Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 38

The Nicene Creed~ Part 24

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church 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 ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH ~ The Church.

Recall that I prefer to call the “church” the kehillah, which means “community” in Hebrew. I think that it is much easier to think of “church” as “a community” and not as “a building.” So, I will take some liberty to change the word “church” from now on in this post to kehillah. You will also note that I have used numerous quotes from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) instead of my “go-to” version of the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). There is a simple explanation for doing so. This year, I am using the CSB for my reading to see what new gems I might discover for my daily devotions this year.

In our profession of faith, we proclaim, “We believe in … the kehillah.” Rufinus explains why in Latin, we say, “We believe the kehillah,” and not we believe “in the kehillah.” He writes:

“We believe the holy kehillah,” not as God but as the kehillah gathered together to God. And we believe that there is “forgiveness of sins”; we do not say “We believe in the forgiveness of sins.” And we believe that there will be a “resurrection of the flesh”; we do not say, “We believe in the resurrection of the flesh.” By this monosyllabic preposition, therefore, the Creator is distinguished from the creatures, and things divine are separated from things human. [1]

Understanding the Fathers of the significance and the nature of the kehillah is grounded on Scripture, especially on the Brit Hadashah. The strong images of Sha’ul support their explanation: the Messianic community as the body of Messiah, as his bride, as a mother. Because she is a bride, she can generate sons and daughters for the Father. Sha’ul, in describing the nature of the Messianic community, introduces the image of the kehillah as the body of Messiah and expounds it in the Pastoral Letters. Messiah is the head of that body: “He is the head of the body, the kehillah.… Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I complete what is lacking in Messiah’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the kehillah.”[2] There is a mystical identification between believers and Messiah, as is shown in the conversion of Sha’ul: “As he journeyed, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.’”[3]

To belong to Messiah, have a personal relationship with Him, and have union with Him implies the result of union with other believers. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Messiah?… But he who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.[4] The same faith and love unify individuals in Messiah: “So we, though many, are one body in Messiah, and individually members one of another.” [5] According to Sha’ul, believers are members of a body and are connected, serving different functions. It is not only a visible unity, a society with all members in harmony; the unity is of a higher order. It is not only a social or a moral unity but a mystical body. Mystical does not mean something strange or hidden; it means that Messiah binds, guides, ties, unites us to Himself. It is a reality that is not obvious to our intelligence and is beyond our senses, and involves a unique union of all the members with Messiah, who is the head. John uses the image of the vine and the branches:

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me, you can’t do a thing. Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up. “If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. This is how my Father is glorified—in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim.~  John 15:5-8 (CJB)

The members are bound through faith, love, and sacraments to Messiah, who endows us with His gifts: “holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” [6] In the force of this union, the kehillah is the fullness or complement of Messiah: the Father “has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the kehillah, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.”  [7] It forms one whole with him: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Messiah.” [8] This body is nourished by the Eucharist: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” [9]

The visible kehillah is a human, mixed company, with shadows and spots. It is the visible sign of the presence of the kingdom of God among human beings, sustained by hope, whose soul is the Ruach. [10]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Rufinus Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. In other words, we believe in God and things divine. We do not believe in things human; we simply believe them.

[2] Colossians 1:18, 24 (CSB)

[3] Acts 9:3-5 (CSB)

[4] 1 Cor 6:15, 17 (CSB).

[5] 1 Cor 6:15ans 12:5 (CSB)

[6] Colossian 2:19 (CSB)

[7] Eph 1:22–23 (CSB)

[8] 1 Cor 12:12 (CSB)

[9] 1 Cor 10:17

[10] Di Berardino, A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2010). We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (Vol. 5, pp. 1–3).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 37

The Nicene Creed~ Part 23

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase He has spoken through the Prophets 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.

