48: The Ecumenical Council at Nicea

The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

Psalm 126:3

Today the town of Nicea in northern Turkey is little more than a tourist destination. The ruined walls, however, reveal a little of a much more illustrious past when this was an important centre within the great Roman Empire.

Nicea’s place in history, is assured because of the ecumenical council meeting which was here convened at the bequest of The Emperor, Constantine the Great.

Today the word ecumenical is used to denote, what I would describe as a false unity between truth and error; unity cannot exist in the dark. The classic usage of the word, however, refers to the the world in a universal sense. The ecumenical gathering of the church in Nicea was a coming together of Christian representatives from across the vastness of the Roman territories.

The importance of this meeting cannot be underestimated as it ranks alongside the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 as among the most influential gatherings of Christ’s Church in history.

While there is much to say about the calling of this assembly, it’s deliberations and outcome, the fact that it was convened at all is a miracle that only God could have brought about.

The representation at this council testifies of the growth of Christianity since the death of the Apostles. There were 318 bishops present, which was one third of all the bishops through the Empire. While representation was stronger in the Greek speaking communities in the east, the European and Persian Churches had their delegates also. Christianity had spread to every border of Rome’s dominions, with many millions confessing Christ. Beyond the Roman world Churches were established, who had no representation; Christ had dramatically established His Church as He had promised to do.

For those who little more than a decade ago were suffering under Diocletian’s curse, the calling of this council under the patronage Emperor Constantine, who was paying all the expenses must have seemed unreal. Among those who took their seats were Potamin of Heraclea, whose right eye had been removed, and Paul of Neo-Caesarea crippled by beatings and bearing upon his body the scars of the hot irons with which he was tortured. Now they were the honoured guests of the King.

The Church shall never perish.
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain, and cherish,
Is with her to the end.
Tho' there be those that hate her
And strive to see her fail,
Against both foe and traitor
She ever shall prevail.

S. J. Stone

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