The Creed, which we recite at every Liturgy, was composed by the First and Second Ecumenical Councils in order to present in a very concise way the most important points of Christian teaching. Its articles are all statements of faith which must be accepted by Orthodox Christians without reservation.
The longest and most detailed part of the Creed is the second part, which summarizes the Church's teachings concerning Jesus Christ. It was, indeed, because almost every element of those teachings was questioned or distorted by someone that the Councils were convoked.
The second part of the Creed is as follows:
And [I believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven and sitteth at the right hand of the Father. And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom there shall be no end.
Every statement is of the essence of Christian Orthodoxy and is clearly taught by the Bible, as the following examination will show.
§ The Son of God
In answer to Jesus' question, "Whom do ye say that I am?" Peter said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." This identification is accepted by Our Lord and He declares that this truth was revealed to Peter by the heavenly Father. (Mt. 16:16,17)
§ Only begotten
St. John testifies in his account of the Gospel that the Son was the only begotten of the Father. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." On. 1:18)
§ Begotten of the Father before all ages
That the Son was begotten timelessly, before all creation, is reflected in the words of Psalm 2:7, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." These words were understood by the Apostles to refer precisely to Jesus.
"So also Christ glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; but He that said unto Him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee." (Hb. 5:5; cf., Acts 13:33 and Hb. 1:5)
Then again, in His prayer before His crucifixion, Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him "with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." On. 17:5)
§ Light of Light
"God is light." (I Jn. 1:5)
Speaking of John the Baptist, John the Evangelist also says, "He [John] came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light ... he was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That [the Son of God] was the true Light, which lighteth every man..." (Jn. 1:7-9) In other words, what is said of the Father in this regard is also said of the Son.
§ True God of True God
The Son of God is God is the same sense as is God the Father. "We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life." (I Jn. 5:20)
As we see in this passage, the purpose of the coming of the Son of God was to make God known to man. This He could do because He was God Himself. As in the case of the word "light," above, a term, "true," is applied interchangeably to both the Father and the Son.
§ Begotten, not made
One of the major, early heresies (distortions) of the doctrine of Christ was taught by Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria in Egypt. He taught, as so many twentieth-century Arians (ie. the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, and many Protestants), that the Son of God was created. This phrase was inserted into the Creed specifically to combat the error of Arius.
§ Of one essence with the Father
This is the definitive statement of the divinity of Christ, and therefore the correction of the error mentioned immediately above.
Christ Himself said, "I and my Father are one." (Jn. 10:30) Then too, St. Paul calls Him "the express image of His person [ie. the being, the essence, the hypostasis of the Father]." (Hb. 1;3)
§ By whom all things were made
The Son is the expression of the Father; the Father works with the Son as His agent. Hence, the Son was the agent of the creation.
"All things were made by Him [the Son], and without Him was not anything made that was made." On. 1:3) "By whom [ie: by the Son] also He [God] made the worlds." (H b. 1:2)
§ Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven
In the Gospel according to John, we find the following. "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (3:13) The Son came "down" from heaven in this sense: although as God He is always present everywhere, He was present on earth invisibly. When He became man, without ceasing to be God, He was visible and lived among men on earth. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." On. 1:14)
It was out of His love for man On. 3:16) that He took human nature upon Himself, so that He might make God known to man On. 1:18), and thus save man from sin (Mt. 1:21) and from the darkness and futility of a godless existence(Lk. 1:79; I Pt. 2:9).
§ And was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man
St. John testifies to the fact that the Son, or Word, of God became man, and that He continued to be all that He was before. "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." On. 1:14)
Mary, a holy virgin of the lineage of Abraham and David, was the human instrument by which God chose to be born and enter into the world of man. His birth was a supernatural one, His mother being a virgin, and His conception being caused by the Holy Spirit.
The Evangelist Luke relates that when the Virgin had asked the Angel who announced the birth to her, "How shall this be, seeing, I know not a man?" the Angel replied to her, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Lk. 1:34,35)
§ And [He] was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried
The use of the name of Pontius Pilate in the Creed establishes the exact historical time of the crucifixion. Events in Roman times were usually described as having happened during the reign of this or that emperor or governor. St. Paul refers to this event in a letter to Timothy. (I Tm. 6:13)
He was crucified for us. It was again His love that made Him take on the whole miserable human condition and its direct consequence, death. Although He Himself did not sin (I Pt. 2:22), and was therefore not subject to death, He chose to undergo it in order to liberate us from it. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (I Jn. 1:7) "In [Christ,] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Eph. 1:7)
& suffered as a human being suffers.
(I Pt. 2:23) One of the early heresies held that Christ only appeared to have suffered. This heresy in maintained in our own day by the "Christian Scientists."
He was buried, for He was truly dead. In his first epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul, in speaking of the fundamental message of Christianity, says, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: and that He was buried..." (15:3,4)
§ And the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures
The expression "according to the Scriptures" indicates that the events of the life of Christ were fulfillments of t h e prophecies of the Old Testament.
St. Pauls' statement quoted above goes on to say, "And that He rose again on the third day according to the scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep." (vv.4-6)
The sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, hence, have brought salvation to us men. They, also, are a pledge of our own resurrection: "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept," (I Cor. 15:20) "that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead..." (Acts 26:23), and "...the dead in Christ shall rise first," (I Th. 4:16).
§ And He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father
"And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." (Lk. 24:51) "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God." (Mk. 16:19)
It was again for us that He ascended into heaven, for it was in His manhood (ie. the human nature which He had taken on) that He ascended. His ascension demonstrates that just as we shall rise from the dead, like Christ, we also shall go, like Him, to heaven to be with Him eternally.
§ And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead
Two angels appeared and spoke to the Apostles at the time of the Lord's ascension, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)
His second coming will be a glorious one, and its purpose will be to judge all men. "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works." (Mt. 16:27) "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (II Cor. 5:10)
§ Whose kingdom shall have no end
Christ's kingdom will be eternal, as we understand from what the angel Gabriel said to the virgin Mary at the Annunciation: "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end."(Lk. 1:31-33)
Thus the Creed, the Symbol of our Faith, is literally taken from the Bible. On this basis the doctrine of Christ can be examined in detail.