GOD : THE GREATEST OF ALL BEINGS
The word God means the greatest of all beings. The Apostles Creed identifies who God is: ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth.’ He is the one and only God. The Apostles Creed also says he is the father of the Lord Jesus Christ; and this is consistent with the Scriptures. There is no confusion or contradiction in this consanguinity. For if God is the greatest of all beings then he is greater than all and for that reason the Lord Jesus worships him as truly God. (John 17:3) If God is the greatest of all beings, which is the degree that separates God from all lesser beings, then whilst Jesus is from God’s being, he is not God almighty but the Son of God. Jesus by his own confession does not have the attributes of God, his Father. He doesn’t have the same knowledge or authority, which he himself acknowledges. For no son, human or divine, is the same or equal with his father.
St. John said: 'In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. '(John 1: 1) Jesus was with God, a preposition meaning with another person; and is God, a figure of speech meaning all in all respects like God, except he did not have all God's attributes or power. So the Word is with God, and he is God's Son. Figuratively, the word is with God, as St. John says; it means that, from the point of view of God, Jesus is his flesh and blood, so to speak. He, Jesus, was with God and was God’s Son, just as a son born of a father, humanly speaking, is the father’s flesh and blood, so divinely speaking the Son of God is his Father’s essence, yet without being God. The greatest of all beings is the Father as Jesus acknowledged, ‘My Father is greater than I.’ (John 14:28) so only the heavenly Father is God.
St. Paul, speaking of God said, ‘There is one God and Father of us all who is the ‘God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Ephesians 1:3) And St. Peter says, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ (1 Peter 1:3) In his letter to the Corinthians Paul also declares, ‘The God and Father of the Lord Jesus (blessed be he forever!) (2 Corinthians 11:31) God, according to the Scriptures is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, Jesus, was with God and was God just as a son is born of a father; humanly speaking, is man of mankind, divinely speaking God of God, or God kind, yet without being God Almighty.
Jesus, speaking of his Father, said, ‘The Father is greater than I.’ (John 14:28) thus, recognising himself as less than his Father, the greatest of all beings.
This is further explained in the Letter of Paul to the Hebrews where the word God is used paradoxically of Jesus where Jesus is called God, just as Moses was called God to the Egyptians. (Exodus 7:1) In these last days God has spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things by whom he also he made the worlds. (Hebrews 1:1-3) And it is written of Jesus: ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever...Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with gladness above they fellows. And thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of they hands.’ (Hebrews 1:8-10) This reiterates the teaching of the New Testament that Jesus is from God and like God, being made by God so much better than the angels and sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3-4)
Jesus insisted that he was God’s Son for which the Jews tried to stone him. They accused him of blasphemy because he was making himself out to be God. Jesus refuted this. He said, ‘It is written in your law if those to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ - and Scripture cannot be annulled, - can you say that the one whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son?”’ (John 10:30-36) The Jews considered it blasphemy for Jesus to identify himself as God’s Son for that was like saying he was a being like God and of God. But Jesus was the self evident proof of this. His words and actions were holy, loving, powerful and good, like God’s. He spoke of his Father as truly God beside which there was no other: ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
THE HOLY SPIRIT OF TRUTH
Thus, the early church believed in the One true God revealed to them from the beginning in the law and prophets. Notwithstanding, from the very beginning the church was like a child just born into the world entirely dependant on its mother and father. Even before the church began it was embryonic; it had no form or shape by which it was recognisable. The church, or as St. Paul calls it, the Body of Christ, (1Corinthians 12:27) had no teacher on earth who was able to guide the church after Jesus was gone. That is why the church had no hope of being kept alive. It was like a still born child, or a child without a mother to nourish it. The whole world was against it. It was born in Jerusalem the place where Jesus, its Lord, had been crucified and where it was dangerous to be a Christian.
