Credo: A Sermon Series through The Apostles’ Creed // pt.14a—“he is seated at the right hand of the Father”

Life can be tough for left-handed folks! Weirdly, there is a long history of anti-left-hand bias in much of the world stretching way back into antiquity. Consider these examples from a fascinating post entitled “History of Handedness—Ancient History.”

  • “There is some evidence that all of the early great civilizations of the world—from the ancient Mesopotamians to the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans—have been strongly biased towards the right hand. The right hand of the gods was considered to be healing and beneficent, while their left hand was used for curses or inflicting injury. The strongly anti-left Ancient Egyptians often depicted their enemies as left-handed while they were the righteous dextrals.”
  • “Plato…went so far as to blame left-handedness on inept mothers and nurses who failed to adequately school their children in the correct way of doing things.”
  • “…the Pythagoreans listed ten first principles, each of which consisted of pairs of opposites, and it comes as no surprise that right is listed on the same side as male, straight, light, good, etc, while left is listed alongside female, crooked, darkness and evil…”
  • “Alexander the Great…claimed to have conquered a country of left-handed people, although the claim is unsubstantiated.”
  • “According to some, wearing a wedding ring on the third finger of the left hand originated with the Romans, the idea being to fend off evil associated with the left-hand…”[1]

This phenomenon is reflected also in scripture. In Matthew 6:3, Jesus says, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Notice it is the right hand that is giving to the needy and the left hand is being told to mind its own business! Consider too, in Matthew 25, where the sheep (the saved) and the goats (the lost) are situated.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.

Again, life can be tough for the left-handed! But in all seriousness, the right hand as an ancient symbol of power and authority is important for us to grasp when it comes to our understanding of what used to be called “the session” of Christ. Kevin J. Vanhoozer writes of “the session”:

The early church rightly understood that the drama of Christ includes his ascension, entry into heaven, and heavenly session (Lat. sessio = sitting down) at the right hand of the Father. Jesus’ session was an important part of apostolic teaching, figuring prominently in both the Apostles’ Creed and the earlier Roman Creed: sedet ad dexteram patris.[2]

So “the session” of Jesus refers to the sitting down of Jesus at the right hand of the Father. Hebrews 10 gives us one of many examples of this.

12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God

But, in fact, Jesus is not always depicted as “sitting” at the Father’s hand. Sometimes He is depicted as “at” the Father’s right hand or even “standing” there. Regardless, His “sitting” there is the traditional and dominant image and it carries with it numerous implications. For this reason, it is important that we understand it.

Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father means that His saving work on earth is complete.

In Hebrews 10, the session of Christ carries with it a definitive note of completion.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

The once-for-allness of Christ’s sacrifice stands in stark contrast to the sacrifices of the priests. Note how the author of Hebrews, in verse 11, highlights the repetitive nature of the priestly sacrifices.

  • daily
  • repeatedly
  • the same sacrifices

And a note of futility:

  • which can never take away sins

Then see the note of finality of Christ’s sacrifice in verse 12:

  • for all time
  • a single sacrifice
  • he sat down

So the work of Christ is superior to the work of earthly priests in every imaginable way. But the contrast is also communicated in another way, if you look closely:

  • every priest stands
  • Christ…sat down

And where does Christ sit down? Where is the session of Christ? “At the right hand of the God.” So the sitting down of Christ marks the ultimate contrast between the priests and the High Priest Jesus. It communicates that Christ’s work is finished whereas the work of earthly priests never could be.

All of this is to say that the session of Christ communicates in posture what the words of Christ from John 19 communicated in words:

30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Indeed, it is finished! Our High Priest has sat in completion of His saving work. His intercessory work continues, but He has saved us through His cross and empty tomb.

Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father means He has unmatched power and authority and exaltation.

The session of Christ also communicates His complete and utter glorification and exaltation and His possession of all authority and power. Lest there be any confusion about what Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father implies, note the reaction of Jesus’ opponents to His pronouncement that He was going to do so, in Matthew 26.

57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.

63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

Do you see? It was in response to His words that He would be “seated at the right hand of Power” that the high priest condemned Jesus as a blasphemer and that the council struck him, spat upon Him, and mocked Him. Why? Because they understood well what we only understand in part: that to claim to sit at the right hand of the Father is to claim to have unmatched power and authority and exaltation. Indeed, it was to claim something that no mere man can claim, namely, to be divine!

It is not surprising, then, that the idea of power that accompanies the session of Christ is communicated time and again in the scriptures. For instance, we find it in Psalm 110, the psalm that the New Testament writers frequently appealed to in promoting the session of Christ.

