The Table Podcast

Understanding the Nicene Creed

In this episode, Mikel L. Del Rosario and Dr. Darrell L. Bock and discuss the Nicene Creed, focusing on the meaning, significance, and truth of historic Christian beliefs.

The Nicene Creed
  1. The Work of Jesus in The Nicene Creed
  2. The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed
  3. The Church in the Nicene Creed
  4. Eschatology in the Nicene Creed
  5. Understanding the Nicene Creed
Timecodes
00:15
What is a creed?
03:19
God and the doctrine of the Trinity
07:24
Who is Jesus?
14:52
Understanding the incarnation
21:49
Historicity of Jesus's death, burial and resurrection
26:40
Implications of Jesus' ascension and right to judge
31:34
The Holy Spirit and the inspiration of Scripture
38:34
Understanding the term "catholic"
42:42
The hope of the resurrection
Resources Nicene Creed Translation © 1988, Faith Alive Christian Resources, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Transcript
Mikel Del Rosario
Welcome to The Table, where we discuss of God and culture. I’m Mikel Del Rosario, manager for cultural engagement at The Hendricks Center. And our topic today is the Nicene Creed. We’re wrapping up our seven-part series on the Nicene Creed. And my guest in the studio today is Dr. Darrell Bock, executive director of cultural engagement and senior research professor of New Testament at DTS. Welcome again, Darrell.
Darrell Bock
My pleasure to be with you again.
Mikel Del Rosario
We’re talking about the Nicene Creed today. And before we summarize each of the portions that we have discussed over the past six episodes on the Nicene Creed, I want to ask you, just going back to basics, what’s a creed?
Darrell Bock
A creed in this context is a statement issued by leaders of the church about what it is that the church confesses. So an older term, not an alternative term, was credo, which basically translates as I believe. And then you fill in the blank. And so this creed actually begins that way, only the issues we believe and God the Father, one God, and then God the Father Almighty. And it goes off from there.

So a creed is a statement that is a shared confession of faith basically.

Mikel Del Rosario
Okay. So the creed itself isn’t inspired scripture, but it’s based on inspired scripture.
Darrell Bock
That’s correct. It is an attempt to define and put in a compact form what it is that the church believes; in this particular case about God, about the Trinity, with some additional teachings appended to the end of the confession. And in this particular case it was dealing with the tensions created by the Arian Controversy and the idea of whether Jesus was fully divine as well as fully human, which was something that had concerned the church over a long period of time.
Mikel Del Rosario
So this creed came together to clarify what the apostles had handed down because of people like Arius who were teaching things about Jesus that were different.
Darrell Bock
That’s correct. They were teaching ideas that Jesus was the greatest creature and that God had placed a lot of authority in him, but he was not fully divine. And so this statement was written really to affirm and explain the deity of Christ and then also to make an affirmation about the Trinity as a whole. And so the bulk of it deals with that.
Mikel Del Rosario
And this is what the church had believed all along?
Darrell Bock
That’s correct. It goes back to what the church was teaching and then compacts that. The other reality that’s in the background here is you’re dealing in a culture in which many people were not educated to a significant degree. What they learned doctrinally was passed on verbally; what they heard, et cetera. So the creed is also a form of catechism if you want to think of it that way, of teaching that the church gives to people so that they can understand what their faith consists of.
Mikel Del Rosario
And as people recite this over and over again, it’s kind of like the lyrics to a song that you won’t forget because you do it all the time.
Darrell Bock
Exactly correct, yes.
Mikel Del Rosario
Let’s take a look at the beginning. There is a big section on Jesus. But we start out with the Father. And it says:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

And so right off the bat this creed sets God apart from this category of things that were made, of created things. What are the implications of that just right there?

Darrell Bock
There are two parts to this beginning. One is the opening line, we believe in one God.

And then of course when we get down to Jesus Christ, the term God is going to be repeated. So the one God that we are talking about shows up in three persons; we’ve got the Father Almighty, then we’ll have a discussion of the Son, and then we will have a discussion of the Spirit. So all three are mentioned in relationship to that first line.

And then we get to discussion of God the Father Almighty who is the creator of all things. And this is the distinguishing feature that marks out deity, that God is the one who is responsible for the origin of life, God is the one who is responsible for the origin of the creation. And this is a core idea of deity. And again, Jesus will be associated with this creation side in the creation creature divide, the creator creature divide rather, that then marks Him out as being on the deity side of the line and not just a human figure who becomes a deity and was incarnated as opposed to merely being a human figure.