HE HAS SPOKEN THROUGH THE PROPHETS

In 2 Kefa 1:21, we read, for never has a prophecy come as a result of human willing – on the contrary, people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh spoke a message from God. From the earliest days of the kehillah, the Ruach has been known as the one who spoke through the prophets and writings of the Tanakh. The Ruach is the giver of revelation. Yeshua refers to David as one inspired by the Ruach, as does Kefa. Elizabeth, Simeon, and Zechariah were all filled with the Ruach when they spoke the words recorded in the Gospels. Yeshua, quoting Isaiah, spoke of the Ruach being on Him and anointing Him to preach good news to the poor. He also told the emissaries that when they would be called to speak, it would not be they who speak but the Ruach that He would give to them. Shavuot (Pentecost) and the subsequent life of the kehillah testified to the fulfillment of the prophecy in Yo’el that the Ruach would descend on the kehillah enlivening it and its message. Sha’ul speaks in his first letter to the Corinthians of his preaching, and words have come from the Ruach. Kefa refers to Sha’ul’s writings as difficult to understand and sometimes being twisted out of context, as also happens to the other Scriptures, no doubt including Sha’ul’s writings in what was considered the Scriptures. Here, as well as in what Sha’ul has to say about those who spoke in tongues, we begin to get a picture of the kehillah and its leaders struggling to get a handle on which prophecies and writings were to be understood as authoritative since some claimed the Ruach. Still, neither their words nor their actions were enlightening for the kehillah. Not everyone who claimed inspiration was necessarily received by the kehillah. A sifting process began by which the kehillah decided what was normative for the kehillah’s faith and life.

The challenges of Gnosticism and the teaching of such heretics as Marcion made it all the more important to confess that the Ruach by whom Yeshua was conceived and who was operative in the ministry of Yeshua and the Gospel message was the same Ruach who acted in the Tanakh. Messianic writers from very early on, however, emphasized the normative role of the Ruach and the rule of faith in revelation. At times, the Ruach made itself known in extraordinary ways, such as speaking in tongues as the apostles did at Shavuot. The kehillah, such as the one in Corinth, continued to utilize. These tongues and other signs were viewed as a witness to unbelievers, and they continued as long as there was a need for them in the kehillah. After a time, however, most, although not all, early Messianic writers believed this gift slowly ceased to exist. (I happen to be in the group that does not believe that speaking in tongues has ceased as a gift of the Ruach.) But the work of the Ruach continued and continues to live and work in the life of the kehillah.[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 266–267).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 36

The Nicene Creed~ Part 22

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase with the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified 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.

WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON

Wherever the Son’s divinity was questioned, it followed that the divinity of the Ruach was questioned. As a result of the Arian controversy, the Council of Nicaea in 325CE worked out the relationship between the Father and the Son, confessing its belief that the Son is homoousios (the same in being} with the Father. The third article of the Nicene Creed of 325CE also confessed a belief in the Ruach HaKodesh but did not expand on what that belief entailed concerning the Father and the Son. It simply said, And we believe in the Holy Spirit, followed by a condemnation of the Arians. It is also true that, while the Nicene Creed may have settled in principle the debate regarding the Son being of the same substance of the Father, it still took another fifty years before the kehillah definitively settled the issue. The relationship of the Son to the Father was being debated during this time. Still, the ancient kehillah writers and the heretics also realized that if the Ruach was in any way denigrated, this too affected the Son: as goes the Ruach, so goes the Son. The logic was inescapable. Thus, at the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381CE and again at the Council of Rome in 382CE in the West, the full divinity of the Ruach too was confessed and included in the Creed formulated for the Council at Constantinople in 381CE, once the full implications of what had been decided at Nicaea had been debated.

There was no inclusion of the homoousios in its confession of the Ruach, however. Such an omission may reflect the unwillingness of the period evidenced in such writers as Athanasius. Still, Basil, who said to worshiped and glorified, was as close as they came to say that the Ruach HaKodesh was God. Gregory of Nazianzus also reflects the ambivalence prevalent among some at that time when he remarked, “To be only a little in error about the Ruach HaKodesh is to be orthodox.” Such caution of not using homoousios in its confession of the Ruach may also stem from the attempts at the time to be conciliatory to the bishops who were allies against the Arians but followed the teaching of Macedonius and were present at the Council of Constantinople. There may have also been the realization that not everyone among even the orthodox, had come around yet fully to the idea of the Ruach HaKodesh being consubstantial with the Father and the Son. But this would not remain so for long. The full divinity and consubstantiality of the Ruach with the Father and the Son was soon the consensual teaching of the entire kehillah.

