Mister Richardson's
Church History Class


Chapter 5: The Church Councils


A. Church Councils
1. A church council is a meeting of church leaders where important questions are discussed, advice is carefully given, and decisions are made regarding Christian doctrine.
2. A provincial council is limited to a province.
3. A national council is limited to one nation.
4. A general council that involves all nations is also called an ecumenical council.
5. Major councils: Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431) & Chalcedon (451).

B. The Council of Nicaea (325)
1. This council dealt with the question of whether Jesus was truly God.
2. Arius, a presbyter in Alexandria, denied that Jesus was fully God - he thought if Jesus was God, that would make two Gods.
3. Arius taught that Jesus was the first and highest of all beings, but was created.
4. Athanasius, also a presbyter from Alexandria, said that Arius was teaching heresy and that Jesus was fully and truly God.
5. Constantine called a general council to settle the question.
6. This resulted in the Nicene Creed, which condemned the teaching of Arius as heresy and confessed that Jesus was of the same substance as God the Father.

C. The Council of Constantinople (381)
1. Arianism did not die out but continued to plague the church.
2. Questions about the doctrine of the Trinity still abounded.
3. The orthodox (those who believed correct Christian teaching) were led by Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, & Gregory of Nyssa.
4. A council was called at Constantinople to settle the further questions.
5. This council reaffirmed the Nicene Creed and further added that the Holy Spirit was as equally God as the Father and the Son.
6. Arianism began to die out afterwards.

D. The Council of Ephesus (431)
1. Nestorius, Archbishop of Constantinople, believed that there could be no union of human and divine.
2. He believed that if this happened, the human part would compromise the divine part, or the divine part would over-power the human part.
3. Nestorianism was condemned by the Council.
4. Pelagius, a British monk, taught that man was born good and can choose to be saved whenever he wished.
5. Augustine, bishop of Hippo in Africa, taught that man was born in sin and was dependent upon the Holy Spirit for salvation.
6. Pelagianism was condemned as heresy.

E. The Council of Chalcedon (451)
1. There continued to be questions about Jesus Christ - how was He both God and man?
2. Six hundred bishops were present.
3. The Council reaffirmed the decisions of Nicaea and Constantinople.
4. The Council further found that Jesus was fully God and fully man, without confusion, change, division, or separation.
5. Therefore, Jesus Christ is one person, not two.


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