In the early days of the Church there arose a heresy that the early Church was united is saying was started by Simon the Sorcerer. You can find his story in Acts 8.9-24. He was very worldly minded and wanted riches and power so people would look up to him. Since he did not get what he wanted, he started a competing religion that sounded a lot like Christianity. It almost destroyed the Church and the battle raged for over 400 years, off and on. This religion was called Gnosticism, and it is still around, today.
Gnosticism taught that there was an evil God that made everything. Jesus was created by him and was a lesser being. God had a union with Wisdom, a female deity, and out of their union came the angels, good and bad. The angels captured Wisdom (Sophia) and put her in a mortal body. Since flesh and blood are evil, she sought to be free from her confinement. True salvation is found in having special knowledge, or a new revelation, that others, who were lesser, did not have. This special knowledge allowed those in the know, to manipulate reality (occult) and to gain freedom from this physical world. They claimed the apostles and Jesus did not have the truth and that they had the “real meaning” of each Christian doctrine. Christians did not have the true knowledge because of their mistaken idea that spirit and matter can interact to the point of uniting, and indeed have done so in the person of Jesus Christ.
Later versions of this heresy denied the divinity of Jesus (Arianism) and said he was created by God. Another version that is still around says that there is only one god who wears masks, or plays different roles, like an actor. God became father when he created, went to the cross as the son, and came later as the holy spirit (Sabellianism). Another version one occasionally hears, today, said that spirit is good and flesh is evil. God is spirit and therefore good. The good god would not be contaminated with evil flesh so god did not come to earth as a man, but only appeared to do so. Also, at Jesus’s baptism, this god chose Jesus as his son and the Christ spirit came upon him. But, this god abandoned Jesus on the cross and went to look for someone else. Finally, there was a version, that is still heard today, that Jesus was a man who fully obeyed God and so God chose him at his baptism to be His son. Anyone who also fully obeys may be baptized in the holy spirit and could be/have been chosen by God as His Messiah/Son. This is called Adoptionism.
In response to these teachings, the Church defended the faith handed down from the Apostles, those taught directly by Jesus. Jude, the half-brother of Jesus wrote: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3; ESV).” The Church came up with an outline of the True Faith called the Nicene Creed. Creed is a word that means, “I believe” and so when we say the Creed we are saying, “I believe this to be Truth.”
Here is the Nicene Creed:
I BELIEVE in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, And was made man: And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried: And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven, And sits on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, The Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spoke by the Prophets: And I believe in one holy Catholic* and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come. Amen.
(For the Creed: Deuteronomy 6.4; Matthew 28.19; John 1.14; Luke 1.26-35; Romans 10.8-10; 1 Corinthians 15.3-11; 2 Corinthians 13.14; Jude 3, and many more. The word Catholic means universal or full and complete.)
The Creed is like the fence around the playground where children play. It is there to keep them safe and sound. So, the Creed is the boundary that keeps us safe spiritually. Within this boundary is safety; outside is great harm.
In 1 Corinthians 15.3-8 Paul makes this remark about how faithful the Apostles were with passing on the Faith handed down by Jesus.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
What does this passage say about passing down the Faith? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Paul passed on the Gospel of Christ faithfully to his disciples, as did the other Apostles. Not only that, but there were many witnesses to the truth who would have known if any error was being taught. Those disciples faithfully passed on what they were taught.
This faith, stated in the Nicene Creed, is Trinitarian. That is, it teaches that God is one being, but in some mysterious manner, composed of three persons in Unity. There is one God, not three gods. This One God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Three Persons in one Being that we call God. They are each of the same essence and nature but are undivided in being. What the Father is, the Son and Spirit are. What the Son is the Father and Spirit are. What the Holy Spirit is the Father and Son are. God is three, yet One. When we worship God we worship the Trinity. When we pray to the Father we also pray to the Son and Spirit at the same time for God is one. We worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit equally for they are one Being. St. Patrick of Ireland famously used a shamrock, or clover, to illustrate this. It is one plant but has three leaves. While all illustrations fail to truly grasp God, we cannot get much closer than this because we are finite creatures and God is infinite. God in his essence cannot be grasped by the human mind and we have to accept his self-revelation of himself by faith.
Pray this prayer: Almighty and eternal God, you have given to us grace by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity. Keep me steadfast in this faith and forevermore defend me from all adversaries, you who lives and reigns, one God, forever. In Christ’s name, Amen.