Mikel Del Rosario
And so we see a continuity then just right out of Judaism in Genesis 1:1 that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And then we see that again in Hebrews 11 that the things that were made weren’t made out of things that were visible; that God created the universe.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so we’re tracking right along coming out of Judaism with this belief in one God who created everything. So everything that begins to exist owes its existence to God.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. Everything that begins to exist owes its existence to God. Everything that is created and that still remains owes its sustenance to that God as well. And even though the creed is emphasizing the creator part of this, there is a sustaining part of it as well that scripture talks about that is an important role in what God does. Sometimes we take the view, well, God – you know, in Genesis 1 the depiction of the creation takes place in six days and on the seventh day he rested. But he was still busy. He was busy sustaining the creation that had been created. And so there is this ongoing life to the creation, if I can say it that way, that God is ultimately responsible for.
Mikel Del Rosario
Help us understand. The opening language reminds me of Colossians 1:16 where Paul is talking about the Father and then he shifts to Jesus and says He created all things visible and invisible. So in terms of the interplay, are they working together at the same time? What one does the other does? How does that work?
Darrell Bock
Yes, there seems to be an interplay between the two. God is responsible for the creation. Jesus mediates that creation to some degree. And so I think Colossians 1 talks about this mediatorial role that Jesus has in the creation and all things are created through Him. And so yes, there is this conjunction of activity which is common for the Trinity. They share in the authorization that’s involved in the forgiveness of sins that is depicted by something like baptism. So baptism is done in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, showing another cooperative venture, if you will, between the persons of the Trinity. Yes, so this is an interdependent thing. And what you are seeing in the shift of language in the New Testament by applying creation to Jesus is this unfolding of the doctrine of the Trinity and the activity of persons of the Trinity in the activities tied to creation.
Mikel Del Rosario
This brings us now as we are moving into the Jesus part of the creed to one of my favorite questions: “Who is Jesus?” That’s what they were talking about. The creed expands on this idea of Jesus being the creator. And it goes on to talk about Jesus. It says:

We Believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of the same essence as the Father. Through Him all things were made.

How early do we see this idea of Jesus being called Lord like it says in the beginning there?

Darrell Bock
Well, it’s very early. It’s in a confession in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 where Paul has a line where he says although there are many lords and many gods in the world for us – talking about Christians – there is one God. And then he goes on to talk about the Father and he goes on to talk about the Lord.

And what that passage is doing is playing with the language of the Shema, which is Deuteronomy 6:4, which was confessed in the synagogues weekly. It was the monotheistic conversion of Judaism it makes the point that the term Lord that’s in the Nicene Creed is in allusion back to this Lord idea in the first Corinthians passage where lordship is attached to Jesus. That linkage also reflects a scriptural root in Psalm 110:1; The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand.

And in Hebrew it’s “Yahweh” said to my “Adonai,” “Adoni.” But when you gloss that over and pronounce it verbally, in the first century you wouldn’t pronounce the divine names. So you would put another name in substitution for it. And then that got translated into the Septuagint with kyrios being in both slots; so the Lord said to my Lord. So those figures are distinguished on the one hand and yet this figure who is addressed by God is given permission to sit with God in Heaven. And in the context of the monotheism of Judaism that raises all kinds of questions.

So this term Lord, shared with the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4 on the one hand and coming out of the picture of Psalm 110:1 with a figure sitting with God in heaven on the other, is a pretty big term. It has a lot of content. This is where the expression High Christology comes from. This is Christology of an exalted Jesus who has authority and who is divine.

