Archive for May 20th, 2009

Today is the anniversary of the convening of the council of Nicaea. The council met in the city of Nicaea in Bythinia, in 325 A.D. and was attended by more than 300 bishops from around the world. Many of the bishops came still bearing the scars of tortures they had endured at the hands of persecutors just a few years previous. One of the chief issues before the council were the beliefs of the followers of Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria. The Arians had been spreading a divergent view of the pre-incarnate relationship Christ Jesus bore to the Father. The Arians taught three things in particular that were troublesome:

1. Christ was not eternal. Only God is eternal, only God has no beginning. The Son is not eternal but begotten.
2. Christ is a creature of God. He was the firstborn of all creation, created before all worlds and all things. He is the Creator of the world, but He is not uncreated Himself.
3. Christ is not of the same substance as God. Since He was created, He is not divine like God. He is totally distinct in substance from God for this reason.

The conclusions of the council were critical to preserving the Biblical teaching of our Savior’s person and work. They adopted a statement which affirmed (among other things) the following teachings:

1. Christ is very God of very God. Jesus is God in the same sense in which the Father is God. We may differentiate the Father and the Son in terms of their respective works and the relationship they sustain to each other, but they are equally divine.
2. Christ is of one substance with the Father. He is absolutely equal to the Father in every respect.
3. Christ is begotten not made. Jesus is eternal not created. From eternity He exists as the Son of God.
4. Christ became human for us men and for our salvation. Christ could not have brought salvation if He were only a creature. Salvation can only be accomplished by One who is God.

Almost all the bishops signed on to the creed (including almost all the Arians) so this didn’t settle the controversy, but the formula of Nicaea was a vital affirmation of Biblical truth in a time of great uncertainty. The books of Arius were burned and his followers branded as enemies of Christianity. Phillip Schaff notes that “The council of Nicea is the most important event of the fourth century, and its bloodless intellectual victory over a dangerous error is of far greater consequence to the progress of true civilization, than all the bloody victories of Constantine and his successors.” (vol. III, p. 631).

Good job guys.

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