his victory over hell. These things no longer have a claim on us because of the completed work of the God/man Christ. That much we know say the Lutheran confessors. Beyond that we should not probe. Lest we begin to find ourselves involved in needless and idle philosophical and theological speculation. In this respect, the confessors here and formulators turned to Luther and a sermon he gave in a city of Torgau in 1533 where Luther very simply and forthrightly said what we need to know is that Christ descended on our behalf in his exaltated state in order to proclaim his victory over sin, death, and hell. That's enough. That's enough for us to be assured. That's enough for us to be confident. And so in a sense, simply picking up the language of Luther, the formulators say this, paragraph 4 again from the epitome of article 10: "It is enough that we know that Christ descended into hell and destroyed hell for all believers and that he redeemed them from the power of death, the devil, and the eternal damnation of hellish retribution. Now, how that happened we should save for the next world where not only this matter but many others which here we have simply believed cannot comprehend with our blind reason will be revealed." Good advice. Let's take them at their word in this respect, Josh, and simply leave it at that.