Mikel Del Rosario
So is that what is being brought out with this idea of God from God, Light from Light?
Darrell Bock
Yes. It’s an exposition that’s bringing out the force of what all that means. So these various ways of affirming and reaffirming, just to make sure that people get it, that Jesus is Divine. So we get there multiple statements about God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God to emphasize that point. God being pictured as Light, that which shines, that which reveals, that which discloses. There are lots of ways to think about that phrase. But it’s all pointing and emphasizing the point Jesus is the Son of God, he is the Lord, and he is God in every sense of the term.
Mikel Del Rosario
And it prevents people from saying yeah, I can sign off on the creed while holding to a lower Christology.
Darrell Bock
That is correct. The whole intent is to affirm – and this is the bulk of the Nicene Creed deals with the Person of the Son. It is designed to get people to appreciate and affirm their confession about who Jesus is in terms of His equality with the Father.
Mikel Del Rosario
And in what’s possibly the most famous bible verse, John 3:16 we read that in this way God loved the world that He gave His only begotten, His one and only, His unique son. What does it mean to be the only begotten Son of God?
Darrell Bock
Yes. This is not a biological term that’s looking at a creature. That’s already been ruled out by everything else that the creed is saying. The idea of begotten can denote the idea of being unique or one of a kind. And it also can suggest on the basis of Psalm 89:27 the idea of being first in rank, of having a high position. So this idea is He is unique and preeminent, if you will. So it is a way of saying at the center of God’s program is His Son, and it affirms that.
Mikel Del Rosario
So Jesus isn’t identical with the Father, but they share the same essence and substance?
Darrell Bock
Yes. This is the other key part of the confession on the person part of this creed, which is – well, there are three points really. Jesus is God in the full sense of the term. Jesus is unique; that’s the begotten idea. And Jesus is one in essence with the Father. This is the homousian phrase which was developed as a way of articulating the relationship between the Persons. And Homousian basically means a one being. So the idea is – I call it the one stuff. They’re all made of the same stuff in their essence. They are all reflective of divinity.
Mikel Del Rosario
So this is kind of philosophically perhaps unpacking what Jesus meant when he said I and the Father are One and that kind of thing.
Darrell Bock
Correct. It’s unpacking that kind of an idea. It’s unpacking how is it possible for an incarnate figure who was a human being to share authority with God. It’s all designed to explain this exaltation idea. And then the other thing that’s going on in here in the biblical text is the idea of the Son is always responsive to the Father. So it is God who raises Jesus from the dead. It is the Father who sends the Son. And the Son only does what the Father has given Him to do. Those kinds of expressions show the interrelationship and the functional way in which the Son and the Father interact with each other.
Mikel Del Rosario
So Jesus’ lordship is connected to His deity, meaning he is Lord because he is God.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. That’s part of what is being said.
Mikel Del Rosario
So when we affirm this in the creed, we are declaring in the strongest possible terms that Jesus is God.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. And you get a passage like Romans 10 where it says the one who confesses the name of the Lord or everyone who confessed that Jesus is Lord, the confession of the Lord shall be save, that kind of an idea. In the Old Testament the Hebrew scripture you would say that. And so that’s the God of Israel. But in the context of Romans 10, those who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. That expression is an indication of someone who calls on Jesus as the mediator of that salvation. And so again we’re pointing to a divine activity and a divine authority over salvation that is being evoked by that kind of terminology.
Mikel Del Rosario
So He’s not a creature; everything depends on Him. Everything that came into existence depends on Him as well.
Darrell Bock
That is correct.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, the Creed summarizes now what Jesus did and what He is going to do in the second part of the segment on Jesus. And it goes on to say:

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven. He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made human.

It starts out with this idea of incarnation. We immediately think of John 1:14, that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. But it connects it to Jesus’ birth. How is Jesus’ birth connected for us and our salvation?

