2.4.2 The Second Article of Faith

I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, entered the realm of the dead, rose again from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven. He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from where He will return.


The Second Article of Faith refers to Jesus Christ, the foundation and content of Christian faith. Each statement of this article has a direct relationship to the New Testament. The designation "Jesus Christ" is in itself already a statement of profession, namely that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah (from Hebrew: "Anointed One", Greek: "Christ") who had been awaited by Israel.


Yet Jesus is not only the Messiah, but also "the only begotten Son" of God (John 1: 14, 18). This formulation brings to expression the oneness of substance between God, the Father, and God, the Son. The Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople clarifies the meaning of the formulation "only begotten Son": the Son is "begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father". This "only begotten Son" is "our Lord". In the Old Testament, "Lord" is the designation for God. In the New Testament this term is applied to Jesus Christ in order to emphasise His divine nature. Here the term "Lord" also signifies that Jesus Christ holds dominion over heaven and earth (Philippians 2: 9-11).


The ensuing statements deal with the divine origin of the Man Jesus and His miraculous birth. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1: 35, Matthew 1: 18), and thus did not come into being through natural conception by a man, since Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (Luke 1: 27). The virgin birth is not to be regarded as a matter of secondary importance or as an ancient mythological notion, but is rather among the fundamental convictions of Christian faith. The mention of Mary in the gospels demonstrates that Jesus was true Man and that He had a mother.


The historicity of Jesus also becomes clear through the mention of "Pontius Pilate". This man was the Roman governor in Palestine in the years from AD 26-36, which means that Jesus' sufferings took place during his time of rule (John 18: 28 et seq.).


The article then goes on to mention three significant events that relate to Jesus, namely that He "was crucified, died, and was buried". This once again clearly highlights the true humanity of Jesus: He had to endure a shameful death, namely the death of the cross. He died and was buried, and thus shared in the general fate of mankind. The special thing about all of this is only brought to expression by the words: "rose again from the dead on the third day". Here we are confronted with an event that far transcends the human sphere of experience, and which can only be expressed and understood from the perspective of faith. Behind this formulation there is another confessional statement which is already mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." The dual reference "according to the Scriptures" demonstrates that these were not merely random events, but requirements of salvation history. Jesus Christ "rose again from the dead". His resurrection is the prerequisite for, and the promise of, the resurrection of the dead in general.


However, the Apostolicum also inserts the words "He descended into hell [the realm of the dead]" in between the phrases "buried" and "On the third day He rose again". The New Testament evidence for this statement can be found in 1 Peter 3: 19, which states that Jesus "preached to the spirits in prison" after His death on the cross.


After the profession that He "rose again from the dead", it states that Jesus Christ "ascended into heaven" (Acts 1: 9-11). The earthly life of Jesus–as well as His direct presence on earth as the Risen One–thereby came to its conclusion. The receiving of the Risen One into heaven signifies His return to the Father and His exaltation. The exalted state of Jesus Christ comes to verbal expression in the formulation: "He is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty" (Colossians 3: 1).


The end of the Second Article of Faith states that the exalted Lord will return in order to take His own unto Himself (John 14: 3).