The Council of Nicaea
Triumph and tragedy; - the epic compromise and capitulation of the 4th century Christian Church to the powers of the world. Did this set the pattern of church- state compromise? Is it a precedent for what we might expect to see when the future seven year Daniel 9:27 peace covenant is signed with the Antichrist?
A study by Gavin Finley
The Council of Nicaea - 325 A.D.
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THE PATTERN OF CHURCH-STATE COMPROMISE IN CHRISTIANITY.
THIS WAS SET FORTH IN 325 A.D. AT THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA.
Compromise is an awful thing. This is a well known fact to those who know of the God of the Bible. Warnings from the Old Testament prophets concerned idolatry with other gods. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul continued along the same line. He warned about mixing "the cup of Christ with the cup of devils". (1Cor.10:21)
As people who bear the Name of Christ we have been instructed to keep ourselves undefiled by the world. And our church leaders have an even greater responsibility to keep the faith in holiness and teach the pure doctrine that was first delivered to the saints. As representatives of Jesus Christ and His Body on earth we dare not make any dealings whatsoever on His behalf or on behalf of His church with the principalities and powers of this world. We see many such dealings in which church leaders 'sell out' the sovereign things of God to the princes of this world. These are impudent acts of disobedience. We dare not have anything to do with such acts of presumption. Because those who enter into such profane dealings will most certainly be brought to an awful judgment.
Alas, such scruples do not seem be a concern for many church leaders. Down through church history they have presumed to set themselves up as representatives and brokers of Christ here on earth before the world. Then in brazen self will they proceed to sell the holy things of God down the river. The holy things of God are then re-engineered, re-packaged, and sold to the lowest bidder at the tables of Mammon. In this manner the Name of Yehoveh, our Judeo-Christian God is brought down to dirt level. This is the compromise that degrades our faith and brings grief to His Elect, the Congregation of God.
What is wrong with this mixture of the holy with the profane? The answer is quite straightforward. The Body and blood of Christ is holy. The Name of our Lord Jesus is to be lifted up. It is not an ecclesiastical franchise to be bought and sold at the round tables of earthly politics. Nor is it to be sold in the seedy bazaars of and world trade.
The Jesus we love and serve is above all those things. His name is holy. He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. He is the God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. He is to be consecrated in our hearts and lives. And His Body, the Congregation of Yehoveh-God, (the Church), is holy too. Or we should be. But the compromises of established Christendom, a body of people who supposedly follow Christ are many and varied. And the sad story goes on and on. Indeed ecclesiastical compromises with the princes of this world have continued unabated throughout the past 1700 years of church history.
How does this compromise happen? Christians enter into the Eternal Covenant they have with Christ. This is all very wonderful and good. But many Christian believers do not realize that by inviting Jesus into their life they have married Him. He is now their Husband, Protector, and Providence. In Christ they have entered into a holy and exclusive blood covenant relationship. They are now in a covenant relationship to the sovereign God, the Holy One of Israel, the Prince of Peace.
When Jesus began His ministry He was led of the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. There He faced three temptations. These were intended to defile His faith with God by adding a commitment to 1. the world, 2. the flesh and 3. the devil. Jesus passed these 3 tests. If He had failed He would have a defiled Himself and become a double agent for the world, a double agent for his own flesh, and a double agent for Lucifer, the angel of self.
How about us? How has the Body of Christ fared when faced with these same three temptations to compromise? Does the church defile herself with accommodation to the flesh for example?
Well we don't have to look very far to see the church even today is covering up and even "normalizing" fornication and homosexuality inside the church. Most of the church accepts the wholesale abortion of millions of our unborn babies. Then we see church leaders brazenly invoking the Name of Christ as they try to sanctify "same sex marriages" between homosexuals and lesbians. This is truly amazing. The God whose Name they call upon and whom they suppose OK's the ordination of Sodomites is none other than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the very same God who rained fire and brimstone on the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah! These church leaders are truly playing with fire. And unless they repent of this outrage they will surely get burned!
How about the covenants the church makes with the principalities and powers of the world system? Well again we don't have to look far to see where the church has behaved in the very same manner as Hosea's wife Gomer. The church has pursued her lovers and departed from Christ, her Husband, just as Gomer did with Hosea and Israel did with YHVH, the Holy One of Israel. And the church has made a practice of entering into deep carnal covenant relationships with political princes who are strangers to Christ. She forgets her true Husband, her Betrothed. And she accepts protection under the sword of her thorny secular lovers, the princes of this world.
This abnormal state of affairs is considered quite normal. Through the centuries the church has accepted this earthly protection offered by secular political powers. At the same time she still claims total and absolute loyalty to Christ. These worldly rulers have typically presented themselves to the church as "Defenders of the faith". Thus the church has in effect married the political princes of this world. The church, thus established, still maintains that she is married to Christ as well!
