“We believe in one God, Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of His Father, only begotten… begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father… who for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was made (became) flesh and was made (became) man, suffered and rose again on the third day ascended into the heavens and comes to judge the living and the dead.”
This is a small fragment of the Nicaea Creed (325 A.D) that affirms the deity of Christ. This Counsel of Bishops, as I would claim for all the Counsels, did not exist to create truth about God but to protect what was already true based on the Scriptures. The Counsel of Nicaea gathered about 300 Bishops to hear and understand the nature of a conflict that had arisen over the person of Christ. The truth that was being challenged is that Christ eternally existed with the Father and was one in nature with the Father. Here was the way that Athanasius (bishop) argued against Arias who was the proponent of what we call the Arian heresy:
“For the Son is in the Father, as it is allowed us to know, because the whole Being of the Son is proper to the Father’s essence, as radiance from light, and stream from fountain; so the whoever sees the Son sees what is proper to the Father and knows that the Son’s Being, because from the Father, is therefore in the Father.”
So the illustration that Athanasius used way back in the early 4th century was twofold: the first is that in the same way that you cannot separate the brilliance of the sun from the light that it radiates so is Christ the radiance of the Father. In the same way that you cannot separate a stream from the essence of the fountain from which it comes you cannot separate Christ from the Father regarding His essential nature. By the way these are pretty good illustrations to help us understand why there is One God but three distinct persons in the Godhead.
The argument from Arias was that Jesus did not share the same nature as the Father. The criticism laid against this “infidelity” was considered to come from Judaism which was connected with Gentile superstition. The counsel concluded that those who hold these contrarian beliefs could no longer be considered Christians. Here are the accusations made against the Arian heresy:
1. The Arian heresy alleged that Christ was not the true God but that He is only called God, as are other creatures, in regard to His participation in the Divine Nature. This often stems from the idea that the Son was “begotten of the Father” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18, Hebrew 11:17; 1 John 4:9) or He was the “first born of all things” (Col. 1:15). The error stems from the human limitation that when we talk about any human beings who are begotten it means that we started our existence as human begins through procreation (or when mom and dad “create” a child through their union). The weight of Scriptures however makes it very clear that Christ has always existed with God for all eternity and the idea of begotten is limited to the idea that the Son shares exactly the same nature as the Father without the created part (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1: 3). The reference to “first-born of all creation” in Colossians 1:15 is equal to the statement “appointed heir of all things” in Hebrews 1:2. It does not mean Jesus was created but the passage is using a human picture of near east inheritance rights where the “first born” had a double portion of inheritance that gave him rights above any siblings. It is speaking about Christ’s “rights to inheritance” which includes all things in creation rather than being created.
2. Jesus was a created being outside of the Father. “But these men dare to separate them (Father and Son), and to say that he (Christ) is alien from the substance and eternity of the Father; and impiously to represent Him as changeable, not perceiving that, by speaking thus, they make Him to be not one with the Father, but one with created things.” (History of Christianity, Ray C. Petry, Editor, pg. 66).
Jesus was not created. He has eternally existed with the Father and while they are distinct in terms of personhood they are one in nature – One God but two persons (I know there are three including the Spirit).