************ Sermon on Nicene Creed ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on May 13, 2012

Nicene Creed 03
1 John 2:28 - 1 John 3:3
"We Believe in One God, the Father Almighty"

The Council of Nicea could have opened the Creed with the assertion that "God is the Creator." The bishops could have started with the profession that "God is the only independent being." They could have simply declared that we believe in "God almighty." A variety of possible expressions could have opened the Creed. Indeed, they could have selected a popular title from classical culture, which refers to the divine being as the "Unmoved Mover." Yet, they began with God as "Father": "We believe in one God, the Father ..." Why? Because the overwhelming message of the Bible about God is that He is Father.

God is our "Father." Some of you might turn cold when you hear this title because you may not have had a good fathering experience. Maybe you have suffered greatly at the hands of your father. Maybe your father abandoned the family. On the other hand, some of us have experienced excellent parenting from a loving father. These things profoundly affect how we view God as Father. If we did not or do not get loving provision and care, it directly translates into how we view God.

Some of us desperately need healing and restoration to rightly see God as a loving Father. I want to tell you this kind of healing is absolutely available through the power and grace of God. It may take some time to let those old, corrupt images of an abusive father, a distant father, or an absentee father to fade from your mind and memory. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to heal those wounds if we let Him.

At the same time, I have to say that those fathers who do damage to the name and title of God as "Father" will someday be called to account. Jesus says something frightening to them:
(Mt 18:6) But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

In the meantime, hear this truth: God has revealed himself as Father.

I The Father
A With the church of all ages "We believe in one God, the Father ..." What exactly does this mean? What are we confessing about God? Three things: First, God is the source from whom all things come; second, God has an eternal Father-Son relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ; third, through Jesus we have been adopted as children of God.

"We believe in one God, the Father ..." We are first saying that God is the source from whom all things come. In the Ancient World, this view of God as "Father" was regarded as both obvious and natural for the chief god. After all, the father is viewed as the source and originator. Furthermore, the "natural" head of the household was the father. And, in the Ancient world, every member of the family was expected to recognize the father's authority. However, it was also expected that the father govern well and that he protect, defend, and support those who were under him, especially his children. With this understanding of father it was only natural to think of God as Father because He is the source and head; all others are expected to recognize His authority; and He is the One Who protects, defends, and supports those under Him.

We see this picture of God as "Father" in Isaiah. Isaiah connects the title of father to God's creation of humans:
(Is 64:8) Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
We find the same picture of God as "Father" in 1 Corinthians 8:
(1Cor 8:6) yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

B "We believe in one God, the Father ..." Second, we are saying God is the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you know that in Matthew's Gospel, every statement involving God as Father is heard from the mouth of Jesus. "Father" is Jesus' favorite designation for God. But Jesus also speaks of God as His own father with a special sense of directness and intimacy. The clear implication is that God is His Father in a way not entirely shared by others. He speaks of "my Father in heaven" (cf Mt 10:32-33; 12:50; 16:17) and "my Father" (cf Mt 20:23; 25:34).

In John's Gospel, Jesus also speaks plainly about God as His Father, referring to "my Father" (Jn 2:16; 5:17, 43) or simply "the Father" in relation to "the Son" (Jn 3:35; 5:19). His opponents state, quite rightly, that by calling God His own Father, He was "making himself equal with God" (Jn 5:18). For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him. In response, Jesus both acknowledged the ways in which "the Son" shares the power and authority of "the Father" and the ways in which the Son is subordinate and obedient:
(Jn 5:30) By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

(Jn 10:29-30) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. (30) I and the Father are one."
It is not surprising that His opponents responded by seeking to stone Him for blasphemy, noting that "you, a mere man, claim to be God" (Jn 10:33).

C "We believe in one God, the Father ..." Third, we are saying we have been adopted as God's children through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why do we need adoption if we are already God's children? After all, we said to confess God as "Father" means He is the source of all things. Doesn't this mean He already is our Father? Doesn't this mean He is the Father of every member of the human race? The fact is, because of sin we have lost the right to call God "Father." Because of sin, the Father-child relationship has been broken. It is only the work of Christ which allows us to again call God "Father" and ourselves His children.

Our Bible reading for this evening expresses the amazement of what God does for us in Christ:
(1Jn 3:1-2) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (2) Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Notice what is all said. First, this is an act of love. Notice what the Father has done: He has taken back disobedient children, wayward children, children who have offended Him and insulted Him and even despised Him. Second, we are told the Father has "lavished" His love on us. Third, we not only are called "children of God" but we actually are "children of God." So, Jesus can tell His disciples that God is "your Father in heaven" (cf Mt 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 14, 32; 7:11, 21) or simply "your Father" (cf Mt 6:4, 6, 8, 15, 18, 26; 10:20,29).

When I hear these words of 1 John 3, I cannot help but think of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-24). That parable teaches in picture form the same thing as John in our Scripture reading. First, in a great act of love the father has taken back a disobedient child, a wayward child, a child who has offended him and insulted him and even despised him. Second, the father not only greets and welcomes back his lost son, but he kills the fattened calf and calls upon his friends and relatives and neighbors to rejoice with him; that is, the father lavishes his son with love. Third, the father restores the son to a position of sonship in his household.

All those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ can identify with the lost son because he is you and me.

