Among the Christian churches of the fourth century A.D. a great battle was taking place. It was a DOCTRINAL CIVIL WAR. Those who believed that Christ was God battled against the followers of Arius. The great opponent of Arius was a champion of the faith by the name of ATHANASIUS (c.296-373 – Bishop of Alexandria, wrote the famous treatise “On the Incarnation”).
For most of his adult life Athanasius fought steadfastly and unrelentingly against the Arian false teaching. He became the great defender of the deity of Christ. He believed that man’s salvation depended on this truth. Athanasius believed this was impossible for Christ to save man if He were less than God.
Athanasius bravely defended the true faith and he paid a price for this. Five times he was banished from his home city of Alexandria. He spent a total of 20 years in exile. HE was finally restored in 366. His great “crime” was that he firmly and uncompromisingly believed that Jesus Christ was God. The passion of his life was to defend and vindicate the doctrine of the deity of Christ.
The Council of Nicea was called by Constantine to settle this issue of whether Christ was God. There were 318 bishops (church leaders) in attendance. The party of Athanasius was victorious and the views of Arius were condemned.
This council wrote a CREED (statement of faith) which was the first official declaration (not including Scripture…see the references below) of the deity of Christ. Here is the Nicene Creed with Scripture references:
The Nicene Creed with Scripture References
We believe in ONE God, (Deuteronomy 6: 4, Ephesians 4: 6)
Father, (Matthew 6: 9)
Almighty, (Exodus 6: 3)
Maker of Heaven and Earth, (Genesis 1: 1)
and of all things visible and invisible. (Colossians 1: 15-16)
And in ONE Lord Jesus Christ, (Acts 11: 17)
Son of God, (Mathew 14: 33; 16: 16)
Only-Begotten, (John 1: 18; 3: 16)
Begotten of the Father before all ages. (John 1: 2)
Light from Light; (Psalm 27: 1; John 8: 12; Matthew 17: 2,5)
True God from True God; (John 17: 1-5)
Begotten, not made; (John 1: 18)
of one essence with the Father (John 10: 30)
through whom all things were made; (Hebrews 1: 1-2)
Who for us men and for our salvation (1 Timothy 2: 4-5)
came down from heaven, (John 6: 33,35)
and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary (Luke 1: 35)
and became man. (John 1: 14)
And He was crucified for us (Mark 15: 25; 1 Corinthians 15: 3)
under Pontius Pilate, (John 19: 6)
suffered, (Mark 8: 31)
and was buried. (Luke 23: 53; 1 Corinthians 15: 4)
And on the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures, (Luke 24: 1 1 Corinthians 15: 4)
and ascended into heaven, (Luke 24: 51; Acts 1: 10)
and sits at the right hand of the Father; (Mark 16: 19; Acts 7: 55)
and He shall come again with glory (Matthew 24: 27)
to judge the living and the dead; (Acts 10: 42; 2 Timothy 4: 1)
Whose Kingdom shall have no end. (2 Peter 1: 11)
And in the Holy Spirit, (John 14: 26)
Lord, (Acts 5: 3-4)
Giver of Life, (Genesis 1: 2)
Who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; (John 15: 26)
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; (Matthew 3: 16-17)
Who spoke through the prophets. (1 Samuel 19: 20; Ezekiel 11: 5,13)
In one, (Matthew 16: 18)
holy, (1 Peter 2: 5,9)
Church. (Acts 2: 42; Ephesians 2: 19-22)
We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. (Ephesians 4: 5; Acts 2: 38)
We look for the resurrection of the dead, (John 11: 24; 1 Corinthians 15: 12-49; Hebrews 6: 2; Revelation 20: 5)
and the life in the age to come. (Mark 10: 29-30)
The decision of this council did not solve all the problems. The doctrines of Arius continued to be taught and spread years after this council met. Even the sons of Constantine followed these particular teachings, and today Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to teach the doctrines of Arius.
Do you have questions about church history I can help you with? Contact me or leave them in the comments.