But the church, this child of the Lord Jesus, had a mother, so to speak, a comforter and helper. Jesus spoke at length about him, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees nor knows him but you know him for he abides with you and will be in you.’ (John 14:17-18)
Here, in these words of promise, is the key to understanding the care of Jesus for his precious child, the church, and how the church would grow and become the Body of Christ in the world, his light and love for everyone to see, a pattern and figure of the kingdom of God on earth. The gift of the Holy Spirit would be sent from the Father in heaven to teach and guide the church so that the church would become a witness to the whole world that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord and Saviour of the world from sin and death. (John 15:26)
THE INFANCY OF THE CHURCH
The early church was like an infant learning its first letters and sums, learning how to read and write, to add up and take away, to be in a classroom with other children for the first time. For the church was a school in which everyone was a learner, new students as well as old, educated as well as uneducated. In this school the Teacher was unseen; nevertheless, he was there and they knew he was there influencing their thoughts, feelings and actions, lovingly and clearly teaching them the truth, forgiving their mistakes, their stupidity and their stubbornness.
The teacher was the Holy Spirit. There were no gurus’ or theologians. Not even the apostles, the twelve, who were with Jesus during his ministry, assumed the office of teacher or headmaster for that would have contradicted the teachings of Jesus to them, ‘You are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students.’ The apostles were witnesses to what they had seen of the life, death and resurrection of their Lord. (Matthew 23:8) They all practiced prayer by which they asked the Teacher to help them, comfort them, and guide them to know the truth. (Acts 1:14; 4:31; Acts 12:12)
There were many disagreements, conflicts and battles fought in the early church because Christians, those who accepted the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord, were zealous to protect the faith they had received. There were many disputes and arguments over the Law of Moses, whether a Gentile Christian, for instance, should be circumcised according to the Law of Moses, or, in fact, whether a Gentile might be saved from sin at all. (Acts 10 f) But over time the Holy Spirit guided the church to understand the kerygma, - the gospel, and the didache, - the teachings of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The New Testament is a faithful record of the way in which the Holy Spirit taught the church about Christ’s salvation, the future and the kingdom of God. This is so well documented in the letters and writings of the early Christians that it is no less than a miracle that the church remained united in spirit and forms that while different and dispersed over the world, were one witness to the good news of Jesus and his teachings.
The Holy Spirit led the early church to make a confession of faith The Apostles Creed, a summary of what the Holy Spirit taught the Apostles and the whole church. That these records, like the Old Testament were inspired by God.
THE DOCTRINE OF GOD
It is therefore inconceivable the Holy Spirit and guardian of truth would raise up elders and teachers in the church to wholly contradict the Apostles Creed and the Scriptures of the New Testament. Yet by the second century, at least, various bishops and priests began to question the accuracy of the Scriptures and the doctrine of God, in particular. They did this for reasons of their own. St. Paul warned the Christians at Colossae to ‘see that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.’ (Colossians 2:8) St. Peter also says to the Jews who live outside their homeland in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythinia, ‘False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions.’ (2 Peter 2:1) Peter foresaw that false teachers would arise for financial gain and ambitions of their own, spreading their own opinion contrary to the sound teaching of the Apostles.
GOD’S SELF REVELATION
From the old to the New testament the doctrine of God was never questioned. The word God in Hebrew was represented by the word Yahweh which means ‘I am’ or in the third person, ‘He is’. This was the word God gave to Moses to tell the Israelites: God said to Moses, ‘Tell them ‘I am’ has sent me.’ (Exodus 3:13-14) God is beyond human understanding, and it is God’s will that his name should not be represented by an idol, or analysed by philosophy. God commanded the Israelites: ‘Do not make for yourselves am idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. (Deuteronomy 4:23; 5:8) The Israelites feared to use the word Yahweh because it represented God, since a word to the Israelites revealed the character of its owner.
But God has revealed himself through his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ and this is the foundation of Christian belief of which nothing can be added to it. The doctrine of God lies therefore outside of philosophy and rational analysis. God has revealed himself to mankind through the sensible qualities of creation recognised by reason, but in all other qualities, spiritual and incorporeal he has revealed himself through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who leads the church into all truth. To all other inquiry God is still the ‘I am’. He is not an object of man’s reason, ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
Thus the Apostles Creed, together with Scripture, affirms that God is the ‘I am’, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the truth that God revealed to his chosen people, the Jews, for as Jesus said, ‘Salvation comes from the Jews.’ (John 4:22) The early church was entirely made up of Jewish people, to whom the Holy Spirit revealed God’s will and purpose for mankind.
