1 Corinthians 15:1 “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”
Since the inception of the church there has been much controversy regarding who Jesus was and is today. Because of the pantheon of gods in ancient history, particularly with the Greeks, the idea of who Jesus is brought into question how this christian definition of God fit into what they believed God to be.
Not so different back then, today we see a common misunderstanding of who Jesus is by the many forms of thought and religious practices evident in our culture. For instance, the Jehovah’s witnesses teach that Jesus is Michael the archangel which lends them to deny that He is the mediator between God and man. The mormons believe that Jesus was only the spirit child of God the Father and Mary, the product of a mortal and immortal union, producing a distinct being separate from God.
The idea of demi-god’s was not a new concept when Joseph Smith penned his supposed revelation, the Greeks idea about Zeus and other mythological beings had been established long before the church of Christ, the necessity for establishing clear doctrine was paramount and so this set the stage for what was to come.
I appreciate how Gareth Leake described it in his article in theology impact:
“The story begins with Arius of Alexandria. He claimed that there was ‘once when the Son was not’—that is, that there was a time when the Son of God did not exist. Because God is eternal, Arius’ claim that the Son of God was not eternal meant that the Son of God was less God than the Father. This claim was quite controversial, and lead to the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD during which Arius was condemned as a heretic. The church leaders who gathered in Nicaea determined that Arius’ claim was outside the bounds of Scripture. During this council, they wrote the Nicene Creed as a clarification of Christian belief. One key point the church stated was that the Son of God is homoousios with the Father. This term, homoousios, is made up of ‘homo,’ meaning ‘same,’ and ‘ousia,’ which means substance. Thus, the church stated that the Son of God is of the same substance as God the Father.“
He went on to illustrate the course of the discussion:
Despite the unity against Arius displayed at the Council of Nicaea, in the aftermath of the council the leaders of the Church remained divided, as they were not yet in agreement about what “homoousios” meant. This term, which the Arians could not use (hence, in part, its utilization in the creed), needed further clarification. In the wake of the Council of Nicaea, three theological camps emerged, with respective leaders:
- Homoousian: Those who believed the Son of God and God the Father shared the one, exact same substance. That is, there is only one substance, which both have.
- Leaders: Athanasius of Alexandria, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus
- Homoian (‘homoi’ means ‘like’): Those who believe the Son of God was ‘like’ God the Father. They did not wish to use the language of ‘ousia,’ or ‘substance.’
- Leaders: Basil of Ancyra, Eustathius of Sebaste
- Heteroousian (‘hetero’ means ‘different’): Those who believe the Son of God was ‘of a different substance’ from the Father. These followers were the heirs of Arius’ theology, who developed it to its final form.
- Leaders: Aetius and Eunomius of Cyzicus
The concern of further heresy being introduced into the church was a constant threat so the creed was issued to lay aside all doubt.
The Nicene Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty (Isaiah 44:6; 45:5), Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3; Acts 14:15).
I believe in Jesus Christ (Luke 2:11; John 20:28), His only Son (John 3:16), our Lord (John 20:28), He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35),
and born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:27).
He was sentenced under Pontius Pilate (Luke 23:23-25),
was crucified (John 19:20; Acts 4:10), died (1 Corinthians 15:3), and was buried (1 Corinthians 15:4). He descended to the dead (1 Peter 3:18; Luke 23:43).
On the third day He rose again (1 Corinthians 15:4, Matthew 28:1, 5-10).
He ascended into heaven (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51, Acts 1:11),
and is seated at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Hebrews 1:3).
He will come again to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1; John 5:22).
I believe in the Holy Spirit (John 15:26; 16:7-8, 13-14; Acts 13:2), the holy universal Church (Galatians 3:26-29),
the communion of saints (Revelation 19:14; Hebrews 10:25), the forgiveness of sins (Luke 7:48),
the resurrection of the body (1 Thessalonians 4:16; John 6:39), and the life everlasting (John 10:28; 17:2-3).
“Between the Council of Nicaea (325) and the Council of Constantinople (381), many smaller councils were convened by the various theological camps, and the pendulum of opinion swayed between the three. The church found itself in theological turmoil, as it did not have a unified understanding about the Son of God. Fortunately, this turmoil found resolution at the Council of Constantinople (381). The Homoousian camp won out as being most theologically accurate. This final resolution, which has remained the standard of Christian belief since its issuance, is known as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (today, it is commonly shortened to the Nicene Creed).”Gareth Leake/Theology Impact
When examining the doctrine (principles or position taught by the church), it’s important to know why the church reached the conclusions they did and what was their source. The doctrines laid out in the Nicene creed were gathered by examining biblical text which confirmed the church’s position based off the clear revelation of God in scripture.
- Christianity is founded on the understanding that God is One. There are not multiple god’s, there is One God who is manifest in 3 separate persons, known as the Trinity.
- God created everything. There is nothing that exists that He didn’t create.
- Jesus ascended back to His throne after His resurrection and assumed the place He has held for eternity. He was not a created being, he was not an angel in disguise, He was and is God, the Creator of all that is, was, and will ever be.
- The manner that Jesus came, was sentenced, killed, and rose from the dead have been confirmed through eye witnesses and recorded accurately in the bible.
- The traditional catholic church meant universal church, not the Roman Catholic church of today. The universal aspect of people scattered throughout the earth, through time and history, compromises God’s people, His church.
- The third person of God is the Holy Spirit. The life of Christ in us is made possible by the Holy Spirit. He calls people to salvation, He seals them with His presence, and He reveals knowledge and truth concerning the way to salvation. He sanctifies His people and makes them Holy.
- Finally, the church believes that the resurrection of the dead will occur and signify the end of the church age with Jesus being established as Lord and King. All will stand before the Lord in judgement, some to everlasting life and many to everlasting death.
Knowledge of doctrine and church history is simply a reminder of how truth is defined and serves as a confirmation that this Truth has remained the same for thousands of years.
Truth may be a revelation of God’s character but we as His people must take it a step further, we are called to walk in this Truth. It is by walking in Truth we become a revelation of God to the world.
Without the application, Truth becomes condemnation.
If we know the Truth and fail to adhere to its criteria, we only walk in the knowledge of what could have been, what should have been, or we deny it by walking according to our own version of what we want to believe. Faith is only valuable when it is lived out. The dynamic of a personal relationship with a living God is meant to be continuous and lifelong. Faith may involve waiting upon God and renewing strength or acting upon His promise and seeing the fruit of your labor.
I encourage you to move from head knowledge to heart knowledge and this only comes by way of placing your faith in Christ alone, not in a man or a church body but in the Son of God who loved us and gave His life for us.