Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, January 20, 2011 2:44 pm
The Messenger, January 20, 2011
The First Council
of Constantinople, Part I
By DEON BARNES
Special to The Messenger
It was during the First Council of Nicaea that the church formulated the Nicene Creed, strengthening its position on the truths found in scripture concerning Christ and His deity. However, this is not the Nicene Creed most of us are familiar with and that we recite during worship today. The Nicene Creed many of us recite was actually a product of the First Council of Constantinople.
To understand this, we must briefly revisit some of the occurrences during the First Council of Nicaea, discussed in previous articles. (If you missed these articles, you can find them at http://graceunioncity.com/resources/gcc-in-the-news.)
One of the main outcomes of the First Council of Nicaea was the denunciation of the teachings of Arius. Arius believed and taught that Christ was a creature: created by God, not God Himself, and, in fact, inferior to God. The First Council of Nicaea deemed Arius a heretic and banished him from the church.
Ten short years later, a gathering of church officials exonerated Arius and deemed his teachings true and proper, a testimony to how quickly the church can become corrupt. In 336 AD, Arius died — but his teachings did not. His students and followers carried the torch, and within 50 years the general mass of the population believed Arius’ teachings as gospel truth.
Just prior to 381 AD, a new emperor came to the throne. Emperor Theodosius I worked toward the justification of the church and a return to the truths found in scripture. In the city of Constantinople lived Maximus, the hierarchal bishop and controller of the church. Maximus, who had been an adamant follower of Arius, was relieved of his position, and the reins of the church were handed over to Gregory Nazianzus.
Gregory was the leader of a small remnant of Nicene believers. This shift in power resulted in an uproar among the people, who for the past 50 years had heard nothing but Arius’ point of view. To settle the dispute among the people, Emperor Theodosius I convened the First Council of Constantinople.
Present at this council were 150 bishops, and many of the decisions of this council concerned rules about boundaries and differing responsibilities of bishops within the church. However, the climax of the meeting was the reaffirmation of the Nicene Creed, with additions created to lessen the intrusion of liberal thought and to strengthen the true meaning of the church’s creed.
It’s worth mentioning that the majority of the people during this time were uneducated and could not read. They were completely at the mercy of the teachers within the church and had no other choice but to believe whatever came from the pulpit.
Today, the situation is worse. People have the ability to read, and many have the Word of God sitting somewhere within the confines of their home — however, many choose not to read and are thereby ignorant of what the Bible contains. As a result, they also are wandering sheep and are completely at the mercy of whatever comes from the pulpit. They have no Biblical background from which to discern truth from fiction.
Next week, we’ll dissect the newly revived creedal statement from the First Council of Constantinople and discuss the importance of the additions it contains.
Editor’s note: Deon Barnes serves as a ruling elder of Grace Community Church (PCA) in Troy and is a candidate for the ministry in Covenant Presbytery.