We see this same view of God as Father in the Old Testament. God's "fatherhood" is revealed in His creating a people and nurturing them. As God says through the prophet Hosea:
(Hosea 11:1, 3-4) When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son ... (3) It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. (4) I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.

D "We believe in one God, the Father ..." There are also so many other ways God is Father. Think of the many times God has given you strength, friends, resources; how He has protected you from ultimate harm and rescued you from dangers you weren't even aware of. My brothers and sisters, take note of this: Sin and Satan can harm our bodies, can tear apart our families, can destroy and kill and maim the body, but sin and Satan cannot separate us from the love of God our heavenly Father!

E "We believe in one God, the Father ..." God's title of "Father" has its roots in the Old Testament, is repeatedly found in the prayer life and teachings of Jesus, and was often used in the prayer of the first Christians. In saying "God, the Father," the Creed states as briefly as possible the precise character of God as revealed by Jesus Christ. This is the way Jesus viewed and addressed God and it is as Jesus' Father that Christians now approach God.

When Christians say "Father" to the Father of Jesus, they approach God not as an impersonal force but as a loving person. Meaning what? Meaning He cares for all, even the most insignificant creatures (Mt 6:26). He knows what we need even before we do (Mt 6:8) and wishes to give us what is really good for us (Mt 7:11). He forgives us our sins. In Psalm 68:5, God is called a "father to the fatherless, a defender of widows." As Father, God is pictured as the defender of the weak and helpless.

F "We believe in one God, the Father ..." I know it is Mother's Day but allow me to rant and rave for a moment. Neither this Creed nor any of the other historic creeds of the church pronounce belief in God as "mother." Yes, God is mother-like in how He cares for us His children; in fact, He is the model for all mothers to follow. Yet, nowhere does the Bible call Him "mother" or identify Him as "mother." We don't profess to "believe in one God, the Mother."

At the same time, let me acknowledge that many women are disturbed by the use of gender-exclusive language for God. The Creed is a stumbling block for such Christians when it calls God "Father" and not "Mother," and when it speaks of Jesus as "Son" and as "becoming man."

The solution is not to use gender-inclusive language for God. The solution is not to replace male language with female language. The solution is not to supplement male names with female names. Nor is the solution to open up church offices to women.

Sticking with the language of Scripture and Jesus and the Creed, we confess belief "in one God, the Father."

Yet, we have to add that the church of Jesus Christ is not to elevate males above females. Nor is there room within the church for attitudes that diminish or destroy the value of women as persons. We are to avoid projecting human male qualities on God that are then regarded as "divine." And, we are to avoid the implication that human female qualities cannot be ascribed to God.

II The Father Almighty
A "We believe in one God, the Father ..." Take note of the next word in the Creed: the word "almighty." "We believe in one God, the Father almighty." Meaning what?

As I said earlier, in the Ancient world the title "father" suggests power and authority. Within pagan religions, it was not uncommon for the father-god to be regarded as supremely powerful. We see this reflected in Scripture when it calls God "Lord of Hosts" (cf 2 Sam 5:10; Mic 4:4; Hab 2:13). We are to picture God at the head of His army or His heavenly court.

B God is the Father "almighty." Keep in mind what the Scriptures say about God's mighty power:
(Gen 18:14) Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.

(Num 11:23) The LORD answered Moses, "Is the Lord's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you."

(Job 42:2) I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.

(Jer 32:17) Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

(Lk 1:37) For nothing is impossible with God.

(Lk 18:27) Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."

According to Jesus, God is so powerful He can raise up children for Abraham out of stones (Mt 3:9). He can command stones to become bread (Mt 4:3). He controls the forces of nature so that there is neither dew nor rain except by His Word. He sent the Flood. He rained down judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah. He made Mount Sinai shake. He send ravens to feed Elijah. And by one little word He can stop the storm.

How powerful is God our Father? He works all things for the good of those who love Him.

Why do we pray to our Father in heaven? The premise of all our prayer is that God can do everything and anything. That has to be our premise or else why would we pray?

The God we believe in, the God we call "Father," is a God with power and authority. As the Creed puts it, He is "almighty." God can do all things. He is able to do whatever He wills.

God is almighty.

C The following articles of the Creed makes clear the depth of God's might. For instance, He is the God Who made heaven and earth. He made a virgin conceive. He raised Jesus from the dead.

"We believe in one God, the Father almighty."

Notice, the Creed joins "Father" with "almighty." Being a Father He wants to give us whatever we need for body and soul. Being almighty He is able to give us whatever we need for body and soul.

"We believe in one God, the Father almighty." What I want to ask you is do you believe this? With the Creed, do you confess that God is your "Father almighty"?

"We believe in one God, the Father almighty." We confess these things. We cannot demonstrate them. We cannot prove them. When we think and speak of God, we are, as Paul says, like people who "see but a poor reflection as in a mirror" (1 Cor 13:12). This is our condition. We stand on this side of the abyss between us and God. We confess His Fatherhood and His power even when we are surrounded by events that would make us question them.

Paul says, "Now I know in part" (1 Cor 13:12). We are like beginners in chess. We have learned only a few simple moves. We cannot begin to conceive what it would be like to play a million games simultaneously. We don't know everything about God. Instead, we hardly know anything about God. But this we do know: He is the Father almighty.
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