"Doctrine divides!" That's the popular belief of our culture today, as its sails on the shifting sea of modern day relativism. Our generation shouts out, "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere," yet the Bible portrays a very different message.
We have to admit that doctrine does in fact divide. It divides truth from error, the true prophet from the false prophet, and the real Christ from the counterfeit.
In this ocean of change, there stands a bedrock that has stood the test of time. It is an ancient creed that offers a sure and safe haven, and is an anchor in a theological world adrift and deceived. Christians throughout the centuries have built their lives on it, believing that its statements are merely reflections of what the Bible teaches about God, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the life the Holy Spirit brings to His Church.
The Apostles' Creed portrays the very heart of the Christian faith the core teachings that are dispensed with only at great peril to the soul. It is the theological and orthodox "bottom line" concerning what we as Christians believe, and it dates from very early times in the Church, a half century or so from the last writings of the New Testament.
THE APOSTLES' CREED
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy *catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
* The word "catholic" refers not so much to the Roman Catholic Church, but to the universal church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In a similar way, the Nicene creed has helped define what the Scriptures teach with even more precision than the Apostle's Creed (though the Apostle's creed is certainly scripturally based).
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 the 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 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 also 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 the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, 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 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.
Then a third creed, known as the Athanasian creed, named after Athanasias, was developed as a standard for Christian belief.
THE ATHANASIAN CREED
Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;
Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son and such is the Holy Spirit.
The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal.
As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty;
And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;
And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every person by himself to be God and Lord;
so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say: There are three Gods or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
And in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.
But the whole three persons are co-eternal, and co-equal.
So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.
God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and made of the substance of His mother, born in the world.
Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.
Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.
One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of the manhood into God.
One altogether, not by the confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty;
From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
And shall give account of their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.
Later on, the Church, in addressing certain heresies that were abounding at the time, defined in great detail what the Bible taught concerning the Person of Jesus Christ at the Council of Chalcedon.
The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body;
of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin;
as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer;
one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation;
the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ;
even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.
The Second Council of Constantinople was called to resolve certain questions that were raised by the Definition of Chalcedon , the most important of which had to do with the unity of the two natures, God and man, in Jesus Christ. The Second Council of Constantinople confirmed the Definition of Chalcedon, while emphasizing that Jesus Christ does not just embody God the Son, He is God the Son.
The Anathemas of the Second Council of Constantinople (553 AD)
If anyone does not confess that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one nature or essence, one power or authority, worshipped as a trinity of the same essence, one deity in three hypostases or persons, let him be anathema. For there is one God and Father, of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and one Holy Spirit, in whom are all things.
If anyone does not confess that God the Word was twice begotten, the first before all time from the Father, non-temporal and bodiless, the other in the last days when he came down from the heavens and was incarnate by the holy, glorious, God-bearer, ever-virgin Mary, and born of her, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that God the Word who performed miracles is one and Christ who suffered is another, or says that God the Word was together with Christ who came from woman, or that the Word was in him as one person is in another, but is not one and the same, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, incarnate and become human, and that the wonders and the suffering which he voluntarily endured in flesh were not of the same person, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that the union of the Word of God with man was only according to grace or function or dignity or equality of honor or authority or relation or effect or power or according to his good pleasure, as though God the Word was pleased with man, or approved of him, as the raving Theodosius says; or that the union exists according to similarity of name, by which the Nestorians call God the Word Jesus and Christ, designating the man separately as Christ and as Son, speaking thus clearly of two persons, but when it comes to his honor, dignity, and worship, pretend to say that there is one person, one Son and one Christ, by a single designation; and if he does not acknowledge, as the holy Fathers have taught, that the union of God is made with the flesh animated by a reasonable and intelligent soul, and that such union is according to synthesis or hypostasis, and that therefore there is only one person, the Lord Jesus Christ one of the holy Trinity -- let him be anathema. As the word "union" has many meanings, the followers of the impiety of Apollinaris and Eutyches, assuming the disappearance of the natures, affirm a union by confusion. On the other hand the followers of Theodore and of Nestorius rejoicing in the division of the natures, introduce only a union of relation. But the holy Church of God, rejecting equally the impiety of both heresies, recognizes the union of God the Word with the flesh according to synthesis, that is according to hypostasis. For in the mystery of Christ the union according to synthesis preserves the two natures which have combined without confusion and without separation.
