One God, the Father (Nicene Creed, #3)
We believe in one God, the Father...
The Creed was written to combat heresies infecting the fourth century church. Of particular concern was the dualistic idea that God (being spirit and thus transcendent), is necessarily separate from the material world, including humanity. This non-biblical worldview, which emerged out of pagan Greek philosophy, was embraced by some influential church leaders. As a result, some denied Jesus' humanity, while others (notably Arius of Alexandria) denied Jesus' divinity. Arius and others also denied that the Holy Spirit was a divine person.
The Council of Nicaea went on the offensive against these heresies, seeking to understand and uphold what Scripture declares to be true of the triune God revealed in and through the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, who...
...Came among us as man; and by what he was as man...revealed to us what he was and is as God. That is to say, without giving up his divine nature, he united himself to us in our human nature so completely, that by living out his divine life within our human life as a real human life he revealed something of the innermost secret of his own divine life as Son of the Father (T.F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, p55).In Jesus, all dualistic views of God and of the world (including humanity) are obliterated. In his divinity, Jesus shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit the one being of God. Thus our knowledge of the Father and of the Holy Spirit coincide in the person of Jesus, who as Torrance notes, is "the very reality of God in his self-communication to us" (p63). Jesus said it very simply: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus reveals God because Jesus is God.
The Nicaean Council wrestled to understand, accurately communicate, and thus defend this trinitarian revelation. Its profound assertions state that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though not the same person, share the one being of the one God. Said another way, God who is one in being, is three in person.
Though we barely have begun the Creed, already we are confessing that there is "one God," and that this one God is tri-personal. Thus, the Creed immediately asserts the identity of the first person of the Trinity, who is
"the Father." Torrance comments:
"...The very center of saving faith is belief not merely in God, but in God as Father; not merely in Christ but in Christ as the Son of God... It is understanding of the Fatherhood of God, mediated in and through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, his beloved Son, that governs all that is truly thought and said of God (p77).And that includes what is thought and said of God in his work, including his work of creation. This is the issue that the Creed next addresses. We'll pick it up there next time as we explore the Nicene Creed.