How about our compromise with the devil? Again we see all too readily just how deeply the church has been compromised. Lucifer, who is the god of "self" practically runs this narcissistic, materialistic, and hedonistic culture. God's people in the western church have bought into this program of Luciferian selfism in a big way. "It's all about me" is the catchphrase of our time. And inside the church we buy the devil's lie that we can "Write our own (selfist Luciferian) ticket with God". No need to walk by faith being led by the Holy Spirit. No need to consult what God has said in the holy scriptures. We set the agenda here below. We are "little gods". We call the shots. We are 'sovereign' in our own right.
This is the religion which "sells" on the street today. This is the seedy debauched Christianity that pays its agents, the religious vendors of Mammon, so very handsomely.
God help us.
At His temptation Jesus answered the devil with these final words.
Pray God they may become our words as well."Get thee behind me Satan,As a church, and as the congregation of God, we are truly presumptuous. In Christ's Name we are all too willing to make blood covenant pledges with the earthly powers of this world. How can we enter into blood covenant with angels of darkness when we have already made blood covenant commitment to Christ and to His Eternal Covenant? How can we put one foot in Jerusalem and the other foot in Babylon? Will holy history forever allow us to remain as agents for both?
It is written,
Thou shalt worship the Lord your God,
And Him only shalt thou serve. -Mat.4:10
Clearly this is quite impossible. Such duplicity and double dealing will eventually lead down a low road and into a terrible darkness.
It will become treason against the Kingdom of God. (John 5:43, 2Thes.2:3)
Jesus said,No man can serve two masters.........
You cannot serve God and Mammon. -Mat.6:24
Just where does this sort of double dealing end up? The pathway of compromise will eventually lead to the ultimate betrayal, the epic future deal of Dan.9:27. This will lead on to the climax of humanistic wickedness, the 'abomination of desolation'.
This Dan.9:27 deal will start out with international intrigue. It will call for a surrender of Israel's holy land and the church's holy faith and doctrine. And for what? For the sake of "peace and security" or "safety"? Apparently this will be the motive. But are we not safest when we are true to Christ? Is not Christ Jesus our covering, our fortress, our Protector? (Psalm 91)
Alas, Bible prophecy shows us clearly where all this compromise by God's people will end up. The climax of this age will see the people of God sitting down and making covenant with a man representing the key political powers of this world. He will be a person who initially appears to be a very wonderful global peacemaker. He will pledge to act as a protector of God's Judeo-Christian people. But this will be a lie and a trap. Three and a half years later he will break the covenant. (Dan.9:27b) At that time he will be possessed and be revealed as "the beast".
If we think about this final seven year covenant for a moment we realize that it will be the church's second and final great tragedy of compromise. It will be Nicaea phase two!
This man in whom they put their trust will betray them. He will betray them grievously. Many of those who started out supporting this peacemaker will not turn back to Christ at this point. They have gone too far into compromise with him. The road they have chosen will lead them on into apostasy and perdition. This whole story has been prophesied in the books of Daniel and Revelation and by the Words of Jesus Himself. (John 5:43)
What are the consequences of compromise? Compromise alone is what brings grief and tribulation to the people of God. Our God is a faithful and true to the covenant He makes with his people. He is quite able to protect His people from their enemies. But He cannot do this when they have "two timed" Him and made other separate covenants with Him and the powers of darkness! They are no longer entirely in His hands! We have become double agents in a spiritual war! Michael, the guardian angel of God's people.(Dan.10:21) As usual, he is doing all he can for us and for Israel. But what if the evil angels that our angel Michael is battling have been loosed by us, the people of God? What then?
This future historic surrender of the sovereign things of God to a profane ruling prince is laid out quite clearly for us in Dan.9:27. This is what starts the drama of the final 7 years. This is the much discussed 70th week of Daniel.
The Dan.9:27 scripture, brought to us at great cost by our dear faithful prophet Daniel tells us the outcome of this epic compromise. This 'prince' with whom God's people will enter into covenant will turn out to be a false messiah. Three and a half years into this 7 year "covenant" this "prince who is to come" will put a stop to the true worship of our God. He will replace worship of the God of Israel with an unspeakable abomination. -Mat.24:15-21 He will then be "revealed" as "the beast" and set up his 666 worship/financial system. Along with the ten global rulers the antichrist will then proceed to double-cross the very same religious double dealers who had earlier compromised the cup of Christ at his table. They will have bent over backwards in order to accommodate the powers of this world. But God is not mocked. Those who have corrupted God's Word will reap what they have sown. They will be subjected to an awful judgement. (Rev.17:16-18)
THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA MARRIES THE CHURCH TO ROME AND
ESTABLISHES A PATTERN OF COMPROMISE THAT WILL GO ON
TO ITS CLIMACTIC CONCLUSION IN THE END-TIME DRAMA.
