The Nicene Creed

The Nicene creed was written around A.D. 325. It was adopted in the face of the Arian controversy. Arius, a Libyan presbyter in Alexandria, had declared that although the Son was divine, he was a created being and therefore not equal with the Father. He made the statement “there was when he was not.” This belief made Jesus less than the Father, which posed challenges to the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of salvation. The Nicene creed was a response to this challenge and a correction to his error.

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
and all that is seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Nicene creed builds on and elaborates the Apostle’s Creed. Paramount in this creed is the explanation of the person of Christ and his relation to the father. The creed also elaborates on the saving work of the Son, the person and role of the Spirit, and things pertaining to the church. I will highlight a few of these key areas.

  • The Son of God is unique in his dependence on the Father– He is “eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” This creedal statement has created a lot of discussion and debate throughout church history. The doctrine here described has been called “eternal generation.” A.A. Hodge attempts to put this mystery into words. Eternal generation is “an eternal personal act of the Father wherein, by necessity of nature, not by choice of will, He generates the person (not the essence) of the Son, by communicating to Him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead, without division, alienation, or change, so that the Son is the express image of His Father’s person, and eternally continues, not from the Father, but in the Father, and the Father in the Son.”
  • The Son of God is unique in his equality with the Father– The creed clarifies and balances the previous statement when it says that the Son was “begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.” The doctrine of “eternal generation” does not call into question the absolute equality of the Father and Son. They share the identical nature and essence. The Son knows no beginning, he has always been. He has always shared everything with the Father.
  • The Son of God is unique in his role as Creator– The creed specifies the Son’s key role in creation: “Through him all things were made.” This is a new and important addition to the Apostle’s creed that further establishes the deity of the Son.
  • The Son of God in his unique role as Redeemer– The creed frames the saving work of Christ in a fresh way. “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” The humility of the incarnation and the empowering of the Holy Spirit are center stage in this description of Christ’s mighty work.
  • The Holy Spirit is unique in his role as Life-Giver– The creed identifies the Spirit as the “Lord,” equal to the Father and Son. As the Lord, he is the “giver of life.” It is the Spirit’s vocation to breathe life and sustain it. We see this in both creation and new creation.
  • The Holy Spirit is unique in his relationship to the Father and Son– The Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” This is another phrase that has produced a lot of discussion, debate and significant conflict. The doctrine here has been called the “procession of the Holy Spirit.” A.A. Hodge explains the teaching. Procession refers to “the relation which the third person sustains to the first and second, wherein by an eternal and necessary, i.e., not voluntary, act of the Father and the Son, their whole identical divine essence, without alienation, division, or change, is communicated to the Holy Spirit.”
  • The Holy Spirit is a proper object of our worship– The creed recognizes that worship necessarily follows the affirmation of deity. The Spirit is worthy of worship alongside the Father and Son.“With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.”
  • The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets– The creed affirms the Spirit’s role in the speech of the prophets and by extension the inspiration of Scripture. “He has spoken through the Prophets.”
  • The link between baptism and forgiveness– This creed, unlike any previous, addresses baptism. It also draws a link between forgiveness and baptism. “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”
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Rhythm of Life: Orientation, Disorientation, Reorientation

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine today. We were discussing the value of transparency before God and neighbor. As we talked it was refreshing to speak openly about the rhythms and seasons of life in a fallen world. We got onto discussing Walter Brueggemann’s work on the Psalms and his paradigm for life’s rhythms. I have pulled together a helpful summary from a few different sources that capture Brueggeman’s thoughts on the matter. I have found this framework quite helpful and very true to life.

Brueggemann has developed a very intriguing way of categorizing the Psalms and bringing them into our own personal lives. In his book entitled Praying the Psalms he suggests that the psalms reflect two very basic movements in everyone’s life.

The first is the move into the “pit”. It happens when our world collapses around us and we feel that there is no way out of the deep hole into which we have sunk. The second is the move out of the pit into a welcome place. We suddenly understand what has happened and who has brought us up out of the pit.