HE IS WORSHIPED AND GLORIFIED

The ancient kehillah’s worship and glorification of the Ruach HaKodesh is perhaps the most precise witness to its understanding of the role of the Ruach in the divine economy before such an understanding became enunciated in the Nicene-ConstantinopolitanCreed. The worship life of the kehillah not only informed the kehillah’s theology; it also expressed that theology in a way more often caught than taught. The technical way of referring to this is lex orandi et lex credendi (the rule of prayer expresses the rule of faith). Such a rule is already evident in the commission of Yeshua to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Ruach HaKodesh. While not the only formula used in the Brit Hadashah period, this formula for baptism became the most common and then the only one used in the subsequent life of the kehillah. The benediction of Sha’ul in his second letter to the Corinthians includes the Ruach in the same breath with the Father and the Son. The enlivening and unifying role of the Ruach in the life of the early kehillah and its worship is clearly evident throughout the pages of the Brit Hadashah and the post-apostolic documents of the second century. References to the Ruach’s work and activity, especially in worship, continue in the writings leading up to the fourth century and beyond. [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 225-246).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 35

The Nicene Creed~ Part 21

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase who proceeds from the Father and the Son 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.

WHO PROCEEDS FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON

It would be placing far too great a burden on the Creed confessed at Constantinople in 381CE to say that the holy fathers gathered to establish the dogma of the procession of the Ruach HaKodesh in all its precision and fullness. In their writings, the Cappadocians had noted that the Ruach was distinguished from the Father and the Son by his procession. Thus, the Creed uses the language of John 15:26, which speaks most directly of the procession of the Ruach from the Father: When the Counselor comes, whom I will send you from the Father – the Spirit of Truth, who keeps going out from the Father – He will testify on My behalf. (CJB) The phrase, who keeps going out from the Father distinguishes the Ruach from the Father and the Son, even as the following phrase of the Creed demonstrates that the Ruach is to be worshiped and glorified along with the Father and the Son. Thus, the present phrase provides a distinguishing scriptural characteristic while also tying the Ruach’s procession to the Father.

To a certain extent, both Eastern and Western traditions have emphasized what is known as the Father’s monarchy in speaking of the Ruach’s origin. The Father’s monarchy implies that the Father is the source, principle, cause of the Ruach HaKodesh and the Son. One might even note that both the Son and the Ruach are spoken of as proceeding from the Father in our English Bibles and Latin ones. However, this was part of the problem between East and West that arose beginning around the fifth century, when working in both Latin and Greek was not as expected. In Greek, the origin of the Ruach HaKodesh from the Father is based on the Greek word ekporeuetai, which alone is used of the Ruach HaKodesh in John 15:26. The Greeks acknowledge the Latin Church that the Son too is spoken of as proceeding from the Father. But this does not occur with the Greek word ekporeuomai but the Greek word proiēmi – an important distinction that Latin does not make. The Father was unbegotten, the Son was begotten, which was a procession from the Father, but not the same as how the Ruach proceeds.

The question remained to be asked: What is the relationship of the Ruach to the Son in this procession, since Scripture, especially the Gospel of John, speaks of the Ruach of the Son, the Son giving the Ruach, breathing out the Ruach, etc.? This the Creed did not answer. As noted, at least up through the fifth century but even beyond, all the way to the time before the great schism of 1054, the dominant patristic understanding is that the monarchy of the Father is what binds and grounds the Trinity in its unity. And so, more often than not, the question of the Ruach’s procession is first of all addressed in the sense of His procession from the Father. But in no way does this exhaust all that the fathers had to say about the procession. The doctrine of the Ruach HaKodesh and His procession is not limited to His relation to the Father. Still, it is extended to His relation to the Son in a way that is not always so easily distinguished or held distinct from that of the Father.

One can distinguish different emphases or tendencies between East and West on the Ruach’s procession even as there are also areas of overlap. The later addition in the West of the Ruach’s procession from the Son began locally in Spain at the Council of Toledo in 589CE. However, it is preceded as early as the third century by writers such as Tertullian and then later with Marius Victorinus, Ambrose, and Augustine. The addition eventually received papal authority and became the standard creedal confession in the Western Roman Catholic and later Protestant traditions. The East has always considered it as a unilateral addition to the Creed without ecumenical consensus. But it is worth asking why the West perceived the phrase and the Son as a necessary addition in the first place? From the Western perspective, if the Ruach proceeded from the Father alone, this could appear that the Son did not have everything the Father had. Thus, the Son would appear as a subordinate being – especially to the new converts coming from barbarian tribes in the hinterlands of the West who had been heavily influenced by Arian Christology, which tended to subordinate the person of the Son. Thus, the original purpose of the addition was to protect the Son against such subordination by establishing the procession equally from Father and Son. And so, it is not surprising that the phrase filioque began to appear in the Creed spoken in the liturgy of the church. How the church worships is an expression of its faith. However, a change in something as basic as the ecumenical Creed shared by all the faithful was inadvisable – even if the doctrine itself, charitably and adequately understood, was true. It did not help that the West had no vocabulary for distinguishing the different types of the procession as the East had, even though theologians such as Augustine did speak of the Ruach proceeding principally from the Father. Thus, misunderstandings were inevitable. But neither East nor West was interested in denigrating the Godhead of Father, Son, or Ruach HaKodesh.

