The Nicene Creed
The year that Jesus became God, in Christian doctrine, is very precise. In mid-325 AD, a council of Christian bishops convened in the city of Nicaea (now known as the town of İznik, in modern day Turkey). One of the main objectives of this meeting was to settle the longstanding theological debate regarding the nature of Jesus and his relationship to God. Settlement of the debate was effected by the creation of the Nicene Creed, a statement of beliefs now widely used in Christian liturgy.
With the creation of the creed, a precedent was established for subsequent local and regional councils of Bishops to create statements of belief and canons of doctrinal orthodoxy. The intention was to define unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.
The Nicene Creed, drawn up over 300 hundred years after Jesus’ birth, introduced, as church theology, the following dogma: “that God is one God, but three co-eternal consubstantial persons or hypostases – the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as “one God in three Divine Persons“. Jesus was thereafter referred to as “God-the-Son”, as part of a Triune Godhead, with God being referred to as “God-the-Father”.
This dogma had not been preached or taught by the early apostolic church. Neither was it a concept of Judiasm, from which Christianity had sprung. Judiasm and Christianity, until now, shared practically identical beliefs in relation to God, including His role as creator of all things, His personality, His supremacy and His unity (“One-ness”).
The Old Testament Doctrine Of God’s One-ness
Unlike other ancient Near Eastern gods, the Hebrew God is portrayed in the Old Testament as unitary and solitary. The Old Testament therefore expresses the ideas of ethical monotheism: the belief that God is one and is concerned with the actions and outcomes of mankind.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4, ESV
“Know therefore this day and take to heart that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:39, ESV
“You alone are the LORD. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all things, and the heavenly host worships You.” – Nehemiah 9:6, BSB
This Old Testament understanding is taught and reaffirmed throughout the New Testament countless times.
“When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.” (directly quoting Nehemiah 9:6) – Acts 4:24, NIV
“One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”- Ephesians 4:6, ESV
“Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” – 1 Corinthians 8:6, ESV
From Old Testament times through to early apostolic times, the belief in God’s one-ness, as distinct and separate from the son, Jesus Christ, was both taught and preached and formed an integral part of early, first century Christian doctrine.
What Do We Know About Jesus Christ?
The word of God is the prime source of revelation and knowledge in relation to who Jesus is, his mission and his purpose. He is mentioned in other historical documents, but without any particular detail as to his purpose or origin. Only in the Bible, God’s inspired word, is found extensive facts and information necessary to understand who Jesus is and why he came.
The gospels are very clear on the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, and not the son of a human man. Numerous other biblical texts allude to this same fact and that his birth would be a ‘virgin birth’.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be borne will be called holy—the Son of God.” Luke 1:30-35, ESV”
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14, ESV
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” – Galatians 4:4, ESV
Galatians 4, together with other Bible passages, expands on what Jesus’ purpose was to be, that is: “to redeem those who were under the law.” Being a suitable redeemer was a hugely important detail in God’s plan and only a redeemer “made like unto his brethren” would suffice*.
Jesus Was Human Yet Not A Mere Man
Jesus was human, born of a human mother. Yet no human father was involved in his conception. Instead, the power of the most High God, God’s Holy Spirit, moved and, in the same way that creation sprang into being at God’s command (Genesis 1), so God’s Word was the animating force for the conception of His son. “God said” and it was so!
“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” – Psalm 33:6, ERV
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” John 1:14 NIV
The gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus was the Son of God because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the power of the Highest. The gospel of John, however, adds new insight and depth concerning the coming of the Son of God. John tells us that Jesus was the Son of God because he was God’s Word – the mind and character of God – made flesh. In this way, the promised Son of God could accurately be called Emmanuel, which literally means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
In each case, what’s very clear is that no mere human action could achieve this and that God was intimately involved in the conception of this child.
Jesus was human but not a mere man; the Bible doesn’t teach that. What the Bible does reveal is that Jesus was uniquely and truly the Son of God.
Jesus – The Word Made Flesh
Never does the Bible claim that Jesus is God. On the contrary, it constantly confirms his identity as the truly unique Son of God, the incarnate Word of God (Mark 1:1, Luke 1:35, John 1:34, John 1:49, John 11:27, Matthew 27:54) and Jesus clearly implies it (John 10:36, John 11:27). In fact, the charge bought against Jesus at his trial was that “he claimed to be the Son of God“, a claim he never denies (Matthew 27:43; John 19:7).
The way in which John tells us this great truth is itself a door to a larger understanding. God’s Word is the mind of God, entirely self consistent in content and quality. It has the quality of God himself and does not exist without Him. The universe around us came into being by the Word of God. Creation is the Word of God made tangible or visible. Before even creation commenced, it existed in plan and potential in the mind of God. God had seen it before ever it was made. He knew, He willed and it was. The Word which God spoke expressed God’s purpose and intent, and, sent forth by His spirit, would accomplish what God had determined. Within this revealed Word of God, indeed the very heartspring of it and the foundation of everything, was the purpose of God in Christ. Christ was the pre-eminent purpose in the mind of God, he was the promise within God’s purpose, that which gave pattern to everything.” – Harry Tennant
Jesus affirmed this profound, yet simple, truth when he says, “I and my father are one” (John 10:30) and “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).
Finally, Jesus asks his disciples, his closest companions, who they believed him to be and he confirms the accuracy of their declaration.
He (Jesus) said to them, “And who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “You are blessed, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven!” – Matthew 16:15-17 NET
Jesus – The Son Of God, Not God-The-Son
Scripture has always taught the uniqueness of Jesus’ birth and parentage and the marvellous work to which he was born. His purpose was intimately connected with those he was born to save, sharing as he did in their humanity (Hebrews 4:15). He was radiant with God’s glory (Hebrews 1: 2-3), and yet human, just like you and me. He was the begotten “Word-made-flesh” – the ‘one and only of his kind’, personally existing for the first time at his birth. A man, but not merely a man.
There has never been anyone like Jesus, either before him or after – he is uniquely and truly the only Son of God.
The child thus born according to the Word of God, the very embodiment of it in its purposefulness, was one whole being. He was not part Word and part Flesh. He was the Word made flesh. His was one nature, not two. There was not a God and a man separate and distinct within the one being. The Son of God was the Son of man, and the Son of man was the Son of God. – Harry Tennant