The First Council of Nicaea was a council of bishops in the Church, organised in the city of Nicea in Bithynia (now called Iznik in Turkey) and called by the Roman Emperor Constantine. It lasted from May to August AD 325.
This ecumenical council was the first effort to achieve agreement in the Church through a gathering of representatives all of Christendom at that time. Some of its main achievements were settlement of the truth of the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and his relationship to God the father and the formation of the first part of the Nicene Creed.
Some people claim that the divinity of Jesus Christ was completely unheard of before the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. These claim that due to Constantine’s pagan background, he gathered a council together so as to establish Christian doctrines which would finally match with his own personal doctrinal prejudices.
If this claim is true, then believing that Jesus Christ is God, is simply believing in a Roman Emperor’s fictitious doctrine which did not exist before the 3rd and 4th centuries.
Before we look at the early Church fathers’ comments does the Bible teach the Deity of Christ? The following is a small sample of references to Bible verses that teach the deity of Christ: Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23; John 1:1, 14, 18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15-16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3, 8; 2Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20.
Let us therefore look at the evidence from this brief list which gives the names, life spans and quotations of specific early Church Christians:
Ignatius (AD 50–117) called the bishop at the church in Antioch wrote:
Epistle/letter to the Ephesians: Ignatius’ introduction informing the Ephesian church it is “. . . united and elect in a true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our GOD”
Chapter 4: ‘… ye may indeed be one in harmonious feeling with God the Father, and His beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord. For, says He, “Grant unto them, Holy Father, that as I and Thou are one, they also may be one in us.’
Chapter 7: ‘We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.”’
Chapter 15: ‘Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, first did and then taught, as Luke testifies, “whose praise is in the Gospel through all the Churches.”’
Chapter 18: ‘For our GOD, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb by Mary according to a dispensation, of the seed of David but also of the Holy Ghost.’
Letter to the Romans:
Chapter 3: ‘For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory].’
Chapter 6: ‘I long after the Lord, the Son of the true God and Father, even Jesus Christ.’
Chapter 7: ‘I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham;’
Polycarp (AD 69-156)
Letter to the Philippians:
Chapter 12: ‘But may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forbearance, and purity.’
Justin Martyr (AD 100–165) was a Christian apologist of the second century. He stated:
First Apology: Chapter 12: ‘That all these things should come to pass, I say, our Teacher foretold, He who is both Son and Apostle of God the Father of all and the Ruler, Jesus Christ; from whom also we have the name of Christians.’
Chapter 13: ‘Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judæa, in the times of Tiberius Cæsar; and that we reasonably worship Him, having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, …’
Chapter 22: ‘Moreover, the Son of God called Jesus, even if only a man by ordinary generation, yet, on account of His wisdom, is worthy to be called the Son of God;’
Chapter 33: ‘And the angel of God who was sent to the same virgin at that time brought her good news, saying, “Behold, thou shalt conceive of the Holy Ghost, and shalt bear a Son, and He shall be called the Son of the Highest, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins,”’
Chapter 63: ‘And Jesus the Christ, because the Jews knew not what the Father was, and what the Son, in like manner accused them; and Himself said, “No one knoweth the Father, but the Son; nor the Son, but the Father, and they to whom the Son revealeth Him.” Now the Word of God is His Son, as we have before said.’