The year was 325. The city was Nicea. The issue was—is Jesus God or not?
The Arians were winning. There were more of them. They spoke the loudest. They would surely be able to sway the many church leaders who were undecided. “Jesus was created,” they said. “He is not of the same substance of God. Besides, why be so concerned about details? We still confess that He is the Son of God.”
Athanasius was very young, but he was just as educated as the rest. He knew Scripture even more. He loved it and revered it. He knew Who Jesus was. And he could prove it. He could see through the Arian heresies and lies. He would stand alone if he had to. The truth that the Son is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit had to be unswervingly maintained!
One letter in one Latin word, that’s all the council was trying to decide. With an i they would write a creed that said Jesus was only “of like substance” with God. Without the i the creed would say that Jesus was “of the same substance” of God. Just one letter, but a world—an eternity—of difference.
“Athanasius,” called one of the council members, “you will never win. Don’t you know that right now the whole world is against you?”
The young deacon was undaunted. He answered with boldness and courage. He answered with words that would follow him into the record of history for all time. “Is the world against Athanasius? So be it. Then Athanasius is against the world!”*
And so it was.
(to be continued)
*Against the World: The Odyssey of Athanasius by Henry W. Coray, Inheritance Publications, 1999, p. 39.