Creed, Part One: More Than Words
- Monday, July 19, 2004
The Nicene Creed
Though in many churches the Apostle's Creed is repeated as a part of the weekly service, it is the Nicene Creed that is considered the most widely accepted and used of the brief statements of the Christian Faith. If the Apostle's Creed is not recited weekly, it is then recited at baptisms while in liturgical churches, the Nicene Creed is used as a part of the Liturgy.
With the Apostle's Creed already firmly in place, you may be wondering how the Nicene Creed, which is a revised form of an earlier work set in place in 325 AD, even came to be. Why reinvent the wheel, so to speak. To get the answer, you must understand a little bit about early church history.
If you've read past the first four books of the New Testament, you know the early church was not widely welcomed by the Roman government. Remember the stories of Peter's imprisonment? Paul's and the others? The emperor, Nero, is known best for setting Rome to blazes, blaming the Christians and for the persecution he handed down afterward. Foxes Book of Martyrs gives us graphic (as far as I'm concerned) details of the deaths of the original Twelve sans Judas. With the exception of John, who died a prisoner none-the-less, each of Christ's original followers was put to death for their faith.
Then, in 312 AD, the emperor Constantine became a Christian just before the Battle of Milvian Bridge. (If you've never read or heard the story of his conversion, allow me to encourage you to do some research. It truly is quite fascinating!) With Constantine in power, Christians gained the freedom of worshipping without legal conviction. The "Great Emperor" formed the motto "one God, one Lord, one faith, one church, one empire, one emperor."
Believe it or not, this "creed" didn't sit well with all those who called themselves Christian. Arius, who was a priest in Alexandria, claimed that Jesus Himself was not God, but created by God while the bishop Alexander and his associate Athanasius argued that, no, Jesus, the Son, is a part of the God-head just as is the Father.
Seeing that the church was now at odds with itself, in 325 AD Constantine called together a council in Nicaea where a creed stating such a belief was written and signed by many of the bishops of the church. Thus, we have the Nicene Creed, which was later revised in 381 AD.
It may interest you to note that Athanasius' defense of his beliefs cost him five periods of exile, one in which he wrote The Life of Anthony, a book that influenced the establishment of monastic orders in the Western church. Oh, what the Lord will do when we stand our ground for Him!
The Nicene Creed reads thusly:
We 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 worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
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