Darrell Bock
Well, the idea of Jesus’ birth comes out of this idea of the virgin birth that also is expressed in the creed. And so this is showing God is directly responsible for the creation of this life and so this child is both divine and human at the same time. That opens up that qualifications of the figure who is going to be sacrificed. He is able to bear our sin, he has the authority to bear our sin, he has the authority to give the forgiveness that comes from bearing that sin. All that stuff is wrapped up in who Jesus is and in the fact that he is both divine and human.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so this salvation, right off the bat it’s a supernatural thing. It’s not from us.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. It’s not from us and it’s for us and it’s a reflection of God’s gift of grace to us.
Mikel Del Rosario
And the virgin birth is pretty unique in terms of the culture where you have these Greco-Roman types of alleged god-men. But Jesus is nothing like that. Not like Caesar Augustus for example.
Darrell Bock
No, no. When you compare this to the Greco-Roman world, the Greco-Roman world elevated people to divine status, particularly emperors, as a way of saying this man managed us like a god. It’s a way of honoring someone. And they go to the bottom of what is a pretty full pantheon of deities. But what we get in the New Testament is someone who was God – not elevated to that status – and there is no pantheon of gods in Judaism; there is just the one God. And so the picture being seated at the right hand of God is a way of picturing this authority in which there is one figure. He is at the top of that pinnacle. So these are very different concepts. And what’s going on in the New Testament is not merely a reflection of Judaizing some Greco-Roman idea.
Mikel Del Rosario
We have both Jesus’ divine origins and his being born on earth kind of juxtaposed here.
Darrell Bock
Correct. And Philippians 2 pictures this as an emptying, as someone – Jesus didn’t seek divinity to be something to be grasped and held on to, but he emptied himself, took on the form of an incarnation in order to be a divine figure who also occupies a human body. John 1 puts it this way; the word became flesh and tabernacled amongst us. And so the picture here again is of this preexistent Creator, the Word of God, that now takes on human flesh and becomes Jesus Christ.
Mikel Del Rosario
When we think about “for us and for our salvation,” why was it so important to highlight both Jesus’ deity and his humanity in terms of salvation?
Darrell Bock
Well, because on the one hand on the human side he is able to represent humanity. And on the divine side he is able to bear the authority that is able to achieve what the cross ought to achieve, which is to give us the basis for our forgiveness and clear the way to cleans us so that we could receive the Spirit of God and move on into eternal life.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so by reducing Jesus like the Arians did, how does that impact salvation then?
Darrell Bock
Well, it just means that – on the human side it probably doesn’t impact it too much. But on the divine side it gets into the issue of where does his authority come from. And Jesus did a lot of things in his life in ministry that showed his divine authority. So we’re talking about forgiving sin, we’re talking about able to calm the creation, we’re talking about making judgements about what counts on the Sabbath. In fact, he referred himself to the Lord of the Sabbath. And the Sabbath is a pretty important day in the Old Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures. It is ordained by God, it’s a part of the Ten Commandments, it’s a covenant commitment and reflection. It’s one of the unique features of Judaism. It’s designed to reflect God resting on the seventh day. I mean, there’s just a lot of things going on with that day. And Jesus says he has authority over it. It’s like saying I have authoring over God’s day.

And then another example is he changes the liturgy in association with the Passover, at the Last Supper changing all the imagery to connect to his death and what he’s doing in inaugurating the New Covenant. So that’s an exercise of authority for a right that was memorialized – Passover – in the Old Testament. And now Jesus is going to come and change all the imagery associated with it and give it a completely new face. Well, who has the authority to do that?

So there’s just a variety of things that show who Jesus is. And the text, the creed rather, doesn’t go into detail on this, but that’s what stands underneath these confessions, the things that Jesus said, like I am the Father one or before Abraham was, I am, all the way over to the things Jesus did that pointed to who he was.

Mikel Del Rosario
So on the divine side then he has the authority to forgive sin because he is the eschatological judge, and to pay that penalty that we couldn’t pay ourselves.
Darrell Bock
Yes. In the speeches in Acts, and particularly Acts 10 and Acts 17 talk about how God is appointed, one to be the judge of the living and the dead. And so this is eschatological judge, this is judgement authority idea that is prominent in the New Testament and is part of what is said Jesus will do when he comes back.
Mikel Del Rosario
Now on the human side, Paul makes a connection between Adam and Jesus. Help us understand that.
Darrell Bock
This is in Romans 5. And we get the contrast between those who are in Adam, which means all bear sins, and those who are in Christ, which refers to Christ’s ability to create and redeem people who are fallen and to bring them into a relationship with him, to bring them into the kingdom of his sons, the way Colossians 1 will say it.

So we are getting here a summary, a very compact summary of a lot of scripture basically in this creed.

Mikel Del Rosario
And we are seeing the gospel unfold here. We are going to get to the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus, really at the core of the Christian message here as we move on in the creed.

So let me read this next section where it says:

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again according to the scriptures.

And so we are beginning to see the gospel unfold as we walk through this creed. And it’s going to culminate in the atonement here. And we’re going to take a look at that later on when we come back from the break. But before we get there, I want to ask about the creed in 1 Corinthians 15 sounds a lot like this. Are they connected at all?

Darrell Bock
Yes, the phrase according to the scriptures connects what is being said here about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the tradition to the teaching of the Church. So 1 Corinthians 15 is very much underneath this portion of the creed.
Mikel Del Rosario
We see this as not just something that was created in 325 AD, they are very careful to hand down what the apostles handed down.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. The creed is a mirroring and then an articulation in a short, brief space of a lot of scripture.
Mikel Del Rosario
How do we see this, Darrell, as a continuity with the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15?
Darrell Bock
Well, there are different passages in the New Testament that are really little doctrinal summaries. There are a handful of them. There’s a phrase about the person of Christ being both divine and human in Romans 1:2-4. There is the creed that we’ve already talked about in first Corinthians 8:4-6 that’s a binitarian confession of the Father and the Son. There is the little snippet on the Last Supper and the Lord’s Table that’s in 1 Corinthians as well earlier on. And now we’ve got this section dealing with resurrection. And these were little snippets that were memorized and that were passed on, that were kind of the initial creedal statements of the church. And just going through that, one’s on Christology, one’s on the relationship of the Father and the Son, one’s on the simultaneity of the Lord’s Table, this is on the resurrection. There are others in the New Testament, but those are some of the major one.

