The Same God Throughout the Ages

January 18, 2018

by Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah

At the October, 2016 inaugural gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) in Chicago, I was one of several African United Methodist leaders who addressed the gathering. We made a presentation about why we (clergy and laity) were attracted to the WCA. We noted that, we had perceived the WCA as a “movement committed to spreading scriptural holiness across the nations as John Wesley commanded us to do; and that it [was] committed to upholding all of the traditional teachings of Scripture as we do in Africa” [1].

We were pleased to learn that in addition to The United Methodist Church’s Doctrinal Standards, the WCA also affirmed the Nicene Creed as a core statement of the faith. This Creed, crafted by the First and Second Ecumenical Councils (Nicaea in 325AD and Constantinople in 381AD), is a full expression of Christianity’s belief in the Triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed was aimed at refuting Arianism in defense of the Trinitarian Theology of the Church. Since then, it has remained foundational to preserving biblical orthodoxy over the centuries.

Arianism was a heretical Christological teaching by Arius and his followers that denied the deity of Christ, claiming that “the Son was the highest creation of God and thus essentially different from the Father” [2]. The Nicene Creed corrected this error by affirming that “Christ is of one substance with the Father, begotten, not created and that the Holy Spirit is together worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son” [3].

This Creed became so vital in preserving biblical orthodoxy that it became the primary guide for authenticating the canonicity of books of the New Testament – that is determining what books would be included in the New Testament. As Church historian, Ken Collins points out, “at the time that the Church issued the official canon of the New Testament, it customarily compared writings to the Nicene Creed to determine if they were orthodox” [4]. It is therefore indispensable to our understanding, interpretation and practice of New Testament Christianity.

My attempt here is to share a few thoughts on the creed’s initial statement of faith, expressing the church’s scriptural understanding and belief about God: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.” My purpose is to contribute to some of the specifics of what we believe about this one God of Creation of the heavens and the earth, who still rules in human affairs. In spite of the cultural diversities and pluralistic societies within which the church exists, we must heed this same God in our quest to discover the true meaning of life.

This section of the Creed makes a collective, universal declaration of the Christian church’s belief about the nature and functional role of God in all creation. It reveals that the God of the Holy Bible is one Supreme Being who is responsible for everything that exists; visible and invisible. He is the same God that has existed throughout all ages. This God who possesses matchless power (Deut. 4:15; Isa. 40:10;1 Tim. 6:13a, 15-16), is everywhere present (Psalm 139:7-10); is all knowing (Genesis 15:13-15; Exodus 3:7-9), and has a unique relationship to humanity as their Father.

The oneness of God reminds believers that he is immutable (Psalm 33:11; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17), unchanging, and unchangeable. What he declared in the past for humanity’s good remains true today. His nature never changes throughout all eternity (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 41:4b; Hebrews 1:11-12). He is the same loving and caring God who lavished his mercy and love upon humanity, expressed in the giving of his one and only Son for our redemption (Romans 5:8). No other deity in human experience claims these unique attributes. The African Christian’s perception of this God is that he is the owner and controller of the whole world, including mankind. “It is he who made us (male and female), and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” [Psalm 103.3b]. He alone deserves our worship and total obedience.

Without adequate knowledge of this God, as contained in Scripture, the church risks being ruined by the waves of contemporary cultural Christianity with all of its attractions and appeal for adaptation, as, seemingly, is the case with contemporary United Methodism. Prevailing realities confirm that many no longer ascribe to the entire Holy Bible as the authentic word of God. We cannot ascribe to differing cardinal doctrines and claim to be one church, or attempt to fulfill our common mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The way forward is to return in humble submission to this One God, and acknowledge this Lord reigns over our lives and his church.

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[1] “Statement of Introduction.” African Delegation To The WCA, delivered by Dr. Edwin Momoh, Conference Secretary, Sierra Leone Annual Conference.

[2] J. I. Packer, Ed. New Dictionary of Theology, P.179. Intervarsity Press, Leicester, England.

[3] Ted A. Campbell. Methodist Doctrine: The Essentials. P.42, Nashville: Abingdon Press.

[4] Rev. Kenneth Collins. www.kencollins.com/bible/bible-c1.htm. 2018.

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Rev. Dr. Kulah is the Dean of Gbarnga School Theology at United Methodist University in Gbarnga City, Bong County, Liberia. He is also the General Coordinator of the UMC Africa Initiative and a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association Council.