An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Jesus Christ

The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the savior and redeemer of humanity, the Word of God who was made flesh and dwelt among us in the world (see Jn 1:1-18). Jesus was the Messiah, the promised king and ancestor of David who was expected from OT times to deliver the people (see Is 9:6-7; Ez 34:23-24, 37:24-25). His name means "anointed one," as anointed kings and anointed priests were understood to have been given special powers and functions by God. Christ is also known as "Second Adam," who reverses the consequences of disobedience by Adam and humanity. St. Paul explains that "as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Cor 15:22, RSV). The Episcopal theologian William Porcher DuBose emphasized that Jesus' sinlessness was "His own," and not the result of a human nature that was somehow incapable of sin or invulnerable to temptation. By God's grace, through faith, Jesus humanly revealed the obedient righteousness that is the way of salvation.

The Nicene Creed affirms that Jesus Christ was eternally begotten and the only Son of God the Father, and is of one being with the Father, "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God." All things were made through him; he came down from heaven for us and for our salvation; he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit; he died and was buried after being crucified under Pontius Pilate; and he rose on the third day after his death and ascended into heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of God the Father (see BCP, p. 358). The Apostles' Creed also states that Jesus descended to the dead, or hell, after his crucifixion and before the resurrection (see BCP, pp. 66, 120). The Council of Chalcedon (451) affirmed that the one person of Christ has two natures, divine and human, which are "in no way annulled by the union," and that Christ's divine and human natures are "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation." The Chalcedonian Definition also held that Christ is of one substance (homoousios) with God the Father concerning his divinity and of one substance with us concerning his humanity (see BCP, p. 864). The Christian hope is centered in the victorious Christ, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and whose kingdom will have no end (see BCP, pp. 120, 359). The Athanasian Creed states that at Jesus' coming all humanity "shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works" (BCP, p. 865). The Christian assurance is that nothing, not even death, will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39; BCP, p. 862).

The Prayer Book Catechism affirms that Jesus is the only perfect image of God the Father, and he reveals God's loving nature. Jesus received our human nature from the Virgin Mary, his mother, by God's own act. The divine Son became human so that we might be adopted as children of God and made heirs of God's kingdom. We are freed from the power of sin and reconciled to God by Jesus' obedience, which included suffering and death. Jesus overcame death and opened for us the way of eternal life by his resurrection. We share in his victory over sin, suffering, and death when we are baptized into the new covenant and become living members of Christ (see BCP, pp. 849-850). Major events in Jesus' life are recalled in the celebrations and observances of the church year, including his birth (Christmas); his circumcision and naming (Holy Name); the visitation of the Magi (Epiphany); his baptism by John the Baptist (First Sunday after the Epiphany); his Presentation in the Temple (Feast of the Presentation); his Transfiguration (Last Sunday after the Epiphany, and the Feast of the Transfiguration); his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday); his institution of the eucharist and washing of the disciples' feet (Maundy Thursday); his crucifixion (Passion Sunday, Good Friday); his resurrection (Easter); and his Ascension (Feast of the Ascension). Christ's triumphal coming again is anticipated in the season of Advent. The Hymnal 1982 provides a section of hymns on Jesus Christ our Lord (Hymns 434-499), including "O love, how deep, how broad, how high" (Hymns 448-449), "My song is love unknown" (Hymn 458), and "The head that once was crowned with thorns" (Hymn 483). The theological study of Jesus Christ is known as Christology. See Incarnation; see Messiah.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.