Where did this pattern of compromise and deal-making with earthly powers begin? Certainly not during the first three centuries of church history. At that time the church was under persecution. Christians were being executed in many ways including crucifixion and being thrown to the lions in the Roman arena. But nearly 17 centuries ago the persecutions against the church stopped. In 308 A.D. The Roman emperor Constantine had enacted the Edict of Milan. Then in 325 A.D. the elders of the Christian church received a summons to come to Nicaea and sit at table with the Emperor Constantine personally. What a power trip and a power lunch that was! This historic meeting would come to be known as the Council of Nicea.
In terms of obtaining political protection and temporal power and influence for the church the Council of Nicaea was a coup for those church leaders who were willing to compromise. But the spiritual fallout from this meeting was deadly. It can only be described as an awful tragedy. It was the first and truly the epic compromise for the church. The Council of Nicaea set the pattern for the church-state compromise which continues to this day.
Let's pause for a moment here and take a closer look at just what happened at the Nicaea accord. Before the Council of Nicaea 10 Roman Caesars in a row had persecuted the early church. In the waning years of the third century these persecutions came to a vicious peak under the deadly pogroms of the Emperor Diocletian. After the his death the new Roman Caesar Constantine came to power. It was in 308 A.D. that Constantine issued the Edict of Milan. This effectively called a halt to the persecutions of Christians. In 325 A.D. Constantine went a step further. He invited the Christian bishops from all over the Roman Empire to what would come to be known as the Council of Nicaea.
A lot of good issues were settled at that time. Resolutions were made against the Arian and other heresies. Here too was forged the Nicene Creed. But the political result of this epic meeting was an accord of peace between Roman Imperial power and the church. The church would not be the same afterwards. The church in effect married the Roman political powers. The Council of Nicaea would forge a church-state accord which continues right up to this present day.
The church was not the only party to profit from the deal. It was a savvy political move for the Roman Caesar as well. People were getting bored with the soap opera of the gods of Greco-Roman mythology. Christianity under persecution was naturally on the ascendancy. Indeed this idea of a 'Savior God' was beginning to capture the imagination of the masses. Constantine had the words, "god our savior" inscribed on the shields of his soldiers. This new standard was a proven morale booster for his men and a battle winner as well. Then too the Roman persecutions against God's people, (as Balaam had discovered with ancient Israel), had actually been counterproductive. -Num.24 For every Christian martyred ten more new converts to Christianity popped up. These Christians and their new faith were invincible. The only hope of defeating them, again as Balaam found out, was to get them compromised with evil. Then their angels were unable to cover them. As long as the Christ' witness/martyrs were standing for the faith under deadly persecution, (as they tend to do), then the Christians had the glory. They had the glory, - and the emperors pagan priests did not. Christians were beginning to get sympathy from the crowds as they went up into the arena. In short, pagan religion was letting the emperor down badly in the glory and awe department. Truly the "Emperor had no clothes". It was time for the secular ruler of the world to trade up to better religious coverings. The question Constantine asked himself was this. Would the Christian leaders come to sit down and talk turkey with him? He sent out the invitations and waited.
Well some did come. And many did not. The deal he offered the responding Christian bishops at that time was to power share. It was a very lucrative deal. He basically offered the church leaders an opportunity to "get in on the ground floor" and to divide up the rule into church and state ruling sectors. Here we have the iron and clay of Daniel's image at the legs and feet. Constantine offered Christianity "most favored religion" status.
What was the result of this meeting at Nicaea? "Many", or a quorum, if you will, of the Christian leaders took the bait. The result was that Christianity was "established". And it was thereby set up for compromise. Inevitably it was quickly corrupted as pagan religious leaders saw what power, influence and lucre could be gained by taking on the new name "christian". That maneuver gave them a license from the state to practice pagan religion as before. Only now they could do it inside the established Christian church. These pagan leaders, with a few adjustments to their religious repertoire came right on into the established church and took their places there. They brought with them their pagan beliefs and agenda, their hierarchical church structured programs and pagan temple architecture. For fear of the wrath of Constantine Christian elders decided not to make a fuss about all this. And so the rot set in.