Rather than speaking of the Ruach as proceeding from the Father and the Son, the East spoke in terms of the Ruach proceeding from the Father through the Son, in effect guarding against any understanding that the Ruach HaKodesh derived his existence from the Son which would thus cause Him to appear as a lesser being. Perhaps it is an oversimplification to describe the emphasis in the East as that of safeguarding the Ruach’s full divinity. At the same time, the West emphasized a concern to guard the Son’s full divinity. No doubt other issues such as authority, both of popes and councils, are intertwined in these discussions and have complicated ecumenical discussions far beyond the issue of the Ruach’s procession. [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 217-220).​

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 34

The Nicene Creed~ Part 20

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase the giver of life 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.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ In Sanctification

Sanctification is made up of two Latin words: Sanctus, meaning Holy, and the verb Facere, meaning to make. The primary work of the Ruach HaKodesh in the Trinity’s interaction with the world is to make us Holy, that is, sanctified. From its inception, the ancient church was concerned with the Holiness of the Believer. Clement of Rome, for instance, lauds the Corinthian congregation for its Messianic piety and character while also calling on the congregation to persevere in Holiness in the face of division. Polycarp exhorts the Philippian congregation to Holy living, good works, and a faith that remains steadfast. Holiness as a way of life was considered so important that, should the baptized depart from it, there was a minimal possibility for return. Baptism was the point of entry into the life of faith and Holiness, leaving behind sin and being conformed to the divine image. With its considerations as to whether one could sin after baptism and still be called a child of God, one might get the impression that the early church believed in salvation by sanctification, or, more concretely, salvation by good works. This would, however, place a sixteenth-century dichotomy onto the texts of the early centuries of the church they were not meant to bear.

The early church was more fluid in its discussion of sanctification and justification. It did not always use terms consistently. It did not have a well-established order of salvation that consistently worked out the logical sequencing of the various components of salvation. This at times can create misunderstanding or lack of clarity in what the church meant concerning sanctification. It is clear that when it came to the issue of standing before the judgment seat of the throne of God or when they were in trials or tribulations, it was not to their good works that they turned for certainty. When ruminating on the effects of sin or the coming judgment, they put their faith and trust in Yeshua alone and not on the works they had done. But they obviously spoke favorably of good works and the life of sanctification and demonstrated a fear and reverence for God often lacking today. Sanctification was integral to Messianic faith and life. It was not just a series of acts that takes place, nor did it simply imply the betterment of human life or moral improvement – although these will take place in those who are being brought to maturity in the faith.

Sanctification was considered to be the entire process of indwelling by the Ruach HaKodesh by which one is conformed to the image of God, a process that begins in baptism when sin is drowned and left behind so that a new life can begin. That new life grows and matures in people as they are joined to the community of faith centered around Word and sacrament, which were deemed essential to a life of Holiness for its members. [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. 37–38).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 33

 

The Nicene Creed~ Part 19

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase the giver of life 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.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ Christ’s Life in Us Through the Spirit – Theosis [1]

The Nicene Creed~ Part 19

is the primary source for the kehillah’s teaching on Justification and its teaching of incorporation and union with Yeshua via the Ruach. Sha’ul often uses the phrase in Yeshua or in Yeshua Messiah to indicate a change in our relationship with God and a change in us through our incorporation into Yeshua. However, it is the apostle Kefa who has provided the kehillah with the clearest text concerning our participation in the divine nature. This concept has been found predominantly in the East, although the selections here will demonstrate that this was teaching in the West. In the first chapter of his second letter, Kefa writes:

3 God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us valuable and superlatively great promises so that through them you might come to share in God’s nature and escape the corruption which evil desires have brought into the world. ~2 Kefa 1:3-4 (CJB)

Kefa and Sha’ul no doubt took this idea from Yeshua as inspired writers. But what did they have in mind when they spoke of Believers being in Yeshua and partakers of the divine nature? This teaches the kehillah of which many in the West, including evangelicals and some Roman Catholics, are unaware. What follows is an attempt to introduce what this teaching is about and to explore the significant place and influence this teaching exerted in the early kehillah’s understanding of the Ruach’s work in us.

