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Devotion Remembering the Council of Nicaea, AD 325

The Council of Nicaea was a meeting of Christian bishops during which heresies were condemned and a common confession of faith (the Nicene Creed) was developed. We read about the effects of this meeting with an excerpt from “The Power and Primacy of the Pope” as printed in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Second Edition.

Devotional Reading

[Editor’s Note in Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions:] History shows that the claims of the Roman bishop lack foundation in the Church’s practice through the ages. In the fourth century, it was understood that the bishop of Alexandria would administer the churches in the East and the Roman bishop would serve the same function in the West. The Roman bishop’s position derived from human decisions made at a council for the sake of order in the Church, not out of some special institution by Christ. Bishops were historically chosen by their own congregations, not by the Roman bishop. There were, and continue to be, many churches throughout the world that do not depend on Roman authority to exist. Many of the Church’s historic councils were held without the Roman bishop’s presiding over them. Various Church Fathers are cited as speaking of equality among the bishops. Even Gregory the Great, who Rome says is a pope, rejected the title of universal bishop and rejected notions of primacy.

VI. The Council of Nicaea resolved that the bishop of Alexandria should administer the churches in the East and the Roman bishop the suburban churches, that is, those in the Roman provinces in the West. From this start by a human law (i.e., the resolution of the council), the authority of the Roman bishop first arose. If the Roman bishop already had the superiority by divine law, it would not have been lawful for the council to take away any right from him and transfer it to the bishop of Alexandria. No, all the bishops of the East should always have sought ordination and confirmation from the bishop of Rome.

VII. The Council of Nicaea also determined that bishops should be elected by their own churches, in the presence of one or more neighboring bishops. This was observed also in the West in the Latin churches, as Cyprian and Augustine testify. . . .

In the greater part of the world, in the Latin and Greek Churches, neither ordination nor confirmation was sought from a bishop of Rome. Therefore, it is clear enough that the churches did not then grant superiority and domination to the bishop of Rome. . . . Since the superiority the pope claims for himself is impossible and has not been acknowledged by churches in the greater part of the world, it is clear enough that it was not instituted by Christ and does not spring from divine law.

VIII. Many ancient councils have been proclaimed and held in which the bishop of Rome did not preside, such as that of Nicaea and most others. This, too, testifies that the Church did not then acknowledge the primacy or superiority of the bishop of Rome.

Devotional reading is from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, Second Edition, pages 295–96 © 2005, 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church, I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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