If anyone understands the expression -- one hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ -- so that it means the union of many hypostases, and if he attempts thus to introduce into the mystery of Christ two hypostases, or two persons, and, after having introduced two persons, speaks of one person according to dignity, honor or worship, as Theodore and Nestorius insanely have written; and if anyone slanders the holy synod of Chalcedon, as though it had used this expression in this impious sense, and does not confess that the Word of God is united with the flesh hypostatically, and that therefore there is but one hypostasis or one person, and that the holy synod of Chalcedon has professed in this sense the one hypostasis of our Lord Jesus Christ; let him be anathema. For the Holy Trinity, when God the Word was incarnate, was not increased by the addition of a person or hypostasis.
If anyone says that the holy, glorious, and ever-virgin Mary [Note: The claim that Mary is "ever-virgin" is Roman Catholic folklore. (Jonathan Barlow)] is called God-bearer by misuse of language and not truly, or by analogy, believing that only a mere man was born of her and that God the Word was not incarnate of her, but that the incarnation of God the Word resulted only from the fact that he united himself to that man who was born of her; if anyone slanders the Holy Synod of Chalcedon as though it had asserted the Virgin to be God-bearer according to the impious sense of Theodore; or if anyone shall call her manbearer or Christbearer, as if Christ were not God, and shall not confess that she is truly God-bearer, because God the Word who before all time was begotten of the Father was in these last days incarnate of her, and if anyone shall not confess that in this pious sense the holy Synod of Chalcedon confessed her to be God-bearer: let him be anathema.
If anyone using the expression, "in two natures," does not confess that our one Lord Jesus Christ is made known in the deity and in the manhood, in order to indicate by that expression a difference of the natures of which the ineffable union took place without confusion, a union in which neither the nature of the Word has changed into that of the flesh, nor that of the flesh into that of the Word (for each remained what it was by nature, even when the union by hypostasis had taken place); but shall take the expression with regard to the mystery of Christ in a sense so as to divide the parties, let him be anathema. Or if anyone recognizing the number of natures in the same our one Lord Jesus Christ, God the Word incarnate, does not take in contemplation only the difference of the natures which compose him, which difference is not destroyed by the union between them -- for one is composed of the two and the two are in one -- but shall make use of the number two to divide the natures or to make of them persons properly so called, let him be anathema.
If anyone confesses that the union took place out of two natures or speaks of the one incarnate nature of God the Word and does not understand those expressions as the holy Fathers have taught, that out of the divine and human natures, when union by hypostasis took place, one Christ was formed; but from these expressions tries to introduce one nature or essence of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; let him be anathema. For in saying that the only-begotten Word was united by hypostasis personally we do not mean that there was a mutual confusion of natures, but rather we understand that the Word was united to the flesh, each nature remaining what it was. Therefore there is one Christ, God and man, of the same essence with the Father as touching his Godhead, and of the same essence with us as touching his manhood. Therefore the Church of God equally rejects and anathematizes those who divide or cut apart or who introduce confusion into the mystery of the divine dispensation of Christ.
If anyone says that Christ ought to be worshipped in his two natures, in the sense that he introduces two adorations, the one peculiar to God the Word and the other peculiar to the man; or if anyone by destroying the flesh, or by confusing the Godhead and the humanity, or by contriving one nature or essence of those which were united and so worships Christ, and does not with one adoration worship God the Word incarnate with his own flesh, as the Church of God has received from the beginning; let him be anathema.
If anyone does not confess that our Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified in the flesh is true God and the Lord of Glory and one of the Holy Trinity; let him be anathema.
If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, together with their impious, godless writings, and all the other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the holy catholic and apostolic Church, and by the aforementioned four Holy Synods and all those who have held and hold or who in their godlessness persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned; let him be anathema.