And this one dealing with resurrection says this in 1 Corinthians 15:3; For I pass on to you as of first importance what I also receive, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures – there’s a phrase that we see in the creed – that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas and then the 12.

So the point here is this activity of Jesus is part of a divine program that was laid out. The idea of Christ dying for our sins according to the scripture probably is an allusion to a text like Isiah 53, that kind of a text. And then the idea that he was raised according to the scriptures looks to the idea of the restoration the Messiah, that he won’t be abandoned to Hades at Psalm 16, texts like that.

So there are texts behind these appeals that we tend to see in books like Acts, in the Speeches, and that kind of thing and in the gospels that help us to see what these summaries represent. But it’s a way of saying that the events tied to Jesus were part of a program and they also were revealed in the Scripture.

Mikel Del Rosario
And then later on in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says that if Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead bodily, that our faith is useless.
Darrell Bock
That’s right.
Mikel Del Rosario
Why is Jesus’ bodily resurrection so important?
Darrell Bock
Because the redemption that we have extends to the entirety of the creation including the material world. So our bodies are renewed and restored and actually given a new form that allows them to function in immortality. Later on in this chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, there is the point made that we get an immortal body, that what is sowed in one form is raised in another and that this immortality that comes on the other side of resurrection is part of what allows us to live forever.
Mikel Del Rosario
And this really sets Christianity apart from other world religious traditions even today, doesn’t it? The fact that the whole faith hinges on this physical resurrection.
Darrell Bock
Yes, that is a distinctive feature of the Christian faith, the idea of a physical resurrection and the idea of an eternal life. These are unique features to Christianity at least in the way they are presented in terms of this ongoing, unbroken fellowship with the creator, God.
Mikel Del Rosario
That really is the hope that we have. When it says “the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,” is that part referring to the Old Testament?
Darrell Bock
Yes. “According to Scripture” is obviously in the time when first Corinthians being written there isn’t a New Testament yet. So this has got to be an allusion to the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament.
Mikel Del Rosario
We’ll finish up the big section on Jesus like this.

He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end.

And this sounds like in 2 Timothy 4 where Jesus is actually called the judge of the living and the dead. Is the key point here that you getting into the kingdom of heaven all hinges on Jesus?

Darrell Bock
Yes. It hinges on Jesus. He is the one who died for our sins. As in the 1 Corinthians passage, Christ died for our sins according to the scripture. And then there is this ascension which is God’s vindication of Jesus. What got Jesus crucified was the Jewish view that Jesus had blasphemed, that he had taken on a claim to be related to God in a way that was offensive to God. And so they crucified him. Well, God’s vote in that dispute is the empty tomb and the resurrection. It’s God is responsible for raising Jesus and his ascension to the right-hand. And Jesus basically before he was crucified announced to the leadership when they asked him if he was the Christ and responded in positive terms, he then goes on to cite Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7 juxtaposed to each other. So it talks about seeing the one seated at the right hand and coming on the clouds. And that’s Jesus’ way of saying you may do to me whatever you want, but one day God is going to vindicate me. And when he vindicates me I will be sharing in judgement and authority. You may think I am on trial here and you are my judges, but one day I will be your judge. And that will be in the courtroom that really counts. And so that’s a challenge.

The resurrection and ascension is the affirmation and vindication of that claim. And it’s one of the outstanding features of what we call the holiday we celebrate as Easter. And sometimes I think we miss the point of Easter because we say he is risen so one day we’ll be risen. That’s all very true and that’s important. But underneath that is the one who does the raising and who are raised too and the vindication of the Son. Easter is the vindication of the Son and everything that he taught and represented, which means that that’s what makes Christianity true and something that has to be dealt with. That point often goes not so explicitly addressed on Easter, and it ought to be.

