Tuesday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

The Nicene Creed

Homoousios

Being of one substance with the Father

Believe it or not, this was the most contested line in the Creed at Nicaea in 325.  For a little history, there was a man named Arius, a priest in the Alexandrian Church, who taught that “there was a time when the Son was not”; that is, that the Son of God was not coeternal with the Father.  Such is an explicit denial of the doctrine of the Trinity understood as three distinct co-equal persons of the one Godhead.  Arius was able to sway many Christians to his opinion and was actually known to be a “godly” man.  Always remember, it is never only believing the right things or only doing the right things but both that make one a Christian.  Many an atheist has lived a good life; many a doctrinally-correct preacher has been a hypocrite.  We must live the true faith.

Besides misrepresenting God’s Triune nature, the greatest scandal of Arian theology is its complete destruction of the doctrine of salvation.  The Bible teaches that we are saved through the Son’s taking our humanity upon himself and thus in-fleshing himself as the Son of Man (John 1:1-14).  He must be God to save us and he must be man to take our place on the cross.  Arius threw both of these into question as he made Christ out to be something in between—neither God nor man but a superman.  Salvation was thus reduced to being a good person as one followed Christ’s example—hardly a recipe of encouragement for sinners.

Much of the language of the Creed could be fudged; for instance, “Son of God” could be interpreted to mean a son by adoption as the Father was pleased by Jesus’ behavior.  Indeed, it was to settle this very controversy that the Council at Nicaea was called by the Emperor Constantine.  The bishops wanted a term that could not be interpreted in some “Heinz 57 Varieties” sort of way.  They settled on the word, ομοουσιος (homoousios), a Greek word meaning, “same substance” (or essence).  They wanted it understood that the Son was of the very same nature and essence as the Father; in other words, whatever the Father is, the Son is—which is, of course, God.  The bishops did not pretend to know the essence of God; they just declared that the Son shared that same essence with the Father.

In so doing, those bishops could not have chosen a better word.  Homoousios was established as Christian doctrine, and we are very grateful.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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