The ancient writers believed that the apostles were speaking of deification. Their choice of such terminology was not cavalier. It was a bold and deliberate move meant to evoke and challenge the pagan language of exaltation. Human beings, especially heroes, sages, and ultimately emperors, advanced to the rank of deity. However, those writers avoided the term deification because it fundamentally transgressed on the divine prerogative, something that some present-day Believers believe occurs in the doctrine of Theosis, although such a transgression could not have been further from the patristic mind. Early Believers chose a polemical term and concept in a deliberate confrontation with the paganism of their day to differentiate what it truly meant to partake of the divine nature of the one true God. They were careful to note that it was not the polytheism of their pagan neighbors they were espousing. Instead, as Athanasius states, “it is as ‘sons,’ not as the Son”; as ‘gods,’ not as God himself that we partake of the divine nature. This is an important distinction since the Greek kehillah emphasized only one God by nature over classical religion with its deified men and women and its anthropomorphic gods and goddesses.

According to the orthodox, scriptural understanding of Theosis, we are given the right to become children of God by grace as we are born of God through the waters of baptism. We thus become sons and daughters of God at our baptism. What follows, then, is an ongoing process of sanctification by which we, through the indwelling of the Ruach, become more and more conformed to the image of our God and Father in which we were created. This conforming process ultimately realizes its full potential as the just receive their promised inheritance in heaven when their own glorious transfiguration takes place in the new heavenly kingdom. It is both a moral and ontological ascent toward the fullness of life and, ultimately, eternal life in communion with the divine, which was God’s original intention for humanity all along. [2]

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] Theosis is the belief, mostly found within the Eastern Orthodox Church, that a Believer can experience a union with God and become like Him so much that they participate in the divine nature. This concept is also known as “deification.” Theosis does not mean that they become Gods or merge with God but that they are deified. They participate in the “energies” of God with which He reveals Himself to us in creation.

[2] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp. 37–38).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 32

The Nicene Creed~ Part 18

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue 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.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ In Justification

As we learned in our last post, Repentance precedes Justification in the sense that it prepares the heart to receive God’s gracious gift of forgiveness by tearing down any notion of self-justification. Through Repentance, the Ruach humbles the heart to recognize its sinful state and its need to receive God’s mercy of forgiveness without any merit or worthiness. Such a person is declared innocent from the guilt and punishment that sin would otherwise demand. He or she is declared justified before God. Justification is not defined here as making someone ethically righteous or changing behavior, although this may and should result from Justification. Justification is defined as a declaration of innocence, similar to when a judge pronounces a person not guilty – sometimes referred to as forensic Justification because of the courtroom metaphor.

The question, historically speaking, is whether this forensic Justification is what the ancient Messianic writers understood. Some assert that the forensic understanding of Justification was a product of the sixteenth century and that the ancient Messianic writers understood Justification as a process of transformation. It is clear that the Fathers use the word justify in several senses and not always consistently – which is not so much a critique as a reflection of the fact that they were not writing treatises on this particular doctrine.

At best, the teaching of Justification is scattered throughout the patristic period, permeating letters, sermons, patristic exegesis, [1] and doctrinal controversies. For instance, one of the earliest post-apostolic writers, Clement of Rome, wrote a letter to the Corinthians that has within it a clear enunciation of the doctrine of Justification. But this was not the primary reason for him writing the letter, the composition of which was primarily to call for unity among a divided church. In general, the first centuries of the post-apostolic church are characterized by episodic discussions of Salvation, Justification, and the role of the will in response to the Gnostic and Manichean dualism that pitted the Tanach against the new in heretics such as Marcion. These heretics also made God the author of evil. Patristic writers such as Irenaeus and Origen sought to defend God against such accusations, placing the blame squarely on human beings for the fall into sin and the subsequent actions resulting from the Fall. Thus, sometimes we see what might appear to be an overly optimistic view of the capability of the will in light of the later Augustinian discussion on the fallen will that is captive to sin. However, read in the light of the polemics of their day, such an emphasis on human responsibility is understandable and might even be deemed necessary.

