This past week we started a new series, “We Believe,” which will explore the question: “What do you absolutely need to know in order to be a Christian?” Christianity is a fairly diverse religion: some baptize babies, others only baptize adults; some go to confession, others only confess directly to God through prayer; some say we believe in Christ because we chose to, other say we believe only because God caused us to believe. I don’t want to get into all those issues, although some of them are VERY important. I want to really focus on what’s absolutely essential to believe in order to be saved. We’ll be spending the next few weeks looking at the Nicene Creed (a “Creed” is simply a formal statement of religious belief).
I believe the the Nicene Creed (or, more accurately, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, but that’s a mouthful…) is a great foundation for this series. The Nicene Creed was written in 325AD by 250-320 Christian leaders of the day during the Council of Nicaea in Turkey (the exact number of actual attendees was never accurately recorded, but most figures fall within this range). The Nicene Creed was later refined during the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381AD. The first 300 years of the Christian Church’s life was mostly spent trying to survive and spread the faith. Christians were often killed and ridiculed and persecuted, so there wasn’t much emphasis on formal theological precision until Emperor Constantine protected Christians and called the Council of Nicaea to bring about Christian unity.
Here is the Nicene Creed (slightly modernized):
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 sits on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father 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.
- I love that the Nicene Creed starts off “WE believe.” Our American culture is so individualistic and filled with “Have it your way”-thinking that I find the Nicene Creed incredibly refreshing. When I read and agree with this creed I am identifying with all Christians throughout history. I am a part of something much bigger than myself. My faith is deeply personal, but it is not individualistic or private.
- As Christians, we believe in only one God. We are not polytheistic. We believe in only one God, but that God exists in three equal and distinct Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The Creed is even divided up according to the three Persons of the Trinity. I’ve already written a fairly extensive post about the Trinity, so take a look at that if you want more biblical teaching on the Trinity.
How much have you truly thought about your faith lately? Our love for Christ is not all about being filled up with theological knowledge, but we do need to know what we believe (and we should be able to clearly and confidently explain what we believe… that’s Evangelism 101).