1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!

Sitting at the right hand of the Lord means the exaltation of the one seated above all enemies and the conferring of the scepter of rule and authority! When Jesus took His place at the right hand of the Father, it was not in exhaustion, it was in triumph. His sitting does not mean, “I am tired.” It means, “I have all authority and power!” It is the action of a King!

Again and again the New Testament speaks of the power that accompanies the session of Christ. We see it in Ephesians 1, where Paul writes:

20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

The language is in no way ambiguous: Jesus is seated “far above” all other powers and all other names now and forevermore! Everything has been put under the feet of Jesus! His power is unmatched! Behold, the King! So, too, in Hebrews 1:

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Yes, Jesus is “superior to angels.” There is no heavenly power that does not bow in awe before Jesus at the right hand of the Father! Again, Hebrews 1, we are asked:

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

The answer? To none! To none of the angels did the Lord say, “Sit at my right hand…” Why not? Because only one can occupy that seat! Only King Jesus! He is enthroned and empowered! Peter, in 1 Peter 3, states it quite bluntly:

21g …Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Everything has been subjected to King Jesus: “angels, authorities, and powers” The seating of Christ at the right hand of the Father is the exclamation point at the end of the statement, “Jesus is Lord!”

Theologian James Leo Garrett Jr. writes:

According to Metzger, God’s right hand “is metaphorical language for the divine omnipotence.” Whether standing (Acts 7:55) or having sat down (Mark 16:19; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; Rev. 3:21) or sitting (Matt. 19:28; 25:31; Mark 14:62) or being seated (Col. 3:1) or having been seated by the Father (Eph. 1:20), Jesus in his heavenly session exerts his rule over “all things” (Eph. 1:22) and all beings (1 Pet. 3:22), indeed over all things and all beings until yielding that rule to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24–27) or until his parousia (Acts 3:21).[3]

To this we say, “Amen!”

Jesus being seated at the right hand of the Father means that He continues as our great High Priest.

While it is true that Jesus’ saving work has been completed, His sustaining work, His priestly work, continues at the right hand of the Father. In Hebrews 8, the priestly role of Christ is spoken of as a present reality.

1 Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man.

“We have such a high priest.” Note that His priestly function is pictured alongside His being “seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” As such, Jesus is “a minister in the holy places.” That is, He is in the presence of the Father doing His intercessory work or speaking our name in the throne room of Heaven.

In Hebrews 7, we see that the priesthood of Christ is eternal and abiding.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

The eternal and abiding and effective nature of Christ’s priestly office is in direct contrast to earthly priests who, we are told in verse 23, were many and who had tenures limited by their lifespans. No so, Jesus: “he holds his priesthood permanently.” How so? Because “he continues forever.” Then the most beautiful word: “he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Jesus—prophet, priest, and King—“lives” to make intercession for His people! He is doing so even now! What a comfort! What peace this gives us! He is saying in Heaven, “He is mine. She is mine. He is covered by the blood! She is covered by the blood!” And Jesus is not doing this in order to talk an angry deity out of destroying us. Perish the thought! No, the Father and the Spirit delight in the Son’s intercessory work! And he will continue in this work forever and ever and ever!

What a friend we have in Jesus, yes! But what a priest we have in Jesus! He is always and ever fulfilling His priestly function. And of what does this function consist? 1 John 2 tells us:

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

The priestly role of Jesus is one of advocacy. When we sin we know that the Lamb of God is in Heaven speaking gospel truth and pleading the blood over us! Our security, then, rests not in our performance but in Christ’s performance of His priestly task of intercession and advocacy.

And let us be clear on this: if the advocacy of Christ on your behalf makes you want to sin more, it must be the case that you do not know Christ! If this beautiful picture of grace makes you want to sin you have grossly misunderstood! No, the session of Christ, the sitting of Christ at the right hand of the Father, the advocacy of Christ: these things make us want to strive for holiness! We are free not to sin, but rather to be holy! Why? Because the Holy One is for us and with us!

What an amazing thing it is, the session of Jesus!

Take heart, believer: He is seated at the right hand of the Father. His eye is upon you. He is speaking your name. He has secured your salvation. And He will receive you home.

Have you turned from Jesus? Have you rejected Jesus? Then come to Him now. See this prophet, priest, and King, and come and worship!



[2] Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Faith Speaking Understanding. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), p.212.

[3] Garrett, James Leo, Jr. Systematic Theology. 2nd edition. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1990) Logos edition.


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