What was the Council of Nicea?
As the early church was flourishing, many doctrinal disputes rose up and caused conflict within the church. In AD 325, the Roman Emperor Caesar Flavius Constantine felt compelled to resolve these conflicts, so he called a council of church leaders or elders at Nicea, which is a town located in Asia Minor, near Constantinople. The purpose of the Council of Nicea was to eliminate confusion and conflict within the church over certain doctrines.
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One of the main doctrines in dispute was the nature of Jesus Christ. Within the church at that time there were several questions as to Christ's deity. Is He more divine or more human? Was Jesus begotten or created? What does that mean? Is He equal to God the Father, or lower in status? Another question was about the Trinity. What is the Trinity? Is the Father the one true God, or are the Spirit, Jesus Christ and the Father the one true God together somehow?
The Council of Nicea decided the answers to these questions based on the biblical teachings. A priest called Arius argued that Jesus Christ was not an eternal being, but that instead He was created by the Father at a point in time. Other bishops, notably Alexander and a deacon called Athanasius, argued the opposite: Jesus is eternal, and was with the Father "in the beginning" and was the agent by which all things were created (John 1:1-5). Constantine told them to decide the issue by a majority vote. Three hundred bishops were included in the council, and the decision was (by an overwhelming majority) that Jesus Christ is indeed God, based on what is found in Scripture. Their decision and statement of faith became a guidepost for Christianity, called the "Nicene Creed".
The deity and consequent eternality of Christ is found throughout Scripture. In the gospels, we find Jesus claiming to be equal with God by calling himself "I AM" (John 8:58). The Pharisees clearly understood His meaning—they tried to stone him (for blaspheming) (John 8:59). The Apostle Paul said that "in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" and by that he meant Christ is God (Colossians 2:9; 1:19). Jesus is the One to whom we pray for salvation (Romans 10:9-13; Joel 2:32); He is God overall (Romans 9:5); He is our God and Savior (Titus 2:13); and although the worship of angels is forbidden, we are commanded to worship Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:18-19; Revelation 22:8-9). Furthermore, Colossians 1:15-20 says, "He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created … all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. … He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."
There is no doubt, biblically, that Jesus Christ and God the Father (Yeshua and Yahweh) are One. At the Council of Nicea, this truth was publicly acknowledged as church doctrine, and Arius' argument was deemed a heresy.
The Nicene Creed – What is it?
The Athanasian Creed – What is it?
Did Jesus ever claim to be God? Is the deity of Christ biblical?
What is the theological concept of the hypostatic union?
The Apostles' Creed – What is it?
Truth about Everything Else