Mikel Del Rosario
Well, it is his kingdom, right? So that’s how you’re going to get in. His kingdom will never end; it’s through him.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. And of course this is looking for the portion that we skipped over, the idea that he’s judge of the living and the dead. Perhaps that all in a passage he – that we are given a resurrection body, he will exercise the judgement. Those who believe in Christ are saved and will be preserved for eternity and that kingdom will never end.
Mikel Del Rosario
You mentioned earlier about the Lord’s Supper and how that is connected to the atonement not only to Jesus’ death and resurrection, but ascension as well. Help us understand how that is seen in terms of the Old Testament allusions?
Darrell Bock
The Old Testament background for the Lord’s Supper of course is the Passover, which was the first great act of deliverance that God performed on behalf of its people. That comes in the book of Exodus. And Jesus portrays his death as inaugurating a new covenant, as bloodshed for many, as a body broken on behalf of many. And in this inauguration of the new covenant we get a second great salvific event if you will, that parallels and goes beyond what the Exodus was able to do. So this is greater than Moses’ passage if you want to think about it that way, greater than Moses’ right. And it establishes the arrival of the eschaton because in the forgiveness of sins and in the provision of the Spirit that comes out of that we are evoking benefits that come out of new covenant hope. New covenant hope was we provide forgiveness of sins, we would put the law on people’s hearts. That’s the language of Jeremiah 31. If you go to other texts, particularly in Ezekiel 34-36, the pictures of a sprinkling that cleanses the heart and the Spirit is put within people. So that’s the idea. And these texts talk about when that happens you’re not going to need a teacher; your heart cries out Abba Father, if you will, to use the language of Romans 8, you know your identity and your connection belongs with God. That’s all part of this package that is depicted in very crisp form at the Lord’s Table and at the Last Supper.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, now we want to talk about the Holy Spirit. Because Jesus gave the Spirit and we see the Spirit already mentioned in the passage on Jesus. But the big part here on the Holy Spirit starts out:

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.

Here we have that term the Lord again which was applied to Jesus now is being applied to the Holy Spirit.

Darrell Bock
That’s right. And again, this is another point of connecting the persons to one another and the authority that they have is divine. This is a Trinitarian confession so we are emphasizing the deity of the Spirit alongside that of the Son and alongside that of the Father.
Mikel Del Rosario
Where do we see the Holy Spirit identified as God in Scripture?
Darrell Bock
It’s a good question. One way it’s done is by the way the Spirit is connected to Jesus in a passage like 2 Corinthians 3 where the Lord, the spirit of liberty is there. Those kinds of texts that make the connection that way. There is the idea of the Spirit being sent from heaven through the Son that points to deity. And in the upper room discourse the Spirit is being depicted as a Person who you interact with. So it’s not just impulse or something like that. It’s not something impersonal. So all of these things point to the Spirit is deity.

Another key evidence is when we baptize in the great commission in Matthew 28, we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. It’s all in their name that this baptism takes place. So that’s the authorization of a religious right coming through the authority in part of the Spirit. All these things point to the deity of the Spirit.

Mikel Del Rosario
And we also have in Acts 5 with Ananias and Sapphira, lying to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. It’s basically treated as a similar kind of offense. And so that’s another action that points in the same direction.
Mikel Del Rosario
So we have the Father is identified as divine, Jesus is called Lord, the Holy Spirit is called Lord. And so in this trinitarian confession we’re saying that God is an undivided divine essence but he exists as the Father, the Son, and the Spirit simultaneously.
Darrell Bock
That’s right. And I think there’s another line in the creed where it talks about the Spirit being worshipped and glorified alongside the Father and the Son. This is another indication that you are dealing with deity because you only worship figures who are divine coming out of Jewish monotheism.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well let’s go there. The next line says, about the Holy Spirit again, He proceeds from the Father and the Son and with the Father and the Son is worshipped and is glorified.

Many people took issue with this idea of the spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. Tell us a little bit about the controversy on this in the sixth century.

Darrell Bock
Well, yes, exactly. It’s in the sixth century. This line is actually added to the creed. It’s a reflection of where the Western church landed in the idea of the procession of the Spirit from both the Father and the Son. The Eastern church only believes in a procession from the Father. And again, it’s a way of trying to emphasize both the functions of the persons of the Trinity and the equality that exists within them. This is one of the reasons why the western church confesses a procession from the Father and the Son is to make sure that the Son and the Father remain equated in the midst of the activity.

And in the upper room discourse Jesus makes the point, well, I have to go away, so I can send another. And so the picture is of the Son always mediating the benefits of the Father to the world, and the Spirit is the vehicle through which those benefits get distributed. Jesus the means by which it happens, but that which Jesus gives is the Spirit of God. So the church becomes that which has been sanctified, set apart. And that set-apartness takes place because the Spirit resides in the church. And whether you think about that as an individual believer or the corporate body of Christ, all believers put together, the Scripture will express that either way.

