"Jesus said], 'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine.'" (John 16:13-15a, NRSV)
For the first four centuries following the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the church struggled with Jesus' relationship to God the Father and how the Holy Spirit fit into the mix. Did Jesus exist before he came to earth and if so, was he present at the world's creation? Was Jesus fully God even though he was also fully human? What role did the Holy Spirit play in the creation and beyond? Although most Christians affirmed that God was simultaneously Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, expressed as one co-existent and eternal being, others presented a different argument. They believed that only the Father was eternal with Jesus and the Spirit coming later. The inference was that Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, were subordinate to God, which, again, the bulk of Christians vehemently rejected.
The controversy persisted, especially as presented by Arius, a silver-tongued theologian and preacher of the third and fourth centuries, whose perspective was known as Arianism. Arianism affirmed the created, finite nature of Jesus Christ, denying him as co-eternal with the Father and equally divine. Arius also argued that God the Father, with the help of Jesus, the Son, created the Holy Spirit. Arius' bishop, Alexander, called a synod at Alexandria about 320 AD that condemned Arius and excommunicated him. Riots erupted in the streets in response to Alexander's actions.
During this time, the Roman emperor, Constantine, converted to Christianity. His concern was that a divided Christianity also threatened the unity of the empire. So, in 325 AD, he convened a church council at Nicaea where over 300 bishops could fully settle the matter. Part of his instructions to the assembled bishops included a directive to agree on the questions that divided them because "division in the church is worse than war."
It didn't take the Council at Nicaea long to declare Arianism heretical and unfit for teaching in the church; however, crafting a statement that summarized the relationship between the three persons of the Trinity was much more difficult. Thankfully, their effort produced one of the most elegant creeds that meaningfully addresses the nature of God as three-in-one. We will use the Nicene Creed as our Affirmation of Faith in worship this Sunday as we observe Trinity Sunday. I'll also do my best to offer insight into what the Trinity means for us as followers of Jesus Christ. I hope to see you here!
— Senior Pastor Rev. Dale Cohen