It was on this day, August 25th, in the year 325 A.D., that the Council of Nicea concluded its meetings and came to a determination about the deity of Christ. Now I know that sounds a little crazy. Who are we to be in a position to question God and to propose something so arrogant as to even suggest that Jesus wasn’t God? But that is exactly what happened and it was quite a lively council with banter back and forth about this important question regarding Jesus and his position as God.
Even today, there are many religions and denominations that don’t recognize that Jesus is God. People believe that He was born a man and is human only in form. Others believe that He was born a man and later became a god. Notice that I used a small “g” when talking about becoming a “god.” That’s because as Trinitarians, we believe that there is only one God (capital G) and that Jesus is not one of many “gods” as was the belief in ancient Egypt. And there are those who don’t share a Trinitarian belief in the Godhead – that is, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God – represented by three different entities who together are One God – the only God.
But back to the Council. There had been much debate about whether Jesus was God or not. Constantine I had come to a belief in God years before, did not want to see the church divided. So somewhere between 250 and 330 bishops attended the conference, with most theologians and historians agreeing that there were 318 church leaders present. The purpose was to come to agreement so the Council could issue a statement that could be adopted throughout the land.
Arius, the architect of the position that Jesus was created by God, and therefore not equal to God the Father, had initial strong support for his position. Admittedly, there were threats against some of those who wouldn’t or couldn’t adopt the majority opinion that Jesus was co-equal with God. In other words, most of the representatives believed that Jesus and God were of the same homoousia – sometimes translated as “consubstantial” – meaning that they were of the same substance – think DNA. God the Father and Jesus were of the exact same substance and co-equal.
Originally, 19 bishops refused to adopt this position but excommunication and other forms of threatened punishment were used to persuade a majority of the dissenters to re-consider their vote and eventually the group came to an understanding. They voted to issue language that recognized the Trinitarian theology that most of us subscribe to today.
There were other issues, such as discussions on the date of Easter, that were talked about but did not come to be decided. The deity of Jesus was the most talked about topic – by far!
At the conclusion of the Council, Arius was banished from the church, his writings were ordered burned and he suffered the punishment of anathema. In some more conservative circles, this is even worse than excommunication. In other words, all records of the person and their relationship to the church are erased or destroyed. No record remains. They cease to exist in the eyes of the church or, more correctly, they never existed in the eyes of the church.
From this Council, we have the Nicean Creed that addresses the Father, Son and Holy Spirit although only several words (5) are dedicated to the Holy Spirit. By far, the greatest emphasis was placed on the position of Jesus in the Godhead.
Our verse for tonight is a short one from the apostle John. In his Gospel, John tells us the words of Jesus Himself, in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” That’s it. Jesus claims that he is the same as God. Of the same homoousia – the same DNA. Who are we to dispute that?
My encouragement tonight is that Jesus is our advocate before His Father and Jesus will never lose us, leave us or betray us. My prayer is that we will all realize that Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit are in complete unity and Oneness. And God loves us more than we can ever possibly know. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…