Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 28

The Nicene Creed~ Part 14

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we begin to dig into the third article of faith in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

WE BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

The Council of Nicaea in 325 CE provided a short, concise confession of the Ruach in its Creedal formulation. It simply said: We believe in the Holy Spirit. It said this, however, in the context of a trinitarian structure that Yeshua first established Himself when He listed the Ruach along with Himself and the Father in the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19: Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son, and the Ruach HaKodesh. These words, along with the other words recorded in John and the other Gospels, contain an implicit confession by Yeshua, and by the Kehillah, which followed him, that the Ruach exists along with the Father and the Son as a personal being- what the Cappadocians came to refer to later as a hypostatic being. This being has His individual and complete identity, in and of itself.

The subsequent history of the Kehillah in Acts bears out the truth of Yeshua’s words. The wind that blew at Shavuot (Pentecost) was not an impersonal force or an act of nature or some amorphous spiritual creature. The Ruach was the living God, personally present as the Paraclete, the Comforter, strengthening and encouraging, living among, and giving life to a thriving community of Believers in the first century and beyond. The recorded history of the Gospels and the letters of Sha’ul and Kefa paint the picture of a personal Ruach who can be lied to and resisted. The Ruach is called God. He is referred to as a witness to Yeshua alongside the apostles and as collaborating in decisions such as those at the council of Jerusalem. He fills the faithful. He is given by grace and received by faith. The Ruach speaks to individuals such as Philip, Kefa, and Sha’ul as well as to groups. The Ruach also prevents Sha’ul from entering Asia or Bythinia. He appoints bishops for the Kehillah. We hear of the Ruach’s work in Corinth manifested in the speaking of tongues, which Sha’ul himself experienced. Thus, the Ruach was experienced as God interacting with His people and His Kehillah.

And yet, it is safe to say that the person of the Ruach was perceived as the most mysterious of the three persons of the Trinity. Father and Son are easy to picture as persons. Not so the Ruach. Athanasius called the Ruach the image of the Son even as the Son was the image of the Father. As Torrance notes, it may seem rather strange at first to think of the Ruach as the “Image” of the Son until one begins to realize that the Ruach himself is imageless. But if the Father and the Son and the Ruach are exact, “it must be in an ineffable, imageless and wholly spiritual way that we are to think of them and of their relations with one another in the Holy Trinity.”

The Nicene Creed of 325 CE reflected this perception of the Ruach as a kind of imageless enigma about whom the Scriptures were relatively silent. But up until that time, there was no impetus to speak further about Ruach in defining who or what he was. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 CE expanded on what the Kehillah believed about the Ruach primarily because of the challenge of heretical groups such as the Eunomians and Pneumatomachians who considered the Ruach a divine created being, but nothing more. Before the controversy over the Ruach erupted, however, a simple confession of belief in the Ruach, along with the Father and the Son, in the Creed and the liturgical and sacramental life of the Kehillah was considered adequate, as the Ruach was worshiped along with the Father and the Son in the Kehillah’s hymns, prayers, blessings, baptisms, and doxology.[1]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit(Vol. 4, pp. 1–2).

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