Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | June 4, 2006

The Holy Catholic Church

Over the last six weeks, we have been conducting a review of basic Christian doctrine.  We began this review with the examination of the Apostles Creed one of the oldest standards that summarize the beliefs of the Christian faith.  We are rapidly arriving at the conclusion of this Creed and before we embark on today’s topic let’s recite the Creed in its entirety: 

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen
 

Today is Pentecost Sunday and many Christians in our day believe this historical event to be the birthday of the Church.  This view is largely held by those of a Dispensational background.  However, historically many did not hold this view along with some Christians in our own day, because it intentionally divides God’s plan of salvation for His people into two distinct paths.  Thus, we would promote the idea that the saints in the Old Testament are just as much the Church as those of us in the New Testament era.  The people of God are one community chosen for eternal life before and after Christ.  This was the view of Reformers as we read in Question 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism: 

Q. What do you believe concerning "the holy catholic church"? 

A. I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, 1 out of the entire human race, 2 from the beginning of the world to its end, 3 gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for eternal life 4 and united in true faith. 5 And of this community I am 6 and always will be 7 a living member. 

1 John 10:14-16:  I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep.  I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. Acts 20:28:  Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. Romans 10:14-17:  How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher?  How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”  However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”  So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.  Colossians 1:18:  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the  beginning the first-born from the dead, so that He himself will come to have first place in everything.
2 Genesis 26:3b-4: …the oath which I swore to your father Abraham.  I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…Revelation 5:9:  And they sang a new song saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”
3 Isaiah 59:21:  As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says the Lord:  “My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,” from now and forever.  1 Corinthians 11:26:  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
4 Matthew 16:18:  I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.  John 10:28-30: …and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one. Romans 8:28-30:  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.  Ephesians 1:3-14: …just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…
5 Acts 2:42-47:  They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…  Ephesians 4:1-6:  There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling:  one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all in and all.
6 1 John 3:14, 19-21:  We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death…We will know, by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him…
7 John 10:27-28: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…1 Corinthians 1:4-9: …so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Peter 1:3-5:  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
 

Many people are also confused by the term catholic and associate it only with the Roman Catholic Church.  The term catholic simply means universal and all true Christians are a part of the catholic Church. 

The Church is a community of believers that assemble together to worship God, hear the word of God preached and participate in the Sacraments.  When defining the marks of the Church many cite the attributes noted above and may also add the practice of Church discipline for unfaithful members.  If this is are definition of the Church then, it is much more that 2000 years old as some mark the beginning at the day of Pentecost.  Rather it is at least 4000 years old when the first Sacrament was revealed to Abraham (some may even take it back to Adam and Eve).

A common deterrent or excuse people use to criticize or not identify with a Church is that the people in it are hypocrites.  However, the fact that there are hypocrites is a testimony to the need of the Church.  The Church is comprised of sinful people who have been pardoned by Jesus Christ.  We are called to pursue holy living and abide by God’s commandments, however while on this earth we will never follow these things perfectly. 

We haven’t even scratched the surface on this subject, however its better to defer further discussion until a more comprehensive review can be made. 

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Responses

  1. A challenge to the Christian Churches and Islam

    Propositions to be addressed by the Christian Churches:

    There is no biblical basis for the doctrines of ‘Miraculous Incarnation’ (Virgin Birth), ‘Trinity’, or ‘Transubstantiation’.
    There is no biblical basis for the various teachings about the ‘divinity’ of Jesus of Nazareth.
    There is no biblical basis for the teachings concerning ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’.

    Propositions to be addressed by Islam:
    The ‘virgin birth’ of Jesus through Mary is demonstrably false.
    The doctrine is false therefore it calls into question the Koran’s supposed authorship by the God of ‘truth’.

    All of the above doctrines and teachings will be systematically dismantled and proven false in coming posts on the Race is Run.


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