Truth we Confess: The Nicene Creed

nicene wordle

This week, and for the upcoming weeks through Christmas, we will be using the Nicene Creed during our confession of faith. Here I would like to post the creed itself, a little history about it, and why we are using it.

First, why creeds?

A Creed is simply a statement of belief. A creed is saying, “We believe…” As Christians what we believe is tremendously important. We are a people who confess our faith. We believe and confess that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 10:9). This same Jesus promised that he would build His Church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). We believe that Jesus has kept his word.

This has not been without challenges however. Every age throughout church history has its challenges and in every age the truth abides, unchanged. We see evidence of this in history as the church has developed creeds and confessions to accurately define and defend God’s Word. These creeds have a nice way of distilling down some essentials for Christian faith (we believe more than this but we cannot believe less). In light of this, we joyfully stand along side our brothers and sisters in Christ and affirm many of the historic creeds that we believe accurately reflect the teachings of God’s Word. When we read these creeds and consider their content it helps us remember that we are not the first Christians, that the truth is important, and that God is faithful.

What is the history of the Nicene Creed?

In 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea, Eusebius of Caesarea proposed an ancient baptismal creed of his church as a means of resolving the Arian controversy (the Arian controversy maintained that Jesus did not have the same essence or being as God—he was not eternal God). The creed then came to be a confession of faith in the biblical teaching of who Christ is and what he has done for us. The creed is beautiful and simple. It has long been accepted throughout church history (by Protestants and Catholics alike) because it does not go into the detail of some of the key items that brought about the reformation (i.e. justification by faith alone and sola scriptura).

Are there dangers with using creeds?

Many people have experience in settings where creeds and statements were read with a very low (if any) level of engagement. The problem here of course is not with the content but the one who is reading and considering it. We must thoughtfully engage with what is being confessed in order to benefit from it. We don’t become mature by osmosis. Similar to the songs we sing, we must engage our minds and hearts as well as our mouths to benefit. Similar to our music there can be a danger of elevating the words of men above the words of Scripture then we have not only become unhelpful but sinful (Mk. 7). Christians must remember the place and purpose of creeds. They serve and never supplant the Scripture. Aware of this danger, Christians have, for centuries valued the creeds as helpful guides to distill, define, and defend what the Bible teaches. This has been an extremely valuable practice for Christians, particularly of the Reformed heritage.

What is the Nicene Creed?

We believe in one God, the Father, Ruler of all, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from the Father before all time; Light, from Light, true God from true God; begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father, through Whom all things were made; Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made a man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried, and rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father. He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; His kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who is worshiped and glorified together with the Father and Son, and Who spoke through the Prophets.

And we believe that there is one holy, universal and apostolic church. We confess 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.

Some Considerations:

Belief in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is an essential part of biblical faith. Christians are Trinitarian (we believe in the Trinity).

We read here:

Jesus is God, he existed before he was born in Bethlehem.
Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and lived as a man.
Jesus died for our sins.
Jesus died on the cross for our sins, rose again from the dead, and is enthroned at the right hand of God.
The Holy Spirit is also God and receives worship as God.
There is one true, universal church (some of the older translations say “catholic” this is a synonym for universal).
We look ahead toward the resurrection of our bodies and eternal life.

You might stumble over the word, “baptism for the remission of sins” but this should not be understood as be saved by the act of baptism but rather the truth that baptism and confession of faith in Christ occur so closely together and that baptism symbolizes what has happened spiritually when one is born again by grace alone through faith alone (cf. Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21).

The Nicene creed was an appropriate response to false teaching of the past, and it remains a useful means to help guard the church against false teaching that might occur in the future. It is our prayer that as we read and consider the creed together that we would be encouraged to stand together with those in history who confessed these precious truths.