Mikel Del Rosario
And so even though Christianity has roots in Judaism, when we hit the Trinity, that’s where we have a clear break from Judaism.
Darrell Bock
That’s correct. It’s very, very clear that this is something at least that Orthodox – now Messianic Jews confess this, but orthodox Jews or conservative Jews or reformed Jews who have theological beliefs will not go into the space that is occupied by the Trinity.
Mikel Del Rosario
That’s pretty unique in world religions even today with Islam.
Darrell Bock
That’s correct. And in fact, we didn’t mention this at the time, but it’s probably worth mentioning. I think had this creed been written later, the section on God the Father would have been longer. Judaism and Christianity basically shared the view of who God is as creator. And so they only get one sentence. But there is this whole relational dimension to God that is being expressed both in the relationship within the Trinity and as a result of the commitments that God makes to creation in saving it and restoring it that also shows a relational side of God. I think if this creed had been written after the emergence of Islam, which has a very sovereign view of God but doesn’t have these relational elements, the relational elements of God would have been highlighted even more than this creed does.
Mikel Del Rosario
I agree. I think, you know, take a look at the Holy Spirit in terms of inspiration. It says he spoke through the prophets. And so that reminds me of like when Isaiah would say “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Is this about the inspiration of all of Scripture?
Darrell Bock
Yes, I think it is. It is an allusion to the whole of Scripture and it is an allusion to the inspiration of Scripture. It’s an allusion to the fact that the Scriptures are rooted in a divine disclosure which then underscores why we can trust the Scripture, why we can believe it to be true. All of those things are – these creeds are really wrapped up – they’ve got a lot wrapped up in all the phrases. And this phrase in particular has a lot that’s – there’s a lot riding on the back of that line.
Mikel Del Rosario
So we have the Old Testament prophets. We also have the New Testament prophets like in Ephesians 2 where Paul says the Church is built on the apostles and the prophets.
Darrell Bock
That’s right, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of course.
Mikel Del Rosario
And now we move into the final section which is all about the church and our hope. It says that we believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic church. Now we can say this with gusto, but some evangelicals get nervous when we get to this part of the creed.
Darrell Bock
It doesn’t say we believe in one Roman Catholic. Catholic is the term universal. We believe in one church. We believe that every person whom God indwells as a result of their response to the gospel and having received forgiveness of since and receiving the gift of the Spirit are joined together into a family, into a called-out community that’s called the church. And so this is a confession of the idea that the church is rooted both in its apostolic roots and what the apostles taught and that it’s catholic, that there is one church and it’s a church universal. So whether I am a believer in Turkey or in India or in Pakistan or South America, in Venezuela, in Guatemala or in Africa, in Nigeria or deep in the Sahara Desert, if I’m a believer, we’re all part of one family and one community.
Mikel Del Rosario
And so it’s the church that’s universal and it’s also according to the whole gospel that has been handed down.
Darrell Bock
That’s exactly right. And I forgot to put Europe in that mix. So there are European Christians as well. But yes, exactly. There is one church, there is one community, there is – Ephesians has all these ones – One Lord, one faith, one baptism. That’s the idea of the catholicity of the church and the universality of it is very much rooted in actually several texts that come out of the book of Ephesians.
Mikel Del Rosario
Well, let’s go there. We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Like Ephesians 4 does say one faith, one Lord, one baptism. Historically we know that Christians enter the church through baptism. But how is this connected to Romans 6 where Paul says we are baptized into Christ Jesus?

Darrell Bock: Well, again, the Romans 6 passage depicts and is a picture of what baptism represents. We do with washing by water. 1 Peter 3 makes the point. We are washed by water, but we are not talking about some magical right where this water does magical things. No, this is portraying something. This is portraying the washing of and the establishment of a clean conscience before God. That sin has been born, that its stain has been washed away. We emerge from the water and the baptism pictures an emergence as a result of faith that leaves us clean and allows us to have new life. And since we have been cleansed and washed, to use the language of Acts 10 and Acts 11 and even Acts 15, the picture is of a cleansing that then allows the Spirit to come into a cleansed vessel where we’re no longer unclean, if you want to think of it in Jewish terms, but cleansed. And now we can become set apart and sanctified. So that Paul when he writes letters can address us as saints, because we are set apart people who have been cleansed by the work of Christ.

