By Phil Stokes
In 325 AD the people who gave us the bible in its current form also gave us an incredible summary of what they had come to understand about the nature of God and of his eternal purposes.
The Nicene Creed is declared in every Christian denomination worldwide. It brings together all the main themes of Christianity and unites the worldwide body of Christ with a proclamation of Gods relational nature and single purpose in seeking our highest good.
Jesus gathered his Jewish audience and told a story saying; ‘this is what God is like. (Jewish audience thinks ‘this is interesting; we already know what God is like. God is One and God is Father of the nation, so what is this rabbi going to add?’)
“God is like a wealthy father who had two sons.’ says Jesus. ‘One day the youngest son came to the father and asked for his inheritance, (gasps from the audience… this isn’t even the eldest, and he’s wishing his father dead! What will the father do? Surely he will punish the boy, or put him on gruel for a week).
Jesus continues; ‘The father, with great sadness, responds by giving the son his share of the money, and the son leaves town. He wastes it all on expensive camels (and much worse) and eventually finds himself utterly penniless. He gets a job feeding pigs’, (Jewish audience faints with horror and disgust at this point). ‘He is so hungry that even the pig food starts looking tasty. Eventually he thinks: ‘In my fathers house even the servant are well fed.. I will return and ask him to at least make me a servant’. So he sets out, rehearsing his speech, and when he get home he finds that his father has been waiting for him with his eyes on the horizon. The father runs to greet him and, without giving him a chance to either explain or apologise, embraces the son and robes him and places sandals on his feet and gives him the family credit card (a ring).
The audience by this time is quite possibly in need of CPR after trying to compute the idea that God is such a forgiving and all embracing father. This is likely not the God they had been taught about nor imagined, let alone had any personal experience of.
There are many ‘gods’ present in the popular imagination, and sometimes we entertain the idea of a God who is less than love, or we believe that we are beyond God’s love or compassion. What we believe about God is so important. It affects everything that we think, everything we say, and everything we do. It affects all our relationships. Jesus declared that the work that the father has given us is to believe in the one whom he has sent. In other words. we are to straighten out our thinking with regard to what God is like. That does indeed take some work, for we are surrounded by a culture that would have us believe in all sorts of ‘gods’.
You may or may not not like creeds, but do not dismiss such an ancient and globally unifying creed too lightly. There is one God, declares the Nicene Creed, and he is named as a Father before he is called Almighty. Jesus affirms that he is a good, good Father, whose embrace we can experience when we turn our face from the dirt. This is both unique and wonderful.
WE BELIEVE in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
What I believe we shall see through the remainder of this series on the Nicene Creed is that the foundations of our faith are reliably attested to.