This week and next week we will be using the Nicene Creed when we confess our faith together (instead of the Apostles’ Creed as is our usual custom). The reason for this is that the Nicene Creed is one of our church’s confessional statements, and the elders decided last year that we wanted to occasionally review it and we chose Ascension Sunday (today) and Pentecost Sunday (next week) as the Sundays to do so. You will see that the Nicene Creed is very similar to the Apostles’ Creed, and this will make it kind of tricky. Unless you’ve previously memorized the Nicene Creed, you’ll probably want to follow along closely in the Bulletin this week and next week. A number of the phrases and lines are the same as the Apostles Creed and then a number of phrases aren’t – so just when you think you know what’s next, there’s something different.
The key places that are different from the Apostles Creed are expansions of who Jesus and the Holy Spirit are. The Nicene creed makes it explicit that Jesus is fully God and of one substance with the Father. And the Holy Spirit is also fully God since He proceeds from the Father and the Son and is worshipped and glorified with them. And the Creed insists that these three persons are the One true and eternal God.
This really is not some kind of obscure theological point. It’s not merely important to confess the doctrine of the Trinity because the Bible teaches it (although that is true). The doctrine of the Trinity is also enormously important because it is another way of explaining the doctrine of our salvation. If Jesus is not fully God then He was not capable of actually bearing the full weight of God’s wrath against our sin. Not only that, if Jesus is not fully God, He cannot fully reconcile us to God. How do you know you are in fellowship with God? How are you sure? Part of the answer is that God Himself came for you in the person of His Son. If you know the Son, then you also know the Father. And the same point goes for the Spirit. The Spirit that fills every true believer is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Living God, such that the body of every believer truly has become the temple of the living God. God lives in you by the Spirit.
So this is the glory of the Trinity, the glory of our salvation. And it was faithful and courageous Christians like Athanasius and St. Nicholas who stood for these truths when the whole world seemed to be against them. So when we proclaim the Nicene Creed, say it like you mean it, say it and stand against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Say it and believe it with all your heart.