THE NICENE CREED
Initially, the disciples of Jesus followed the Law of Moses. They had faith in the God of the Old Testament. Their bible was the Old Testament and they were taught this by the Rabbis and priests of Israel from their childhood. Now Jesus taught them but there was much they did not grasp which is why the early church was given the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide them and teach them everything they needed to know about God and his salvation, the gospel and the kingdom of God. Their theology was the gift of Christ and the Spirit of truth, not the spirit of philosophy or natural reason. The proper object of natural reason is the book of the world, not the Word of God. By the second century AD many bishops and priests studied philosophy and became philosophers. They became philosophers, probably to defend the faith of the church against Pagan religions, persecutions by Roman emperors and hatred of the Jews. The rebellion of the Jewish nation in AD 70 and the fall of Jerusalem to Rome was never forgotten. Over time Christianity was accepted by Rome and spread beyond Rome to other parts of the world. It was a force to be reckoned with by Caesar who wanted the empire to be united by one religion together with one state. But there were some difficulties in drawing up a confession of Christian faith that was intellectual, academically sound and acceptable to the world as well as the church. Hence, the Council of Nicea, 325 AD, was called by the emperor Constantine to satisfy both the faith of the church and the logic of reason. A large number of bishops attended this first of ecumenical councils to study the doctrine of God. The Apostles Creed was not considered to be sufficiently explicit or explanatory enough. It was unanimous that Jesus Christ, God’s Son was begotten of God as the Scriptures said, but if he came from God, it was argued, then he too must be God for he was of the same essence or nature as God. This was the main sticking point. A priest, Arius, in particular argued that Jesus was a divine being created by God but not God. The main protagonist however, was bishop Athanasius, who argued that Jesus was God of God, true God of true God, begotten not made and of one being with the Father, which became a statement of the Nicene Creed. The new creed of the Christian faith was accepted by the emperor Constantine. Arius, who was not a bishop but a priest refused to sign the Nicene Creed and was sent into exile. This was not a statement of the Trinity but of two persons, one God. Later, at the Council of Nicea and Constantinople, 361 AD the doctrine of the trinity was discussed and accepted by the council.
The philosophy of the two persons, one God, is flawed. It leaves out of consideration the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures, and was made under political pressure and theological dissidence. The Nicene Creed is a philosophy but not a theology. It therefore cannot be a true confession of faith.
APOSTASY OF THE CHURCH
The church, from the 4th century on, confessed a knowledge of God that was at odds with the bible, the Old and New testaments then in use. The bishops and later the pope denied the God of the bible and replaced it with the Trinity. In 361 AD, the Trinity was upheld as God: One God, three persons. All three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, were each allotted the title of God. Hence, logically there were three Gods. Yet, they maintained there was only One God. This apostasy has been handed down from one church to another, Roman Catholic, Protestant, national and doctrinal churches.
Michael Servetus was a Spanish theologian, medical doctor and humanist. He did not accept the doctrine of the Trinity so he was burned at the stake. Here is a little note about him:
(Condemned by Catholics and Protestants alike, he was arrested in Geneva and burnt at the stake as a heretic by order of the city's Protestant governing council. Michael Servetus (/s?r'vi?t?s/; Spanish: Miguel Serveto Conesa), also known as Miguel Servet, Miguel Serveto, Revés, or Michel de Villeneuve (29 September 1509 or 1511 – 27 October 1553), was a Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer, and Renaissance humanist. He was the first European to correctly describe the function of pulmonary circulation, as discussed in Christianismi Restitutio (1533). He was a polymath versed in many sciences: mathematics, astronomy and meteorology, geography, human anatomy, medicine and pharmacology, as well as jurisprudence, translation, poetry and the scholarly study of the Bible in its original languages. He is renowned in the history of several of these fields, particularly medicine and theology. He participated in the Protestant Reformation, and later developed a nontrinitarian Christology.)
I think once the bishops of the 4th century church found favour and influence in the Empire they turned their backs on the teachings of the bible and God.