In Part 1 of The Christian Creed, I shared how Puritan Edward Reynolds (1599-1676) referred to Psalm 110 as “’symbolum Davidicum’, the prophet David’s creed” (The Whole Works of Right Reverend Edward Reynolds, Vol. 2). This Psalm, containing a mere seven verses, reveals the Christian confession of faith. So in my last article, I briefly introduced a portion of Reynolds’ break down of David’s creed, as taught in Psalm 110, showing such doctrines as the trinity, the incarnation of Christ, the sufferings of Christ, his complete work and conquest over all his enemies, his resurrection, ascension, and intercession, the holy catholic church, and the communion of the saints. If you think that is a lot of doctrine coming out of 7 verses, today I will briefly continue with the rest of Reynolds’ findings:
The Last Judgment and Day of His Wrath
Those who do not think it prudent to discuss the judgment and wrath of God would certainly not confess David’s creed. We see in the very first verse God the Father telling the Son, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Again, in verses 5 and 6, “The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.” Our God is just. Therefore the mercy that he shows toward his people is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The whole Old Testament sacrificial system alluded to the fact that a mediator between our holy God and sinful man is necessary. Sinful human beings cannot approach the Holy Father clothed in our own self-righteousness.
And although these sacrificial systems were done away with, we still need to be concerned about our approach to God. We still need a mediator. Jesus Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, his blood effectually atoning for our sin. All those who repent in faith have our sins covered by his blood, which effectually propitiated God’s wrath toward us over two thousand years ago on the cross. But those who have not repented and do not trust in Christ’s work over their own have a judgment day to come.
The Remission of Sins
Verse 4 of Psalm 110 identifies the Lord as a priest forever. The office of the priesthood offered sacrifices for the remission of sins. Jesus is our great high priest, as well as the sacrifice. This is a major theme in Hebrews. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews quotes Psalm 110:4 repeatedly as the crux of his argument that Jesus is the eternal high priest, appointed by the oath of God as mediator of a better covenant, ratified with better promises (5:6; 6:17,18, 20; 7:17, 21, 24, 28). That must be an important line, the pinnacle of the Psalm.
The writer to the Hebrews declares that not only is there a change in the priesthood, but a change in the law as well (7:12). In quoting Psalm 110:4, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek,” the preacher is pointing to a greater appointment made by the oath of God who cannot lie. This is our confession of hope. It reveals the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood, which had to continually make sacrifices and replace each priest with a successor. Christ is a priest forever. The Levitical priests only pointed to the Great Priest to come.
Resurrection of the Body
This confession takes us back to the first verse of our Psalm. Our Lord is told to sit at the Father’s right hand until all of his enemies are put under his feet. In defending the resurrection, Paul quotes this verse while emphatically declaring that the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:25, 26). The writer of Hebrews quotes this verse as he explains how Christ’s sacrifice is perfect to save us to the uttermost (10:13).
But what always gets me about this verse is his remarkable patience and obedience. That word “until” is more loaded than it appears at first glance. After completing his work and ascending to the highest position at God’s right hand, we know that Christ our Victor can easily destroy all his enemies in a second. And yet, here we are over two thousand years later, as he waits according to his Father’s will to bring in every last believer.
Our last confession from David’s creed brings us back to the pinnacle of his Psalm, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Of course, we immediately see the importance of the word forever. If the Son is a priest forever, then his intervention on our behalf is eternal. But, even more interesting and assuring is what this verse reveals about the basis of this eternal priesthood. Remember, this is the Father talking to the Son, and Christ is witnessing the Father swearing an oath on his very life that this will be. The preacher to the Hebrews focuses on this oath when quoting from Psalm 110:4 in chapter 7:17-28, concluding, “For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever” (v.28). This oath should give us complete assurance and confidence that God accepts Christ’s intercession on our behalf.
Picking up on this appointed priesthood, we read “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” (9:15). Our confidence to approach God and our hope to live with him eternally is not based on anything we can do to atone for our sin or to earn a relationship with him. It is fully reliant on the God who is faithful. Jesus Christ came to fulfill this oath that he agreed to with his Father to be our mediator in the covenant of grace. “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant” (7:22). Those who trust in him are delivered from the covenant of works. Instead of hearing, “Do this and you shall live,” we hear “All this Christ has done.”
Hopefully after reading a bit about these confessions contained in David’s creed, you will see why Psalm 110 is the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament. If you have ever struggled to articulate your faith, this may be a good place for you to begin. It would be quite beneficial to memorize the 7 verses of this Psalm, and then study the implications of the confessions it contains a little deeper. I believe the book of Hebrews is a great companion to this task, as recent scholarship suggests that Hebrews is a sermon interpreting this Psalm.