In the Messianic East, the doctrine of Justification is present in all the major writers and is not foreign to their thinking, as some assume. It is true that the first real controversy that helped begin to clarify the doctrine of Justification was the controversy with Pelagius in the late fourth century and following with Augustine, Jerome, and others. Its focus was more directly on the role of the will in human conversion – an issue very much related to the doctrine of Justification but not identical with it. And so, it is difficult to say here that Augustine clarified the doctrine of Justification per se, although he did help clarify many aspects of it. Perhaps the closest we come to a discussion of the doctrine are the commentaries on the Pauline letters by some of the writers of this period, such as Marius Victorinus, Ambrosiaster, and even Pelagius. Even though these are not meant to be systematic treatises, many of these commentaries show a profound understanding of Sha’ul’s teaching on Justification that would be reflected in later interpretations of the reformation period.

Thus, when the Reformers of the sixteenth century expounded their doctrine of Justification, they appealed to church fathers from the West, such as Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose or Ambrosiaster, but also from the East, citing Basil, Chrysostom, and Gregory of Nyssa, among others, to show that this doctrine on which they believed the church stood or fell was nothing new. It had always been taught throughout the church’s history. Just as other doctrines such as the divinity of Yeshua or the Ruach were further clarified in the face of controversy, so too was this doctrine further clarified, albeit in the sixteenth century.

The ancient Messianic writers looked at the whole of Scripture when dealing with Justification. They identified the failure of Justification under the law but also knew of the triumph of Grace under the Gospel in Yeshua, who is our righteousness. He brings us forgiveness and restores us to God’s favor, uniting us with Yeshua. We receive this gift of favor in the forgiveness of sins through faith in Yeshuaa faith that they understood as the consent of the mind, the trust of the heart, and a decision of the will moved by the Ruach. The Ruach then continues to work in the heart of faith to elicit a response of good works that operate through faith, hope, and love.[2]

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] Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for work with the Bible.

[2] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp. 37–38).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 31

The Nicene Creed~ Part 17

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue 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.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ In Repentance

Life is spoken of in Scripture in terms of physical life or eternal life and the life of faith that leads to salvation. How do we receive this life, this salvation? The biblical answer has always been through Repentance, faith, and baptism. The message of John the Baptist was a call to repentance because the kingdom of God was at hand. (See Mt 3:2; 28:19; Mk 1:15; Lk 24:47; Acts 2:38.) Yeshua called on His hearers to repent and believe the Gospel. The talmidim were given the charge to preach repentance and forgiveness. (See Luke 24:7) Therefore, the terms of salvation have always been framed in the call to repent and believe the Gospel, and be baptized to remission sins.

One of the essential factors of being a Believer repeatedly urged by writers such as Clement of Rome and Barnabas was the confession of sins. One could directly confess his or her sins to God. But this confession might also occur amid the congregation, especially before the Eucharist, especially for sins that were known to the larger public. This confession of sins was also to be accompanied by charity, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving so that it was indeed a confession that was deep and heartfelt.

Public penitence was reserved for scandalous and public sins, with all others being treated by the clergy in private. Traces of public discipline remain in the West, reduced to Lenten ceremonies on Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. The years-long and humiliating process of public discipline was condensed to these forty days of comparatively easy discipline framed by Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. The penitent would leave church on Ash Wednesday, focusing on a time of penance over the next forty days. On Maundy Thursday, he/she would again enter the church and prostrate himself and be reconciled by the bishop, who offered prayers for forgiveness on his behalf. [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. 37–38).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 30

The Nicene Creed~ Part 16

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue 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.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ In Creation

When it came time to formulate the Ruach’s role in the Trinity and its interaction with the world, the ancient Kehillah chose to emphasize the Ruach’s role as the Giver of Life. They viewed the work of the Ruach as bringing to completion the work of the Father and the Son. This is especially true when contemplating the Genesis account. On its most basic level among the ancient Messianic writers, the phrase Giver of Life evokes the Ruach’s presence with the other persons of the Trinity at creation, brooding over the waters, bringing life to them and through them, animating all living creatures with the breath of life.

