Stumbling in the Way, Part 17

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The Third Church and its Messenger

The angel of the Pergamos period, extending from A.D. 313 to A.D.1157, was Arius the presbyter of Alexandria, Egypt, who first began to attract the attention of the Christian world about the year 312. His opposition to both the theory of lordship in the Church and the doctrine of the Trinity, which is of heathen derivation—as well as the general character, chronological location, scope, and influence of his teachings in and upon Christendom—indicates he was chosen by God for this office.

According to Gibbon even the most implacable enemies of Arius have acknowledged the learning and blameless life of this eminent presbyter. With characteristic humility, Arius personally manifested his opposition to lordship in the Church by refusing the episcopal throne of Alexandria.

When the people, by their votes, were on the point of electing Arius, he declined the honor in favor of Alexander,” who, soon after his election, got involved in doctrinal disputes with Arius and never relented until the latter had been twice excommunicated, banished by an imperial edict, and anathematized by the universal synod of Nicaea.”

The views that prevailed at Nicaea (A.D. 324–325) are embodied in the Nicene Creed, a strictly Trinitarian statement. At the synod the Trinitarians believed Christ’s generation was from eternity, so that he was coeval—i.e., coeternal with the Father— whereas the Arians believed he had a beginning. The Trinitarians claimed the Son was derived of and from the Father, being of the same identical essence and not merely of similar essence, as the Arians believed. The Arians held that the Son was created by the power of God, out of nothing, and that he was the first created being ever. The Council of Nicaea defined the Godhead(?) as the absolute unity of the divine essence and the absolute equality of the three persons.”

By no means did Arius intend to lower the dignity of Christ by ascribing to him a beginning of existence. Indeed, Arius attributed to him the greatest dignity that a being could have after God, without entirely ignoring the distinction between that being and God.

Indeed, for our Lord is the first and the last, the only direct creation of God, all other created beings, for that matter all other created things, have been brought into existence through the Son. Even as it is written: "Without him was not anything made that was made." (John 1:3)

“…For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things (all created things), and in him all things consist.” (Col 1:15-17)

What an honor and privilege!

Nevertheless Athanasius, the leading spokesman for the Trinitarian view and perhaps Arius’s bitterest contemporary opponent, vilified him in his in different works with such slanderous statements as “Arius the atheist,” “He vomits forth the poison of impiety,” “Arius the serpent that deceived Eve,” and so forth.

In the doctrinal dispute between Arius and Athanasius on the nature of Jesus and his relationship to the Father, it was the emperor Constantine who presided at the Council of Nicaea and decided in favor of Athanasius and the doctrine of the Trinity. Although Constantine subsequently vacillated back and forth for a time, he ultimately rejected Arius and his views. Thus, it was Constantine, a supposed convert to Christianity, who made a decision that has had a profound effect upon Christianity down through the age to the present. However, his deeds negated his claim to be a Christian (Matt 7:15–20) so that, in fact, it was a worldly (a natural man) who predominated at a council that decided a spiritual matter of great importance.

This despite the Lord’s word which states clearly that:

The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)

The Keys of Revelation, Page, 42-43

The Council decreed that Christ wasbegotten, not made,” andof one essence with the Father.” “Begottenthence forth was understood to mean that Christ possessed the very nature and substance of the Father, and not that he had been created by God from nothing. Only Arius and two bishops refused to sign the Creed; all three were banished.

Undaunted, Arius composed a rival creed to that of Nicene which so impressed Constantine that he was recalled. But on the very day of his installation ceremony in Constantinople, Arius died suddenly under suspicious circumstances, leading his friends to suspect he had been poisoned.

The Arian controversy is considered to be the most fundamental dispute in the history of the church. It was not officially resolved until more than 50 years after Arius’ death, when the Trinity view finally emerged as the orthodox position.” (The Seven Churches of Revelation: C.F. Redeker)

In our next post we will take another look at this third messenger as he is mentioned by our Lord himself in the Holy Scriptures.

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Harvest 1874
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