The Christian’s Heritage!
Council of Nicea
On May 20 in the year 325,
the Christian Church entered
a new experience. At the
behest of the Roman
Emperor Constantine, the
empire that persecuted the
Church for almost 300 years
was now facilitating and
financing the first ecumenical
or worldwide gathering of
Their purpose was to decide
and define the meaning of
Christ’s divinity. Was He really
God or was Jesus less than
God? The initiative for the
congress came from Emperor
Constantine, who was
friendly to the church, and his
reign coincided with the need of the Church to settle
rising differences about the nature and character of
Jesus. The conference was called in Nicea, close to
Constantine’s military headquarters.
Constantine gathered the churchmen because he
wanted them to come to some agreement on the
crucial questions dividing them. “Division in the
church,” he said, “is worse than war.” Constantine
recognized that a divided Church, whose faith and
precepts he had made the national religion of the
empire, were beginning to affect law and society
through its doctrinal division.
The crucial debate centered on the nature of the Lord
Jesus Christ. The theological issue before the council
concerned what exactly was meant by “Son of God,”
“The Word” or “Logos” and “One with the Father.”
However the real problem that needed to be settled
concerned the teaching of Arius of Alexander. He held
that Jesus was completely subordinate to the Father
and was NOT one with Him. There were other alternative challenges as well, but this one in particular was
gathering acceptance and proving decisive for the
Church community. Arius argued that Jesus was not
one and co-equal with God and he reduced Jesus in
status to something less. If this was true, the question
was how could Jesus who was less than God, but not
human, impart salvation to humanity?
Arius’ arguments had entangled the Church for 7 years
before the conference at
Nicea. Delegates gathered
from across the church
world. Bishops from Persia,
Rome, Alexandria, Spain, and
modern-day Turkey met and
debated just who Jesus was.
The council’s deliberations
were decisive in every way.
Its definition of Christ’s
nature and person were
clear. After extended debate,
all but two bishops at the
council agreed upon a creed
that confessed faith “in one
Lord Jesus Christ, . . . true
God of true God.” The importance of the council was
crucial since it settled not only who Jesus was, but also
His work as Savior. This was all the more important
because, although Arius had great respect for Jesus,
his refusal to acknowledge Jesus as “One Lord Jesus
Christ, . . . true God of true God,” was leading people
The fact that this council was chaired by the emperor
of the Empire that for 300 years had sought to snuff
out Christianity, gave the decisions substance and
recognition across the whole of the Roman Empire.
For these reasons Nicea was a great turning point in
Church history. It settled forever within the Christian
community the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ and the
efficacy of His redemptive work.
Constantine was pleased, thinking the issue was
settled. However, there was a lengthy struggle over
imperial power and theological language for the next
century, which later culminated in the Council at
Chalcedon in Asia Minor (today’s Turkey), which will
be covered in next month’s newsletter.
What is remarkable is that God used the very Empire
and authority of Rome which had crucified His Son
and persecuted His church for over 300 years, to
gather, debate, agree and then announce the Lordship
of Christ. Isn’t He amazing?
In the very things in which they behaved proudly He
was above them!