Even though the Hebrew and Greek words for Ruach in Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 2:7 are different words, this did not stop the Fathers from understanding the same Ruach as the breath breathed ultimately into Adam, which brought life to him and his descendants.

Passages that connected the breath and the Ruach of God with creation, such as Genesis 1:2, as well as Psalm 33:6, figured prominently in the ancient Kehillah’s understanding of the third person of the Trinity’s involvement in creation. Other passages, such as Proverbs 8:22 and Wisdom 1:7, spoke of the Wisdom of God present at creation, which was often identified from the second century with the Ruach just as John had identified the Word (Logos) with the Son. Thus, in writers such as Irenaeus, there arose the conception of the two hands of God operative in creation: The Word and Wisdom, that is, the Son and the Ruach. This later evolved into the Son is referred to as the right hand of the Father and the Ruach as the finger of God. Either of these conceptions has as its preconception the source of creative power in the Father. The creative work originated in the Father and was exercised through the Son and perfected in Ruach. Thus, the peculiar work of the Ruach was to actuate and bring to fulfillment the creative work of Father and Son. The Ruach is the vitalizer and perfecter of the Trinity’s work in creation, and it was to Him, along with the Word, that God said, Let us make man in our image. Thus, the spiritual nature of humanity also became the unique purview of the Ruach, whose work is to bring fallen humanity back to the image that was lost. The ancient Kehillah did not confine the Ruach’s work to the original creation. The same Ruach present at creation enlivened the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision and will revitalize our dry bones at the Resurrection. The Fathers also spoke of the Ruach’s role in the Son’s conception, memorializing it in the creedal statement and was incarnate by the Ruach of the Virgin Mary. They realized that just as human and divine were joined together in the incarnation through the power of the Ruach, so the Ruach also joins the divine to created things, bringing life through them too when His presence and power is invoked in consecration and blessing as the giver of Life. [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. 37–38).

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 29

The Nicene Creed ~ Part 15

 

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue 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.

The Lord

The time between the first iteration of the Creed and its second in 381CE proved to be a tumultuous time in understanding the short phrase of the Creed of 325CE meant when it confessed, We believe in the Ruach. Around the middle of the fourth century, challenges began to emerge from the Arians, the Pneumatomachians (or “Spirit-fighters”), and from Eunomius as to what this confession meant. They spoke of belief in the Ruach as a creature and as less than God. In working out the implications of its confession of belief in the Ruach, the ancient Messianic writers of the mid-fourth century—as well as their opponents -began to understand that whatever happened with the doctrine of the Son also affected the doctrine of the Ruach and vice versa. If the Son is not fully God, the Ruach is not fully God; and if the Ruah is not fully God, then neither is the Son. It was no longer enough to confess belief in the Ruach. If an Arian or a Pneumatomachians could profess belief in the Ruach just as quickly as an orthodox Believer, then the time had come to clarify what the Kehillah believed about the Ruach.

By the time of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381CE, there is every indication that the Council found itself somewhat divided in its articulation of belief about the Ruach. Although we have less information about the discussions that went on at the Second Ecumenical Council than of any other, we know thirty-six Macedonian bishops at the Council would not have affirmed anything more than the Ruach was a creature, albeit a high and holy creature. Their presence and subsequent departure may explain the reaction of Gregory of Nazianzus, who presided at the Council for a time, who asked directly in one of his orations at the time if the Ruach is God. His frustration in getting a clear answer to this question perhaps explains why he offered his resignation in the middle of the Council.

Politically speaking, the bishops had learned their lesson from the previous Council’s discussion of the term of the same essence, which the Arians had charged was an invalid term because it was not found in Scripture. Although the Cappadocians soundly answered this objection, the wording that ultimately won the day in speaking of the Ruach was decidedly and deliberately Scriptural.

This was a delicate political time in the life of Kehillah and state, both of which were looking for a united front against threats from without. The language of the third article of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381CE, in language that some might consider a compromise, nowhere explicitly calls the Ruach God. And yet, the terminology they used can lead to no other conclusion.

Thus, other phrases were added to the Creed to clarify the Kehillah’s understanding of the Ruach. The way had been prepared for these additions earlier in the middle of the century by Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures, Athanasius, and his Four Letters to Serapion (371CE) as well as his Synodal letters, Basil of Caesarea, and his treatise On the Ruach (374CE).[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).