Brueggemann further suggests that human beings regularly find themselves in one of three places:

  1. a place of orientation, in which everything makes sense in our lives;
  2. a place of disorientation, in which we feel we have sunk into the pit; and
  3. a place of new orientation, in which we realize that God has lifted us out of the pit and we are in a new place full of gratitude and awareness about our lives and our God.

Using these three “places,” Brueggemann suggests that life has a rhythm as we move from one place to the next. He believes that that psalms match those places and the surprisingly painful and joyful moves we make. In short, there are psalms of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation. Recognizing that different psalms match these three places in our lives can help us identify psalms that fit our personal lives.

Brueggemann helpfully categorizes the psalms around this larger scheme. By doing so he gives believers moving through the three-fold cycle a voice and framework for engaging God. The Psalms are a sufficient resource to enable robust faith in the face of any situation.

Orientation


  • Creation – in which we consider the world and our place in it
  • Torah – in which we consider the importance of God’s revealed will
  • Wisdom – in which we consider the importance of living well
  • Narrative – in which we consider our past and its influence on our present
  • Psalms of Trust – in which we express our trust in God’s care and goodness

Disorientation


  • Lament – in which we/I express anger, frustration, confusion about the experience of God’s absence (both communal and individual laments)
  • Penitential – in which we/I express regret and sorrow over wrongs we have done (both communal and individual penitential psalms)

Reorientation


  • Thanksgiving – in which we thank God for what God has done for us/me (both communal and individual thanksgiving psalms)
  • Hymns of Praise – in which we praise God for who God is
  • Zion Psalms – in which we praise God for our home
  • Royal Psalms – in which we consider the role of political leadership
  • Covenant Renewal – in which we renew our relationship with God

If you are interested in his full discussion of this topic you can read it here: Psalms and the Life of Faith. If you skip right to page 6 you will see these three categories. Feel free to comment, I would love to dialogue with you about this paradigm.

The Cross as Shape of Worship

Worship is not confined to a time, place, or event. New Covenant worship encompasses the whole of our existence. All of life is to be understood under the rubric of worship. The New Testament views our lives as one incessant sacrificial offering to God. Since the fall, sacrifice has always been central to worship. Worship that is pleasing to God is cross-shaped. In other words, worship is a lifestyle of sacrifice for the good of one’s neighbor to the glory of God. A cruciform existence is synonymous with a life of worship.

The Cross as Content of Worship

The cross grounds our worship and shapes our worship. God’s revelation of himself came in cruciform shape and so our worship of him takes on the same form. The two primary themes of worship are God our Creator and God our Redeemer. At the cross creation and redemption flow into one. We behold God making all things new through the redemption of the world. Though we await the fulness of all things new when they do become new it will simply be the full outworking of what was initiated at the cross. Eternity will echo with songs centered on the slain and risen the Lamb. The cross and the crucified God upon it stands at the heart of our worship.

The Cross as Ground of Worship

Jesus at worship on the cross offering himself for us is the ground of our worship of him and the Father by the Spirit. The gospel provides access and foundation for approaching the throne of grace with praise on our lips. Any approach toward God apart from the mediatorial work of Christ is unacceptable. The worship of God through Christ is at one and the same time an affirmation of the perfect and sufficient mediatorial work of Christ and the rejection of any other mediator. We were created for worship, but sin has left us in idolatrous worship. The only way we can worship aright once again is through the gospel that transforms our hearts, welcomes us into the presence of God, and compels us to praise the One who is truly worthy of our worship. The cross is the solid ground of our worship.

The Cross as Worship

The book of Hebrews instructs us that Christ is both priest and sacrifice. He makes the perfect offering of himself to God on behalf of our sin. This priestly activity is rooted in the Old Testament activity of worship. At the cross the Lord Jesus is at worship. He is honoring the Father through his perfect obedience and his blameless sacrifice. His life was a life of worship and at the cross his worship reaches a crescendo. It is an astonishing thing to view the cross as a pure act of worship. Christ offers his body as a sacrifice—this is his pleasing and acceptable expression of worship. It was this expression of worship that saved you and me.