Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed: Introduction
I believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, visible and unvisible.
I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
The only begotten son of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one essence with the Father.
By whom all things were made
and without him was not anything in heaven
or Earth made.
he came down from heaven:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.
Was made man and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and from Holy Virgin Mary.
Became man, was crucified For our sake in the days of Pontius Pilate;
suffered, died,was buried
And he rose from the dead on the third day as written
in the holy Scriptures;
ascended in glory into heaven
sat at the right hand of his Father
and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
We believe in the Holy Spirit the life giving god,
who proceeded from the Father; we worship and glorify Him with the father and the son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
Who was spoken through the Prophets.
And we believe in one holy catholic apostolic Church.
And we believe in one baptism for the remission of sins.
and we wait for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life to come,
world without end.-Nicene Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.-Apostles Creed
The two creeds cited above are the oldest Christian Creeds in existence. But before we go any further we first have to define what a creed is. The word creed can be defined in two ways. The first is as a set of beliefs or aims which guide someone’s actions. And the second is as a formal statement of Christian beliefs. The two creeds listed above fit both definitions of the word creed. But what is the history and the rationale of these two early statements of Christian beliefs and are they still relevant today? We are going to explore the answer to the first question today and we will deal with are they still relevant once understand what they are teaching us about our Christian beliefs.
The Apostles Creed is believed to be the oldest statement of Christian belief. No one is entirely sure when it was first developed and written. But because of its lack of dealing with the issues that the Nicene Creed deals with it is believed to predate the Nicene Creed. Which would its development prior to AD 325. It states some of the same things that the Nicene Creed does, but in a shorter and a less defined way.
The Nicene Creed came about because of the First Council of Nicea in AD 325. The whole point of this first ecumenical council was to deal with two important issues going on within the Christian world at that time. The first was to deal with the teachings and doctrine of Arianism and the second was the dating of Easter. It is the first that we are going to be focused on from here on out, because it was the first the led to the development of the Nicene Creed.
To understand reason behind the Nicene Creed we have to understand two distinct false teachings concerning the divinity of Jesus. And those two false teachings are Arianism and Gnosticism.
The Arian controversy arose in Alexandria when the newly reinstated presbyter Arius began to spread doctrinal views that were contrary to those of his bishop, St. Alexander of Alexandria. The disputed issues centered on the natures and relationship of God (the Father) and the Son of God (Jesus). The disagreements sprang from different ideas about the Godhead and what it meant for Jesus to be God’s Son. Alexander maintained that the Son was divine in just the same sense that the Father is, coeternal with the Father, else he could not be a true Son.
Arius emphasized the supremacy and uniqueness of God the Father, meaning that the Father alone is almighty and infinite, and that therefore the Father’s divinity must be greater than the Son’s. Arius taught that the Son had a beginning, and that he possessed neither the eternity nor the true divinity of the Father, but was rather made “God” only by the Father’s permission and power, and that the Son was rather the first and the most perfect of God’s creatures.
To put all that in simple easy to understand words. Arianism denied and still denies (in its modern forms) the divinity of Jesus because he was a created being and as a created being was not equal to God-the Father. Thus denying the triune nature of God.
The most dangerous heresies (i.e., erroneous beliefs and teachings contradicting the proven and established truth of God’s Word) during the first two centuries of the church. Its basic teaching was that “spirit” (i.e., the spiritual realm) is entirely good, while “matter” (i.e., the physical world) is entirely evil. This led to the belief that salvation was achieved through escape from the body, which came not by faith in Christ, but by special knowledge (the Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis). This misguided belief caused some people to reject Jesus’ true humanity and to accept strange ideas about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Some claimed that Jesus only appeared to have a body. Others believed that a spiritual Christ was separate from the physical Jesus and that they were joined only between the time of his baptism and just before he died.
Again in simple and easy to understand terms. Gnosticism denies the humanity of Jesus. Which meant that Jesus could not have died on the cross and could not have been raised from the dead because he was fully Devine and not fully human at the same time, and therefore could not die.
Truth About the Trinity
Now that we know the two extremes when it comes to dealing with the Trinity. We are now going to look at the truth about the Trinity. Which is probably going to surprise most of you because many of you still have false beliefs about the Trinity, even though we all live a post Nicene world.
Throughout the Bible, God is revealed as a single Being (“Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Mark 12:29; “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Dt 6:4; ”Speak up and present your case —
yes, let them consult each other. Who predicted this long ago? Who announced it from ancient times? Was it not I, the LORD? There is no other God but me, a righteous God and Savior; there is no one except me.” Isa 45:21; “Now a mediator is not just for one person alone, but God is one.” Gal 3:20; “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth — as there are many “gods” and many “lords” — yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through him, and we exist through him.” 1Co 8:5-6; “One God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Eph 4:6; “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.” 1Ti 2:5), existing in three distinct but interrelated and completely unified persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (“When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice from heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” Mt 3:16-17; “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:19; “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2Co 13:14; “There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope at your calling — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Eph 4:4-6; “To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.” 1Pe 1:2; “But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting expectantly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21). Each person of the Trinity is fully divine (i.e., fully God) and equal, possessing all the special characteristics of God; yet they are not three Gods (or three parts of God), but one God. In this way, God is singular (i.e., a unity) in one sense and plural (i.e., three) in another sense. Another way this concept of God has been described is “three in Person, One in essence.”
We must be careful not to misinterpret this as if the one true God has simply revealed himself in three different “forms” or expressions at different times throughout history (as if he were God the Father in the OT, Jesus in the NT and the Holy Spirit now). Through the centuries such false teaching has brought division in the church. The correct understanding of this doctrine (i.e., a teaching or basis of belief) is that all three persons of the Godhead exist uniquely at the same time and are so completely united that they form the one true and eternal God. Both the Son and the Holy Spirit possess attributes that can only be true of God (“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Ge 1:2; “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners” Isa 61:1; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jn 1:1, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 14; “This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill him: Not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.” 5:18; “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.” 14:16; “When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment…When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come.” 16:8, 13; “Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God! ”” 20:28; ““Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land? Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God.”” Acts 5:3-4; “Because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death…In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Ro 8:2, 26-27; “Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” 1Co 2:10-11; “But we ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” 2Th 2:13; “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?” Heb 9:14). None of the three persons was ever made or created, but each has always existed with all the character traits, power and glory of God.
This one God existing in three persons means that from all eternity (i.e., the infinite past and forever into the future) there has always existed a perfect spiritual unity, a complete love, the expression of godly character traits, an absolute knowledge and a faultless interrelationship within and among the persons of what is referred to as the “Godhead” ( “Just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jn 10:15; ““Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”” 11:27; “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation.” 17:24; “Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” 1Co 2:10).
The Baptist Statement of Faith describes the “Godhead” in this way:
There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
Next time we will actually look at what the Nicene Creed says about the Father and the Son. And then we will look at what it says about the Holy Spirit and the Church.