The Nicene Creed~ Part 4
In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we dig a little deeper into the actual articles of faith in the Nicene Creed.
Suppose faith in one God is part of the Messianic church’s Jewish inheritance. In that case, they were then confessing Him as Father probably ought to be regarded as a specifically Messianic contribution to that belief. It is not that Jews were unacquainted with the notion that God is Father to His people. The concept of divine Fatherhood was quite acceptable in Hellenistic circles, where “Father” and “Creator” were often used synonymously. Sha’ul recognized this in his preaching ministry, and the early Messianics did not hesitate to follow his example. In the first two centuries of the Messianic church, this use of the term “Father” for God was quite common because it provided a ready link between Biblical and educated pagan notions of God. Therefore, Messianic writers used it to show their pagan counterparts that the latter also recognized the God of the Bible, though without fully realizing what that meant. Whether this form of evangelism was effective or not, it was gradually understood that this interpretation was not the principal use of the term “Father” in the Brit Hadashah. Indeed, by the time Cyril of Jerusalem wrote his Catechetical Lectures (about 350 CE), he could state quite categorically that it was erroneous! In the Brit Hadashah, said Cyril, God was first and foremost the Father of the Son Jesus Christ, and it is in that perspective that we must interpret the meaning of the term “Father.”
Was Cyril, right? Practically everyone now agrees that calling God “Father” was a particular hallmark of the ministry of Yeshua, underlined in the Brit Hadashah by the preservation of the original Aramaic word Abba. Jews did not usually refer to God in this way, and the evidence of the Gospels suggests that Yeshua’s use of the term scandalized them because it implied that He was making Himself equal to God. That was, in fact, the case, and from the beginning, Messianics were aware that to call GodFather implied that he had a Son – Yeshua Himself. Therefore, it seems that Cyril was justified in his insistence on the trinitarian context of the term “Father.” However, the more general use of the term cannot be excluded.
Messianics called God “Father” not in imitation of Yeshua but in union with Him. In other words, God is our Father not because we are divine but because we have been united to Him in the Son, Yeshua. What Yeshua is by eternal right and nature, we have become by grace and adoption. Therefore, to call God “Father” is to participate in the inner life of the Trinity. This point is underlined by sending the Paraclete (Ruach HaKodesh), who comes from the Father and the Son, to make fellowship with them a reality of our spiritual experience. Outside the trinitarian context, the designation of God as Father loses its relational dimension, and it was for this reason that from the time of Cyril of Jerusalem onwards, the Fatherhood of God came to be interpreted almost exclusively in a trinitarian way.
In my next post, we continue to dig into the first article of the Nicene Creed.
Click here for the PDF version.
 Bray, G. L., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in One God (Vol. 1, pp. 60–62).