Mikel Del Rosario
And so it’s not the physical act that saves us, but the physical has a supernatural element to it.
Darrell Bock
Well, the physical act depicts a theological activity of God that we have moved into when we trust Christ. And then the rite pictures what emerges from that, what emerges from our faith is a cleansing, is our being justified, declared righteous, is a propitiation being applied and an atonement being applied so that we no longer pay the penalty for sin. God’s wrath is satisfied and we are put in the position of being God’s children, held in his grip because of what it is he has done on our behalf. It’s all about function of God’s grace. And it’s something that’s supposed to generate a terrific amount of gratitude and responsiveness on the side of the person who is exercising faith.
Mikel Del Rosario
And the creed finishes up with the hope that we have as Christians. It says that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and to the life in the world to come. Amen.

What do we know about this resurrection and the life to come that is being referred to here?

Darrell Bock
Well, the resurrection, again, we’re back in 1 Corinthians 15, is the provision of a glorified body that will not die again. So this is an eternal life capability that we are talking about. And the judgment is looking at the universal judgement at it’s actually pointing towards establishing righteousness where wickedness is judged, righteousness is affirmed, peace comes, new life is provided in a body and form that’s unfallen, creation is restored. There’s just a huge list. Everything that was right in Genesis 1 and 2 and that was damaged by Genesis 3 and that was provided for in the cross is now resolved in this consummation and in this restoration – sometimes the Scripture uses the language of restoration – this renewal that takes place that is permanent and fixed and complete and leaves no stone unturned. And so the washing is complete. Though my sins be scarlet, they are washed white as snow. I mean, there are all kinds of texts you could apply. As far as east is from the west, you know, we can think about forgiveness in those kinds of terms. So this represents the consummation and culmination of everything that Jesus has done. And the result is this shalom, this peace, this establishment of justice, this establishment of righteousness, the removal of wickedness that is what everything ultimately is driving for and when all the books will be balanced in the right direction.
Mikel Del Rosario
Darrell, how should we think about when we affirm this creed, how should that affect the way that we live as Christians?
Darrell Bock
Well, I attend a church that actually says this creed weekly and it’s a part of our normal worship services. And we actually do it, it’s in the middle of our service and we observe the Lord’s Supper every week as well. So we are doing a lot of reminding and confessing. And I think what the Creed does is it just reminds us of the relational roots that are a part of our salvation. We are basically confessing the Trinity, we are confessing some of the benefits that come from what it is that God has done through the Son and what it means to be gifted with the Spirit of God living in us. So it is an affirmation that way.

The Creed doesn’t do one thing though that I think is worth noting. And it’s because of the context in which it was formed in. There is not a word anywhere in the Creed about ethics, about how we live, about what we do with our lives. And yet in a very real sense that where this Creed is supposed to take us. It’s a reminder that God has redeemed us. He has redeemed us for a purpose. We become His people. We are to represent him in the world. The Westminster Confession, which is another creedal form coming later asks the question what is the chief end of man. And the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And so this idea that the way in which we live and the way in which we engage and the way in which we reflect God and how we live is important to the life and wellbeing of the church. So this creed should remind us of the relational base of God. It should remind us of the grace of God, and it should motivate us to live in a way that is honoring to God and that reflects hopefully His character so that as the Scriptures put it, when you perform good deeds in front of people and you remind people of the character of God by doing that, people will lift up God and glorify His name.

Mikel Del Rosario
Thank you, Darrell, so much for being here with us and helping us unpack the Nicene Creed.
Darrell Bock
My pleasure.
Mikel Del Rosario
Thanks so much for being with us as well. Tune in next time on The Table Podcast where we discuss issues of God and Culture.
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Darrell L. Bock
Dr. Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He has authored or edited more than forty books, including Jesus according to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels, Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study, Studying the Historical Jesus: A Guide to Sources and Methods, Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, Who Is Jesus?: Linking the Historical Jesus with the Christ of Faith, and Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Context and Coherence.
Mikel Del Rosario
Mikel Del Rosario is a doctoral student in New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Project Manager for Cultural Engagement at the Hendricks Center, and Adjunct Professor of Apologetics and World Religion at William Jessup University. Mikel co-authors The Table Briefing articles for Bibliotheca Sacra, manages the Table Podcast, and helps Christians defend the faith with confidence though his apologetics ministry. He holds a Master of Theology (ThM) from DTS and an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University.
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