‘Your Faith and You’ is a series of teachings put together by the ACoM Board of Mission through the Evangelism office to help and strengthen church members in our spiritual journey, especially during these times of challenges and uncertainty.
Fr Nigel takes us through the second session.
Let us begin with a word of prayer.
Holy God, Faithful and unchanging;
Expand and Enlighten our hearts and minds with the knowledge of your truth,
and draw us more deeply into the mystery of your faith and love,
that we may truly worship and follow you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.
In this session we will look further at the Nicene Creed and seek to unwrap the foundations of our faith as contained in the creed. From last time, we learnt that the Nicene Creed was first adopted at the Council of Nicaea, a place in what is now known as the town of Iznik in modern Turkey, in the year of our Lord 325, by a gathering of church leaders and bishops, when the church was then still only one church, and especially as it begins to try to address wrong teachings or heresies that were being spread around by some people and even leaders of the church at that time.
The full name of the creed is the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed”, so called because in addition to being adopted at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, it was also expanded with a few additions at the Council of Constantinople in the Year 381 AD. Three quarters of a century later, it was again revised with additions at another council called the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451 AD, resulting in the proclamation of the final version of the Nicene Creed as we now know and use in our church worship today.
Here is the Creed in English:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten [Son of God],
begotten of the Father before all ages,
[God of God,] Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made; [being] of one essence [substance, being] with the Father;
by [through] whom all things were made;
who for us [men] and for our salvation came down from heaven,
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man;
and [He] was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried;
and the third day he rose again, according to [in accordance with] the [prophesies in the Old Testament] Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand of the Father;
and He shall come again, with glory,
to judge [both] the living and the dead;
whose [and His] kingdom shall have no end.
And [I believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son – Filioque];
who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;
who spoke by the Prophets.
[And I believe] in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
[and] I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Let us begin with the first opening sentence and paragraph which reads:
[I] We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
This opening sentence asserts the following truths of our faith:
One, that our Christian faith affirms our belief and worship of only One God. There are no several gods as in the times of our forefathers and ancestors, who used to worship many traditional gods and spirits, but only the one true God for us Christians. That means our faith is monotheistic, that is the worship of only one God, and not polytheistic or worshipping many gods. The Jewish “Shema Yisrael” (prayer) utterance quoted by our Lord Jesus Christ in Mark 12:29-31 affirm this for us: “Hear O Yisrael, the Lord our God is One…”
Two, that God the Father is “almighty,” that is He is all-powerful (and also infinitely more so in all other positive respects). There is none mightier than Yahweh! There are people in the world and in our nation today who believe in and worship other gods or spirits, and engage in witchcraft and sorcery but to them we say, none of those spirits, idols or so-called gods you worship are comparable in power to our Almighty God, Yahweh. Not only do you waste your time worshipping these useless idols and spirits, when you have a more powerful and Almighty God whom you should be worshipping and listening to, and who will listen to those who call to him in the name of Jesus, as promised in John 14:13-14, but you also eventually get thrown into the eternal lake of fire as your punishment at the day of judgement (as we read of in the book of Revelations)!
Three, that God is the creator of the universe (heaven and earth) and of all things “visible and invisible,” that is, material and spiritual. Nothing that exists in the whole universe, whether we can see it or not, exists without him or is not created by him. He is the maker and ruler of all things. Since God who is the creator of the material world (as well as the realm of “spirit”) is good, it follows therefore that what he creates, that is the material world, is – in itself – also good. Therefore, nothing God creates is initially bad. Any bad only comes after the negative and harmful actions of human beings is brought into the equation!
Such understanding helped to combat some of the philosophies of the third and fourth centuries of the early Church such Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and others, which have viewed matter, or the physical realm, as inherently evil. In the Bible, Genesis 1:1-30, notes the creator in observing his handiwork after each day of creation work, saw that what he created was ‘good’ and ‘very good’ and that he was really pleased with this perfect creation.
Now the second paragraph of the Nicene Creed which reads:
[II] And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten [Son of God],
begotten of the Father before all ages,
[God of God,] Light of Light, true God of true God; begotten, not made;
[being] of one essence [substance, being] with the Father;
[Key word = homoousion = same essence]
by [through] whom all things were made
First this paragraph proclaims the deity hood or divinity of Jesus, who is identified as “Lord” (which is a name attributed for God only) and as “Christ” [or Christos, that is the Messiah of Israel, God’s “Anointed” One).
Secondly, the paragraph also goes on to assert that Christ was “begotten” of God the Father. This means that He was not created (“not made”) by God, but was part of God the Father eternally, “before all ages”, and hence Christ, like the Father, is eternal. There was never a time when the Son was not of the Father, and there was never a time when the Son was not with the Father.
Thirdly, the paragraph then states that Christ is fully divine (God from God, Light from Light, true God of true God) and is one being, or “of one essence/substance” [or has the same essence (homoousion) with/as God the Father.
In emphasizing the full essential deity (divinity) of Christ, the Creed is responding to an ancient heretical view known as Arianism, so named after Arius, a Presbyter of the Church in the ancient city of Alexandria in Egypt, in the years 250-336 AD. This Arius spread the teaching that the Second Person of the Trinity was not only “begotten of”, but was also “created by” God the Father. Such view – that the Second Person of the Trinity is a created being, and therefore by implication, is subordinate to the Father – was firmly rejected by the ancient church.
Such teaching is wrong and it was to refute such erratic and heretical teachings of those times, that the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed was formulated. The absolute truth is that Jesus is fully God, is of one being/substance with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the perfect unity of the Trinity. The Holy Trinity is a difficult theological concept to grasp and has been a subject of much study and debate throughout the centuries till today, but suffice it to say, because the Father and the Son are one substance, we can also be assured that we actually know God in Jesus Christ. After all, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb. 1:3), and so when we look on Jesus, we look on God. Without confidence that Jesus is God, united in substance with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, we could not be sure that Jesus can speak for God, forgive sins for God, declare righteousness for God, or do anything to make us children of the Father.
The last line of this paragraph, by [through] whom all things were made affirms that the Father creates the Universe through the agency of the Son.
People often miss this point in the Creed, which is that by His Word, or by God the Son who is God’s Word, God created the Universe from nothing. The Christian Doctrine of Creation affirms God’s creative act in the beginning as “Creatio-ex-nihilo”, meaning “creation from nothing”, which we read of in the first creation account of the Book of Genesis 1ff. When God spoke, everything came to pass in each day of creation, as he said the words beginning with “Let there be light…” In John’s Gospel 1:1-3, the Apostle states that: “In the beginning the Word already existed, the word was with God, and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. Through him God made all things, not one thing in all creation was made without him. The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people”. (GNT).
In our next session together, we will continue with where we left off in the second half of the Nicene Creed together, in our search for the foundational truths of our Christian Faith as enshrined in the Creed and go through them in further depth. God bless as we close with a word of prayer.
Holy God, without you in our lives, we are not able to know you, nor please you.
Grant us the leading and guidance of Holy Spirit,
So that in all that we think, say and do, we may glorify and honour your holy name,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Read; Your Faith And You – Part 1.
Fr. Nigel Kelaepa, ACoM Mission Secretary