Meanwhile, back home in the country, the true witness of Christ now became difficult for those faithful saints who did not approve or in many cases did not know what the church leaders had done. Persecutions followed for those Christians who did not "go up" to Nicaea. Trouble followed for those who for reasons of holiness would not agree with this ecclesiastical political power grab. Many in the pilgrim church would have nothing to do with entering into any covenant with the Roman Caesar. Such faithful believers have existed in all time periods both in national Israel and in the church. They continue with us today. Their concern is holiness before God and being true to the faith. They are very very careful when it comes to dealings with political and religious agents of this present evil age. In scripture these faithful pilgrims are called, the "elect" or "the saints" or the "called out"/ekklesia/congregation/church of God. They can be found both inside and outside the established church. And they have existed in all ages.
Nicea was a watershed in church history. What was the result of this epic church-state deal in the west? Well as the centuries wore on, and particularly after Charlemagne came to power in 800 A.D. a paganized hierarchical Christianity emerged. It was hardly worthy of the name of Christ. Only those who knew Latin, (the language of ancient Rome) could access the holy scriptures. This was a great and awful tragedy. All this darkness! Meanwhile, in the medieval villages our Jewish brethren were freely teaching their children to read the Torah in the Hebrew schools. And in the Arab nations their time of pre-eminence had come. They too were free to read from the Koran. Not so in "Christendom". Over in Europe the masses of so called "Christendom" were denied access to the Word of God. They were kept "manageable" by being ground down into the dirt of an ignorant peasantry. The 1,000 years that followed the Council of Nicaea would see Europe or Christendom Europe go into the "Dark Ages". Spiritual ignorance was everywhere and in the spiritual vacuum fear and superstition emerged to haunt the forests and squalid medieval towns of Europe. The 1300's saw plague or the "black death" take the lives of half of the population of Europe. The Moors were ruling in the south of Spain and would do so until 1492. In the early 1500's over on the eastern borders of Christendom the Turks were closing in on Vienna.
Meanwhile, in the context of these critical events a German printer named Gutenberg developed a printing press using moveable type. As Martin Luther made his stand the scriptures were being printed in Germany. That would speed the reform in the church in central Europe. The 1500's also saw English evangelicals William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale following up on Wycliffe's work. They translated and printed the holy scriptures into English and then began shipping them back across the channel for the English common man. These events saw the Light of God's holy Word go forth. And so the lights began to turn on in Europe. The Renaissance broke forth in Italy. After a thousand years of darkness, a darkness that began with that awful compromise at Nicaea, things were beginning to turn around.
Did all the church go up to Nicea to become the established religious power? Not at all. The true pilgrim church went underground. See the book 'The Torch of the Testimony' by John W. Kennedy of India. There were very few records preserved of the pilgrim church. And the things written about them by the established church was naturally not very complimentary. But they re-emerged among the reformers and the Anabaptists in the 1400's and 1500's. After a millennium of darkness, Gutenberg's printing press and the work of Bible translators brought the first glimmers of the gospel light back into mainstream Europe.
WILL THE FUTURE DAN.9:27 COVENANT WITH THE ANTICHRIST BE NICAEA PHASE 2?So much for church deals with secular kings and princes. Can we learn from this earlier church folly? Pray God we shall. Because the church may well be asked to revisit Nicaea, at least in spirit, if not in the same geographical location. The church state deal we have at present is not compromised enough for the emerging secular powers of the New World Order. The coming global peacemaker, who is probably even now working behind the scenes will ask the established church to go even further into pagan and humanistic admixture. To participate, to profit, or even be licensed to operate legally, the church denominations may well be asked to mix the cup of Christ with all the other religions of the world. This concession will be called for in the interests of "unity", "inclusivism" and "world peace". This end-time renegotiating of the Nicaean Accord to embrace not just Christianity but also Buddhism, Islam, Wicca and animism may well be on the agenda.
There is nothing new under the sun. Ah, yes. As the end-time drama opens up we may well be asked to "renegotiate" the Nicaea deal. It will be 'decision time' for many Christian believers. But our God knows all about this.
He has told us this ahead of time. His desire is for His people to be forewarned and for us to be prepared in Him. He has made abundant provision for our witness. When we read the Great Commission" we see that it is actually an article of blood covenant promise of blessing and provision. It has been given to us by Jesus Christ Himself. God has promised to be with His people right up to the end of this evil age. By His divine grace and favor He stands ready to lead us on into a deeper covenant relationship with Him.
Through all this God has not forgotten His covenant people. He Himself will raise up a standard for the peoples. (Isa.62:10) The good news is that even in the midst of this end-time declension and apostasy God will be calling out His people once again. The trumpets will be sounding forth the alarm. God will be calling His people to assembly. They will be crying out to Him. Indeed there will be a magnificent, powerful, and holy end-time revival!
Now is the day of salvation.
Now is the time to draw near to Him.
Grace and shalom to all the saints.