By Becky Harling, Crosswalk.com
The Nicene Creed is deeply rooted in church history. It has been passed down through the ages and has often been recited in Evangelical, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and Catholic churches. It is a foundational declaration of our essential beliefs as Christians. In a world fraught with confusion over what it means to be a “Christian” the Nicene Creed calls us back to the core theology of our faith.
The Origin of the Nicene Creed
The early church was often persecuted and forced into secrecy. On top of the challenges of persecution, the early church of the first three centuries faced challenges of theological disputes.
When Constantine became the ruler of the Roman Empire, He tried to force people to become Christians. However, the church was very fractured in what it believed. To bring about some type of unity within the body of Christ, a council met in the city of Nicaea to determine what the core beliefs were of Christianity. Out of that council came the Nicene Creed. The earliest record of the Nicene Creed’s existence is recorded in a letter written by the council of Milan in 390 A.D.
Since the council’s decision, the Nicene Creed has remained the standard of Christian belief. Great protestant leaders throughout church history such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Bucher, and Melanchthon all affirmed the Nicene Creed and often quoted it in their writings.
Over the past 200 years, many churches particularly in the West stopped using the Nicene Creed. The reasons were varied. Fundamentalists claimed no creed but the Bible. Other evangelicals sacrificed doctrinal clarity in favor of more “seeker-sensitive” church services. Many wrestled with the word, “Catholic” in the prayer even though, the word catholic as used in the Nicene Creed means universal. It does not refer to a specific group.
Many churches today from various denominations and streams of Christianity are re-discovering the Nicene Creed. The statement calls the body of Christ to unity around the core doctrinal beliefs that define our faith. It is filled with deep theological truths about the nature of the Trinity and the finished work of Jesus.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the Nicene Creed, it reads as follows:
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, visible and invisible.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
The only begotten son of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one essence with the Father.
By whom all things were made
and without him was not anything in heaven or Earth made.
He came down from heaven:
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.
Was made man and was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and from Holy Virgin Mary.
Became man, was crucified For our sake in the days of Pontius Pilate;
suffered, died, was buried
And he rose from the dead on the third day as written
in the Holy Scriptures;
ascended in glory into heaven
sat at the right hand of his Father
and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
We believe in the Holy Spirit the life-giving God,
who proceeded from the Father; we worship and glorify Him with the father and the son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
Who was spoken through the Prophets.
And we believe in one holy catholic apostolic Church.
And we believe in one baptism for the remission of sins.
and we wait for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life to come,
world without end.”
The declaration teaches us about the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It reminds believers that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Son of God, begotten of the Father. These assertions are important as many consider, was Jesus really God or only a lesser God? Jesus Himself claimed, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30). It says, “God from God and light from light.” The Father and the Son cannot be separated just as you can’t separate light from light. It also defines the Holy Spirit as the third person of the trinity and the giver of life.
In our day, just as in the days when the council met to decide the essentials of Christianity, many are questioning if Jesus really was God, if the resurrection really happened, if Christ will really return, and if the Holy Spirit is really part of the trinity. For this reason, it is beneficial to return to the Nicene Creed and use it as a guide for our prayers.
Here are 3 reasons it is beneficial to pray the Nicene Creed:
1. Rediscovering Doctrinal Clarity
Research tells us that out of those who call themselves, “Evangelical Christians” shockingly only 47% believe the Biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. Only 44% believe there will be a time when Jesus Christ returns to judge all the people who have lived. Those statistics are staggering! It would seem that many in the church aren’t really convinced of the truth of the gospel. There is an urgency to call people in the church back to sound scriptural doctrine. The Nicene Creed prayer brings us that clarity.
Consider the following phrases of the creed and their roots in Scripture.
“We believe in One God the Father, the Almighty” – Jesus stated the truth when questioned, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mark 12:29).
“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God” – Simon Peter answered Jesus’s question about His identity stating emphatically, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
As we pray, it goes on to say He was crucified and rose again. Jesus foretold His resurrection moments before He raised Lazarus from the dead saying, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). The physician Luke writing about the resurrection told the story of the angel saying to the women who arrived at the tomb, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:5-6). The Apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). In other words, if you don’t believe in the resurrection why bother with faith?
“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life” – Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit saying, “The Spirit gives life” (John 6:63). The Apostle Paul also wrote about the Holy Spirit saying, “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
2. Building Unity
The second benefit of saying a Nicene Creed prayer particularly in church services is that it builds unity. In this age of extreme division, the Nicene Creed unites. Jesus prayed on the night before He was crucified that the church would be unified as one (John 17:20-23). Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglicans all accept and unite around these core doctrinal truths. As we say a Nicene Creed prayer together, we are reminded that believers all around the world and cross denominationally stand in solidarity.
3. Declaring Our Faith
As we move closer to the end times and see the persecution of believers on the rise, affirming our beliefs out loud grows in importance. When we pray together with other believers, boldly proclaiming the essentials of Christianity, our faith is strengthened, and Satan is silenced. There is power in exalting the Father, lifting up the mighty name of Jesus as the only begotten Son of God and glorifying the Holy Spirit as the Giver of life. Praying the Nicene Creed exalts all three members of the Trinity. When the collective body of Christ is proclaiming our praise out loud, Satan flees because he cannot stay where we are exalting the true Godhead.
Further, when we pray the Nicene Creed, corporately, those who are visiting churches and exploring faith will be exposed to sound biblical doctrine. As a result, the Holy Spirit can use the words of the prayer to pierce hearts and draw people to Jesus.
In our day, as many have drifted far from their faith, division has entered the church, and sound biblical doctrine is falling by the wayside, I believe we need to return to the Nicene Creed and once again, verbally affirm the core beliefs of our faith. As we corporately recite a Nicene Creed prayer, we will rediscover doctrinal clarity, build unity, and strengthen our faith.
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Authentic. Passionate. Funny and Biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and other events. She is the author of 11 books including, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, Psalms for the Anxious Heart, and The Extraordinary Power of Praise. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and a seasoned Bible teacher. You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com, www.harlingleadership.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministries, Twitter, @beckyharling, or on Instagram at Becky Harling