The Nicene Creed asserts the belief of the Trinity (that God is three persons in one being - Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
This statement of faith confesses the Father as God and cites two important attributes:-
He is all-powerful ("Almighty")
He is the creator - the maker of all things
Jesus is declared as both completely human ("he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man") and fully God ("true God from true God"). There is a long tradition of pseudo-Christian faiths that do not agree with one (or both) of these important statements of faith. For example, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (commonly known as the "Jehovah's Witnesses"), whilst considering Christ to be the Son of God (and the Archangel Michael in Jesus' pre-human epoch) do not believe that Christ is divine. The Nicene creed further asserts the divinity of Christ in the confession of Him as creator ("Through him all things were made"). This is a reference to the Apostle Paul's writing in Colossians:
The action of Christ as creator attests to His divinity in two ways:-
For in him (Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him".
(Col 1:16 NIV)
Only God (and hence Christ) is the creator of all things (Gen 1:1
Christ created ALL things. (Col 1:18) Hence Christ is not a created being, as Christ created everything. He also can not be an angel or archangel as these are all beings created by God. He can only be God Himself. Furthermore, Christ is of one being (or "consubstantial") with the Father. This has scriptural resonance when we consider that Christ says of His relationship with the Father "I and the Father are One" (John 10:30, NIV
) and God is often recorded as acting in the plural in the Old Testament
, for example, in Genesis 1:26 God says "Let us make man in our image". The confession of this creed explicitly refutes the claims of Arianism
, a view popularised by Arius in around AD 300 that the Father is pre-eminent over the Son, and that Christ is a created being.
The Creed also declares Christ to be fully human
, and this confession devotes several lines to His humanity - He was born, he suffered. and he died. However, unlike any other human, he defeated death and he lives again, and He will also come again as the perfect Judge - demonstrating once more that Christ is both man and God.
The Holy Spirit
The Nicene Creed devotes about twenty lines to Christ and only four to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps this is because less is understood about this mysterious third person of the Trinity. However, the fact that the Holy Spirit is declared as co-equal with God is important (He is to be "worshipped and glorified"), as the Spirit of God is more than just a "force" or "power" but is also a person who can be grieved (Eph 4:30
). The creed also declares the Spirit to be the revealer of truth ("He has spoken through the Prophets").
The last four lines
The last four lines
of the confession are the only lines in the whole Creed that do not deal directly with the Trinity.
"We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church"
This is known as the Four Marks of the Church
One, holy, catholic and apostolic:-
- Christ's body on earth (the Church) is one body, mirroring the nature of God as One (One Lord, one God, one father etc - Eph 4:5-6
- The Church is holy because it has been founded by Christ (Math 16:18
- the word Catholic means universal - this refers to all the believers in Christ through all times.
- the Church is founded on the early apostles and their teaching's about Christ.
After a believer is baptised, the creed exhorts him or her to look forwards to the resurrection of dead and the life eternal. The apostle Paul compares the resurrection of Christ's body with the resurrection of the believers bodies in Romans 15:12-57
anticipating a time when, by the work of Christ, "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (Rom 15:54, NIV).