The Nicene Creed

The small group I co-lead is studying the basic beliefs and practices of the Christian life, and we’re currently looking at the doctirne of the Trinity. I’ve heard it argued that the Trinity is THE central doctrine of Christianity, setting us apart from all other religions and cults. I believe this is true, because as I look at all the other doctrines I’ve studied in various theology classes, I see that they basically elaborate on this foundational truth, telling us more about this one God in three Persons and our relationship with Him.

Of the two historic creeds most widely used throughout Christendom, the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, the one with the clearest declaration of belief in the Trinity is the Nicene. I think that’s why it’s my preference of the two creeds, and I love it’s fuller, richer description of the deity of Christ and the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The following is a contemporary translation used in many denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.*
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic** and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

* Eastern Orthodox churches omit “and the Son”
** i.e., universal

Truly God and Truly Man

In the seminary class I’m taking this semester, one of the major topics is the person of Christ. How is it that Jesus can be truly God and truly man? Some in the early church thought His divine nature swallowed up His human nature; others thought His two natures were completely separate so as to make Him two different persons living in one body; still others thought the two natures blended so thoroughly that a third new type of nature was produced. The debates were finally settled by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. when bishops from the entire church affirmed the biblical “Definition of the Union of the Divine and Human Natures in the Person of Christ.” The following contemporary translation may seem a bit hard to wade through, but it’s worth pondering as we meditate on just Who it was that was born that first Christmas morning.

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

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